Artwork Detail

Selbstbildnis (Self-Portrait) [recto] / Untitled, c. 1909 [verso]
German, 1884–1966
Oil on canvas
31 3/4 x 23 11/16 "
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sydney M. Shoenberg, Jr., 1963
WU 4158
Ludwig Meidner was a German Expressionist painter who practiced a style of art focused on communicating the inner life of an individual rather than reproducing that which is visible. In this self-portrait themes of modern urban life and artistic subjectivity are dynamically intertwined. Rather than attempting to create a realistic representation of himself and his surroundings, Meidner strove to integrate his experiences of the multitude of sensual impressions of life in the turbulent environment of Berlin on the eve of World War I. His distorted visage and eerie grin, coupled with bold, sweeping brushstrokes, articulate the psychic state of the modern artist as one penetrated by anxiety and agitation. On the back of this canvas is an earlier composition that Meidner painted of his bedroom around 1909.The cramped space and simple furniture a bed, a table and chairs, a lamp, and some books suggest the humble existence of the then impoverished artist. The painting has recently been conserved and reframed so that both sides are visible. [Permanent collection label, 2019]