Visiting Masterworks

Meidner Self Portrait
Ludwig Meidner (German, 1884-1966)
Self-portrait (Man in a Green Suit)
1913, Oil on canvas
Private Collection, courtesy Eykyn Maclean
Longo Wave
Robert Longo (American, b. 1953)
Untitled (Bob’s Wave)
2018, Charcoal on mounted paper
Courtesy Private Collection

On occasion, the MMAC hosts Visiting Masterworks, an ongoing program to highlight art by significant historic and contemporary artists on loan from private collections. In September 2019, we hosted two paintings representing different moments in the art of the 20th century.

Like the artist’s other portraits, Ludwig Meidner’s 1913 Self-portrait (Man in a Green Suit) depicts the profound psychological content typical of the German expressionist movement in the first two decades of the 20th century. A painter and printmaker, Meidner (German, 1884-1966) was born in Bernstadt, Silesia, now Bierutow in southwest Poland. He gained renown in the years after 1912, when he began a series of apocalyptic landscapes that depicted the catastrophic destruction of World War I. Although he was vehemently antiwar, Meidner was drafted into military service in 1915 and served as a French translator. As a Jew, Meidner suffered extensive persecution by the Nazis. He lost his teaching position in Berlin in the 1930s, and saw eighty-four of his works removed from public collections and labeled Entartete Kunst, or “degenerate art.” Nazi Party officials subjected modernist artists to sanctions that included being removed from teaching positions and being forbidden to exhibit or sell their art and, in some cases, to create art at all. In 1939 Meidner fled to Great Britain where he spent the following three years in an internment camp; he eventually returned to Germany after the Allied victory.

Also on view was Robert Longo’s large-scale, photorealistic charcoal drawing of a crashing wave. Longo (American, b. 1953) began drawing towering waves in 1999, using his signature hyper-realistic technique to transform black-and-white charcoal into thunderous ocean forms. In the late 1990s, Longo was fascinated by phenomena that seem to exist for only an instant, such as crashing waves and atomic explosions. “The shape of a wave is not necessarily dictated by how strong the wind is,” Longo explained. “It’s dictated by what’s deep underneath it. It’s like psychoanalysis.” By drawing these moments in precise detail, Longo aimed to create a sense of beauty in the sublime, yet terrifying, forces of nature. Indeed, Longo titled his series of wave drawings Monsters for their intimidating grandeur.