Else Meidner

Death and the Maiden

c.1918–25

Medium
Watercolour, charcoal and graphite on paper
Dimensions
Support: 550 x 497 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Professor J.P. Hodin 1983
Reference
T03694

Display caption

This haunting drawing was made when Meidner was still in her teens. In Germany, the aftermath of the First World War brought little relief from the conflict, as revolution, political recrimination and economic collapse brought turmoil to the defeated nation. The allegorical motif of ‘Death and the Maiden’ (a young girl, often in a passionate embrace with a skeletal figure) had been popular with German artists and musicians since the Middle Ages, and its reminder of transience and mortality was especially appropriate during this period of foreboding.

Gallery label, August 2005

Catalogue entry

T03694 Death and the Maiden c.1918–25

Charcoal on paper 21 3/4 × 19 3/4 (550 × 497)
Not inscribed
Presented by Dr. J.P. Hodin 1983
Prov: Dr. J.P. Hodin (from the artist)
Exh: Else Meidner, Ben Uri Gallery, June–July 1972 (30)

Mrs Meidner said that this was probably one of the drawings which she executed when she was a teenager in Berlin. As her father was a doctor and she was sensitive in her early youth and afraid of death, her drawings and writings of that period were predominantly on the subject of death (information from H.R. Holme on behalf of the artist, 12 December 1984).

She already had a great admiration at that time for the work of Käthe Kollwitz, whom she went to visit in 1918, taking some of her own drawings with her, and with whom she remained in touch for some years afterwards.

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1982-84: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1986