Here and Now

Carl Strathmann, Ibycus (detail)

Carl Strathmann
— Munich Art Nouveau pure —
1866 — 2016

The Great Forgotten One to the
150th Birthday

Lovis Corinth, Carl Strathmann
Lovis Corinth, Carl Strathmann with Cigar to the Right. 1895.
(oil/canvas, 43¾ × 31⅞ in [111 × 81 cm]) in the Lenbachhaus Munich
(frontispiece to the exhibition catalog Bonn, 1976, to no. 129)

Carl Strathmann

Dusseldorf 1866 – Munich 1939

“ … and dismissed by the art academy of his hometown as twenty-year-old for lack of talent, after an intermezzo at the school of arts at Weimar ( 1886/89; 1888/89 master study with Leopold von Kalckreuth )

( in conformity with Schiller )
… he got into an emphasized rebelliousness
towards stalled social perceptions and numbed conventions .

He developed the art to keep between caricature and grotesque that midway which soon enabled him to work for the periodical Pan, the Fliegende Blätter, and the Munich Jugend, which gave Art Nouveau its name …

Much has still to be cleared up in Strathmann’s work and his life .

Carl Strathmann, Ibycus (detail)

The Bonn Exhibition has shown the paths for this. ”

From a review – signed “Bonn [IP]” – of a supposedly Munich paper from supposedly April 24, 1976 on the exhibition Grotesque Art Nouveau — Carl Strathmann 1866-1939 in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn March 25 – May 2, 1976

A ‘Sketch’ as ‘Finished’ Work of Art
and Precious Cimelium of the Oil of 1895 burnt in 1942
of the Neue Pinakothek Munich

« Cranes of Ibycus »

“ At the same time with the Salambo also
his most charming picture was created :

the Friend of Gods .

It is not unaffected by the Japanese

(‘Paints pictures of large figures, landscapes and still lifes in a manner influenced by Japan’, Thieme-Becker). Flying gilt cranes occupy the upper part of the subject. To them Ibycus holds out one hand in greeting; around the head he has a golden gloriole, and rich clothes envelop his body, a rich vegetation of not existing plants and trees cover the rest of the picture.

I personally do not hesitate to reckon this picture
( by the just 29-year-old )
among the best works of our time ”

Lovis Corinth 1903

( quoted from
Joachim Heusinger von Waldegg
Grotesker Jugendstil — Carl Strathmann 1866-1939
exhibition catalog Bonn, 1976, page 82 )


Carl Strathmann , c. 1894/95

The gods’ friend striding to the right, singing mightily, the lyre in the extended left. To Friedrich Schiller’s 1797 ballad The Cranes of Ibycus. Black pen, watercolor & gold on Bristol paper mounted on cardboard, on which the work is both completed and repeatedly lined. Inscribed with black pen on the sketch paper below right:

Carl Strathmann

C. Strathmann. 31½ × 23 in (80 × 58.5 cm).

“ Like the best bookbinder (Strathmann) glues cardboard  —  his  watercolors  are  often  put  together  from  several  pieces  —  or splits the thinnest pasteboards if they are painted on both sides, so that each picture is there apart ” (Lovis Corinth).


Thieme-Becker XXXII (1938), 160 ( ‘Paints in a … manner influenced by the Japanese pictures of large figures, landscapes and still lifes’ ); Vollmer VI (1962), 436; Lovis Corinth, Carl Strathmann, in Kunst und Künstler 1903, pp. 255-263, reprinted in Legenden aus dem Künstlerleben, 1909, pp. 71 ff. and 1918, pp. 68-82 resp.; the same, Meine frühen Jahre, 1954, p. 132.; Heusinger v. Waldegg, Grotesker Jugendstil — Carl Strathmann … Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, Prints / Catalog of the Exhibition at Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn March/May 1976 with 4-page selection of exhibitions & literature (Kunst + Altertum am Rhein 63); Catalog of the exhibition “Munich 1869-1958 / Departure into Modern Art”, Munich, Haus der Kunst, 1958.

Solo Exhibitions

Retrospective Exhibitions: 1916/17 Berlin Secession (special exhibition); 1931 Munich Art Society; 1958 Gallery Wolfgang Gurlitt, Munich; 1976 Rhenish Regional Museum Bonn. – 1902 & 1910/11 Gallery Paul Cassirer, Berlin; 1907 Arnold’s Art Salon, Dresden; 1911 Munich Art Society; 1914 & 1918 Kaiser Wilhelm Museum Krefeld; 1914/15 Art Society Frankfort on the Main, Augsburg, Leipsic; 1921 Leopold Hoesch Museum Düren; 1924 Glass Palace Vienna (special exhibition); 1931 Munich Art Society (special exhibition).

Group Exhibitions

1892 & 1894 Gallery Fritz Gurlitt, Berlin; 1893-1922 repeatedly International Art Exhibition, Munich; Munich Annual Exhibition; Munich Secession; Great Berlin Art Exhibition; Berlin Secession; 1894/95 Munich Art Society (jointly with Walter Leistikow); 1895/96 Glass Palace Dusseldorf; 1905 2nd Exhibition of the German Artists Union, Berlin; 1907 German National Art Exhibition, Dusseldorf; 1958 Haus der Kunst, Munich (Munich 1869-1958 / Departure into Modern Art).


“ Greek lyricist, from Rhegium in Lower Italy (Reggio Calabria), flourishing about 530 BC, led a vagrant life and stayed for some time, too, at Samos at the court of Polycrates. According to an epitaph he died in his hometown; according to another legend of antiquity known by Schiller’s ode The Cranes of Ibycus he rather shall have been killed by bandits on the journey to the Isthmian Games, yet the discovery of the miscreants brought about by cranes. I.’s main fame was based on his erotic songs which breathe a fervent sensuality … ”

( Meyers Konversations-Lexikon, 4th ed., VIII [1888] , 867 )


as painterly executed detail sketch

to “Cranes of Ibycus”

of 1895 (Cat. Bonn ill. 138; Boetticher, Oils, 1; exhibited still in the same year at the Munich Annual Exhibition and the Special Exhibition of the Artist Union Laetitia in the Artist Hall Dusseldorf & 1898 on the Great Berlin Art Exhibition; 1942 burnt in the Neue Pinakothek Munich) as beside Salambo (1894/95) and together with Saint Francis preaching to the Animals of the same year

“ Main works

Carl Strathmann, Cranes of Ibycus
Carl Strathmann, Cranes of Ibycus
(catalog Bonn, ill. 138)

of the decorative ornamental Munich Art Nouveau ,

in which different influences of applied art, Symbolism, Byzantinism and Academicism (Stuck’s sensational success ‘The Sin’, 1893) mix ”

(Catalog Bonn, 1976, p. 9).

Here then Ibycus apart ,

in reverse to the right, greeting the not shown cranes not silently, rather emphatically moved, with mighty song at correspondingly curved body, strongly looking up and laurel-wreathed. Adequate hereto the instrument, compact and held calmly in the left in the painting, but elongated and crowned with bows and entwined with a garland of flowers in the left raised upwards here, extending beyond subject & golden border onto the mounting. If the gloriole of the oil is imagined here just as that seems dubious as set here as huge golden half disk, rather suggesting a sunset in respect of the events, into the blue of the sky, behind the trees, head/breast and the lower part of the lyre, marked off horizontally by the meadow sparsely populated by mushrooms. As then also the garment still without train and almost monotonous. Everything concentrated free of distraction at the downright audible powerful voice, the lyre breaking the picture, the mighty golden disk. In short, in contrast to the charm of the oil

the anticipated drama of the coming

Carl Strathmann, Ibycus (detail)

reflected by the eyes ,

the appeal at the here not present cranes as accusers: “Ye cranes, that sweep through upper air … ”.

Which by no means is the end of the matter. For as top of the picture the left upper edge of the lyre is adored by

Carl Strathmann, Ibycus (detail: butterfly)

a butterfly as messenger of death !

“ … The butterfly now became – beside the angels – one of the characteristic symbols for the flight of the soul and the path into the Everafter. In antiquity an allegory for the soul (Greek “psyche” = soul) surviving the physical death, it had survived into the modern age as symbol of resurrection and immortality. About 1800 classicism resorted to this ancient tradition, the butterfly became a popular symbol of sepulchral art … ”

(Norbert Fischer, Of Angels, Butterflies and the Transition into the Everafter, in Ohlsdorf – Zeitschrift für Trauerkultur no. 100/101, I&II, March 2008).

Apparently contrary to this the — color compositionally red of course — mushrooms as a “symbol for longevity, for what reason small happy mushrooms are given away at New Year’s Day.” Rather then supposedly symbolism for the span of life. And with the severeness of this trefoil

oculesics , butterfly , mushrooms

as missing in the painting

this detail study thematically downright makes light of the latter in its rich bloom as a pictorially gorgeous, yet in no way offending salon picture, as a very fine example for the “strictly flat-like composition during the 1890s” as then

the works before 1900 as representing the “high art”

generally are the decisive ones .

Rooted in Symbolism & Art Nouveau, Strathmann began in Dusseldorf, but “(a)fter conflicts with the instructors (there) …

who tried in vain to press him into the familiar drill system ,

he moved to Weimar where count Kalckreuth attracted many young talents” (Lovis Corinth).

The 36-Year-Old Strathmann

“ fights his fight against the windmills ,

which in his case mean the favor of the audience … Few only appreciate his works … There is the gallery in Weimar which is so lucky as to be the owner of the Salambo, in Munich the founder of the Neueste Nachrichten, Mr. Knorr, then the publisher of Kunst für Alle, director Schwarz, the painter Schlittgen. In Potsdam Rumpf (Fritz R. I, 1856-1927; today’s Villa Joop at Heiliger See), then some connoisseurs on the Rhine and on the Danube and in Hamburg …

While a year before he had achieved greatest triumphs everywhere with his watercolors, he now got to know the fickleness of fortune. Short-sighted pettiness and art-political stubbornness caused that this was not even shown at the Art Society where after all any dilettante has her trash on the wall. This refuse was all the more strange as even two secessionists had been elected into the jury who should get the stagnation going again so to speak.

Since then the particularistic tendency of the respective jury has kept many of his things from the large exhibitions, too, with the argument: Strathmann’s works were of an arts-and-crafts kind.

At the same time with the Salambo (his largest picture and one of his best) his most charming picture was created, too: Ibycus, the Gods’ Friend

So work after work was created, yet the audience completely retreated into its dark shell, and rarely a sunbeam fell onto his artistic race. But nothing has made him waver …

That in his art much, sometimes very much seems censurable is natural; for he seems fullest of faults

who stays ahead of the contemporary world ,

and every amateur thinks he could document his appreciation of art by revealing ever so much seeming faults. However, this does not alter the fact that

Strathmann’s art
stands out as a landmark
from the mass of today’s production of pictures;

ever more visibly his value will rise after the mediocre will have passed into well-deserved oblivion. Emile Zola says at one point in his essays about painting: «There is an eternal truth which keeps me up in criticism: that the temperaments alone live and rule the ages.»

A temperament , an individuality Strathmann is for certain .

May he still struggle, indeed the fight is charm of life and nothing is more ruinous to mortal man than fortune showering him with gifts already at the beginning of his career, with gold and laurel. For how many these gifts have become manacles! For how many they have clutched like lead weights and dragged their rising ideals down into the pay of the tyrannical fashion taste! But the struggling and forcing of reluctant fate steels the strength … ”

Lovis Corinth 1903

Quoted from the 1918 second edition of his
Legenden aus dem Künstlerleben
pages 68-82

Befriended with Th. Th. Heine, with whom he belonged to the artist group Laetitia, and Corinth. Since 1891 in Munich with memberships in the Allotria and the Cococello Club and from 1894 in the Freie Vereinigung as splinter group of the Munich Secession

“ whose members … form the core group of the Munich Art Nouveau …

Common to these painters is the academic origin and the device ‘The Triumph over Naturalism’ ”

(Cat. Bonn, p. 26), 1907 finally of the Berlin Secession. Since 1895 contributor to the just established Pan, since 1896 of the Jugend and the Fliegende Blätter (“Strathmann’s contribution to the book illustration of Art Nouveau is not very extensive, but of high quality”).

“ Presumably no second one among the successful painters of our younger generation is more difficult to be classified but Karl Strathmann. He suits into none of the conventional drawers of aesthetics … – he has something of everything and is at the same time still

a strangely own weighty cohesive personage ”

(Wilhelm Schäfer 1904 in [One Hundred Contemporary Masters], quoted from Catalog Bonn, pp. 16 f.).

So then loftily on the wall beside the bed in the studio a mask of Ludwig van Beethoven (Cat. Bonn, p. 17 & ill. 15).

And “to make the autonomous position of this unjustly undervalued (… artistic phenomenon) within the stylistic movement (of the particularly Munich Art Nouveau) more evident than hitherto” was one of the aims then of the profound exhibition at Bonn, which by this at the same time enlarged upon Hans H. Hofstätter’s previous examination of Strathmann. As then Brigitte Lohkamp also cites in Strathmann in der Wertung von Forschung und Kunstkritik as her contribution to the catalog that voice which sees in Strathmann a

“ draughtsman and decorator ingenious to the extreme finger-tip ”

(pp. 72 & 74).

Whose “grotesque” style not least seized those following younger ones, too, whose new style obtained German art of the 1st half of the 20th century international standing :

“ Like many modern artists who started with the ‘grotesque illustration’ of Art Nouveau (Kurt Bauch), including Feininger, Barlach, Nolde, the young Paul Klee, too, finds in his fantastic-satiric drawings about 1901 … his starting point here … (Strathmann’s) quasi autonomous play with forms tends towards the direction of abstract art in the sense of the ‘self expression of artistic means’ (Juliane Roh) and leads into the ‘hieroglyph’ of expression (E. L. Kirchner) of the expressionists resp.

Many expressionists are rooted in their creativeness in Art Nouveau

… later Kirchner came to his stylish formal language: it remained reserved to expressionism to radicalize the abstracting stylistic means of art nouveau ”

(Catalog Bonn, pp. 65 ff., already before, p. 64, reminding of Strathmann’s painted postcards whose “fantastic inventions with realistic single forms … suggest collages by Max Ernst”).

And only nine years after the demise of the grotesque Art Nouveau artist, the eccentric Strathmann, the roots of the Vienna Art Nouveau will have New Savages raise The Vienna School of Fantastic Realism and become dernier cris, verbalized by names, rather programs, like, picked out, Ernst Fuchs or, indeed, Friedensreich Hundertwasser as one of the “most eccentric poster artists of Vienna”.

Correspondingly then in 2008 the exemplary exhibition Freedom of the Line – From Obrist and the Art Nouveau to Marc, Klee and Kirchner at the LWL-Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Münster presenting

“ the universally known art of the ‘Blue Rider’

(especially Kirchner’s) in a new context. For the first time

the origins of Expressionism

in the Munich Art Nouveau about 1900 are illustrated …

Common theme of the exhibited works of art is the movement. In applied arts and architecture, in pictures and sculptures Art Nouveau created expressive linear movements representing sensations already by their mere runs …

(Also) shown in the exhibition a main work of Munich Symbolism: the large-sized painting ‘Salambo’

by the eccentric artist Carl Strathmann …

from 1895 (the year of the Ibycus, too, as already mentioned). It shows a scene from the famous novel ‘Salambo’ by Gustave Flaubert: the Serpent Magic … a harp symbolizes the sound of music … When in 1895 the picture was shown to the public it was a scandal … Nevertheless – or just for that reason – already then it became a public success ”

(Claudia Miklis in the then press statement of the museum).

In respect of the strong element of gold in present Ibycus work it may finally be reminded of this as a “symbolic value of Symbolism”, as “a medium standing beyond all colorful naturalness and bestowing (the work of art) with ‘sacral solemn mood’, by which paraphrase Hofstätter seizes on Oswald Spengler to perceive after all in this whole allegorism evaluated by its contents “an admirable subtlety”, an “accomplished invasion of the applied arts into the painting”. Gustav Klimt’s Golden Adele from only 1907 hails as spectaculum of recent memory.

Among the 128 Strathmann pieces of the 1976 Bonn exhibition

none with evident reference to Ibycus ,

from which present exemplary preparatory work accrues not just because of the destruction of the painting in 1942

beside the artistic also an exceptional evidence ,

but in regard of the trefoil of oculesics, butterfly and mushrooms visibly beyond a unique insight into the creative process, probably also deference to the audience, still more, however, downright delving into mindset and psyche.

Reflecting human in the study , saint in the painting .

The italic style of the signature corresponding with that of Mohammed on the Flight in Munich (no. 49 of the Bonn catalog with ill. 147; about 1900), the underscore of which here already starting from the first lower t-stroke. Similar, if not equal, also that of the lost First Kiss (ill. 49 of the cat.; about 1892/93) as then also that of the burnt 1895 Ibycus painting in its likewise capitalization and use of small letters deviates from the more regular spelling in printed majuscules.

Conceivably fresh in preservation, the bronze tone of the gold nevertheless should be conditioned by age. The mounting board with its various borderlines in pen and ink & completions of the composition with some faint small smudges and isolated fox-stipples in the left lower field. Coming along by the way with

decades-long preservation
in the drawers of but one connoisseur .

Presently offered per bidding process
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Joachim Heusinger von Waldegg. Grotesker Jugendstil. Carl Strathmann 1866-1939. Paintings, Watercolors, Drawings, Prints. Catalog to the Exhibition of 132 Exhibits in the Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn March 25 – May 2, 1976. Bonn 1976. 7⅞ × 7⅞ in (20 × 20 cm). 122 pages. With 164 (29 [2 color] full-page) illustrations. Orig. boards with color ill. front board.

Owner’s note on fly-leaf. Slight traces of usage, particularly the lower edge of the back rubbed. – ENCLOSED: exhibition review of supposedly a Munich paper supposedly of April 24, 1976.

Offer no. 16,141 / EUR  38. (c. US$ 42.) + shipping

„ … sind die Dachse perfekt verpackt und verschnürt bei mir … angekommen. Schon das Auspacken des Bildes hat mir große Freude gemacht und der ‚Ridinger‘ gefällt mir sehr gut, da es eine realistische Stimmung am Bau wiederspiegelt … werde ihn unter meiner Dachsschwarte aufhängen … Ich nehme dies zum Anlaß auch weiterhin in ihrem Fundus zu suchen … Besonderen Dank auch für die Beilage der Dez. 08 Ausgabe von Wild & Hund mit dem gelungenen (Ridinger-)Artikel … Ihnen nochmals herzlichen Dank für ihre fabelhafte Arbeit … “

(Herr K. R., 19. Juni 2009)