Alfred Kubin


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(b Leitmeritz [now Litomerice], Bohemia, 10 Apr. 1877; d Schloss Zwickledt, nr. Wernstein, 20 Aug. 1959).

Austrian draughtsman, illustrator, painter, and writer. From 1906 he lived mainly at Zwickledt in Upper Austria, although he travelled a good deal. He was a friend of Kandinsky and showed his work in the second Blaue Reiter exhibition in 1912, but his preoccupations were very different to those usually associated with the group. His work shows a taste for the morbid and fantastic, which he combined with pessimistic social satire and allegory. Often he depicted weird creatures in the kind of murky nightmare world associated with Odilon Redon, whom he met in 1905. Kubin's imagery reflects his disturbed and traumatic life (he had an unhappy childhood, attempted suicide on his mother's grave in 1896, and in 1903 underwent a mental breakdown after the death of his fiancée). He was obsessed with the theme of death (he is said to have liked to watch corpses being recovered from the river) and with the idea of female sexuality as a symbol of death. In 1909 he wrote a fantastical novel Die andere Seite (The Other Side) and he illustrated many books, often ones whose subject matter matched his own macabre interests, such as the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. From the 1920s his reputation was widespread and he was influential on the Surrealists. His spidery style changed little throughout his career.

Subjects: Art.

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