Gabriel von Max

Gabriel von Max (1840-1915) is an odd case: a world-famous artist in his day who for decades was dismissed and almost forgotten; a self-described scientist who built up his own sizable natural-history and anthropological museum, yet had an abiding interest in occult phenomena as well.

 His most powerful works dive deep into psychosexual turmoil, with a particular focus on the limbo between life and death. His pale, sometimes peculiarly discolored female beauties often seem to have risen from the grave — or at least conducted their modeling careers in the morgue. (from Seattle Times –  link)

Image from wikipedia (link) 1100 x 820 pixel

“The Anatomist” (1869),is an atmospheric and unnerving piece: a morbid symphony of shadow and light. Behind the palely lit corpse of a young woman, the anatomist of the title sits almost consumed in darkness. With one hand he lifts her shroud, about to expose her naked flesh. His other hand is positioned under his chin, in a pensive pose.

Forty years after painting this oil on canvas, von Max told an interviewer that the male figure “is studying in perplexity the question — the spirit, whence came it, whither has it gone?”

Now in the collection of the Neue Pinakothek in Munich, the masterpiece was auctioned off from Oberlin College’s collection in 1953 for just $40.  (adapted from Seattle Times)

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