Dreams and Nightmares in Artistic Print Cycles by Max Klinger and Max Beckmann

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Elena Chiara Treiber


In his print cycle »Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove« (1881), the German artist Max Klinger (1857–1920) combines personal dreams and fantasies to create an overall appearance in which the waking world and the dream world become blurred. While the pictured location of the cycle and the desire of a woman, symbolized by the fetishized glove, originate in Klinger’s life, he shifts the story of fulfilment and failure of love into a pictorial dream sequence. The cycle includes dream markers presenting both the dreamer himself as well as fantastic creatures. The dream – like structure is

further emphasized by means of pictorial narration, distortions of scale, and unsettling juxtapositions. 

Like the Glove Cycle, the print cycle »Day and Dream« (1946) by German artist Max Beckmann (1884–1950) shows biographical links between work and artist. Beckmann was clearly influenced by Klinger’s innovations in the field of printmaking, especially print portfolios. The fact that Beckmann renamed the cycle shortly before it was published highlights the importance of the dream theme for the artist. Furthermore, the title provides a reading instruction of the otherwise seemingly heterogeneous work for the recipient. Similar to Klinger’s cycle, the nightmarish and phantasmago­rial in »Day and Dream« is evoked by the dream – immanent narrative, distortions of proportion, and evocation of the uncanny. 

Using topoi of dreams and nightmares, both print cycles reflect on biographical events of the artists in past, present, and future. Dream – like scenarios are used to investigate factual concerns, wishes, and emotions. Further, the recipients try to make sense of the dreams and the dream – like appearances and structures by deciphering allegories and symbols and associating them with both biographical and world – historical interconnections. 

Published: Nov 14, 2022

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