Charlotte Corinth at her dressing table | Lovis Corinth | 1911
As a child, Corinth shows a great talent in painting, but only at 22 he begins to study art formally. He looked himself as an impressionist, like Monet, Cezánne, Degas and Manet; but later his life experiences are going to take him to a different path…
At 43, printmaker and painter Lovis Corinth, urged by being unemployed, immigrates to Berlin and founds an art school for women in which she meets his future wife, Charlotte Berend.
Naughty, he marries her, 22 years younger. She is going to be his muse and spiritual partner throughout his whole life. Her influence is so essential that Corinth gave up the landscapes he was painting and begins to portrait everyday life scenes, many times painting his own wife.
And this is the case of Charlotte Corinth at her dressing table, where, in the foreground, we see his loved Charlotte putting herself makeup while a hairdresser brusher her hair, next to the dressing table. At the centre, we see a window with the light coming from the outside. Colors are, generally, pastel; although there is a clear exception: black. This color (or this absence of color, according different chromatic theories), is the horror of any proud-to-be impressionist. Why? Because impressionists painted, strictly, the effect of light over the figures and that’s why they restrained to use black: black doesn’t reflect the light. Also, to the impressionism, figures were not important by themselves. But not for Corinth: for our artist, Charlotte mattered. This “figure” wasn’t unimportant, but was the very essence of the canvas! At last, the strokes in this painting are long and decided, and impressionists didn’t like it as they preferred short, doughy strokes, reaching as far as pointillism, it is, a canvas painted only by small dots. By that time, Corinth, in just one painting, had broke 3 rules of the ABC of impressionism: black, the importance of the figure and long strokes.
It was evident that the impressionist orthodoxy of Corinth wasn’t going to last much…
In December of 1911, after a extremely prolific year for our artist, disaster comes: he suffers a stroke with its expected functional worsening. Charlotte, the character of today’s work, takes care of him and, little by little, Corinth is getting better. But something in his paintings had change… the softness and control he showed in his beginnings had loosened and transformed into something more emotional and dramatic… which means that, slowly, he was becoming an expressionist and began to use brighter colors, resulting in more confuse and twisted works but, to my understanding, richer.
In 1925, Corinth travels to the Netherlands to see paintings by Rembrandt and Frans Hals, but he gets pneumonia and dies in Zandvoort. Despite not leaving a great deal of paintings, Corinth is very well known in Germany for having experimented with all printmaking techniques.