1884 Bernstadt an der Weide (Silesia) – 14 May 1966 Darmstadt
The visual and literary work of Ludwig Meidner was long forgotten. It was only in the 1980s that the Expressionist’s work was rediscovered. Meidner became famous for his »Apocalyptic Landscapes«, which were foreseeing the world wars and for his artist and self-portraits, which pictured the Berlin cultural scene around 1910.
Meidner burned down a bricklaying apprenticeship in order to deal with painting and graphics primarily as a self-taught artist – apart from two years of study at the Breslau art academy and a course in etching. From 1905 to 1914 he lived in Berlin. In the first years, a few paintings, drawings and graphics were created. They were just as threatening as fascinating »industrial cityscapes« and impressions of the hectic life in a metropolis. Meidner was part of expressionist artistic circles in these years of poverty. In 1912 the artist painted the first psychologically very striking self-portraits and “apocalyptic landscapes”. These are catastrophe scenarios that were later interpreted as premonitions of the First World War. Meidner combined futuristic and cubist influences with his strongly expressionist style. War euphoria still prevailed in the rest of Germany. From 1916 to 1918, Meidner did his military service in a prison camp and began to write with great success. After the war, he joined socio-political groups dreaming of a revolution in Germany. When these plans failed, he withdrew into private in disappointment. Meidner turned away from Expressionism. He began to live according to the religious rules of Judaism. His search for religious identity was revealed in pictures with Jewish and Christian themes.
With the seizure of power by the National Socialists, the pressure on the Jewish artist and his work increased. Meidner initially worked as a drawing teacher at a Cologne school. In 1939 he managed to emigrate to London with his family. There he could not gain a foothold as an artist. For material reasons, he worked among other things as a corpse washer and as a night watchman. As a German, he also had to spend a year in an internment camp. After 14 years in exile in London, Meidner returned to Germany in 1953. His wife stayed in England. Meidner lacked the strength to start anew as an artist. In his late work, he continued the realistic style developed in the 1920s. He suffered from a deep inner conflict and died alone.