Long before Dali developed his theory of paranoia criticism, Max Klinger offered a series of bizarre and ambiguous etchings called Paraphrases about the Finding of a Glove, in which he imagines a fantastical series of events involving a glove he finds at an ice rink. This, coupled with Klinger's often horrific and always difficult to understand work makes him a most unique member of the symbolist movement in Germany. The viewer is often left to make his or her own judgments about the completely ambiguous but equally striking images.

In addition to his more bizarre pieces, Klinger's body of work also includes more typical work for his time, such as his Judgment of Paris. Even his more strange pieces often include hints of contemporary life or common motifs. In Death is Here, we see a skeleton sprawled out across railroad tracks in the mountains; the scene leaves no other hint of its place in time. In his Glove series, the glove itself is of course very much from the fashion of the day, though it travels through fantastical scenes such as in Triumph (#5). In The Dead Mother, Klinger's anti-Pietà, we see a baby perched on top of his dead mother's chest staring directly out of the picture. We see some suggestions of art nouveau - the slinky columns on either side - and medievalism in the mother's robe and flowery headdress. Despite their very unusual subjects and presentations, Klinger's etchings do indeed speak to the modern viewer.


1. How does Klinger's work compare to that of August Brömse — another prominent symbolist working with etching?

2. Klinger often framed his etchings in irregular proportions: Paraphrases alone contains several different sizes from the extremely wide to the extremely thin. What other challenges to normal form, if any, does he present?

3. What, if anything, might the glove in the Paraphrases series symbolize? Consider the glove's constantly changing role in the pictures, to what extent it seems to control its own fate in the pictures, and what aspects of contemporary life it might represent.

4. Dali stated that the goal of paranoia-critcism was to "systematize confusion and thus help discredit completely the world of reality" - taking objects from the outside world and relating them in new ways in order to subvert the usual way of looking at things. To what extent do Klinger's juxtapositions achieve a similar end? Does Klinger attempt to imbue ordinary objects with new meaning, or doe he use them for another purpose?

5. A major characteristic of the Decadents was to take religious or revered images and subvert them for shock and thrill. Klinger performs this quite well in The Dead Mother. Can the same be said of Death is Here or Paraphrases?

Related Material

Aesthetes & Decadents paintings by artist paintings by Max Klinger

Last modified 2 May 2007