CHISWICK Auctions are set to sell one of the most important early paintings by the German Expressionist Ludwig Meidner (1884-1966) to have come to market in recent years.
The authenticity of the painting, which slipped through the
hands of both Sotheby's and Christie's, has recently been confirmed
after months of research led by the West London auctioneers under
the guidance of the leading academic in the field.
It is estimated to fetch £800,000-£1.2m on September 28.
The Meidner oil is thought to date from November 1912, the key
moment in his artistic development, which marked a radical change
in style and occasioned the name-making series of paintings dubbed
the Apocalyptic Landscapes that anticipated the horrors of
the Great War.
The 2ft 6in x 2ft (75 x 60cm) painting, provisionally titled
The Miners, depicts the growing unrest that spread among
the coal miners of Eastern Prussia and Poland in the spring and
summer of 1912, provoking the Prussian Government to announce that
the strikers would be "suppressed with an iron hand".
Several clues have helped confirm the identity of the painting.
Both carbon dating and pigment analysis conducted by the London
specialists Art Access and Research at a cost of £4000 (not an
insignificant outlay for a local auction room) dated the painting
to around 1910, which discounted the possibility that it was a
A handwriting expert further agreed the pencil inscription to
the stretcher was that of the German artist. However, the vital
piece of evidence was an incomplete and defaced self-portrait on
the back of the canvas (Meidner was a habitual self-portraitist).
Infra-red photography was able to extract a clear image of the
under-drawing for this self-portrait, which is very similar to
another known Meidner work, Mein Nachgesicht (My Nocturnal
Visage) sold by Sotheby's in 2007 for £1.5m.
According to Erik Riedel, senior curator of the Ludwig Meidner
Archive at the Jewish Museum in Frankfurt, "the under-drawing for
this self-portrait probably dates to around 1908", when Meidner
returned from studying at the Julien and Cormon Academies in Paris
to set up his studio in Berlin.
For Meidner, who as a child had grown up in the coal mining
areas of Silesia, the social struggles of the miners were to be
part of his inspiration, and the academic believes the artist has
included himself in picture, as the single figure to the left of
the composition. The discovery of the picture (which may be that
described in an exhibition of 1918), is already recorded on the
website of the Ludwig Meidner Archive.
Riedel has suggested that the painting was among 80 works (most
of them now accounted for) brought by the artist to England in the
shadow of the Second World War.
As a Jew and a 'subversive' artist whose work was displayed in
the infamous Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937, Meidner
and his wife Else finally fled Nazi Germany for England in the
summer of 1939 with assistance from the artist Augustus John.
Meidner was interned as an enemy alien on the Isle of Man and
stayed in England, largely unrecognised, working in odd jobs until
1953 when he returned to Germany.
This mining scene, a harbinger of the intensity and creativity
of the Apocalyptic Landscapes, had languished for many
years in a storage facility before it was bought by a member of the
He consigned it first to Sotheby's (who incurred the wrath of
the consignor when they neglected to verify the painting and
include it in a forthcoming sale) and then to Christie's (whose
German consultant had been equivocal regarding its authenticity and
the historical accuracy of the subject matter).
The painting is expected to draw interest from a number of
collectors and institutions when it goes under the hammer in West
London on September 28.
Contact 0208 992 4442.
By Roland Arkell