Franz Heinrich Lovis Corinth (1858-1925) began his career as a realistic painter, showing things on canvas as they are seen in reality. Thus in His Father on his Sickbed (Stadel Museum, Frankfurt) we see the father in bed, sick but perhaps not mortally so. His loving daughter keeps watch by the bedside. She has arranged a small vase of red flowers for the room and is knitting something long and red, a sweater or a pair of socks. A small bottle on the table suggests that some kind of treatment has been instituted.
The artistic career of Lovis Corinth developed slowly and after a stroke in 1911 he evolved towards impressionism and particularly expressionism. His rise to fame was slow. While in Munich, he was best known for his ability to drink large amounts of red wine and champagne. He was later described as “average in the beginning but truly great at the end.” In 1937 the Nazis banned his works as degenerate.
The 1888 work is in the realistic style. The father’s face is painted yellow, perhaps only to blend with his jacket. But what if the painting means more? It was done after all by someone familiar with the effects of too much alcohol. Could the father be suffering from jaundice, and the larger bottle by his bed a bottle of beer? In another example by Corinth, a drawing, we might we also speculate about the young woman poignantly shown alone. The bed adjacent hers is empty. Unlike the sick father, she may have nobody to care for her.
- The Artist’s Father in his Sickbed. Lovis Corinth. 1888. Städel Museum, Frankfurt. Public Domain due to age.
- The sick child (Das Kranke Kind). Drypoint by L. Corinth, 1918. Credit: Wellcome Collection. CC BY
, MD, Editor-in-Chief