It’s not really a style, strictly speaking, nor an artistic school or movement. It’s, perhaps, a philosophical more than artistic way to describe the obscure forces of an evil Nature, to use the symbolic element in order to let the spectator regard at the incubus and demonic vision of the author.

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One of the most influent artist who tried to give a representation of his demonic visions was the austrian Alfred Kubin. In the rest of this article you will able to find out a confrontation between some works of Kubin (mainly from my own copy of the famous album entitled ” Hans von Weber mappe” for the editor Spangmberg) and other works by hungarian artists such as Sazndor Nagy, Aladar Körösfői-Kriesch, Emil Sarkady, Lajos Gulacsy, Mednyánszky László.

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As noticed by Karoly Lyka on the Művészet magazine (“Symbolikus rajzok”, IV year, volume 2, 1905) the black white illustration is the technique “par excellance” in order to charge the lines of the illustration itself of a symbolic value. In particular, after the works by Walter Crane and of the Morris School and the preraffaellite tradition, the use of the line became an effective way to obtain a smooth, curvaceous, indeterminate portrait of a (un)reality, the dream, which is unreal by definition. Using a black and white only technique, the artist can obtain an effective representation in which only reside lights and shadows. And the black/white pencil drawing was the technique mostly used by Alfred Kubin, too.

He studied in Munchen, where kept in touch with the mystic brotherhood named Kosmic Circle (Kreise der Kosmiker). There, the austrian artist knew the philosophical and anthropological theories of the famous German scientist Ferdinand Bachofen, in particular the Bachofen’s studies on the original Mediterranean religion of the Great Mother. At the very beginnings of the european civilization the societies, according to Bachofen, were organized in a matriarchal way, in which the role of the feminine was a first order one, somewhat reproducing in the human society itself the structure of the supernatural powers. In Nature the ruling forces are the feminine ones, and the worship of the Great Mother in the ancient mediterranean cultures was a symbolic way to claim for the mercy of the Goddess. As noticed by the italian philosopher Massimo Cacciari, Kubin was obsessed by thebachofenian thematic of the Great Goddess, representing it in a symbolic manner such as in the drawing entitled “Sumpfplanzen”:

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J. Millais, Ofelia

J. Millais, Ofelia

A. Kubin, Sumpfplanzen

A. Kubin, Ofelia

But the vision of Kubin of the Great Mother is far from those of Bachofen. The Kubin’s own vision of the Goddess, the feminine character is a symbol for the terrible hopeless condition of the humans. The feminine is a mysterious force which rules everything, which was formed by a double and contradictory nature, both mother and death, the force which combines the birth in the world together with the tormented existence condemned to the ineluctable death through the devastating feelings of impotence and ephemeral life, combined with the menacing vision of the shadows.

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Emil Sarkady

Korosfoi Kriesch

A. Kubin, Bakery

A. Kubin, Hans von Weber Mappe

We are, at this point, very far from the symbolic alliance between the artist-Theseus and the feminine strength of the New Young Art/Sophia/Athena of the first poster of the austrian Secession, work of Gustav Klimt:

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Rippl-Ronai, Woman with black hat

G. Klimt, Poster of the first Kunstaustellung der Secession

As a symbol for this tormented existence, Kubin used to draw the labyrinth. There is a node which enclose every exits from the labyrinth/existence in which the humans are condemned. The path is, as a consequence, never-ending, and the salvage intervention of the Mother is committed by giving death to the hero trapped without any hope.

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S. Nagy, the scientist

Korosfoi-Kriesch

A. Kubin, Perle

A. Kubin, the wall

This trap, which became the most deep anxiety to the author, was the lethal form which characterized the Time and its flow. Maybe the most labyrinth’s of the Kubin constructions was its own and unique roman, entitled “The Other Side”:Perle, the city itself in which the facts of the roman eventually take place is a labyrinth . And the central representation of the futility of the human existence combined with the unstoppable flow of the Time was the tower, in the very middle of the main Perle’s square: without any reason, without being able to stop, a human flow continuously walk around the tower itself, which is surmounted by a Clock, the official time of Perle, the labyrinth’s incubus realm.

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S. Nagy, Ambicio

Mednyánszky László

A. Kubin, illustration from “The Other Side”

A. Kubin, eine neue totentanz

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S. Nagy, a Zseni

A. Korosfoi Kriesch, the future

A. Kubin, Hans von Weber Mappe

A. Kubin, Hans von Weber Mappe

Other pictures follow, including those taken from my own copy of Kubin’s masterpiece ” Hans von Weber mappe” and “Eine Neue Totentanz”, together with other works by hungarian artists characterized by a kubinesque taste.

Lajos Gulacsy:
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Sandor Nagy:
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Karoly Ferenczy:
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Gustav Klimt:
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Alfred Kubin’s Hans von Weber Mappe:
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