Works included in this catalogue
Klinger Vom Tode I  [Plates 1-10] 1889 {1891} NGV [ET]
Klinger Dead Mother (Vom Tode II, plate 10) 1889 {1891} NGV [ET]
Klinger To the Beautiful in Nature (Vom Tode II, plate 12) 1889 {1891} NGV [ET]

Klinger’s Vom Tode I series, and two prints from Klinger’s second series on death, purchased for the NGV only two years after their publication in 1889, were arguably the most obviously modern acquisitions for the Melbourne gallery to that point. Like a number of prints purchased for the collection prior to 1900, these etchings now have a somewhat aged appearance due to over-exposure to light. But when they were new they must have presented Melburnians with a startlingly alternative view of the world, one conjuring up the fin-de-siècle complexities explored by Munch, Mahler and Freud (all close contemporaries of Klinger).

Nor were Klinger’s prints tucked away for the perusal of cognoscenti, but prominently displayed, during the 1890s and early 1900s, in the vestibule leading to the Stawell Gallery (see NGV 1894, p.70, and NGV 1905, pp.108-9), close to the busts of Redmond Barry and other colonial worthies, and the etchings by Victoria and Albert acquired in 1893.

Irena Zdanowicz (1993) documents instances of the impact of Klinger’s prints on early 20thcentury NGV visitors and various Australian artists.

Also a noted painter and sculptor, Klinger typifies the exploration of symbolic and expressive imagery undertaken by many creative artists in the late 19thand early 20thcenturies. Ein Handschuh, another series of etchings (1881; re-issued in 1893), purchased for the NGV in 1978, deals in proto-Surrealist fashion with the history of a glove. His Symbolist statue of Beethoven as a bare-chested Olympic deity surrounded by mythic figures (Beethoven-Haus, Bonn, completed 1902) met with controversy; the NGV owns a plaster maquette of the central figure (acquired in 1994). And a colossal monument to Richard Wagner – Klinger’s alter ego? – remained unfinished at the artist’s death.


For useful comments on the Vom Tode I series, see e.g. (accessed 15/10/18). For Herkomer’s recommendations of Old Master prints, see Zdanowicz (1993). See also (for Ein Handschuh: title page) and (Beethoven maquette, dated to c.1890)