„In the midst of all these stylists which have so little to say, you are the only one who grasps the soulful substance of things“. Ernst Jünger to Alfred Kubin

Alfred Kubin, born 1877 in Leitmeritz/North Bohemia, was an artist and writer – and a true child of his time with his double gift. His work represents the dark, dreamy side of art at the turn of the century. His early years comprised a suicide attempt at the grave of his mother, an education as photographer that came to nothing, and a career in the army that he discontinued because of continuous exhaustion… Kubin was a nervous, highly sensitive artist, who preferred erring on the dark side: “People want to decipher life. To me, only its secrets make it beautiful and worth living.”

Alfred Kubin*
(Leitmeritz 1877-1959 Zwickledt)
Hinüber, 1899

Moreover, reading Nietzsche’s and Schopenhauer’s philosophical writings furthered his pessimistic outlook on life, and his early work is rich in haunting visions. His marriage to a motherly widow calmed his spirit, but in turn made him loose his inspiration, that had been fed by his existential angst. He experienced a creative block in his fine art and therefore turned to literature. It took him only a few weeks in 1908 to write his novel “The other side”, for which he also provided the illustrations (Lot 387).

With this work he perfected his flowing, black and white inky style which became his signature. The illustrations further allowed him Kubin to achieve a certain level of financial independence; he was the draughtsman for the editions from writers like Edgar Allen Poe, Fjodor Dostojewski, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Hugo von Hofmannsthal (Lot 334, 376) or Ferdinand Huch (Lot 363, 361, 336, 311, 310, 399). He drew his inspiration from his numerous travels, and from his closeness to literature.

His travels also brought him back to his native Bohemia (Lot 362). Always prone to bouts of melancholy, he remarked that “this somber, poorly populated landscape is the real home of my soul, in which the deepest roots of my being repose.”

Kubin was honored with the Austrian State Prize and the Austrian medal of honor for science and art, and died in 1959. His estate is being kept at the Landesmuseum of Upper Austria and the collection of graphic art at the Albertina in Vienna.

The collection of Wolfgang Graninger, who personally knew the artist, comprises about 150 drawings, graphic works and gouaches by Alfred Kubin. It will be on auction in the first part of “Impressionist & Modern Art” on June 17, 2019 after 4 pm.

Alexandra Markl