Lost painting by banned German Expressionist rediscovered

Chiswick Auctions are set to sell one of the most important early paintings by the German Expressionist Ludwig Meidner that has come to market in recent years.

The true identity of the painting, which languished undiscovered and abandoned for many years in a storage facility, has only recently been confirmed after months of careful research by Chiswick Auctions backed up by expert scientific pigment analysis.

The oil on canvas work by Meidner dates to November 1912, and is near the start of his great series of ‘Apocalyptic’ paintings – which foresaw the turmoil and horror of the First World War.

The painting 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”.

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.

One of the vital clues that has helped confirm the identity of the painting is an incomplete self portrait on the back of the canvas. Infra-red photography has been able to extract a clear image of the under-drawing for this self portrait, which is very similar to another known Meidner work, ‘Mein Nachtgesicht’ (My Noctunal Visage). 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 in Paris to set up his studio in Berlin. It was quite common for Meidner to re-use what canvases were available to him.

Throughout his pre-war years in Germany, because of his religion and his work, Ludwig Meidner was seen as a subversive artist. Under the Nazi’s his work was considered degenerate and displayed in the infamous Entartete Kunst exhibition in 1937. With the assistance of the artist Augustus John, Meidner and his wife fled to England in the summer of 1939, bringing with them the recently identified painting.

The painting is expected to draw interest from a number of collectors and institutions when it goes under the hammer on the 28th September.