MISSOULA – Two rare and important works of art are on display now through Sept. 6 at the University of Montana, as part of the Montana Museum of Art & Culture’s “Visiting Masterworks” program.
The artwork will be on public view in the Harold and Priscilla Gilkey Building, on campus at the corner of Arthur and Eddy avenues. “Visiting Masterworks” highlights art by significant historic and contemporary artists on loan from private collections. The works on view in the Gilkey ground-floor lobby represent different moments in the art of the 20th century.
Like the artist’s other portraits, Ludwig Meidner’s 1913 “Self-portrait (Man in a Green Suit)” depicts the profound psychological content typical of the German expressionist movement in the first two decades of the 20th century.
A painter and printmaker, Meidner was born in Bernstadt, Silesia, now Bierutow in southwest Poland, in 1884. He gained renown in the years after 1912, when he began a series of apocalyptic landscapes that depicted the catastrophic destruction of World War I. Although he was vehemently antiwar, Meidner was drafted into military service in 1915 and served as a French translator.
Pre-World War II, Meidner suffered extensive persecution by the Nazis, as he was Jewish. He lost his teaching position in Berlin in the 1930s and saw 84 of his works removed from public collections, labeled “entartete kunst” or “degenerate art” by Nazi Party officials who subjected modernist artists to sanctions. These included removal from teaching positions and being forbidden to exhibit, sell and create art. In 1939, Meidner fled to Great Britain, where he spent the following three years in an internment camp. He eventually returned to Germany after the Allied victory in the war.
Also on view is Robert Longo’s large-scale, photorealistic charcoal drawing of a crashing wave. Longo, an American born in 1953, began drawing towering waves in 1999, using his signature hyper-realistic technique to transform black-and-white charcoal into thunderous ocean forms. In the late 1990s, Longo was fascinated by phenomena that seem to exist for only an instant, such as crashing waves and atomic explosions.
“The shape of a wave is not necessarily dictated by how strong the wind is,” Longo said. “It’s dictated by what’s deep underneath it. It’s like psychoanalysis.”
By drawing these moments in precise detail, Longo aimed to create a sense of beauty in the sublime, yet terrifying, forces of nature. He titled his series of wave drawings “Monsters” for their intimidating grandeur.