According to Siegfried Kracauer in “Caligari to Hitler” the artist Alfred Kubin was the original choice to provide the highly stylized backdrops for the seminal film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919). Other artists were ultimately utilized, but it’s fascinating to contemplate how his macabre and surrealistic imagination could have affected the film.
Kubin, aside from being an important artist, was an illustrator and author. He wrote one phantasmagoric novel, The Other Side, and was best known as a prolific illustrator of the works of Poe, Dostoyevsky, and E.T.A Hoffmann. But he was also closely affiliated with the Munich avant-garde of the early 1900s and was a member of the important Phalanx and Blaue Reiter groups. All this despite living a significant portion of his adult like as a near recluse.
Because of his associations with turn of the century German art circles, Kubin is often considered a noteworthy expressionist. It’s reassuring to know that at least one artist who focused largely on fantastic or horrific imagery has survived posterity and was even very well regarded during his lifetime. It may be that expressionism was the only art movement where the morbid and dark-minded were at home.
The Pond (above) is typical of the pen and wash renderings that he was best known for. Wassergeist (below) is one of Kubin’s oil works; it’s a shame he did so few works in this medium since his dark tints and rough brushwork are so reminiscent of the later works of Goya. Epidemia (bottom) falls within Kubin’s catalog of proto-surrealist works.
There is a good collection of Kubin’s works at: http://www.all-art.org/symbolism/kubin1.html
Tags: Alfred Kubin, Expressionism, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari