Alfred Kubin, ‘On the trapeze’, 1918, W&K - Wienerroither & Kohlbacher

The world of figures by this great Austrian draughtsman always appears highly bizarre. Moreover, he often successfully combines the macabre with a touch of humour in his own characteristic manner. His expressive linear forms create constellations of figures and nightmarish pictorial experiences that time and again lead the viewer into twilight zones.
With its theatricality and the individuality of the clowns and artists, the world of the circus seems predestined for the penetrating Kubinesque gaze. However, images from the circus, like this one, are comparatively rare in the artist’s oeuvre. Once again, in addition to Kubin’s many other artistic qualities, this work reveals his adeptness at capturing a moment of tension in an imagined series of actions – like a still in a film – immediately leading the viewer to the next stages in the sequence without actually defining these. As if with a shuddering grin, this presents an artistic pose of two actors, who seem unsure of their profession and as if they have stepped out of another twilight zone.
As a thoroughly modern artist, Alfred Kubin still occupies a position in twentieth-century art that is concerned with narrative at very different levels.

Peter Assmann

Dr. Annegret Hoberg, Kubin-Archiv, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich, has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Signature: Signed (lower right): AKubin Titled and dated (lower left): Am Trapez 19

Image rights: W&K - Wienerroither & Kohlbacher (

Private collection, Germany

About Alfred Kubin

Alfred Kubin’s haunting illustrations, watercolors, and lithographs of symbol-laden fantasy worlds are said to have presaged the horrors of WWI. Death, parenthood, sexuality, the unconscious, and explicit and violent portrayals of women as femmes fatales are recurring motifs in his oeuvre. Originating in his own imagination and traumatic life experiences, the nightmarish imagery also stems from writings by Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Edgar Allen Poe, many of which Kubin illustrated. Stylistically linked with Symbolism and Expressionism and known for a delicate, atmospheric ink wash technique, Kubin was influenced by the macabre aquatints of Francisco de Goya, Odilon Redon, James Ensor, and Max Klinger. However, he shifted to producing frenetically rendered, reality-based drawings with watercolor accents, sparked by a realization that life’s mysteries “lie not only in the bizarre, exalted, or comic moments...but [also in] the painful, the indifferent, and the incidental commonplace.”

Austrian , 1877-1959, Litoměřice, Czech Republic