The symbolist painter and etcher, Richard Müller, has provided the 8th in this series of snow scenes.
It’s a painting of his from the end of the Second World War.
The symbolism in the image depends on the audience having knowledge of the contextual background in order to make sense of the painting. When I first saw this picture, I had no way of decoding it. I simply reacted to the quality of the drawing and the composition.
This second image shows Muller’s symbolist work in a more strident mode. It dates from 1942, and presages the imminent threat from Russia in the east.
I haven’t succeeded in finding out much more about Herr Muller, but there’s a link to a small gallery here, and a potted biography after the fold. >>
Richard Müller’s precocious draftsmanship earned him early admission, at 16, to the Dresden Academy. In 1895, his career as a painter already well-established, he sought out Max Klinger, then at the height of his fame as Germany’s pre-eminent Symbolist, who taught Müller the techniques of etching.
For the most part Müller avoided social themes, that aspect of Klinger’s oeuvre pursued by his other major disciple, Käthe Kollwitz. Rather, Müller was to emphasize symbol and metaphor in his fantastic, sometimes macabre, images. At the same time, by contrast, he frequently displays an ironic wit and engaging whimsy. His nudes are courted by grotesque animals and birds, while his bear-artist performs for a monkey public.
Though awarded the Prix de Rome in 1897, Müller abandoned etching after 1924 in favor of rather grimly realistic drawings and paintings. He was a prominent professor for 35 years at the Dresden Academy, where his students included Otto Dix and George Grosz. On these he seems to have been influential chiefly in provoking a reaction however, as he steadfastly resisted the waves of expressionism and modernism sweeping Germany early in the century.
Following several decades of neglect — a fate shared by his mentor, Klinger — Müller’s resurgence began in 1974 with a major exhibition at Galerie Brockstedt in Hamburg, and another at the Picadilly Gallery, London the following year.