Ask Morgana 082: Otto Mueller

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om0Otto Mueller (1874-1930) was nicknamed ‘Zigeuner Mueller’ of ‘Mueller der Zigeuner’, which roughly translates as ‘Gypsy Mueller’, possibly because his mother was Romani, possibly because he took Roma as one of the main subjects for his paintings. Using thick charcoal or distemper on rough canvas, Mueller tried to emphasise the unity between humans and nature, and his slender, primitivistic nudes seem to spring from their environments like brown reeds or grasses. Some people do not care for his style – he was a member of the artistic groups Die Brucke and Der Blaue Reiter, pioneers of Expressionism – finding his figures anorexic, stick-thin, and their faces ugly. I disagree and admire his work greatly, finding his young women to be natural, naive, sexual beings.

Mueller’s work was banned by the Nazis, and to me there is no better recommendation! Their exhibition of ‘degenerate art’ showcased, ironically, the masterpieces of early 20c painting, and Mueller’s work was there. German Expressionism is now rightly seen as an important development in modern art – count me among its enthusiasts. As for Mueller in particular, he triggers my synaesthesia, and I have no way of knowing where the natural scent of his women ends, and the scents of hot earth, grass, and leaves begins. To my mind that is a measure of his genius.

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Images reproduced under ‘fair use’ provisions.

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