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Part II

Vol. 55 no. 3: Winter 2021–22

“Blake was a phenomenon”: Artistic, Domestic, and Blakean Visions in Joseph Paul Hodin’s Writing on Else and Ludwig Meidner

  • Sibylle Erle
18 January 2022
18 Jan. 2022


When Ludwig Meidner (1884–​1966), the German-Jewish expressionist painter, printmaker, and writer, returned to Germany in 1953, he took what he could carry: personal belongings, books, and images, his prints, drawings, paintings, and watercolors. Refugees face difficult choices; they can take only what is absolutely necessary. Meidner never adjusted during the fourteen years of exile and there is a sense that he wanted to eradicate all that reminded him of London—​except for Blake. Thomas Grochowiak, who first noted the significance of Meidner’s encounter with “the painter, poet, mystic William Blake” (“Maler-Dichter-Mystikers William Blake”), suggests that he identified with Blake’s adverse living conditions and artistic neglect, and argues that the occult aspects and especially the Visionary Heads interested him: “For him the preoccupation with Old Testament figures and prophets, with mystical philosophers or religious ecstatics, was just as natural as the everyday, familiar dealings with ghosts.” Meidner took not only John Piper’s British Romantic Artists (1942) and Ruthven Todd’s edition of Alexander Gilchrist’s Life of Blake (1942), but also reproductions of William Blake by Thomas Phillips, the large color print God Judging Adam (then known as Elijah About to Ascend in the Chariot of Fire), and James Deville’s life mask. These images were part of a selection that were to adorn his studio in Marxheim (1955–​63), where he shared his art with a small number of visitors who came to pay tribute to the old master of German expressionism.