Alfred Kubin – Austrian expressionist painter of the XX century

Alfred Kubin. Gateway to Hell 1900
Gateway to Hell 1900

Alfred Kubin was an outstanding Austrian engraver, illustrator and writer, a prominent representative of the symbolic and expressionist trends in the visual arts of the first half of the twentieth century. The works of Alfred Kubin are full of phantasmagoric and grotesque images of dreams, motives of emptiness and fear.

Alfred Kubin worked primarily in graphics, he painted only a small number of oil paintings at the beginning of his career. The main part of his artistic heritage is made up of drawings, watercolors, prints and lithographs.

Alfred Kubin, jede nacht besucht uns ein traum 1900
jede nacht besucht uns ein traum 1900

Biography of Alfred Kubin

Alfred Kubin was born on April 10, 1877 in the family of a petty court official in the city of Leitmeritz in Austria-Hungary. Today this settlement is called Litomerice and belongs to the Czech Republic.

At the age of ten, the boy lost his mother, and soon his brother. These tragic events negatively affected Alfred’s mental health. At the age of 19, he tried to commit suicide at his mother’s grave, but luckily it was unsuccessful. Through the efforts of relatives and doctors, the young man managed to distract from suicidal thoughts and return to normal life.

Alfred Kubin. The Man 1902
The Man 1902

In 1898, Kubin began studying painting at the private school of Ludwig Schmid-Reutte, and a year later he entered the Munich Academy of Arts, but very soon dropped out. In the capital of Bavaria, Kubin got acquainted with the work of many expressionists. The artist was particularly struck by the works of Odilon Redon and Edvard Munch, as well as engravings by Max Klinger.

Alfred Kubin. The Emperor of China 1910
The Emperor of China 1910

In 1904, Alfred Kubin married the wealthy widow Hedwig Gröndler, sister of the prose writer Oscar Schmitz. And in 1906, the family bought a small castle Zwickledt in the mountains in northern Austria and moved there to live.


1909 was marked by the publication of Kubin’s fantastic work The Other Side. The author independently created more than 50 illustrations for his novel. It was the drawings that he considered the most significant part of the book, and the text was just an explanation for the reader.

In the same 1909, Alfred Kubin became one of the founders of the New Munich Art Association and, two years later, even took part in a pilot exhibition of the Blue Horseman art community. But in 1913 he unexpectedly cut off all ties with representatives of the avant-garde art and became a recluse.

In Flight 1920. Alfred Kubin
In Flight 1920

In Zwickledt, Kubin began to lead a quiet, calm life in his country castle. He illustrated books, including the works of famous writers: Fyodor Dostoevsky, Jean-Baptiste Molière, Edgar Allan Poe, created prints and lithographs.

During the reign of the Nazis, many of the artist’s works were recognized as “degenerate art”. But Kubin was almost not affected by repression, the Reich authorities did not forbid him to create away from the influential centers of German art.

Alfred Kubin lived to be 82 years old and died at a ripe old age on April 20, 1959 in the family castle, which today houses the museum of the great artist.

Black Mass 1905
Black Mass 1905

The most famous works of Alfred Kubin

The most famous works of Alfred Kubin include dozens of his graphic works. But the most powerful effect on the audience is the following engravings and drawings:

  1. Dreams Visit Us Every Night (1900), a phantasmagoric work with a clear erotic overtones, an ominous female figure both attracts and evokes a sense of animal fear.
  2. The End of War (1901) is an engraving filled with sorrow and tragedy on the theme of senseless wars. The symbolic image of the skeleton represents the devastation of the Earth as a result of the terrible massacre.
  3. “The Gate to Hell” (1902) – a drawing that depicts people vigorous to their death. And only on the edge of the abyss do they realize the approach of the terrible end of life, but they can no longer change anything.
  4. Dolmen (1902) is one of the least gloomy drawings in the artist’s work. It depicts a peacefully slumbering giant who can wake up at any moment to bring many misfortunes to people.
El pez buey 1906
El pez buey 1906
Man in a Storm 1903
Man in a Storm 1903
The Last King 1902
The Last King 1902
Alfred Kubin.The Moment of Birth 1902
The Moment of Birth 1902
The Past (forgotten-swallowed) 1901
The Past (forgotten-swallowed) 1901
The White House 1906
The White House 1906
Road to Hell 1902
Road to Hell 1902
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