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Nirwana

1928 Max Reyher Born: Berlin, Germany 1862 Died: Belmar, New Jersey 1945 oil on wood 15 5/8 x 19 3/4 in. (39.7 x 50.2 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson 1986.65.136 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 22B


Luce Center Quote

"The Nirwana picture is freedom from all condition of existence. Nirwana is the shore of salvation for those who are in danger of being drowned in life's confusion." Max Reyher, quoted in Sidney Janis, They Taught Themselves, 1942

Luce Center Label

In Buddhist and Hindu traditions, Nirvana is the ultimate liberation, a state of existence free from all suffering or desire. This painting, however, suggests that the artist did not think his own end would be quite so peaceful. The hovering vulture, falling figure, and melting sun painted in somber colors express the sense of desperation that the German poet Ernst Eckstein described in a poem: "And lonely sounds in the endless space/ The Song of everlasting dead" (Sidney Janis, They Taught Themselves, 1942).

Keywords

Allegory - religion - salvation

Animal - bird

Landscape - imaginary

Literature - Eckstein - Nirwana

painting

folk art

paint - oil

wood

About Max Reyher

Born: Berlin, Germany 1862 Died: Belmar, New Jersey 1945