Nirwana

  • Max Reyher, Nirwana, 1928, oil on wood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson, 1986.65.136

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).

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
Title
Nirwana
Artist
Date
1928
Location
Dimensions
15 5819 34 in. (39.750.2 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Herbert Waide Hemphill, Jr. and museum purchase made possible by Ralph Cross Johnson

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on wood
Classifications
Keywords
  • Allegory – religion – salvation
  • Animal – bird
  • Literature – Eckstein – Nirwana
Object Number
1986.65.136
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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