3 January 2021

Landslides in Art Part 34: Landslide (Bergsturz) from Intermezzi, Opus IV by Max Klinger

Posted by Dave Petley

Landslides in Art Part 34: Landslide (Bergsturz) from Intermezzi, Opus IV by Max Klinger

Max Klinger (1857 – 1920) was a German artist renowned for his paintings, sculptures, prints and graphgics, as well as extensive writings on art and graphics.

In 1881 he produced a folio, published as Intermezzi, Opus IV, comprising of seven etchings and aquatints with chine collĂ© and five etchings with with chine collĂ©.  There is a copy in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Intermezzi, Opus IV provides a series of whimsical snapshots, arranged in sets of four works.  One set of four etchings features the mythological lives of centaurs, and one of these is named Landslide (Bergstrutz):

Landslide (Bergstruz) by Max Klinger (1881)

Landslide (Bergstruz), an etching by Max Klinger produced in 1881.


The etching shows a simple but very beautiful landscape – Max Klinger had studied Japanese art, including the depiction of landscapes.  The influences are clear in the work – look in particular at the representation of the mountains in the distance.  But the main depiction is of a landslide in the centre of the etching.  The landslide looks quite recent – note the smooth, unweathered topography of the landslide source and scar, and no track has yet been created across the deposit.  On the edge of the lake is a boulder-rich landslide deposit – this was a rapid and energetic slide, which bifurcated to leave a bouldery heap on the lower part of the hillside.

Max Klinger has included in the etching six centaurs, three of whom are approaching the landslide with aplomb.  One is distracted by a snake, to the evident frustration of the team leader.  Clearly the centaurs are a team of engineering geologists, dispatched to investigate the landslide – indeed two are carrying ranging poles.  Presumably the third is transporting a theodolite, out of sight.  These centaurs are the ideal field geologists, with a human upper body but the stability and energy of a quadruped.

I imagine the centaurs will be quickly able to evaluate the landslide (once they have stopped being distracted by the snake); I wonder what they made of that fractured outcrop on the nearside of the landslide.  I sense that there is a high risk of a toppling failure there, and there is a similarly precarious outcrop on the far side.  The services of a roped access team might be required.