Ernst Stöhr

Death and the Maiden


oil on canvas


Ernst Stöhr (St. Pölten 1860-1917 Wien)

Tod und Mädchen (Death and the Maiden)

oil on canvas 


63 x 79 cm

original frame

Provenance: from the family of the artist; private collection, Germany

Austrian artist, poet, and musician Ernst Stöhr (1860-1917) was a co-founder of the Vienna Secession in 1897 and an important figure in Austrian symbolism.  In 1902, Stöhr played a leading role in connection with the outstanding catalogue for the Secession’s 14th exhibition, the famous Klinger-Beethoven exhibition, for which he wrote the foreword and created the woodcut “Woman Holding a Skull.” (See below for The Daulton Collection’s impression of this Jugendstil print).  Stöhr was also a contributor of art and poetry to Ver Sacrum, the official organ of the Vienna Secession; the 12th issue of this influential magazine was designed by him and is dedicated to him.
After the 1902 Secession exhibition, Stöhr went through a period of severe depression following the deaths of his uncle, his mother, and his father.  Our painting, “Death and the Maiden,” dates from this dark period and reflects Stöhr’s profound melancholy at this time.
The motif of Death and the Maiden had been common in German art since the Renaissance (for example in the art of Hans Baldung in the 16th century) and had its roots in the Danse Macabre, the Dance of Death, the medieval allegory on the universality and inevitability of death and the ephemerality of earthly glory and attachments.  It became a particularly popular theme in the arts of the romantic era and the symbolist movement of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
The commencement of the war exacerbated Stöhr’s depression and sense of hopelessness.  And after spending a few weeks in a sanitorium, he returned to his hometown of St. Pölten, where in 1917 he committed suicide, the tragic end of a brilliant artistic life.

     -- Jack Daulton, July 2021




Ernst Stöhr (1860-1917)
Woman Contemplating a Skull
The Daulton Collection

Our impression of this woodcut comes from the catalogue of the 1902 Klinger-Beethoven exhibition, Vienna (XIV. Ausstellung der Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs, Secession Wien). The Daulton Collection owns a copy of this important catalogue, which contains 15 additional woodcuts (by other leading Viennese modernists) and has been called "undoubtedly the most artistically perfect catalogue of the Secession" [""unzweifelhaft der künstlerisch vollendetste Katalog der Secession"].  A founder of the Vienna Secession, Ernst Stöhr wrote the preface or foreword for the catalogue.  After the 1902 exhibition, Stöhr went through a period of severe depression following the death of his uncle, his mother, and his father.  Our oil painting, "Death and the Maiden," dates from this dark period.  Stöhr committed suicide in 1917.


Jack Daulton
The Daulton Collection
Los Altos Hills, California