Two Friends, Karl Hofer
Karl Hofer
Two Friends
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Karl Hofer

Two Friends, 1926

100 x 70 cm
Physical Description
Oil on canvas
Inventory Number
Acquired in 1928. Confiscated in 1937. Reacquired in 1966 as a gift from Ernst A. Teves
On display, 1st upper level, Modern Art, room 14


About the Work

With their naked torsos, the two exhausted-looking men stand close together. Their relationship seems unclear: while the dark-haired man seems to seek closeness, the one in front looks into the distance without reacting to or reciprocating the touch. Among other aspects, this tension between closeness and distance leads to the picture’s perturbing effect. Unlike the more open title used today, the Old Testament title “David and Jonathan” used before 1931 implied a homoerotic male friendship. With this reference to the story of an intimate love between the king’s son Jonathan and the shepherd David, Hofer drew on a theme that was particularly prevailing in 1920s Berlin. Then, the city was considered a worldwide centre of gay and lesbian life. However, Hofer’s piece speaks above all of the existential tragedy of a life that was legally and socially unacceptable.

About the Acquisition

Thanks to a donation by Frankfurt entrepreneur Ernst August Teves (1919–1986), a painting that had already been acquired for the Städel Museum in 1928 found its way back into the collection. In 1937 it was labelled ‘degenerate’ and confiscated. In the early post-war years, neither public nor foundation funds were available to repurchase it. The painting’s reacquisition was finally made possible in 1966 by a generous private donation from Teves, who was a longstanding member of the Museums-Verein’s managing committee.

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