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The Dance

A work made of oil on glass.
© 2018 Orange County Citizens Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • A work made of oil on glass.




Kurt Seligmann
American, born Switzerland, 1900-1962

About this artwork

Less than two weeks after Germany invaded Poland in September 1939, painter Kurt Seligmann traveled from Europe to New York for the opening of an exhibition of his work. Urged not to return home due to the threat of Nazi persecution, he became one of the earliest Surrealist artists to seek refuge in New York.

For The Dance, which envisions a modern danse macabre, or dance of death, Seligmann employed a traditional German folk technique in which he painted in reverse on the backside of glass and used candle smoke to enhance the rich black tones. The technique and imagery reflect Seligmann’s fascination with medieval heraldry and magic, as well as his horror at the contemporary tragedies of war. As the artist wrote around the time he made The Dance, “My mind is as black as the background in my paintings.”


On View, Gallery 395


Modern Art


Kurt Seligmann


The Dance


Switzerland (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on glass


Signed, l.r.: "K. Seligmann 1940"


87 × 101.6 cm (34 1/4 × 40 in.)

Credit Line

Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection

Reference Number



© 2018 Orange County Citizens Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

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