Danse Macabre – Xanti Schawinksy

This image is a photograph taken from one of Schawinsky’s performance art pieces as a part of his experimental multimedia project Spectrodrama from 1936 to 1938, this particular one is called Danse Macabre. Surrealism, which became popular in the 1920s when Schawinsky was in Germany studying at Bauhaus, is the art genre most heavily drawn from in this piece. The contrast between the woman’s extravagant but outdated clothes and the man’s simple, plain but all-black attire feels out of place. The gauzy see-through dress is reminiscent of cobwebs covering a skeleton.

Lighting was something that Schawinsky was fascinated by and so his lighting was very intentional. The backlighting for the woman, how the main lighting for her is focused a few feet behind her as if she is moving away from it, adds implication. The white rings around the man are one of the main things that make this piece feel like it pulls from surrealism. It is jarring and stark and one of the first things the eye is drawn to, this is combined with the cap on the man and the masks on both of them it adds to the disconnect from reality. The fan is actually a vivid callback to some of his other pieces within the same project where the same shape can be found. While working on this project, Schawinsky was teaching theater art after fleeing fascism in Germany and then Italy. 



Griffith Winton, Alexandra. “The Bauhaus, 1919-1933.” Metmuseum.org, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 2016, https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/bauh/hd_bauh.htm.

Rauchwerger, Daniel. “The German Jews Who Created a Patch of Paradise on Cape Cod.” Haaretz.com, Haaretz, 10 Apr. 2018, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/culture/.premium-the-jews-who-built-cape-cod-1.5259781.

Rawsthorn, Alice. “Archive of Xanti Schawinsky, Bauhaus Artist, Is Exhibited in Zurich.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 16 Mar. 2015, https://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/19/arts/artsspecial/archive-of-xanti-schawinsky-bauhaus-artist-is-exhibited-in-zurich.html.

Schawinsky, Xanti. “Spectodrama: Contemporary Studies.” Leonardo, vol. 2, no. 3, 1969, pp. 283–86, https://doi.org/10.2307/1572159. Accessed 6 Apr. 2022.

“Xanti Schawinsky.” Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, 13 July 2021, https://www.blackmountaincollege.org/xanti-schawinsky/.