Occasionally, Otto Mueller’s pictorial narratives can be brought into direct relation with his biography, as is the case with <i<polnische familie< /i> (Polish Family), which reflects wishful thinking. The artist painted himself as an Orthodox Jew next to his lover Irene Altmann, rendered as Maria with a partial halo. She was of Jewish heritage and also one of his first students at the Breslau Academy in early 1919. Altmann truly impacted on his personal life, for Mueller apparently considered, for the first time, ending his long-standing marriage. The artist thematized the different religious affiliations that could stand in the way of marriage: one of the two would have to convert or so this motif might be interpreted. Also hidden in this representation is the artist’s yearning for familial warmth, conveyed in the depiction of the newborn child. Yet, the birth of a mutual child is unverified here; the dog peeping out from under the bench alludes to Mueller’s poodle called Heiko, who was a loyal companion during the early years in Breslau.


  • Title: Polish Family
  • Creator: Otto Mueller
  • Date: 1919
  • Provenance: Donated in 1952 by Adalbert Colsman
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: © Museum Folkwang
  • Medium: Glue-bound distemper on burlap
  • Höhe: 179.5 cm
  • Collection: Painting, Sculpture, Media Art
  • Breite: 112 cm

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