Totentanz, 1920

Robert Budzinski (1874–1955).
Circa 1920.

“Lead Stealing”

In dances between partners, lead stealing (also called hijacking) occurs when the follower seizes control and becomes the leader. The term was chosen as the title for this exhibition because the 20th and 21st-century works shown display a marked shift away from the passivity of human actors portrayed in medieval and early modern works. Death appears to be less of an external force and more often a function of humanity itself. The inevitability of death even comes into question, perhaps most explicitly exemplified in Robert Budzinski’s Totentanz (circa 1920). In the sequence of images, the maiden whom Death attempts to lure with song turns the tables on it. In the end, she stands triumphant over a pile of bones.

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