Incorrect Username, Email, or Password
A painting in shades of blue and green with red accents.

The painting is done in shades of blue and green, the colors are darkest in the lower left and lighten to gray tinged with red on the right. The bodies of the four soldiers are made up of triangular shapes, the arms and necks are capped with bright red discs. Four heads float above the bodies, the necks end in red discs; disembodied arms are placed above and around the heads. Cone shaped objects are placed above, below, and around the heads. A red disc within a black outline circle is in the upper right corner.

Gallery Text

Referred to by a contemporary as the German Umberto Boccioni (the Italian futurist painter), Molzahn had encountered the dynamic splintering of forms characteristic of futurism early in his career, and was also aware of related formal experimentation in works by Lyonel Feininger and Franz Marc. As a prominent representative of Herwarth Walden’s Berlin gallery Der Sturm, he was also indebted to expressionism, writing his “Manifesto of Absolute Expressionism” of 1919 in an ecstatic style. Painted during World War I, the simultaneously lyrical and grotesque depiction of decapitated figures in a “cosmic space” that occupies the first side of this canvas (BR49.304.1) reveals the influence of movements such as cubism, futurism, and expressionism on young German artists like Molzahn during this period.

As a dual-sided canvas, however, this work demonstrates the sea change Molzahn and many other artists underwent after the war. By 1920, its brightly colored abstract forms, precisely measured and quickly raked with a comb for texture, had replaced the expressionist figuration of the earlier composition. Referring to the man-made creation of a human being and the relationship between spirit and body, the title of the later painting, Homunculus, (BR49.304.2) underscores the artist’s growing interest in esoteric and alchemical traditions.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Johannes Molzahn, German (Duisburg, Germany 1892 - 1965 Munich, Germany)
Four Fallen Soldiers in Cosmic Space
Work Type
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Oil on canvas
99.1 x 75.6 cm (39 x 29 3/4 in.)
framed: 125.8 x 102.3 x 3.6 cm (49 1/2 x 40 1/4 x 1 7/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r.: Molzan


Recorded Ownership History
Kurt Feldhäusser, Berlin, bequest; to Marie Luise Feldhäusser, 1945, sold; [E. Weyhe Gallery, New York], sold; to Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1949.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Busch-Reisinger Museum, Association Fund
Accession Year
Object Number
Modern and Contemporary Art

The Harvard Art Museums encourage the use of images found on this website for personal, noncommercial use, including educational and scholarly purposes. To request a higher resolution file of this image, please submit an online request.

Exhibition History

  • 19th- and 20th-Century Paintings and Sculpture from the Museum's Collection, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 06/11/1980 - 08/31/1980
  • German Painting 1760-1960: A New Installation, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 12/20/1983 - 02/19/1984
  • 32Q: 1500 Art in Germany Between the Wars (Expressionism-Interwar), Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 06/06/2022

Subjects and Contexts

  • Google Art Project
  • The Bauhaus

Related Articles

Related Works

Verification Level

This record was created from historic documentation and may not have been reviewed by a curator; it may be inaccurate or incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of Modern and Contemporary Art at