Mirror of Life (1946), like many of Henry Koerner’s paintings, reveals the artist’s preoccupation with his experiences during World War II. Born in Vienna to Jewish parents, Koerner (1915 – 1991) escaped Austria following Hitler’s 1938 invasion, fleeing first to Italy and subsequently to the United States. Soon after, he was drafted by the US military and stationed in Europe, where he was assigned to sketch the proceedings of the Nuremberg trials, the military tribunals in which leaders of Nazi Germany were tried for war crimes. Koerner returned to Vienna in 1946 only to learn that his parents, who’d stayed in Austria, had died in concentration camps during the war. Mirror of Life emerges from this context of conflict and loss. Disorienting juxtapositions — night and day, biblical events and present-day life, ordinary pastimes and bizarre phenomena — present a chaotic and disjunctive reflection of reality. The shirtless man leaning out of his window seems to be a stand-in for the artist. Home, for him, is not only the place where one resides but also a vantage point to witness all that has been lost.
Photographed in The Whitney Museum in NYC