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Kunsthaus Zürich

Edvard Munch and the Esche Family. The Portraits – The Collection

25 November 2016 – 26 February 2017

Kunsthaus Zürich is staging a special presentation on ‘Edvard Munch and the Esche Family. The Portraits – The Collection’. Leading works by Edvard Munch and other artists owned by the Esche family of industrialists in Chemnitz are reunited at the Kunsthaus Zürich. New addition is the ‘Portrait of Hanni Esche’ (1905).

In 1905 Edvard Munch painted six portraits of the family of Chemnitz textile industrialist Herbert Esche, most of which, centred around the large group portrait of the children, have since 1997 been part of the Herbert Eugen Esche Foundation, housed at the Kunsthaus Zürich, and have hung as part of the collection there. Now the Foundation has been gifted the portrait of mother Hanni Esche as well, the counterpart to the children’s portrait and a milestone in the development of Munch’s strongly coloured mature style. This 'Portrait of Hanni Esche' (1905), which now enhances the collection of the Kunsthaus Zürich on permanent loan, is positively radiant. Against a glowing yellow background the lady’s pure, pale blue robe appears like a great wave, above which her eyes gaze brightly out of her pink face at her children and at the viewer. The portrait’s arrival at the Kunsthaus and its reunion with the rest of the Esche family likenesses (the portrait of the mother returns to that of her two children) is to be celebrated with a little exhibition reconstructing the creation of the work.

The paintings hung originally in the imposing villa built for Herbert Esche by Henry van de Velde, but when Herbert Esche moved in with his daughter in Küsnacht in 1945, they were moved to the dining room there, also appointed by van de Velde. This is the situation the exhibition reconstructs, accompanied by documentation of the ground-breaking building and an account of how Munch’s group came to be, and supplemented by some ten additional paintings from the family collection – among them works by Theo von Rysselberghe, Signac, Cross, Vuillard and others. Together they constitute an ensemble emblematic of the avant-garde taste of the turn of the 20th century, such as is rarely seen.

Edvard Munch, Portrait of Hanni Esche, 1905
Oil on canvas, 81 x 70.5 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, deposited by the Herbert Eugen Esche Foundation, 2015
Edvard Munch, Portrait of Hanni Esche, 1905
Oil on canvas, 81 x 70.5 cm
Kunsthaus Zürich, deposited by the Herbert Eugen Esche Foundation, 2015