Today, ‘Expressionism’ is commonly viewed as a German movement – yet in fact it originally emerged at the start of the 20th century from the enthusiastic engagement of German artists with Classical Modernism in France, even as contemporary French art had already established a presence in Germany. ‘Van Gogh struck modern art like a bolt of lightning,’ was how one German observer of the scene described the painter’s impact on German artists – at a time when they were simultanesouly receptive for the art of Seurat, Signac and the Post-Impressionists. Then followed Cézanne, Gauguin and Matisse. The response by the artists of ‘Die Brücke’ and ‘Der Blaue Reiter’ (Blue Rider) to French Post-Impressionism and the ‘Fauves’ was an explosion of colour. Collectors in Germany also eagerly acquired and exhibited French art, while museum directors with an eye to the future were purchasing it for their own collections.
MORE THAN 100 MASTERPIECES
This exhibition sets the record straight. It demonstrates that Expressionism is a movement shaped by the spirit of cosmopolitanism and productive international exchange. It presents the findings of recent research into the 107 masterpieces by 37 artists on display, documenting a history of reception that has hitherto been little studied by scholars. The curator of the exhibition’s sole showing in Europe is Cathérine Hug. Together with the Kunsthaus Zürich, Timothy O. Benson, curator at the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, has succeeded in bringing together paintings and graphic works that featured in major exhibitions and collections of the time, or were studied in detail by German artists in Paris. They are juxtaposed with ‘counterparts’ in which the impact of the works that provided the initial inspiration can clearly be seen.
THE BERLIN SECESSION, SONDERBUND AND OTHER INFLUENCES
Unlike Impressionism and Divisionism, with their focus on the world around us, this is an art that gives formal expression to the inner feelings and psychological states of its creators, in a language that is both powerful and laden with energy. The relatively coarse brushwork reflects the fears, but also the hopes, which imbued that extraordinarily productive and eventful period before the First World War. The strong influence on the art scene of associations such as the Berlin Secession and the Sonderbund in Cologne, as well as gallery owners, art dealers and collectors such as Paul Cassirer, Harry Graf Kessler and Karl Ernst Osthaus, is absolutely essential in order to understand this chapter of art history and the perception of art works from the various expressionist movements. Visionary museum directors populated their collections with masterpieces of Impressionism, Post-Impressionism and Fauvism, arousing widespread public interest.
A VIVID PRESENTATION OF SCHOLARLY RESEARCH
As well as a tour through European art history from Paris to Berlin, the exhibition reflects the findings of new research into Franco-German relations in the early years of the 20th century, opening up striking perspectives and new interpretations of Expressionism with remarkable alacrity. The Kunsthaus Zürich is dividing the works up into thematic and formal groups: van Gogh, Paris, Fauves, Berlin, Cubism, ‘Die Brücke’, ‘Der Blaue Reiter’. Visitors can expect an all-encompassing sensory experience marked by surprising confrontations. The expressive power of the works and their relationships to each other are immediately apparent and easy to comprehend. A section including historical materials – printed matter such as source texts, archival records, photographs and press reviews – further underscores the exhibition’s contribution to scholarship.
LOANS FROM THE WORLD’S LEADING MUSEUMS
The 77 paintings and 30 graphic works by 38 artists are drawn from public and private collections in Europe and overseas. The most celebrated include the Musée d’Orsay, Tate, the Metropolitan Museum, New York, the National Gallery of Art Washington, the National Gallery in Berlin, the Folkwang Museum and the Merzbacher Kunststiftung. From Zurich, the exhibition travels to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Timothy O. Benson is responsible for the background scholarship and for the cooperation between the Kunsthaus and LACMA. The results of his most recent research form part of an extensive catalogue, complemented by essays by Laird M. Easton, Claudine Grammont, Frauke Josenhans, Katherine Kuenzli, Peter Kropmanns, Magdalena M. Moeller, Sherwin Simmons and a contribution by curator Cathérine Hug with Georg Baselitz and Robert Menasse. This exhibition was organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Kunsthaus Zürich in collaboration with the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Details of academic events related to the literature, architecture and music of the early 20th century are published here in German language.
Modern art is the locus for a striking confluence of painting and music. For composers such as Debussy, concepts such as sound and colour are synonymous. The music of Expressionism, by contrast, lives from bold brushwork and a desire to test boundaries. The ZKO will be performing in the Kunsthaus at 11 a.m. on Sunday 2 March. For tickets and further information, see www.zko.ch
Guided tours take place on various days of the week: Wednesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m., Fridays at 3 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m. On Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m., special guided tours link the contents of the exhibition with works from the Kunsthaus collection.
English tours: 27 February at 4 p.m., 21 March and 13 April at 1 p.m. Private guided tours by arrangement.
A comprehensive art education programme in German for all generations has been organized. See «Begleitprogramm» on the German website.
Curator Timothy O. Benson of the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies is largely responsible for the exhibition catalogue. It contains the results of his latest research as well as essays by Laird M. Easton, Claudine Grammont, Frauke Josenhans, Katherine Kuenzli, Peter Kropmanns, Magdalena M. Moeller, Sherwin Simmons and a contribution by curator Cathérine Hug with Georg Baselitz and Robert Menasse. The comprehensive publication (Prestel Verlag, 304 pages, approx. 200 colour illustrations) is available in the Kunsthaus shop and from bookstores.
The Kunsthaus is centrally located in Zurich, within walking distance of the main railway station
Trams 3, 8 and 9 as well as bus no. 31 stop directly in front of the museum.
Heimplatz 1, CH–8001 Zurich
tel. +41 (0)44 253 84 84
Open: Fri-Sun/Tues 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Wed, Thurs 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Public holidays: Easter 18-21 April, 1 May: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Admission to the exhibition including audioguide in English:
CHF 22.-/17.- (concessions and groups).
Combined ticket incl. collection: CHF 25.-/CHF 18.- (concessions and groups).
Children and young people up to the age of 16 free of charge. Payment can be made in euros. Access is barrier-free.
Prams and portable seats can be provided.
Advance sales: SBB RailAway combination ticket, with discount on travel and admission: at stations and by phoning Rail Service 0900 300 300 (CHF 1.19/min. by land line), www.sbb.ch/matisse.
Magasins Fnac: sales points in Switzerland: Rive, Balexert, Lausanne, Fribourg, Pathé Kino Basel.
Texts: Cathérine Hug, Björn Quellenberg
Editor: Kristin Steiner
Layout and technical realization: gestalten AG, Zurich; Donner Trepp
Citation should include mention of source.
© Kunsthaus Zürich 2013
All rights reserved. Without permission reproduction and any other use of the work besides the individual and private consultation is forbidden.