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German Expressionism at The San Diego Museum of Art

July 21, 2012 through November 11, 2012

Highlighting the recent bequest of 48 German Expressionist paintings, drawings, and prints from the estate of Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger, the Museum presents this exhibition dedicated to the modernist movement that developed in Germany and Austria in the first decades of the 20th century. German Expressionism was not the work of a single group of artists, but painters, sculptors, and printmakers in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Vienna were united in their exploration of common themes: primitivism, raw emotion, the solace of nature, the terror of the First World War and the subsequent social chaos of Weimar Germany.

The Human Beast will explore the many faces of Expressionism, focusing particularly on the artists’ attempt to evoke primal emotion in their depictions of unidealized nudes, the horror of war, or the overstimulation of modern life. Major new acquisitions from the Kondon-Giesberger bequest include works by Otto Dix, Egon Schiele, and Max Pechstein, and these join a strong group of Expressionist paintings and drawings that have long been at the Museum of Art, among which works by Alexej von Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter, Beckmann, and George Grosz are particularly notable. A small group of loans will round out the selection.

All images From the estate of Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger.

The Human Beast Audio Tour The San Diego Museum of Art

    • Kunst

German Expressionism at The San Diego Museum of Art

July 21, 2012 through November 11, 2012

Highlighting the recent bequest of 48 German Expressionist paintings, drawings, and prints from the estate of Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger, the Museum presents this exhibition dedicated to the modernist movement that developed in Germany and Austria in the first decades of the 20th century. German Expressionism was not the work of a single group of artists, but painters, sculptors, and printmakers in Berlin, Dresden, Munich, and Vienna were united in their exploration of common themes: primitivism, raw emotion, the solace of nature, the terror of the First World War and the subsequent social chaos of Weimar Germany.

The Human Beast will explore the many faces of Expressionism, focusing particularly on the artists’ attempt to evoke primal emotion in their depictions of unidealized nudes, the horror of war, or the overstimulation of modern life. Major new acquisitions from the Kondon-Giesberger bequest include works by Otto Dix, Egon Schiele, and Max Pechstein, and these join a strong group of Expressionist paintings and drawings that have long been at the Museum of Art, among which works by Alexej von Jawlensky, Gabriele Münter, Beckmann, and George Grosz are particularly notable. A small group of loans will round out the selection.

All images From the estate of Vance E. Kondon and Elisabeth Giesberger.

    STOP 021: Max Pechstein, Magdalena: Still Life with Nude

    STOP 021: Max Pechstein, Magdalena: Still Life with Nude

    Max Pechstein, 1881-1955
    Magdalena: Still Life with Nude (recto); Summer’s Day (verso)
    Oil on canvas, 1912 (recto); 1911 (verso)

    Although relatively little known today, Max Pechstein one of the key members of Die Brucke. Like many Expressionists, Pechstein was fascinated with the idea of the primitive and spent time in the ethnographic museums of Berlin and Dresden, where he was able to study the arts of Africa and the Pacific islands. Furthermore, following the example of Paul Gauguin, Pechstein travelled to the South Pacific in 1914. Executed two years before Pechstein’s visit to the island of Palau, this canvas – which Pechstein entitled Magdalena: Still Life with Nude—still clearly shows the influence of Gauguin and the Pacific. Apart from its evocation of Gauguin’s primitivism, the small idol in the background makes the connection to the Art of the Pacific explicit.
    Gauguin was not, however Pechstein’s only model. He has been called the most French of the German Expressionist painters, and his fellow Expressionist Ernst Kirchner once dismissed him as a “Matisse-imitist,” an imitator of Matisse. We need not necessarily agree with Kirchner’s dismissal, but this green nude does relate directly to Matisse’s works, especially to Matisse’s famous Blue Nude: Souvenir of Biskra today in the Baltimore Museum of Art.

    This is one of many works in which Pechstein reused his canvas. On the back side of the painting is an earlier work entitled Summer’s Day, one of a series of arcadian compositions Pechstein painted during his annual summer trips to the seaside town of Nidden. An examination with xrays has recently revealed that the canvas was also used for a third composition, a still life, over which the green nude was later painted.

    • 1 Min.
    STOP 022: Lovis Corinth, Alexander Freiherr von Reitzenstein

    STOP 022: Lovis Corinth, Alexander Freiherr von Reitzenstein

    Lovis Corinth, 1858-1925
    Alexander Freiherr von Reitzenstein
    Oil on canvas, 1913

    Lovis Corinth is not, strictly speaking, an Expressionist artist, although Expressionism left a decisive mark on Corinth’s paintings in the final 15 years of his long artistic career. He was an artist steeped in the conventions of tradition – someone for whom Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Velázquez were important models. Where many of the Expressionists sought a deliberate break from that tradition, Corinth instead embraced aspects of modernity as a way of extending tradition.

    Corinth’s art was an expression of his personality: earthy, robust, strongly masculine – he was a force of nature. This was particularly true after he suffered a stroke in the winter of 1911. Following that illness, Corinth painted with an almost demonic intensity. We get the impression that his art was a means of affirming life even as he feared death. The adoption of aspects of expressionism thus suited him perfectly, and the controlled frenzy of his brushstrokes in these late works practically screams vitality.

    Corinth never, however, adopted the bohemian lifestyle of Kirchner and others. This was just as well, for it is hard to imagine that a figure like Alexander von Reitzenstein would commission a portrait from the members of Die Brücke. Nonetheless, despite the traditional format of Corinth’s portrait, with the sitter shown in conservative high-collared attire, the work might be described as “diabolically psychological,” and its impact comes in the powerful distortions of reality in Corinth’s vigorous application of paint. In portraits like this, Corinth might even be called a latter-day Rembrandt, so close is he in spirit to Rembrandt in his own last years.

    • 1 Min.
    STOP 023: Gabriele Münter, Tutzing

    STOP 023: Gabriele Münter, Tutzing

    Gabriele Münter, 1877-1962
    Tutzing
    Oil on board, 1908
    Gabriele Münter is the best-known female painter among the German Expressionists. Along with Alexei Jawlensky and with her companion Vasily Kandinsky, she was one of the founders of the Blaue Reiter, the group of Expressionists based in Southern Germany. The summer of 1908 marked a key moment for these artists. In August and September of that year, they spent time in Murnau, in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. Perhaps it was the bright light of that landscape, and perhaps it was simply the weeks spent painting together, but at this time, the painters made a bold leap forward to a style of simple forms and bright, powerful colors. This innovation, a break from the impressionist-inspired style of their earlier work, is readily apparent in this view of the old Benedictine monastery in Tutzing, a small town between Murnau and Munich.

    • 48 s
    STOP 024: Alexei Jawlensky, Red Blossom

    STOP 024: Alexei Jawlensky, Red Blossom

    Alexei Jawlensky, 1864-1941
    Red Blossom
    Oil on board, 1910

    Jawlensky’s earliest works are in a style akin to Van Gogh’s post-impressionism, but after he spent the summers of 1908 and 1909 in the Bavarian town of Murnau, where he worked alongside Vasily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, Jawlensky shifted his artistic focus. He began instead to paint works with simplified contours and planes of bold colors, sometimes even jarringly acidic tones. As for the other founders of the Blaue Reiter, color itself had come to represent a kind of spiritual value. Describing paintings like Red Blossom Jawlensky later wrote: “I used a great deal of red, blue, orange, cadmium yellow and chromium-oxide green. My forms were very strongly contoured in Prussian blue and came with tremendous power from an inner ecstasy. It was a turning-point in my art. It was in these years, up to 1914 just before the war, that I painted my most powerful works.”

    • 56 s
    STOP 025: Egon Schiele, Two Friends Reclining (Tenderness)

    STOP 025: Egon Schiele, Two Friends Reclining (Tenderness)

    Egon Schiele, 1890-1918
    Two Friends, Reclining (Tenderness)
    Graphite, watercolor, and gouache, 1913

    A passage from an essay by the scholar Wolfgang Fischer is a perfect introduction to this drawing: “In spite of Schiele’s almost hedonistic delight in the female form,” wrote Fischer, “it is immediately evident that he was an artist deeply involved in the tragic and complex nature of mankind. In his own life he met with the usual difficulties of the genuinely new experimental artist: nobody wanted to buy his pictures, no one would exhibit his work, and he could not afford to buy paints and canvas. And the final insult: in 1912, the petty bourgeois spirit of the courts sent him to prison for producing ‘pornographic’ pictures.”

    Fischer’s final statement is ironic. The point of the drawing is, of course, not pornography. Despite the tendency for early critics to reduce these powerful works to that denominator, they are far more complex. Indeed, Schiele’s works – and perhaps most of all his erotic drawings – sum up perfectly the spirit of Vienna in the years before World War I. On the one hand they reflect the decadent, luxurious, decorative art of the fin-de-siecle, which in Vienna is best known through the works of Gustav Klimt. On the other hand, though, one senses in them a spiritual ambivalence, even a sense of terror in the face of life’s unpleasantness… as though pleasure is to be sought before disaster arrives: there is something feverish in the eroticism of these works. Schiele’s line caresses the curves of the bodies, but at the same time, it can also seem like a net that entraps them.

    • 1 Min.
    STOP 026: Georg Tappert, Betty

    STOP 026: Georg Tappert, Betty

    Georg Tappert, 1880-1957
    Betty
    Oil on canvas, 1911

    In 1910, Tappert and the other painters of Die Brücke were barred from the Berlin Secession exhibition, where the avant-garde painters had previously shown their works. In response, Tappert was instrumental in founding the New Secession, and he and the other painters of Die Brücke then invited Kandinsky, Marc and the Blaue Reiter painters to exhibit alongside them. The results were explosive. In this buoyant atmosphere, Tappert's technique and confidence developed extraordinarily quickly, and the best of his works were executed in the following years, between 1910 and 1913. At this same time, Tappert was in relationship with Betty, his favorite model. She was an exotic dancer, and when using her as a model, Tappert was inspired to paint a series of highly erotic nudes, including this work, which shows Betty onstage at a burlesque review.

    Tappert used a deliberately crude technique to illustrate brothel scenes and cabarets. While he faced some controversy when these paintings were first exhibited in 1911, some critics, however, praised the “barbaric boldness” of the compositions.

    • 1 Min.

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