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Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900-1914 Montreal Museum Of Fine Arts.

The art produced by the French and German avant-garde between the end of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of World War I is widely celebrated today. Its creators were artists renowned in France--Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Signac, Van Gogh, Vlaminck and in Germany--Heckel, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Klee, Nolde, Pechstein. Their works, distinguished by their originality, power, and beauty, are considered among the masterpieces of modern art.

The movement to liberate colour and brushstroke united many French and German painters in the years between 1900 and 1914. Based on in-depth research, this major initiative recounts the spirit of an era that experienced a frenzy for both creation and destruction, during which a generation of thinkers, patrons, dealers, artists, and collectors open to a new avant-garde and stamped by the bellicose and nationalist ideas prevailing in the two countries were nonetheless unified across their borders by art. On this historic occasion, which comes a full century after the start of the Great War, this is an exceptional presentation of works from over 60 international lenders, including true masterpieces by the most sought-after names in modern art. The museum has never assembled so many valuable works for exhibition in its galleries, all in support of concepts equally as valuable--openness and freedom.

While Germany did not have a single art centre equivalent to Paris, the cities of Berlin, Dresden, Cologne, Manheim, Munich, and Essen all hosted exhibitions or important collections that provided artists with the opportunity to view works by the French and European avant-garde. Many French paintings in the exhibition have an exhibition history or provenance that can be traced to Germany before 1914 or were shown in major exhibitions in Paris, allowing artists visiting the city to see them.

The emergence of Expressionism should be considered within this social and political climate, in which artists were highly aware of an international avant-garde. Thus, the exhibition examines the reception of Cezanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, the Neo-Impressionists with Signac, the Fauves with Matisse and the Cubists with Picasso in relation to the German Expressionist artists of Die Brucke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider). Early works by Die Briicke artists Kirchner, Heckel, and Schmidt-Rottluff, shown alongside Fauve works by Derain, Dufy, Braque, and Matisse, highlight how these contemporary German and French groups were concurrently inspired by the Neo-Impressionists, from Gauguin to Van Gogh. They made use of their predecessors' vibrant, non-naturalistic colour in their works as a means to freely express their emotions. The exhibition's unfolding narrative will demonstrate the influence of Cezanne, and then of Cubism, on the artists in the two German movements. Led by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, the informal Der Blaue Reiter group developed a vocabulary of abstract forms and prismatic colours as a means for conveying spiritual values.

Appreciation for French art, however, was not universal in Germany. In 1908, Kaiser Wilhelm II dismissed Hugo von Tschudi as director of the Nationalgalerie because of his support for the French avant-garde. In 1911, the acquisition of a Van Gogh painting at the Kunsthalle Bremen provoked a vehement reaction by a number of German artists--although even more came to the defence of the gallery's director, Gustav Pauli. Virulent nationalism was also seen in France, where Matisse's reputation suffered because his art was avidly collected by Germans and because his Parisian academy was attended by a great many foreign students. The increasingly nationalistic debates pertaining to art signalled the end of the utopian cultural exchanges that characterized the first decade of the twentieth century.

In ensuing years, the cafes of Montmartre and Montparnasse continued to welcome painters, sculptors, novelists, poets, and students from all around the world in an atmosphere of great cultural and social liberty--often in vivid contrast to their homelands. Gallerists like Durand-Ruel and Bernheim-Jeune held exhibitions that sealed the reputation of the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists as the preeminent artists of their time. Paris attracted all those eager to absorb the lessons of the newly crowned avant-garde. The exchange of ideas--facilitated by travel, books, art periodicals, and exhibitions-would influence the art produced by German artists.

Vincent van Gogh

Pollar Willows at Sunset 1888

oil on canvas mounted on cardboard

Kroller-Muller Museum, Otterlo

Wassily Kandisky

Arabian Cemetery, 1909

oil on cardboard

Hamburger Kunsthalle

Paul Gauguin

Malancholic, 1891

oil on canvas

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City

Max Pechstein

Sill Life with Nude, Tile and Fruit 1913

oil on canvas

Collection Alfred and Ingrid Lenz

Alexei Jawlensky

Girl with Purple Blouse, 1912

oil on paper laid down on canvas

private collection, Cologne

Franz Marc, Stables 1913

oil on canvas

The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York

Robert Delauney

Red Eiffel Tower, 1911-112

oil on canvas

Lyonel Feininger

The White Man, 1907

oil on canvas

Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

Vincent van Gogh

Restaurant of the Siren at Asnieres, 1887

oil on canvass

Musee d'Orsay, Paris
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Publication:Queen's Quarterly
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUGE
Date:Dec 22, 2014
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