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From Brücke to Bauhaus: The Meanings of Modernity in Germany > Additional Information

Galerie St. Etienne

From Brücke to Bauhaus
- Additional Information -

Current Exhibition

FROM BRÜCKE TO BAUHAUS: The Meanings of Modernity in Germany 1905 – 1933
March 31 through June 26, 2009

Press Release

FROM BRÜCKE TO BAUHAUS: The Meanings of Modernity in Germany 1905-1933 sheds important new light on the turbulent decades that preceded Hitler’s rise to power. Comprising over 50 watercolors, drawings and prints by such key artists as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Lyonel Feininger, George Grosz, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Mueller, Max Pechstein and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, as well as loans from the nationally renowned Merrill C. Berman Collection, the exhibition is a valuable complement to the exhibition Brucke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin 1905-1913, at the Neue Galerie New York.

The intimate collaborations of the Brücke group are highlighted in three pastel studies of nudes by the group’s leader, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, done around 1908, and a 1910 charcoal drawing by Kirchner of his lover, Dodo. Erich Heckel’s wife, Siddi, is portrayed by the artist in a sensitive watercolor dating to 1913. The exhibition includes a number of early Brücke prints and proofs, among them a unique handcolored lithograph by Emile Nolde (Young Girls, 1907/1910) and woodcuts by Heckel (Woman at the Mirror, 1908), Kirchner (Female Dancer with Raised Skirt, 1909) and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (Woman at the Table, 1910, In the Studio, 1913, and Women at the Table, 1913).

Max Beckmann, one of the foremost artists of the Weimar period, is represented by several of his best-known self-portraits, including Queen Bar (1920) and Self-Portrait in Bowler Hat (1921), as well as an unusual ink drawing, Temptation (1919). Other exhibition highlights are three highly idiosyncratic Dada-inflected works by Otto Dix (Death and Woman, 1918 Apotheosis, 1919 and Street Noise, 1920) and Dix’s iconic 1923 color lithograph The Madam.

Major loans from the Berman Collection include Peter Behren’s renowned work for the electrical company A.E.G. and Lucian Bernhard’s “object posters,” which turned products into desirable commodities by focusing on a singular image. Rare Bauhaus-related collages and posters by Herbert Bayer, Marianne Brandt, Werner David Feist, Heinz Loew and others round out the presentation.

“With a belief in continuing evolution,… we call together all youth. We intend to obtain freedom of movement and of life for ourselves in opposition to older, well-established powers.”
—Brücke Programm, 1905

Germans were simultaneously enthralled and appalled by modern industrial society, which they found dehumanizing and excessively materialistic. The Brücke artists sought to establish an alternative world infused with communal solidarity and spiritual values. They looked to examples of “primitive” art and Medieval woodcuts for an “authentic” formal vocabulary, and to nature for more primal, visceral experiences than could be found in the contemporary metropolis.

Artists working in the applied arts could not so easily flee the impact of industrialization, though they deplored the alienation of labor from design caused by mechanical production. To educate industrialists in aesthetics and artists in the realities of industrial manufacture, Germany established a network of specialized schools, museums and artists’ associations, and by the early 20th century the nation had become a leader in modern design.

The desire to reconcile good taste with industrial production carried over into the post World-War-I era and became the guiding rationale of the Bauhaus. However, disdain for modern industrial society only grew stronger in the Weimar period, as Germans grappled with the privations caused by the war. Artists like George Grosz and Otto Dix began as socialist idealists, but ended up drawing embittered caricatures of urban decay.

In the final analysis, Germany failed to come to terms with modernity. Preferring to concoct fantasies of a perfect future encompassing the values of an idealized past, Germans neglected the present and left the path open for Hitler to manipulate their thwarted ideals.

FROM BRÜCKE TO BAUHAUS: The Meanings of Modernity in Germany 1905-1933 is accompanied by a detailed checklist containing a scholarly essay by Galerie St. Etienne Co-Director Jane Kallir, which is available free of charge by mail, or can be downloaded from our website:

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