Together with Fauvism in France, German Expressionism was the first artistic avant garde movement of the 20th century. The famed Die Brücke (The Bridge) group formed in Dresden in 1905, and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) group founded in Munich six years later not only revolutionized the canons inherited from the pictorial experiences of the late 19th century, but also laid the foundations on which developed one of the most important themes of artistic research of the following century, which was destined to influence an important part of modern experimentations.
The exhibition at the MAN of Nuoro, curated by Tayfun Belgin and Lorenzo Giusti, proposes a rediscovery of the German expressionist movements with a selection of over a hundred works from the collection of the Osthaus Museum of Hagen, dedicated to the great collector Karl Ernst Osthaus, one of the sustaining fathers of the European artistic and architectural avant gardes, the first in Germany to purchase the works of Gauguin and Van Gogh.
In particular, the exhibition places the accent on two fundamental aspects which link together the artistic research of the different currents of expressionism: the determination to develop a new kind of subjective expression free of literary, symbolic or thematic conditioning, and the search for primordial values to be found both in city life and, above all, in the context of nature.
The languages experimented by the German artists reacted to the transformations of modern society and the political events in Europe at the beginning of the 20th century. Pressed between the conservative imperial policies and the growth of a mass culture favoured by industrial development, artists took refuge in the values of individualism and the primordium, in search of authentic and original experiences of life.
Artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Otto Mueller and Emil Nolde investigated the expression of the human body, studying both the workers of the German province and the natives of its faraway colonies. A work strongly bound to the present, its intention was to criticize the political system and the uncontrolled expansion of cities. At the same time, it emphasized the importance of individuals, their sentiments and humours within a society becoming more and more an amorphous mass.
Nolde in particular – and Max Pechstein with him – undertook long trips to Germany's overseas colonies in the South Pacific, while Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff turned to the theme of the landscape, often working at Dangast, in the morainal land of the North Sea, where they produced works of great originality, full of movement and pathos, with lively, bright colours.
Flanking this tendency was the search for new, more individual forms of religiousness, from which derived especially the themes of Christ's Passion, to which Christian Rohlfs, besides Nolde, also dedicated himself. In particular, the former, together with Kirchner and Nolde, was one of the expressionists most appreciated by Osthaus. For as many as thirty-seven years he had his studio in the building that housed the collection of the great patron of the arts, the Folkwang Museum, inaugurated in Hagen in 1902 thanks to the contribution of Henry Van de Velde, who supervised the furnishings and interior decorating.
In different ways, Franz Marc and Alexej von Jawlensky – leading exponents of the Blue Rider together with Wassily Kandinsky – alsodisplayed a profound spiritual tension, which in the former found expression in the scenarios surrounding his renowned animals – a kind of search for a new, original blissful condition – and in the latter was expressed in the creation of iconic figures in the wake of the oriental pictorial tradition which he continued almost obsessively starting from 1911.
Completed with a series of works by Max Pechstein, Lyonel Feininger, Max Beckmann, Max Liebermann, Conrad Felixmüller and Gabriele Münter, the exhibition at the MAN of Nuoro – organized together with the Institut für Kulturaustausch (Tübingen) - represents a unique occasion for Italy to delve into one of the most influential movements in the history of the 20th-century avant garde in painting.
List of artists: Max Beckmann, Walther Bötticher, Lyonel Feininger, Conrad Felixmüller, Erich Heckel, Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Liebermann, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Franz Marc, Ludwig Meidner, Otto Mueller, Gabriele Münter, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein, Christian Rohlfs, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff.
Tayfun Belgin is the director of the Osthaus Museum of Hagen. From 1985 to 1988 he directed the Kunstverein Ruhr of Essen. From 1990 to 2003 he worked as the person responsible for the collection and department chief of the Ostwall Museum of Dortmund. From 2003 to 2007 he directed the Kunsthalle of Krems, in Austria. In 2007 he was appointed director of the Osthaus Museum of Hagen. Starting from 2012 he has also been the director of the Department of Culture of Hagen. He has curated many exhibitions at the national and international levels dedicated to the movements of German expressionists, as well as retrospectives on Alexej von Jawlensky, Miró, Immendorff, Lüpertz, Schmidt-Rottluff and others.
Lorenzo Giusti is the director of the MAN Museum of Nuoro, for which he has organized retrospective exhibitions dedicated to leading figures in the history of art and photography of the 20th century (Alberto Giacometti, Maria Lai, Jean Arp, Marino Marini, Vivian Maier, Paul Klee, Garry Winogrand) and curated contemporary art projects with international artists, among whom in the last few years Thomas Hirschhorn, Hamish Fulton, Michael Höpfner, Michel Blazy, Roman Signer and others. Curator of the EX3 contemporary art centre of Florence from 2009 to 2012, he is a contract professor at the University of Sassari (Decamaster) and since 2015 he has been a member of the executive committee of AMACI (Associazione dei Musei d’Arte Contemporanea Italiani).