German Revolution exhibition

The German Revolution: Expressionist Prints

 

1 March – 25 August 2019
Hunterian Art Gallery
Admission free

Featuring works from The Hunterian’s pioneering collection of German Expressionist prints, this major exhibition explores artists’ responses to the German Revolution of 1918-1919. Presenting works by stellar artists such as Munch, Nolde, Schiele, Kokoschka, Kollwitz, Beckmann, Picasso, Goya and Gauguin, The German Revolution explores this turbulent period, linking the strong German tradition of graphic art with the social, political, sexual and moral struggles taking place at the time.

The German Revolution

Emil Nolde, Scribes, 1911 © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.The German Revolution: Expressionist Prints is timed to commemorate the violent revolution in Germany from 1918-1919 - a period of anarchy and violence that broke out at the end of the First World War, in Berlin and other big cities. Germany’s old political and social hierarchies failed before World War I ended and the revolutionary fighting and chaos continued until the establishment of the Weimar Republic in August 1919.

The exhibition focuses on the revolutionary printmaking that emerged in Germany in the years 1906-1926. The works are drawn from The Hunterian’s own exceptional holdings of German Expressionist art, supplemented by Max Beckmann’s set of 11 lithographs, Hell, on loan from the National Galleries of Scotland. This monumental series encapsulates the terror, hunger and sheer misery that enveloped the city of Berlin, which had been the German World’s great international centre for the production and exhibition of art.

Artists such as Beckmann turned to printmaking of various kinds from commercial necessity. This was the great period of the woodcut, led by the Norwegian Edvard Munch, who inspired many to take up a medium which has dramatic persuasive power.

Other artists turned their backs on the physical destruction and looked inwards. Munch, Kokoschka, Schiele, Schmidt-Rottluff, Nolde, Pechstein, Heckel, Barlach, Dix, Grosz, Corinth and Paula Modersohn-Becker all made prints exploring human stories which are linked thematically in the exhibition and seem to have arisen as an antidote to the disaster of the war: Love and Anxiety, A Bridge to Utopia, and Conflict and Despair.

Image: Emil Nolde, Scribes, 1911 © Nolde Stiftung Seebüll.

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, Fraülein Engelhardt, 1926/27.Must See Items

Marie-Louise von Motesiczky, Fraülein Engelhardt, 1926
Oil on canvas, signed and dated 1926

Painted before the artist’s training with Max Beckmann in Frankfurt, this work already shows a familiarity with the portraits of Modersohn-Becker and Beckmann. The woman in the portrait was a friend who had provided companionship for the artist’s widowed mother; a fallen leaf suggests that she has reached the autumn of her life. Fraülein Engelhardt’s ancient features, with deep hollow slots for the eyes, are painted to resemble the carved expression of an African mask of the kind that had been discovered by Brücke artists such as Pechstein and Schmidt-Rottluff in Berlin’s Ethnological Museum.

Purchased, 2011, with support from the National Fund for Acquisitions, the Art Fund, and the Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust; GLAHA:55564

Max Beckmann, Adam und Eva (Adam and Eve), 1917 © DACS 2019.Must See Items

Max Beckmann, Adam und Eva (Adam and Eve), 1917 © DACS 2019
Drypoint, signed in pencil

After his mental collapse while working as medical orderly, Beckmann moved to Frankfurt to the house of his friend Ugi Battenberg. Several Biblical subjects resulted from this phase of his work, 1915-1922. This print is close to the painting Adam and Eve of the same year, but it focuses more intently on the interaction between the figures and their loss of innocence. It echoes Rembrandt’s 1638 etching (B.28), but Beckmann puts Eve in control, offering her breast in place of an apple.

Purchased 2015, with support from the National Fund for Acquisitions; GLAHA:55716 

Pablo Picasso, Le repas frugal (The frugal meal), 1904 © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2019.Must See Items

Pablo Picasso, Le repas frugal (The Frugal Meal), 1904 © Succession Picasso/DACS, London 2019
Etching

Much of the inspiration for Expressionism came from painting in France, in the work of Gauguin, Cézanne and Van Gogh. Two ‘fauves’, Matisse, and Picasso, were soon identified as prominent figures in the new movement and Picasso’s prints were shown in an exhibition of ‘Französische Graphik’ at Herwarth Walden’s Der Sturm Gallery in Berlin, May-June 1912. This important ‘Blue period’ print was the first that Picasso made in Paris. In Expressionist style, Picasso represents emaciated figures, their limbs elongated in the manner of gothic sculpture. It was published by Vollard in an edition of 250 unsigned impressions in 1913.

McCallum bequest 1948; GLAHA:3875 

Erich Heckel, Madchen beim Baden (Young woman bathing), 1907. ‌Must See Items

Erich Heckel, Mädchen beim baden (Young Woman Bathing), 1907
Woodcut, signed in pencil

The informal, sketch-like quality of this small woodcut, and its essentially impressionist subject, are typical of early Brücke printmaking. It predates the discovery of ‘primitive’ art by the group, once they had moved to Berlin, which resulted in figures with more abstract faces inspired by African masks and stick figures influenced by reliefs from the Palau islands. The composition is strong, and suggestive of the woodcuts of Félix Vallotton: Heckel creates relief by the strong opposition of the black bath and the white space above.

Purchased 1961; GLAHA:21248

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Trauernde am Strand (Mounring women on the shore), 1914  © DACS 2019.Must See Items

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Trauernde am Strand (Mourning Women on the Beach), 1914 © DACS 2019
Woodcut, signed in pencil

From the portfolio Zehn Holzschnitte (Ten woodcuts) published in 1919 by J.B. Neumann. Schmidt-Rottluff spent time in fishing villages in the north such as Dangast and, in 1914, Hohwacht, where he made studies of women. The women are given heavy and very large heads, which have the appearance of African masks. In a letter to Gustav Schiefler of 1913 the artist mentioned his interest in enlarging the scale of heads to emphasise the spiritual dimension, describing it as ‘the gathering point of the whole psyche’.

Purchased 2016, with support from the National Fund for Acquisitions; GLAHA:57948 

Edvard Munch, Im Männlichen Gehirn (In the man’s brain), 1897.Must See Items

Edvard Munch, Im Männlichen Gehirn (In the Man’s Brain), 1897
Woodcut, printed in red, signed in pencil

The years 1896-1897 were an intense period of activity for Munch as a printmaker. He made his first woodcuts, which became enormously influential in Germany. Love, and the anxiety it creates, is a major theme in Munch’s art. He organised his paintings and prints into what he called a ‘Frieze of Life’, with love, jealousy, angst and death as stages through which we pass. Munch’s men are entranced by woman’s flowing hair. Man’s head is here represented as a primitive mask, above which floats a woman’s naked body, which we understand as an obsession which weighs down his spirit.

Purchased 1967; GLAHA:17985

Käthe Kollwitz, Die Carmagnole, 1901. Must See Items

Käthe Kollwitz, La Carmagnole, 1901
Etching and softground etching, signed in pencil

Kollwitz calls for a revolution in this important early print, of which the artist was justly proud. Set among the half-timbered buildings of a poor area of Hamburg, it was inspired by her reading of Dickens’s 1859 A Tale of Two Cities, in which a crowd of women sing a revolutionary song (La Carmagnole) outside the La Force prison in Paris where their husbands are imprisoned. The guillotine around which the women dance, is a menacing symbol of the brute power of the oppressed poor of Germany’s newly industrialised cities, who are the principal subject of Kollwitz’s art.

Purchased 2008, with support from the National Fund for Acquisitions; GLAHA:55328

Käthe Kollwitz, Drei Studien einer klagender Frau (Three studies of a woman in mourning), 1905.Must See Items

Käthe Kollwitz, Drei Studien einer klagender Frau (Three Studies of a Woman in Mourning), 1905
Charcoal, signed in pencil

Kollwitz was repeatedly drawn to the subject of human suffering, especially the plight of working women. Her success in this unconventional subject matter enraged some people, but, as she explained in 1942, ‘The simple fact of the matter was that I found the proletariat beautiful’. This sheet of studies is not closely related to work on any print, but is one of many studies from life, which provides a powerful record of attempts to capture directly with charcoal the suffering of an individual at a moment of loss.

Purchased using the Johnstone Fund, 2018, with support from the Art Fund and the National Fund for Acquisitions; GLAHA:57984

Egon Schiele, Kummernis (Sorrow), 1914.Must See Items

Egon Schiele, Kümmernis (Sorrow), 1914
Drypoint, posthumous ‘inscribed impression’

Encouraged by his patron Arthur Roessler, Schiele made a handful of prints, in the hope of exploiting the German market for graphic art; drypoint was the only technique he regarded as worthwhile. Schiele was a wonderful painter of landscapes and portraits, and in his highly charged and very private nude subjects we see the working of an obsessive imagination. This is currently the only print by Schiele in a British public collection.

Purchased 1967; GLAHA:17987

German Expressionist Prints at The Hunterian

This powerful subject allows us to demonstrate one of many strengths of The Hunterian’s works on paper collections. While most famous for prints and drawings by Whistler and Mackintosh, we also house one of the best collections of German Expressionist prints in the UK.

In recent years our curators have been steadily developing the collection that was begun, with considerable foresight, in the 1950s. The collection is impressive among museums in the UK where, as a consequence of two world wars, there was, for a long time, strong resistance to acquiring German works of art.

Today the collection includes more the 100 works from the period 1880-1930 and includes major works, such as Egon Schiele’s Sorrow, that are unique to The Hunterian and not present in any other UK public collection.


Further Information

Publication coverA new publication to accompany the exhibition The German Revolution: Expressionist Prints is published by The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, RRP £25.00.

It is available in the Hunterian Art Gallery Shop for the special price of £20.00.

The Hunterian is grateful to Patricia Johnstone Jackson, Fiona Hope Johnstone and The Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust for their financial support for the exhibition publication.

The Hunterian is also grateful to The Art Fund, The National Fund for Acquisitions and The Marie-Louise von Motesiczky Charitable Trust for their support in the acquisition of many of the works included in the exhibition.