Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky, a major exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) through September 14, takes a look at how artists in Germany and France in the early 20th century interacted and influenced each other’s styles. Expressionism is not presented as a German movement, but rather the profound changes in art wrought by post-impressionist masters like Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, and Paul Gauguin.
Expressionism in Germany and France features 90 paintings and 45 works on paper that depict the journey of artistic influences from Post-Impressionist to Fauvist and Die Brücke to Cubism. The show contains what could be described as a cultural dialog between more than 40 artists.
Visitors attracted by the artists named in the title (not to mention the exhibition poster featuring Van Gogh’s 1889 Poplars at Saint-Remy) may be disappointed that those artists are not featured more. But there are interesting works by them and, more to the point of the exhibition, it shows their transformative influence on other artists.
The exhibit is arranged both chronologically and geographically along central Paris core which includes key works by Van Gogh (who was not French but created much of his work in France), Gauguin, Cézanne, Henri Rousseau, Paul Signac and Henri Matisse that were seen widely by German artists visiting France or displayed in German museums. Side galleries leading off this corridor are built around a specific art movement or location influenced by the French. These lateral galleries feature works from Berlin, die Brücke, Fauves, Blaue Reiter, and Cubism. The galleries show many works from the Expressionists, like Wassily Kandinsky (a Russian artist who worked in Munich for years), Gabrielle Münter, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and Franz Marc.
Visitors can clearly see the changes in Expressionists’ work via nascent artistic insights garnered from the post-impressionist modern masters. There are Expressionist works that clearly mimic Van Gogh’s expressive strokes and brilliant colors, the fluid lines used by Matisse, Gauguin’s juxtaposition of colors as well as styles adapted from him and abstraction introduced by Cézanne. For example, Ernst Kirchner was clearly influenced by Matisse’s work and his friend Max Pechstein was obviously inspired by Gauguin’s colors and Caribbean island subjects (he later traveled to and painted island life in the Palau Islands).
The Expressionism exhibit at LACMA presents a unique opportunity and shows how some of the greatest artists in modern art history influenced a new generation of artists, according to the exhibition’s curator Timothy O. Benson. He also noted that visitors can see how the culturally rich atmosphere of the period transcended borders.
Some of the Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh works featured are from the 1870s and 1880s. However, most of the work shown is from about 1900 to August 1914, when the artistic milieu in Europe was ended abruptly with the start of World War I and several artists fled to their homelands or neutral countries and others were killed in the War.
The exhibition features numerous loans from major museums in the United States, France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, various private collections as well as significant works from LACMA’s collection including ones by Gauguin, Cézanne, Edouard Vuillard, Pechstein, and Erich Heckel. The world-class institutions involved in lending for the exhibit included the MoMA, National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, Petit Palais, Musée d’Orsay, Tate Modern, Brücke Museum, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Museum Folkwang, and the Kunsthaus Zürich.
The Expressionism exhibit that shows how the artists influenced each other recently opened at the LACMA and will run through September 14, 2014. It was featured at the Kunsthaus Zürich for three months earlier this year. Following the time in Los Angeles, the exhibition will be presented at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts from October 6, 2014, through January 25, 2015.
By Dyanne Weiss
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Personal Visit to Expressionism in Germany and France Exhibit