Paul Klee was born in 1879, in Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, and grew up within a family of musicians. Instead of following his musical roots he chose to study art at the Munich Academy. However, his childhood love of music always remained important in his life and work.
In 1911, Klee met Alexej Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke , Franz Marc , and other avant-garde figures and participated in important shows of avant-garde art, including the second Blaue Reiter exhibition at Galerie Hans Goltz, Munich, in 1912.
Primitive art, Surrealism and Cubism, all seem blended into his small-scale, delicate paintings of fantasy and satire. Klee’s art was also distinguished by an extraordinary diversity and technical innovation, with one of his most effective techniques being oil transfer. This involved the artist drawing with a sharp point on the reverse of a sheet coated in oil paint and laid down over another sheet.
Markings and smudges of pigment appeared as a side effect of the process but it meant Klee achieved, for many of his works, the effect of a “ghostly” impression. Klee was a teacher at the Bauhaus, Germany’s most advanced art school, from 1920 to 1931 and immensely productive.
Finally, the seizure of power by the National Socialists drove him and his wife to leave Germany for his native Switzerland. Klee’s later works, in which simplified, archaic forms dominate, show a preoccupation with mortality. Klee died in 1940, after a long period of illness.
在生活中的艰难困顿中，莫奈和其他印象派画家都受到了朋友们的资助。印象主义者的朋友并不是很多，但是他们慷慨解囊，买下印象派的作品，为印象主义者提供了物质上的支持；更加重要的是，他们也带来了温暖的友谊。业余画家古斯塔夫·凯勒博特（Gustave Caillebotte）便是其中之一，他家境富裕，多次参与印象派的展出。巴黎歌剧院的男中音Jean-Baptiste Faur购买了马奈和其他印象主义者的画作，其中包括了许多莫奈的绘画作品。巴黎的市政官员Victor Chocque只要资金充裕，就会购买印象主义者的画作。Gachet博士也拥有不少莫奈及其友人的作品，他视为珍宝。《艺术时刻》（L’Art de la Mode）的出资人监编辑Ernest Hoschédé在购买了印象派作品之后，还会邀请画家去他的庄园做客。1876年7月，马奈在Hoschédé家中度假两周。Hoschédé的庄园位于巴黎南部的蒙日龙，马奈回赠了Hoschédé一些装饰画板，用来装饰他家城堡的主会客室。
George Grosz, who spent much of his childhood in a small town in the German province of Pomerania, was fascinated by big cities. Those that gripped his imagination most were the biggest and most frenetic – above all, Berlin and New York. He made Berlin his home until the rise of Nazism made Germany unbearable, but he dreamt of America, his youthful imagination fired by stories of cowboys and gold diggers. Grosz’s early work, made during the First World War, is his most “Expressionist”. His drawings and paintings of alienated individuals, rioting masses, furtive criminals, prostitutes and (very real) brutal mass violence are staged in the streets, tenements and back alleys of Berlin.
He also absorbed some of the Italian Futurists’ dynamic, energy-laden compositional devices so well suited to conveying the more spectacular effects of modernity – electric lighting, mass transport and the surging movement of urban crowds. Described by a Dadaist colleague, Hans Richter, as a “savage boxer, fighter and hater,” Grosz became a key figure in the Berlin Dada movement. His pugnacious nature, his fearlessly irreverent sense for the absurd and dark humour were fuel for Dada’s political momentum as well as its anti-art stance. These aspects of Grosz, which infuse much of his work, made him resistant to many of the more literary, romantic and utopian aspects of Expressionism.
However, what Grosz undeniably shares with Expressionist contemporaries is a fascinating sensitivity to the intoxicating life pulse and dynamism of the city. In 1933, to escape Nazi persecution, he emigrated with his wife to America. In 1959 he finally returned to Berlin, only to die barely a month later after a highspirited night out on the town.
Max Beckmann was born in Leipzig. As a student in the cradle of Germany’s Enlightenment, Weimar, he read avidly the works of Schopenhauer and became interested in Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche. Having graduated in 1903, he painted his early canvases in Paris. Cézanne particularly impressed him.
Beckmann’s own early work was in a broadly Impressionist mode and could sometimes be quite traditional in its composition and treatment of historical or monumental subjects. Beckmann retained through his life an instinctive feel for the art of the past, gravitating towards images and epochs in which he saw powerful and simple expression. As his own distinctive style developed, this took the form especially of a creative engagement with the art of the Middle Ages and the Northern Renaissance.
Beckmann remained aloof from Expressionism’s core groupings and the impassioned programmes they issued. In many ways he was never a true “Expressionist”. However, his work between the war years and the mid-1920s constitutes a major contribution to avant-garde German art and to the development – and decline – of Expressionism. Beckmann produced some of his most important work in the form of self-portraiture. The relatively naturalistic Selbstbildnis als Krankenpfleger (Self-Portrait as Medical Orderly) is an early example.
Beckmann painted it during the war, in 1915 when he worked for the Red Cross at the Belgian Front. His letters home to his first wife, Minna, reveal that he was fascinated by the comings and goings in the hospitals, overwhelmed by the flood of impressions and experiences on which he felt his art could “gorge itself ”.
However, by July of 1915, the intensity of war had become too much. Beckmann suffered a serious nervous breakdown and was discharged. In 1919, in the aftermath of the war, Beckmann visited Berlin. This was in March, at the height of the street fighting between revolutionaries and Freikorps. He responded to the chaos and violence in Germany’s cities with two of his most significant works of the period: his painting Die Nacht (The Night), and the portfolio of large lithographs entitled Die Hölle (Hell).
The “darkness” of his vision and the blackness of his humour as he surveyed contemporary Germany is inescapable in both works. The title page of Die Hölle has Beckmann – wearing a kind of jester’s collar – in a fairground booth. A signcuminscription announces that “Hell” promises us “a great spectacle in ten pictures”. Berlin had become a hellish and tawdry circus of the macabre. The first of the print series is Der Nachhauseweg (The Way Home.) It shows Beckmann himself, accompanied by a large black dog, conversing on the night streets with a disfigured soldier.
Here, as on other sheets, he uses the device of allowing elements in the picture (his shoulder, the dog’s lolling tongue) to extend beyond the picture’s confines. This amplifies the sense that his series of vignettes are real windows onto a contemporary hell. Subsequent sheets reveal the city as a place of fighting, hunger, torture and chaos.
When war broke out in Europe in the summer of 1914, four years of battle and years more of devastating crises lay ahead. One of Marc’s paintings that articulates a grim anticipation of war and foresees its origins in South-Eastern Europe was Das arme Land Tirol (The Unfortunate Land of Tirol) of 1913. In the same year he painted a pack of wolves and subtitled the work Balkankrieg (Balkan War). Ernst Barlach sculpted a furious, hurtling avenging angel just as the hostilities commenced. Yet in spite of a tide of apocalyptic prophecies, few could imagine the cold reality of modern, technological warfare, in “this endless, loveless war” as Marc was calling it by 1915 in a letter from the Front.
Dix was one of the most prolific artists of war. He was also a prodigious soldier. He served on both the Western and Eastern Fronts, throughout wartime, and was awarded the Iron Cross. In the latter months of the war he trained as a pilot. Dix took two books with him into battle: the Bible and a volume of Nietzsche.
When the fighting had been over for some years, he returned to the subject and his memories of it. He produced a masterly graphic cycle, Der Krieg (The War), in 1924 in the tradition of Goya’s Disasters of War. He painted monumental panels in the 1920s and early 1930s in the manner of medieval altarpieces. Taken together, this wide range of works encompasses a richness and diversity of war experience from the horrific to the banal, the tragic to the absurd.
Dix painted himself as a soldier several times. In his 1914 self-portrait (on the reverse of which is another self-portrait, in a spiked artillery helmet), he appears as a pugnacious, thuggish figure, painted in the reds of the planet Mars – planet of war. His shaven head, thrusting forwards, is all male strength and carnal brutality. “14 DIX” marks the date and subject like a tattoo, piece of graffiti or a serial number. The effect of powerful physicality is doubly dramatized in the thick, gestural marks of the brush and smeared paint on paper.
An image of undifferentiated and undecorated masculinity in war came from Kirchner in 1915. In his Artillerymen, a crowd of naked soldiers, thin, sallow and strangely vulnerable are bombarded by steely jets of water from the communal shower. The officer to the right in uniform and jackboots creates a presence that both emphasizes the men’s’ nakedness, stripped of military regalia, and underlines these soldiers’ complete subjugation to authority.
Beckmann volunteered for service as a medical orderly in order to avoid going into armed combat. He too was fascinated by war at the outset, but according to a friend, he said: “I’m not going to shoot at the French, I have learnt so much from them. Nor at the Russians, Dostoyevski is my friend”.
Kollwitz was a committed pacifist. She dreamt of Socialism as the answer to Europe’s suffering. Her son Peter was killed in the fighting. Mourning his death and the loss of millions of others, Kollwitz came to see the war years not only as “unspeakably hard” but also as a “terrible deception”.
After the war, inspired by the example of her friend and colleague Barlach, she created a moving cycle of seven woodcuts, titled Der Krieg (The War). They focus on the bereavement and suffering inflicted on ordinary people in war. In the second of them, Die Freiwilligen (The Volunteers), she envisages a surging crowd of young volunteers and the suffering, howling women from whom they are being pulled, inexorably towards destruction, by death as a drummer.
Grosz despised the war. Refusing to blame it only on the ruling classes, he reviled too, the mass hysteria that had fuelled it. He suffered a mental breakdown as a result of the horrors he witnessed and lived in terror of re-conscription. His bitterly ironic drawing, KV: The Faith Healers is a damning indictment of the insanity of war, the inhumanity of the bureaucratic war machine, and the absurdity of its processes. A jovial military doctor examines a bespectacled corpse, already in a state of advanced decay. His pronouncement is “KV”, “kriegsverwendungsfähig”, or “fit for active service”. With his characteristic economy of line and sharpness of wit, Grosz lines up for ridicule all the figures that embody the worst of military culture. Flat-headed generals enjoy a joke and a cigar in the foreground, ignoring the examination. Meek desk-bound pen-pushers record and officiate the process.
After the war was over, Dix depicted the officer ranks of the German army as degenerate and animalistic. In Memories of the Mirrored Halls in Brussels, a flushed, decorated soldier gropes a fleshy, falsely smiling prostitute.
Dix exploits the disorientating, kaleidoscopic effects of a chamber that is mirrored on all sides – including floor and ceiling – for several purposes. The mirror facets reflect from multiple angles the different stages and positions of their erotic wrestling. The general appears to be drinking a toast, in selfcongratulation, to his own reflection…
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Mega Square collection,
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