The present exhibition at the Fondation Beyeler is devoted to one of the most fascinating chapters in art history, which has become famous under the name of “The Blue Rider” and stands for a key aspect of the development of modern art. Prior to the First World War, from 1908 to 1914, an international group of male and female artists active in liberal Munich set out to radically reform art. Their aim was to liberate color from the compulsion to represent things, to divest line of its function of defining contour, and to free the plane surface of the illusion of objectivity. Rather than depicting visible reality, art was to lend visual presence to intellectual or spiritual content. This represented a change in the definition of Western art that would influence artists down to the present day.
The leading figures were Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, who met in early 1911. Both artists were revolutionaries who, often in face of vituperous opposition, pursued their aims undeterred. The legendary paintings by Kandinsky which marked his path to abstraction are on view here, as are many of the pantheistic animal depictions by Marc. Further personalities who were associated with Kandinsky and Marc, and whose works are displayed here, include Gabriele Münter, Marianne von Werefkin, Alexei von Jawlensky, and August Macke.
Der Blaue Reiter, synonym for a departure into uncharted artistic territory, was originally the title of a yearbook, the now-legendary Almanach edited by Kandinsky and Marc in 1912. It contained pictures and writings by a range of artists from different cultures and periods. Not a manifesto in the narrower sense, the volume’s collection of heterogeneous works of European and non-European art, fine and folk art, was manifesto enough in itself. The two editors were convinced that since form and style continually changed, content, or “inner necessity,” was the sole criterion for creative activity.
The exhibition brings together more than 90 works from renowned international museums and private collections, including rarely shown masterpieces from the U.S. and Russia. A separate room sheds light on the development and character of the Almanach.
WHERE Fondation Beyeler / Baselstrasse 101 / Riehen / Basel, Switzerland
WHEN September 4, 2016 – January 22, 2017
featured image: Franz Marc, Blue-black Fox, 1911, Oil on canvas, 50 x 63 cm, © Medienzentrum, Antje Zeis-Loi / Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal