The dream of an unfettered and unsullied life ran through German expressionism in the early years of the 20th century. In a time marked by unrest and conflict the artists sought paradise on earth. ARKEN's exhibition shows the vision, as exemplified by 13 of Germany's best expressionists, of a life in harmony with nature, freed from the trammels of civilization.
The Longing for Paradise
ARKEN Museum of Modern Art's autumn exhibition is about dreams of paradise and urban ennui. It shows the visions of 13 of the best German expressionists, visions of a life in harmony with nature, away from the trammels of civilization. Among the artists are Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Franz Marc. Only a few of the 115 works in the exhibition have previously been exhibited in Denmark.
COPENHAGEN: Early German expressionism has given us some of the most colourful and positive works of art ever. Bathers and lush countryside, life in rural areas and in distant exotic lands as well as in the hectic metropolis were depicted by the artists in forceful explosions of colour. They painted visions of paradise, visions that tell us about the longing of modern man for harmony in a time marked by conflict and revolution. The ARKEN exhibition PARADISE REGAINED is about these visions.
The Burden of Civilisation
The young Germany, a country united as one nation in 1870, was characterized in the years up to World War I by widespread industrialization. The population of the big cities exploded, with anonymous masses of people and a hedonistic, decadent urban lifestyle. The political and economic revolutions created dissatisfaction among people and a need for both harmony and a new national self-image. Internationally it was a time imbued with a powerful belief in the future and in man's capabilities: the race to the South Pole, Berliot's flight across the Channel, the excavation of the Panama Canal, the Titanic, and â€“ last but not least â€“ World War I.
The expressionists' visions of paradise were a reaction to the conditions of modern life offered by the New Germany. The artists were dependent on the art-buying public in the big cities and fascinated by the night life in the hectic and decadent metropolises â€“ this is evident, for example, in the urban motifs produced by Nolde and Kirchner. At the same time a number of these artists, inspired by the newly united nation, attempted to find an authentic German people. Inspired by the ideas of Friedrich Nietzsche they longed for a primeval, unspoilt way of life in harmony with nature â€“ free from the fetters of civilization.
They went on recuperative summer jaunts to the local German provinces, where they indulged in bathing, rambled in the countryside and formed artistic confraternities. They were also inspired by primitive people and their works of art: the inhabitants of Oceania, for instance. And several of them, like other intellectuals at the time, believed that a new paradise â€“ a new world â€“ might arise out of the War.
The Artists in the Exhibition
The 115 paintings, graphic works, drawings and watercolours in the exhibition are on loan from art galleries in Germany and from private collections. Only a few of these works have previously been exhibited in Denmark.
The artists featured in the exhibition are: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884-1976), Max Pechstein (1881-1955), Erich Heckel (1883-1970), Otto Mueller (1874-1930), Franz Marc (1880-1916), August Macke (1887-1914), Alexej Jawlensky (1864-1941), Gabriele MÃ¼nter (1877-1962), Emil Nolde (1867-1956), Adolf ErbslÃ¶h (1881-1947), Wilhelm Morgner (1891-1917) and Paula Modersohn-Becker (1876-1907).
Image: ERICH HECKEL: FrÃ¤nzi stehend / FrÃ¤nzi Standing, 1910