Any art which goes beyond the rules and limits I have fixed is no art at all.
Kaiser Wilhelm II
This is the sentence that opens the exhibition “Da Kirchner a Nolde. Espressionismo Tedesco 1905-1913” at Palazzo Ducale in Genoa, and that throws us immediatly in another period: we are in Dresda, it’s the year 1905 and four young students just founded the art movement “Die Brücke”.
Their names are Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Fritz Bleyl and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and they want to build a bridge (Die Brücke, in german) between the previous neoromantic art ad the new artistic flow that, in juxtaposition to Impressionism, that makes of outward apperance its base, will point on the inner being of the artist, fixing on the canvas his emotions, anguish and fears: its name will be Expressionism.
In the exhibition path, that illustrates the history of the movement at the base of all German Expressionism, are put side by side, mixed, sometimes counterposed the different characters of its main artists: the first room groups some of the ouvres that gave birth to Die Brücke, hitting us with vivid colours, sometimes even too much, and grotesque figures, and from there we are swallowed in an emotional vortex, a dance of strong sensations on canvas.
Or in the famous “Marcella”, by Kirchner:
Marcella, portraied many times by Kirchner and other members of Die Brücke, was a 15 years old model spending time in the artistic ambient in Dresden: both her and Franzi, the other model that appears in some paintings, are characters almost unknown to the art historians. Some say that they were sisters, daughters of a artist’s widow; some other that there was no kinship between them. It’s not clear even if there was some kind of deeper relation with the painters of the movement. What is sure is that both were part of the group for some good time.
Kirchner often depicts the peculiar life of Die Brücke: a community that meets in ateliers with the models, main characters of many of the paintings.
Another community moment of the group were the outdoor trips, in which the models were also the artists themselves. In this painting by Pechstein we can see one of these occasions, portayed in a playful mode, still with pretty violent colours: the artists walk in a field and in the foreground there’s a model, maybe Marcella herself.
The female portrait is taken up also by Erich Heckel, probably my favourite painter of the group: in his “Girl playing the lute” he depicts a female, almost androgynous, character with a sensual and exotic air, at the same time quiet and almost muffled; the player is the artist’s woman, often ill. The dark colours and the pale face help to create the particular atmosphere.
Another important member of Die Brücke was also Emil Nolde: one of the rooms of the exhibition is dedicated to him, whom entered the group thanks to the friendship with Schmidt-Rottluff. But Nolde, partly since of his adult age, partly because of his character, rarely took part to the community life of the group, preferring to work alone, and soon he continued his artistic research away from the group. His pieces of this period reflect the peculiarity of all his work, with a strongly expressive use of the colour and a growing mysticism in the themes.
The Die Brücke didn’t last long: it ended in 1913 after the movement’s manifesto was written by Kirchner; it wasn’t approved by the other members and started disagreements. After that, there were the two wars, and during nazism an incredible amount of their artworks was banished and destroyed. All the Die Brücke members were hitted by this, but Kirchner, still ill because of a nervous breakdown after his participation to the WWI, particularly suffered it: 15th June 1938 he committed suicide. The other artists of the movement continued their artistic research, but something was changed, and gone, forever.
“What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not an end.”
Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
The exhibition will be at Palazzo Ducale in Genoa until the 12th July 2015 and it’s amazing: I strongly recommend to visit it 🙂