The Blue Rider




The Lenbachhaus has the world’s largest collection of art of »Der Blaue Reiter« (The Blue Rider), one of the most important groups of avant-garde artists in the early twentieth century. The core of this treasure consists of the generous donation by the painter Gabriele Münter, who was Wassily Kandinsky’s companion until 1914. On occasion of her eightieth birthday in 1957, she bequeathed more than a thousand works by the »Blue Rider« artists to the Lenbachhaus, among them ninety oil paintings by Kandinsky as well as around 330 watercolors and drawings, his sketchbooks, reverse glass paintings, and his printed oeuvre. The bequest also included more than twenty-five paintings and numerous works on paper by Münter herself and works by other eminent artists such as Franz Marc, August Macke, Paul Klee, Alexej Jawlensky, and Marianne von Werefkin. This extraordinary donation made the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus a world-class museum.

In 1965, the singular ensemble of the Gabriele Münter Foundation was augmented by a second important donation. Inspired by Münter’s example, the heirs of Bernhard Koehler gave chief works by Franz Marc and August Macke. Bernhard Koehler Sr., a wealthy Berlin-based industrialist, had been the uncle of Macke’s wife; he had not only bought numerous works produced by the artists of the circle starting in 1910, but also lent financial support to its exhibitions and the publication of the almanac »Der Blaue Reiter«.

Four years after Gabriele Münter’s death, in 1966, the Gabriele Münter and Johannes Eichner Foundation, which holds considerable archival materials concerning the art of the »Blue Rider« and supports the Lenbachhaus’s collection by sponsoring acquisitions and providing permanent loans, became operative. In 1971, the Lenbachhaus also acquired the Kubin archive of the Hamburg-based collector Kurt Otte, which includes works by Alfred Kubin as well as the artist’s extensive correspondence with avant-garde writers and artists.

With the artists’ association »Die Brücke« (The Bridge) in Dresden and Berlin, the »Bridge« circle in Munich was part of the most important movement for renewal in twentieth-century German art. In contrast with the figurative Expressionism of »Die Brücke« artists, the Blue Rider group, starting in 1908, developed a distinctive radiantly colorful, expressive, and partly abstract formal vocabulary; unified by the artists’ shared belief in a “spiritual” dimension of art, it accommodated diverse forms of expression. Founded in 1911, the »Blue Rider« was accordingly a cooperative undertaking founded on the principle of diversity and sustained by the artist’s unique personalities. In this openness lay its modernity, which is as compelling and contemporary now as it was then.

Picture 2:
First exhibition of the »Blue Rider«, 1911/12, Galerie Heinrich Tannhauser, Munich, room 2, left to right: Gabriele Münter, Still Life (left); August Macke, Indians on Horseback (top); Robert Delaunay, Saint-Séverin No.1 (bottom); David Burljuk, Horses (above the door); Franz Marc, Landscape with Horses and Rainbow (top); Wassily Kandinsky, With Sun and Improvisation 22 (right).
Photograph: Gabriele Münter, Gabriele Münter and Johannes Eichner Foundation


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