The Blue Rider


The Blue Rider

After a heated debate in which the antagonists almost came to blows, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, and Gabriele Münter resigned from the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists’ Association Munich) on December 2, 1911. A mere two weeks after the confrontation, they and their fellow dissenters mounted a counter-exhibition at Galerie Thannhauser in Munich. Alongside their own art, they presented works by August Macke, Robert Delaunay, Elisabeth Epstein, Albert Bloch, David and Vladimir Burliuk, Heinrich Campendonk, Arnold Schoenberg, and Henri Rousseau. The full title, "The First Exhibition of the Editorial Board of 'Der Blaue Reiter'", made explicit reference to their almanac project: the programmatic yearbook that put the Blue Rider on the map as a circle of artists who saw themselves as members of a global creative community transcending historical periods and distinctions of genre.

"The whole body of work we call art knows neither borders nor nations but only humanity": that is how Kandinsky and Marc put it in their almanac The Blue Rider, which came out in 1912. The credo inspired the Lenbachhaus to put together a new presentation that embeds the Blue Rider artists’ works in the sweeping history of art and culture that the almanac illustrates. For the first time, the exhibition allows visitors to study with their own eyes the interconnections between Bavarian and Russian folk art, Japanese woodcuts, children’s drawings, contemporary music and the works of Balinese, Gabonese, Oceanian, Sri Lankan, Mexican, and Egyptian art reproduced in the almanac. The dialogue between outstanding works and artifacts on loan from other museums and the beloved classics from the Lenbachhaus’s own collection opens up new perspectives on the Blue Rider artists’ high-minded vision.

One guiding idea of the exhibition is to highlight the circle’s collective creative processes: separate galleries are dedicated to their stays in Murnau and Sindelsdorf, where they sketched and painted side by side, and to reconstructions of the first and second exhibitions at Galerie Thannhauser and Galerie Hans Goltz in Munich. The presentation also rethinks the story of the Blue Rider as it has long been told, in which a "central cast" around Münter, Kandinsky, Marc, Macke, and Klee eclipsed other important members of the group including Elisabeth Epstein and Maria Franck-Marc.

Last but not least, the project scrutinizes the ways in which European colonialism informed the group’s conception of art. Their imagination constrained by the pre-World War I mentality of imperialism triumphant, the Blue Rider artists, like others, failed to put into practice an emancipatory idea of art that transcended the European horizon. Still, their conviction that the artistic productions of all peoples and times were ultimately of equal value was groundbreaking and remains a vital inspiration today.

Curated by Annegret Hoberg, Matthias Mühling, Anna Straetmans

A cooperation of the Lenbachhaus and the Gabriele Münter and Johannes Eichner Foundation

The Lenbachhaus participates in the project "MuSeenLandschaft Expressionismus," with the exhibition "The Blue Rider." The exhibition series "Avant-Garde in Color. Blue Rider, Brücke, Expressionism" also takes visitors to the Buchheim Museum in Bernried on the shore of Lake Starnberg, the Schlossmuseum Murnau, the Franz Marc Museum in Kochel am See, and the Museum Penzberg—Sammlung Campendonk.

Buy Reprint "Almanac. The Blue Rider"


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