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A Humane World for All: The Rhinelandish Artist Group the Cologne Progressives 1920-33
Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, Der deutsche Bauernkrieg, 1932. Öl auf Holz 102 x 149 cm. Von der Heydt-Museum, Wuppertal.

COLOGNE.- Thinking of the Cologne carnival and Karl Marx doesn´t come into mind immediately. Rhinelandish life style and Marx´s philosophy by Marx don´t have much in common. But the [German] philosopher published a paper in Cologne and the artists which are now on exhibition at the Museum Ludwig were both Marxists and followers of carnival. "Progressive Cologne 1920-33. Seiwert – Hoerle – Arntz“ presents paintings and prints created by three of the most important representatives of the Cologne Progressives. Their pictures have an exceptional position in German art between World War I and II.

The painters Franz W. Seiwert and Heinrich Hoerle and the printer Gerd Arntz founded the group at the beginning of the twenties after experiencing the horrors of war and revolution. They dedicated their art to the fight for a better society. Painting was for them a "weapon". Art and politics were very closely related. The Progressives´ realism didn´t portray the world at its surface but exposed its inner structures and mechanism. With reduced forms the Progressives give a constructed view of the world and their main theme is the working class. Although rooted in expressionism the pictures don´t depict man in general but the individual as a concrete social subject.

After being persecuted by the national socialists the Cologne Progressives fell into oblivion. Only after 1968 were they rediscovered. But in the late 1960s it was the political aspect of ... that mattered. Today´s exhibition focuses above all on the group's artistic elements and innovations. The exhibition offers the viewer an opportunity for enjoy an astonishing modern and fresh series of paintings that have in some ways a surprising tactile character. Relating to this the Progressives defined their art in opposition to the artists of New Objectivity who were well known for using the smooth painting technique of the old masters. The Progressive´s radical relationship to the world of labour and their high esteem of the worker is reflected in this different understanding of what painting is for.

Over fifty paintings and ninety prints are on view. They come from the collections of the Museum Ludwig, international museums and private collections. Some works are on public view for the first time. The exhibition is an important retrospective of German art and well worth seeing. The exhibition runs until 15th June 2008. There is a catalogue: „"Köln Progressiv 1920-33. Seiwert – Hoerle – Arntz“ [Cologne 2008], for 25 !.

Written by Kai Artinger



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