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Virginia Museum of Fine Arts Acquires Fischer Collection of German Expressionism
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, "Six Dancers," 1911, oil on canvas. VMFA's Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection. Photo: Katherine Wetzel, © 2009 Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

RICHMOND, VA.- One of the finest remaining refugee collections of German Expressionist art has a new home – at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection includes works assembled by the couple in Frankfurt, Germany, between 1905 and 1925, the most creative years of German Expressionism.

Under a special gift-purchase agreement executed between Anne Rosenberg Fischer (1902-2008) of Richmond, her children and grandchildren, and VMFA, the vast majority of the collection – some 200 works – comes to the museum. Anne Fischer was the widow of Ludwig and Rosy Fischer’s son Ernst (1896-1981), who was a physician and chairman of the physiology department at the Medical College of Virginia, now a part of Virginia Commonwealth University.

No state funds were spent by the museum. VMFA used donor funds restricted to the purchase of art for the commonwealth.

“This gift places Anne Fischer and her family among the most generous of all VMFA benefactors,” VMFA Director Alex Nyerges says. “Their vision and generosity in forgoing a portion of their inheritance demonstrates their commitment to sharing this priceless collection, and we are immensely grateful.”

The collection will “have a major impact on the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,” he says, “bringing the museum’s holdings in this area into international significance.”

The Fischer Collection “is one of the most important private assemblages of German Expressionist art in existence today,” he says. It includes works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, Max Pechstein, Conrad Felixmüller, Otto Müller and Lyonel Feininger.

The collection comprises some 15 oils on canvas; more than a dozen sculptures; about 50 watercolors, gouaches and drawings; some 170 prints; and several print portfolios and illustrated books.

Among them are Kirchner’s “Six Dancers” and “Two Streetwalkers,” Müller’s “Nude in a Landscape,” Pechstein’s “Bathers,” Nolde’s “Blue Sea,” and Felixmüller’s “Political Speaker.”

The collection also includes works by other major artists, such as Paul Klee, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Kathy Kollwitz and Marc Chagall.

“German Expressionism was one of the most powerful movements in all 20th-century art,” says John Ravenal, VMFA’s Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. “It evolved when a handful of artists in Dresden, Munich and Berlin led a crusade away from the Impressionists’ obsession with visual effects on behalf of moral indignation and more humanistic concerns.

In Expressionism, reality is distorted to express emotions or inner visions and emotional impact is often heightened by a deliberate use of strong colors.

The emphasis in the Fischer Collection is on the artists’ group known as Die Brücke, or the Bridge, one of the movement’s central groups. The genre’s vibrant colors and slashing strokes are the hallmarks of an art that values subjective feelings above objective observations, Ravenal explains.

Ravenal notes that VMFA already has a small number of works in its permanent collection that are related to those in the Fischer collection. Among them, he says, are strong paintings by Kirchner and Beckmann and a Klee gouache.

“But most of the Fischer collection works will be the first by a particular artist in our collection.”

Virginia Museum of Fine Arts | Ludwig and Rosy Fischer Collection | Ernst Ludwig Kirchner | Emil Nolde | Wassily Kandinsky | August Macke | Max Pechstein | Conrad Felixmüller | Otto Müller | Lyonel Feininger |

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