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Retrospective Exhibition of the Work of Helmut Kolle at Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz - Museum Gunzenhauser
A woman looks at the painting 'Dying Torero' by German artist Helmut Kolle from the Chemnitz art collection at the Museum Gunzenhauser in Chemnitz, Germany. The exhibition entitled 'Helmut Kolle. A German in Paris' opened on 07 November 2010 and presents 90 artworks of the artist. EPA/HENDRIK SCHMIDT.

CHEMNITZ.- The Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser are showing a retrospective exhibition entitled HELMUT KOLLE. Helmut Kolle. A German in Paris from 7 November 2010 to 1 May 2011. The 90 exhibits in the show will present the life and work of this extraordinary painter. Works on loan from private collections in Germany, France and Greece are complemented by others from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, the Musée d’Art et d’Archéologie, Senlis and the Musée de Grenoble.

Helmut Kolle, who died at the untimely age of 32 in Chantilly near Paris, produced in just one decade an extensive oeuvre that unified the traditions of German and French painting while unfolding a highly independent position. Kolle’s art clearly mirrors the image of humanity that was prevalent in the 1920s. His figurative works, focussed on expressive portrayals of persons, readily address the viewers, inspiring them to reflect on the image of man today.

Helmut Kolle was born on 24 February 1899 in Charlottenburg, the second son of the bacteriologist Wilhelm Kolle. He spent his childhood in Berne and Frankfurt am Main. In his early years he received drawing lessons from disciples of Ferdinand Hodler, Lovis Corinth and Maurice Denis and was otherwise a self-taught artist. In 1918 in Frankfurt am Main he made the acquaintance of the German art historian and writer Wilhelm Uhde (1874-1947), whose aesthetic views were to have a considerable influence on him.

Having made several attempts at writing around 1920, Kolle then produced his painterly oeuvre between 1921 and 1931. In 1924, he and his partner and mentor Wilhelm Uhde went to Paris, where Kolle was one of the few German artists who succeeded in becoming established there after the end of the First World War. Throughout his life, Wilhelm Uhde had great faith in the rejuvenating power of youth – “Say what you will, I believe in the young people” – and it was he who in early 20th century Paris discovered artists like Henri Rousseau. In 1928 Kolle moved to Chantilly, north of Paris, where in 1930 he rented a small villa. One year later he died there as a consequence of a life-long lung and heart condition.

In 1932 Uhde organised a memorial exhibition which was held in Christian Dior’s Galerie Bonjean in Paris. On that occasion, Pablo Picasso lauded the great virility of Kolle’s painting. Thanks to the numerous contacts of his friend Wilhelm Uhde, Helmut Kolle had successful exhibitions in Parisian galleries even during his life-time. In the course of the National Socialist era, his works were regarded in Germany as “degenerate”. After the Second World War, first important museum exhibitions of his works took place in Hanover, Hamburg and Frankfurt am Main in 1952/53 and in Munich in 1994/95.

In 2010/11 the Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser is presenting a retrospective exhibition which includes numerous works on loan from European collections. The starting point for the exhibition are the stocks of the Museum Gunzenhauser. The Gunzenhauser Foundation in Chemnitz has 19 paintings and a pen-and-ink drawing which represent all the work groups in Kolle’s oeuvre. Since the Gunzenhauser Museum was opened in 2007, five of those works have been on permanent exhibition. Based on these, a representative cross-section of the artist’s work is now being presented. The accompanying catalogue contains essays on Kolle’s life and work, his painting technique and on the significance of Wilhelm Uhde for his development as an artist. The catalogue introduction was written by Philippe Chabert, who has focussed on Kolle’ oeuvre since the 1970s.

The exhibition curators are Thomas Bauer-Friedrich, Museum Gunzenhauser, and Dr. Karsten Müller, Ernst Barlach Haus, Hamburg. The exhibition will run from 7 November 2010 to 1 May 2011 in Chemnitz. Then the Ernst Barlach Haus will show it in a slightly altered form from 22 May to 25 September 2011 in Hamburg.

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