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'Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky' on view at LACMA
Paul Gauguin, The House of Pan-Du (La Maison du Pan-Du), 1890. Oil on canvas ,19 13/16 × 24 1/16 in. (50.3 × 61.1 cm). Private collection, Canada. Photo courtesy private collection.

LOS ANGELES, CA.- The Los Angeles County Museum of Art presents Expressionism in Germany and France: From Van Gogh to Kandinsky (June 8–September 14, 2014), an exhibition that sheds new light on the extraordinary response of artists in Germany and France to key developments in modern art in the early 20th century. For the first time in a major museum exhibition, Expressionism is presented not as a distinctly German style but as an international movement in which artists in Germany and France responded with various aesthetic approaches to modern masters such as Vincent van Gogh, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, and Paul Gauguin, among others. Over 40 artists—including Wassily Kandinsky, Emil Nolde, Gabrielle Münter, Franz Marc, Robert Delaunay, and Pierre Bonnard—are represented in over 90 paintings and 45 works on paper, in addition to approximately 30 ephemera objects.

“Expressionism in Germany and France offers a unique opportunity to observe the ways that a generation of artists was influenced by some of the greatest names in modern art history,” says exhibition curator Timothy O. Benson. “Our visitors will gain insight into the culturally rich cosmopolitan milieu established by the many exhibitions, collectors, gallerists, critics, and not least the artists of the time (many of whom traveled between Paris and Germany) and how this cultural atmosphere transcended national borders.”

“This exhibition is a fascinating look at artistic influence in Europe that shatters barriers of nationality,” says Michael Govan, LACMA CEO and Wallis Annenberg Director. “These artists’ practices were not constrained by their borders—and in fact many creative breakthroughs of the 20th century happened thanks to this dialogue between these two countries, as artists reshaped their national identities.”

In addition to domestic and international loans of key paintings by Van Gogh, Cézanne, Matisse, Gauguin, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Paula Modersohn-Becker, and Gabrielle Münter, Expressionism in Germany and France showcases works from LACMA’s Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies, one of the most distinguished collections of German Expressionist art in the United States. The loans in the exhibition come from a range of world-class institutions, including MoMA, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Dallas Museum of Art, National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.), Musée d’Orsay, Petit Palais, Tate Modern, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Brücke Museum, Museum Folkwang, and Kunsthaus Zürich. Expressionism in Germany and France also highlights significant works from LACMA’s collection by Gauguin, Cézanne, Kirchner, Edouard Vuillard, Max Pechstein, and Erich Heckel, among others.

Following its presentation at LACMA, the exhibition travels to the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (October 6, 2014–January 25, 2015).

Expressionism in Germany and France explores the process of artistic influence and contributes to new scholarship on issues of French-German relations. The exhibition offers insight into how the visual arts are conveyed between cultures and are influenced by ideas of national identity and cultural heritage.

Expressionism, an artistic movement in which pictorial imagery is depicted through dramatically expressive colors and brushwork, digresses from traditional representation in which artists attempted to recreate a likeness of reality; instead, the movement gives form to artists’ individual perceptions, feelings, and psychologies. While Expressionism has come to be recognized as a predominately German movement, this association evolved gradually long after the movement had begun and is partially attributed to the first book on Expressionism, authored by the German art critic Paul Fechter in 1914 and on view in the exhibition. The publication imbued the movement with a national identity, commensurate with the patriotic tone in Germany during World War I. In reality, Expressionism was born from a shared advance toward modernism among French and German artists as the latest French trends reached Germany through a network of collectors, critics, and art lovers, creating a mutually rich cosmopolitan milieu.

Expressionists discovered new artistic possibilities through the first modern masters. They recognized expressive gesture and color in Van Gogh, nascent abstraction in Cézanne, and a new approach to the decorative in Gauguin and Matisse. Expressionism in Germany and France brings together significant works that Expressionists would have seen and carefully studied in exhibitions and collections of the time throughout Germany as well as Paris. Through a process of give and take, the Expressionists moved toward an international art while also seeking to maintain their national cultural heritage, combining tradition with aesthetic evolution.

While some of the works by Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh date from the 1870s and 1880s, the main chronological scope of the exhibition ranges from approximately 1900—when the works of these artists began to be exhibited in Germany—to August 1914, when the cosmopolitan climate of Europe was abruptly ended by the onset of World War I.

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