Collector’s Choice: German expressionism
In addition to our current „Synthesis“ show, bromer kunst is exhibiting few artworks from our art collection from September 30th until February 25th.
The present Collector’s Choice show is dedicated to German Expressionist artists such as Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Erich Heckel, Christian Schad, Ignaz Epper and more.
In 1911, the term "expressionism" is first coined in art-literature in order to identify European avant-garde movements of the turn of the century. Ostensibly, the Berlin art dealer Paul Cassirer (1881- 1965) described the expression-loaded paintings by Norwegian painter Edward Munch (1863-1944) similarly, so as to distinguish them from impressionist pictures. But already in 1913 on the occasion of the „first German fall-saloon“ („Erster deutscher Herbstsalon“), Herwarth Walden's (1879-1941), a patron of early 20th century German avant-garde, introduced the members of „Blauer Reiter“ artists group as "German expressionists" and thus reduced the avant-garde designation to German-speaking countries.
Therefore, the artworks of German expressionism include the entire modern art of Germany’s early 20th century. Henceforth, artworks can either depict urban nervousness or on the contrary, some works reflect the vision of a nostalgic, innocent and paradise-like world. This contrast is also reflected in the works of our collection: While in 1917, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner paints a child harvesting fruit in the midst of an idyllic landscape, three years earlier, Erich Heckel’s woodcut depicts a dark scene showing a hard-featured woman.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, "Kind in ganzer Figur mit kurzen Hosen und Obstpflücker an langer Stange", 1917-1918, oil on cardboard, 73.8 x 48.1 cm
Erich Heckel, "Mädchen am Meer", 1918, woodcut, 55.4 x 41.3 cm
So considering its broad differences in terms of imagery, what is it actually that characterises expressionism as an autonomous style? A common and widespread thesis defines expressionism, as the term inherently suggests, as the artist’s emotionally driven expression. Yet in 1917, Herwart Walden's' formula suggested a similar assumption; Walden explained, the expressionist artists would not reproduce the "impression from the outside", he would rather create the "expression" from the inside. But art historians gradually revised the movement’s definition over time. Nowadays expressionism is less considered an artistic style, than a collective movement that expresses the attitude of a young generation of artists. With their commitment to radical subjectivity, expressionists demanded for a renewal of art. Hence, the expressionist emphasis on individual perspective has been characterized as a reaction to 19th century artistic styles such as Naturalism and Impressionism.
Based on their anti-academic and anti-bourgeois attitude, the young artists developed an imagery lacking in laws of perspective and in conventional proportions. Furthermore, natural colours were no longer applied. Expressionist artists sought to express the meaning of emotional experience rather than physical reality. Driven by the desire for self-liberation from the bourgeois establishment, expressionists created an own aesthetics, often depicting deformed exaggeration and ugliness. Especially the nervous, sharp-angled shapes and hatches in their graphic works demonstrate the striking aesthetics of expressionist art. Hardly any other media seems more appropriate for the embodiment of expression than graphics. Expressionist compositions are characterized by raw power of forms; the artists create graphics by cutting with a knife into wood or by engraving a needle into metal.
With numerous graphics, drawings and paintings, the exhibition at bromer kunst presents a cross-section of a generation’s neurotic adventure that managed to lift their manic creations to an avant-garde art style.
A brief treatise on art displaying
This summer, there are construction works going on at bromer kunst; a new gallery space and 160-m2 additional exhibition space are emerging at our gallery. The new annex is built in accordance with our facilities’ aesthetics and functionality, following bromer kunst’s architecture, which is distinguished by bright spaces. Top light and broad windowpanes offer a sight into the surrounding nature. Our exhibition spaces comply with currently common art displaying conventions. Henceforth, our gallery is spacious enough in order to guarantee sufficient room for the artworks to be displayed and appreciated. In addition, our visitors get informed about the current exhibitions by wall texts and artwork labelling.
While thinking about present art displaying habits, we realize that the aesthetics we experience at exhibitions today and therefore, consider being absolute, have been subject to constant alteration throughout art history.
For instance, in antiquity art had its place within a ritual setting, where it decorated temples. Artworks assumed a similar role in Christian medieval period as they were merely displayed in sacred spaces. If we continue to run trough the history of art displaying practices, we will spot a turning point in early renaissance time. Not until then, a buyer-ship of wealthy aristocracy and merchandisers arose. They cherished to spend their vast wealth on art. From this time on, artworks did not only decorate altarpieces within churches, but also secular interiors. By then, art finally evolved to profane decoration. From that point on, the way of displaying art became subject to the prevailing zeitgeist and to alternating senses of taste. During a long period, the salon style was highly en vogue. The name “salon style” comes from the Parisian salons of the 18th century, where paintings jostled for space on walls hung floor to ceiling with art. Museums such as the Hermitage in St. Petersburg would later adopt this kind of exhibition as a demonstration of overwhelming opulence. These institutions had largely grown out of private collections, in which artworks were displayed in dense, symmetrical arrangements that connoisseurs believed allowed for a better comparison of styles and movements.
Salon style displaying would intend to impress its recipients by the quantity of artworks and the owner’s power, rather than devoting attention to singular paintings or artists.
Paintings displayed in salon style can still be found in castles, where they continue to reflect the representational claim of their former inhabitants.
Example of salon style displaying of paintings: Willem van Haecht, "The Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest", 1628, Rubenshuis / Antwerp
In the course of the 20th century an opposite, much more modest and minimalist displaying habit gained popularity. Since the 1920ies particularly contemporary art has been commonly displayed in neutral white spaces. In 1976, artist and critic Brian O’Doherty set the art world abuzz with a three-part essay published in “Artforum” titled “Inside the White Cube,” it gave a catchy new name to a mode of display that had long ago achieved dominance in museums and commercial galleries. While O’Doherty deserves credit for coining the phrase “white cube”—a label that has since become a staple of the art-world lexicon—the actual display strategy was invented decades earlier. White Cube refers to a narrowed exhibition concept, in which artworks are presented in white isolated gallery spaces. Recently, this idea decreased in popularity, since particularly institutions aim to mediate art by setting it within a comprehensible context, including texts and information, in order to be able to convey all of the artwork’s story to the visitor.
Example of a White Cube gallery presentation of artworks
We ran through a brief history of art displaying practices and at this point, we have returned to the present and hence, to the starting point of our reflections about exhibition habits. Bromer kunst, including the new annex, intend to offer a museum-like experience within our gallery and a pleasant balance between fussy salon style and minimalist white cube atmosphere, since „the Golden Mean is the desirable middle between two extremes“.
Light, space and atmosphere: View of bromer kunst's main hall
Women artists are not considered to be an exception within the art world anymore – in the contrary, they constitute a fundamental part of it. But still around 1900 women artists faced challenges due to gender biases in the mainstream fine art world. They have often encountered difficulties in training, travelling and trading their work, and gaining recognition. It was difficult to build up an existence as a female artist. To a large extent, women were not admitted to art academies. Not until the 19th century a professional artistic training for women in Europe could merely be completed within an ecclesiastical, a courtly or a painter’s guild context, for instance in a monastery, in aristocracy or under the auspices of a male workshop head, very often the artist's father. While women artists have been involved in making art throughout history, their work often has not been as well acknowledged as that of men. Often certain media are associated with women artists, such as textile arts. Many art forms considered to be created predominantly by women have been historically dismissed from the art historical canon as craft, as opposed to fine art. Only in the course oft he 20th century social values were reconsidered and women gradually gained recognition as artists rather than craftswoman.
Nowadays we apparently seem to take those achievements for granted, but with this blog entry we want to acknowledge women artist throughout history and therefore, present a female artist’s artwork from Bromer Art Collection, which seems to match adequately the current summer season.
In 1923, Viennese artist Stéphanie Caroline Jeanne Guerzoni (1887 - 1970) painted an allegorical scene with two female figures. As a painter she went to Switzerland, where Ferdinand Hodler taught her from 1915 until 1918. The master’s influence is evident when bearing in mind the style of Symbolism that Guerzoni adapts in the 1920ies. In this painting Guerzoni choses to depict a scene from classical mythology, which is typical for Symbolism. Guerzoni paints to water nymphs – female goddesses, who are personifications of natural powers and commonly shown as lovely girls. Guerzoni depicts to nymphs, sitting on a sandbank and surrounded by turquois coloured water. The same colour is applied in the foreground, on the nymph’s dress and in the background on the sky. By doing so, Guerzoni emphasizes the allegorical depiction of the nymphs as water goddesses and at the same time, she mesmerizes the viewer.
Apart from Guerzoni’s painting Bromer Art Collection counts many other artworks by woman artists. In the future, we will present further works from various female artists out of our collection.
Cuno Amiet: Apple harvest
Painting motives such as garden scenes, flower still lifes and fruit harvests followed Amiet throughout his broad artistic oeuvre. The artist commonly depicted themes, which he adapted from the nature that surrounded him at his artist studio on Oschwand; an idyllic place where he gathered ideas and generated inspiration for his artworks.
Along the last three blog entries about Amiet we already reported about the significance of his environment at Oschwand and we offered an insight into some of the artist’s works, represented in Bromer Art Collection. To complete this blog series on Amiet, the last part necessarily needs to be dedicated to the artist’s famous harvest paintings. Even though, our collection doesn’t include any such paintings yet, we want to point out the historic significance of the harvest motif and thus, to stress Amiet’s exceptional position as one of Switzerland’s national artists of the 20th century.
The “Apple harvest” mural at the Art Museum in Berne paradigmatically serves as an expression of Amiet’s status as a national artist. Finished in 1936, the «Apfelernte» narrated the manifesto of the “Geistige Landesverteidigung”, a nationalistic-conservative movement that tried to establish a cultural border towards their totalitarian neighbours by returning to what they considered to be typical Swiss values. The mural’s motif: Burly Bernese peasant women harvesting apples. No other artist succeeded in depicting former key concepts of Swiss identity – rural work, bucolic nativeness, national self-certitude- in such an evocative, paradise-like and convincing manner.
But it would be one-dimensional to reduce Amiet to a folk-related native painter.
In the 1930ties he once again regularly spent some time in Munich and Paris, where he had studied years before. He travelled abroad seeking for new artistic stimulation and established a wide social network in order to demonstrate his claim to be an international artist.
Swiss art historian and writer Gotthard Jedlicka acknowledges Amiet’s claim in a speech he held by the time when Amiet had arrived at the age of 71: «In fact, Amiet’s artistic naturalness and insouciance represent the contrary of the things you would expect from Swiss art. Thereby, he decisively influenced the last 30 years of Swiss painting.»
Already during Amiet’s lifetime his position within early 20th century Swiss art was believed to be extremely important. Contemporary articles written by celebrate art critiques and exhibitions dedicated to the artist give evidence for his popularity.
Several drawings, prints and paintings show Amiet’s engagement with the motif of fruit- and apple harvest throughout his life. Even in his own words the artist expresses his everlasting fascination: «Fruit harvests always attracted me, similar to the fact that ancient painters used to paint Madonna without cease.» (Cuno Amiet in a speech at Bern’s Museum of Art on June 14th 1928)
Cuno Amiet, «Apfelernte», 1907, oil on canvas, 100 x 100,5 cm
Cuno Amiet: Life and work on Oschwand
Among other things, our last blog entry was dedicated to Amiet’s seemingly expressionistic «still life with lemons»; an oil painting which is part of the Bromer Art Collection. As a Swiss member of the German art group «Brücke», Cuno Amiet participated in the European Avant-garde movement in the beginning of the 20th century.
In 1908, the same year he painted «Still life with lemons», the Amiet family commissioned the young architect Otto Ingold to build an art nouveau house on the Oschwand. The Oschwand is a hill in Bern’s countryside. Furthermore, in 1912 they rebuilt the nearby farmhouse to an artist’s studio. Henceforth, Oschwand becomes a meeting place for artists, collectors, writers and also for painting students. During this period, Amiet obtains important orders, for instance the «Jungbrunnen»Loggia-decoration within the newly inaugurated «Kunsthaus» in Zürich, which he finishes by 1917.
At the same time, Amiet participates in several national and international exhibitions; he travels all around Europe and visits art metropolises like Rome, Munich, Berlin und Frankfurt am Main. By 1914 the «Kunsthaus» Zürich organizes a solo exhibition displaying 124 artworks by the artist. After Ferdinand Hodler’s passing, Amiet was considered to be Switzerland’s most important living artist.
As a successful artist, Amiet lived a quite eventful life. Nevertheless, he managed to spend a fairly long time on Oschwand. Within the idyllic scenery, nearby bromer kunst’s venue, Amiet got inspired for lots of his paintings and drawings. The Bromer Art Collection includes a noteworthy artwork, in which Amiet depicts the autumnal landscape around Oschwand in 1922.
The painting is stirred up by brush strokes. Different colour fields constitute a landscape, in which a village can be seen. The scenery conveys a sense of rural remoteness and unspoiled nature; attributes that still can be experienced when visiting Oschwand nowadays.
Besides «autumn on Oschwand», there is another canvas from the Bromer Art Collection, which was painted in 1933 and also depicts a scene on the Oschwand. The Painting «Rosebush after thunderstorm» represents a detail from Cuno Amiet’s splendid garden, next tot he artist’s house.
Cuno Amiet, "Herbst auf der Oschwand", 1922, oil on canvas, 65 x 84 cm
Cuno Amiet, "Rosenbäumchen nach dem Gewitter" (Rosebush after thunderstorm), 1933, oil on canvas, 46 x 33 cm
Amiet’s paintings often depict garden scenes; flower still lives and harvest scenes. His choice to paint similar subjects may arise from the setting that surrounded Amiet during his lifetime in his artist’s house on Oschwand.
Because of the national and artistic importance of Amiet’s harvest scenes, we decided to dedicate our next and last blog entry about Cuno Amiet to his famous apple harvest paintings.
Cuno Amiet: Expressionism and «Brücke» movement
Cuno Amiet’s artistic career follows the development of modern art, as it evolved during the artist’s lifetime. He promptly adapted neo-impressionist and expressionist forms in his paintings; hence Amiet can be considered a pioneer of 20th century European painting.
Our preceding blog entry was dedicated to Amiet’s early paintings during his prosperous stay in Bretagne, where he came to see artworks by Paul Gauguin and furthermore, where his French artist friends introduced him to Van Gogh’s art and the usage of pure colour. After returning from Pont-Aven and subsequent years of intense working, an exhibition showing over 40 artworks by Amiet was scheduled by 1905 in Dresden at the Richter gallery. Certainly, local artists came to see the show. That Swiss artist, who had been in Pont-Aven and was familiar with Gauguin and Van Gogh, must have made a great impression on the young members of the «Brücke» group, for afterwards, they asked Amiet to join their movement. «Die Brücke» (The Bridge) was a group of German artists formed in Dresden in 1905. Founding members were Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff. They published a broadside, called «Programme» in 1906, where Kirchner wrote:
„We call all young people together, and as young people, who carry the future in us, we want to wrest freedom for our actions and our lives from the older, comfortably established forces.“
The seminal group had a major impact on the evolution of modern art in the 20th century and the creation of Expressionism.
Since Amiet joined the group, he henceforth adapted expressionist forms in his paintings. In 1908 he painted «Stillleben mit Zitronen», a still life depicting lemons. Particularly striking about this image are the vivid colours that Amiet employs and the abstinence of traditional perspective. A plate with two lemons is presented on an abstractly depicted blue table. Its surface seems distorted because of the rough brush strokes, characteristic of Amiet’s paintings from that period. While a mask-like doll head peers over an edge, an orange and a green textile decorate the interior. Behind the table, a basket-chair is integrated within the one dimensional, elusive background. The usage of complementary contrast is paradigmatic in Amiet’s oeuvre; here he combines vivid orange with dark blue colours.
As a part of the Bromer Art Collection there is a further painting by Amiet, as well highly expressive, which he painted in 1909, one year after completing the still life with lemons. In this painting Amiet portrayed a child by applying pastose colours on the canvas. The vivid multi-coloured cross-hatching in the background and the narrowed elaboration of facial features give the portrait its expressive appearance.
Cuno Amiet, "Stillleben mit Zitronen", 1908, oil on canvas, 55 x 60 cm
Cuno Amiet, "Bildnis eines Kindes", 1909, oil on canvas, 32.5 x 32 cm
On regarding those two canvases plus the colour woodcut displayed on the horizontal header («Schulpause im Winter» (Schoolbreak during winter time), no date, 32.5 x 32 cm), we probably manage to understand the admiration and enchantment that Amiet’s art produced in his «Brücke» fellows.
Our next blog entry is going to move further on, it is going to tell us about Amiet’s countryside artist house and by then, about his life as a successful painter.
Cuno Amiet: The artist’s beginnings – Seeking for light and colour in Pont-Aven
Bromer Art Collection offers a tiny overview of Cuno Amiet’s (1868-1961) broad oeuvre, of course with gaps. Embracing 12 paintings and 4 paper-works, the collection’s works date back from 1894 reaching to 1957. Based on Bromer Art Collection’s works, this essay is concerned to demonstrate Amiet’s stylistic plurality, which characterises his artistic output. Hence the next four blog-entries are dedicated, unassumingly and fragmentary, to formative moments in Cuno Amiet’s eventful live.
The great scope of Amiet's work of 70 years, and his predilection for experimentation, make his oeuvre appear disparate at first – a constant, though, is the primacy of colour. His numerous landscape paintings depict many winter scenes, gardens and fruit harvests. But he also experimented with the genre of portrait and still life painting. His interest is aimed at traditional motives, which he depicts in several modern, avant-garde techniques, reaching from Neo-impressionism to Expressionism.
The artist’s beginnings can be located in Pont-Aven, a little picturesque fishing village in Bretagne, where the 24-year-old Amiet arrived in Mai 1892. Even though he only stayed for few months, the period in Pont-Aven was very prosperous to Amiet. The inspiring entourage – the so-called «School of Pont-Aven» , a group of artists around Paul Gauguin - encouraged him to develop his own artistic style. He turned away from the academic tone painting to the usage of pure colours. Seeking for light and colour he adapted a neo-impressionist painting style and its characteristic usage of dots and patterns to depict an image. Amiet applies Pointillism; a technique of painting in which small, distinct dots of colour are applied in patterns to form an image. Amiet uses a technique of patterns to form images, though with larger cube-like brushstrokes. The technique relies on the ability of the eye and mind of the viewer to blend the colour spots into a fuller range of tones and it focuses on the specific style of brushwork used to apply the paint. «Prozession in Pont-Aven» is one of Amiet’s artworks that he made during his stay in the Bretagne. The painting depicts a traditional Breton «Pardon», a religious procession in honour of their local saints. The artwork can only be understood considering Amiet’s Breton idols, such as Gauguin and Van Gogh. Amiet expresses his artistic freedom, which he acquired by then, by applying the colour in thick lines on the canvas, by deliberately placing white dots to depict the traditional bonnets and by reducing the scenery to its most elemental forms. While observing Amiet’s oil canvas «Stillleben mit Fayence und Äpfeln» (Still life with faience ware and apples) a similar technique can be recognized. The painting is evidently less abstract, but nevertheless, he also applies a form of Pointillism, or dot-like depiction.
Cuno Amiet,"Prozession in Pont-Aven", no date, oil on canvas, monogrammed lower left "CA", 27 x 41 cm
Cuno Amiet, "Stillleben mit Fayence und Äpfeln", no date, oil on canvas, 49 x 28.6 cm
Among the avant-garde artist circle in Pont-Aven, Amiet experimented with new painting techniques. When he returned to Switzerland people would reject his usage of pure colour. Nevertheless, Amiet moved further on and kept up with Europe’s avant-garde movements. In the next episode our journey will take us to Amiet’s expressionist period. We will look at his paintings during his participation in the «Brücke» group.
Nature photography by Roland Fürst
„Nature Photography by Roland Fürst“: The title already reveals that the exhibition taking place at Bromer Experimental Space does not highlight Roland Fürst’s political sphere as a federal councillor from Solothurn, but his artistic side.
Nature photography refers to a wide range of photography taken outdoors and devoted to displaying natural elements such as landscapes. Nature photography tends to put a stronger emphasis on the aesthetic value of the photo than other photography genres, such as photojournalism and documentary photography. Roland Fürst’s photography is characterised by bright, saturated colours, field depth and precision. His work juxtaposes photography as an accurate reproduction of reality and photography as a highly expressive art form.
bromer kunst’s Blockhaus gallery is showing Fürst’s picture for the first time from Mai 12th to July 16th 2017.
«Kuba – Freiheit oder Terror: Ein Maler erlebt die Revolution»
Swiss artist Rudolf Häsler escaped his homeland’s narrowness, the same way already many Swiss artists have done before he did.
On one of his journeys across Europe he coincidentally fell in love with a Cuban, whom he got married shortly afterwards during a two-week honeymoon journey in Cuba. Initially, the couple intended to remain merely two weeks in Cuba – eventually they stayed over a decade in the Caribbean insular state. It must have been Häsler’s fate to stumble across the revolutionary forces and to experience the enthusiasm of an entire nation, yearning for freedom and independence. Willing to contribute to the fulfilment of the revolutionary ideals, Häsler rapidly decided to participate in the Cuban Revolution. Shortly after the revolutionary forces gained victory, Rudolf Häsler was appointed director at the national department of arts and crafts. As a governmental member he was constrained to experience the government’s gradual totalitarian turn from a close distance. Because of his closeness to the political elite, his writing’s represent unique reports; they elaborately describe the political structures within the apparatus of state with an astonishing richness in details.
Häsler wrote down what he witnessed in detail and thus, managed to create a very personal account of what he perceived and experienced during his 12 years on Cuba. The book constitutes a broad documentation about a historical event, written from a personal point of view. Therefor, it can be read either as a documentation of a crucial period in world history, or merely as an artist’s narrative about his personal experiences within a completely unexpected situation.
The reprintnig of the book «Kuba – Freiheit oder Terror: Ein Maler erlebt die Revolution» written by Swiss artist Rudolf Häsler (1927 – 1999) was bromer edition's first book launch. The book launch took place on April 8th at bromer kunst.
Retrospective-exhibition at Blockhaus Experimental Space
“I am against all forms of monotony and uniformity. I love the unknown, the absurd and the paradox. And I also love chaos and order, each at their right time and sometimes even at the same time: in life as on the canvas.”
Urs Burki (1945-2017) obtained his Doctor of Medicine in 1972 and gained popularity as an exceptional plastic surgeon in in the early years of this millennium; by then he realised several performance-like open-air plastic surgeries in unexpected locations like concert halls and even on mountain peaks. From that point on Burki worked exclusively as a plastic surgeon in public, drawing attention to himself primarily through his spectacular open-air operations and not because of his artistic output. Even though Burki already created his first artworks in the 1970iesincluding sculptures, photographs, paintings and performances. By then Burki was an active member of the young art scene in Lucerne, which included artists like Jean Christoph Ammann, Luciano Castelli und Urs Lüthi.
During a long period Burki consciously withheld his artistic work from the public. bromer kunst’s Blockhaus Experimental Space now shows fort he first time a broad retrospective exhibition of Urs Burki’s rich and varied oeuvre. On the occasion of the opening on the 31st of March 2017 the monograph about Urs Burki’s broad oeuvre «Urs Burki - Chaos and order. Works from 1973 to 2017» and the book «Openair-Perfrmances» will be launched.