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Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider at the Tate

  • April 25, 2024
  • 2 min read
Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider at the Tate

In the early 20th century, an international circle of friends came together to transform modern art. Their story is told in a major new exhibition at Tate Modern running until October. Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider will celebrate their radical experimentation with form, colour, sound and performance. The show draws on the world’s richest collection of expressionist masterpieces at the Lenbachhaus in Munich, alongside rare loans from public and private collections, including works never previously seen in the UK.

Tate Modern’s exhibition begins with the collective’s core couple of Kandinsky and Münter and their creative network in pre-First World War Munich. Munich at that time was an artistic hub of experimentation where different cultures and experiences converged. A room of stunning portraits and self-portraits introduce this diasporic creative community, including Marianne Werefkin’s Self-Portrait c. 1910 and Münter’s Listening (Portrait of Jawlensky) 1909.

A selection of photographs from the Masterpieces of Muhammadan Art exhibition staged in Munich in 1910 and Erma Bossi’s bold and expressive Circus 1909 demonstrate diverse urban experiences, while themes of sexuality and performance are explored through Werefkin’s collaboration with free-style performer Alexander Sacharoff, including her provocative 1909 portrait reflecting the dancer’s androgynous persona.

Some rooms offer visitors experiential environments focused on single works which capture modernism’s fascination with sound, colour and light. These include Kandinsky’s Impression III (Concert) 1911, revealing his interest in the neurodiverse condition known as synaesthesia in which one of the senses is experienced through another, and Franz Marc’s 1911 Deer in the Snow II, whose mysteries are unlocked through an exploration of colour theory and optics.

The exhibition concludes by showing how the Blue Rider artists ensured their lasting legacy in ways we recognise today – publishing manifestos and editorials, curating exhibitions, touring shows, and fostering relationships with museums and galleries. Münter staged a solo show at Berlin’s Der Sturm, Klee’s Legend of the Swamp 1919 nearly perished in the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition of 1937, while Kandinsky’s text On the Spiritual in Art was translated and is still published internationally across the globe. With the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 the collective was dispersed, but their ideas and aspirations for a transnational creative community still resonate powerfully today.

Image: Auguste Macke, Promenade, 1913. Lenbachhaus Munich, Donation of Bernhard and Elly Koehler (crop)

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