Feeling Blue: Expressionist Art on Display in Munich

Visitors catch a glimpse of the groundbreaking, abstract art created by preeminent 20th century expressionists.

Courtesy of Municipal Gallery in Lenbachhaus. Two riders before the red, 1911, woodblock, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. (Wassily Kandinsky)

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Kandinsky delivered a stinging rebuke to the critics in his essay about form: "The ideal art critic… would need the soul of a poet… In reality, critics are very often unsuccessful artists, who are frustrated by the lack of creative ability of their own, and therefore feel called upon to guide the creative ability of others."

The Almanac proved more popular than the publisher had expected, and a second edition was published in 1914. But although Marc and Kandinsky corresponded frequently about publishing a second volume, it never happened.

World War I broke out in 1914, forcing Kandinsky back to Moscow, where he stayed for the next eight years. Marc joined the German army, and died on a French battlefield in 1916, at age 36. Another Blue Rider painter, August Macke, was also killed in the war.

Kandinsky's career continued to evolve and flourish until the Second World War. He died in France at age 78, by then considered one of the founding fathers of abstract painting.

In 1957, Gabriele Münter celebrated her 80th birthday by donating her large collection of Blue Rider works to the Lenbachhaus. Today, visitors to the museum can contemplate Kandinsky's paintings inspired by folk art, Marc's mystical scenes of forest animals bathed in beams of color, and many works by other Blue Rider artists including Münter, Macke, Paul Klee, Marianne von Werefkin and Alexey von Jawlensky.

And yes, you'll even see some blue horses and riders.

NOTE: The Lenbachhaus is scheduled to close for major renovations in the spring of 2009, but for the next few months, it will be an even richer treasure trove than usual for Kandinsky fans with two special exhibitions. All of the artist's prints and graphic art – some 230 pieces – are on display at the Lenbachhaus through late February. And across the street, its sister gallery the Kunstbau is hosting a new Kandinsky retrospective in collaboration with New York's Guggenheim Museum and Paris's Centre Georges Pompidou. The exhibition will travel to Paris in April, and then on to New York in September 2009.

About Amanda Fiegl

Amanda Fiegl is a former assistant editor at Smithsonian and is now a senior editor at the Nature Conservancy.

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