Tag Archives: Lenbachhaus

August Macke and Franz Marc: An Artist Friendship

Book Review: August Macke and Franz Marc: An Artist Friendship

Catalog of an exhibition held at the Kunstmuseum Bonn, 25 September 2014 – 4 January 2015; and at the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, 28 January – 3 May 2015; 359 pages with many color illustrations and black and white archival photographs.

I recently began doing some book reviews for Museum Bookstore, an online repository of catalogues and other printed material generated on behalf of museum and gallery exhibitions. My first review is of my favorite book of 2014-2015, the outstanding catalogue presented by the Lenbachhaus and Kunstmuseum Bonn in support of August Macke und Franz Marc: eine Künstlerfreundschaft. Please support this very worthy independent bookstore effort by checking out the companion text on the site.

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Published on 26 September 1914 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the death of August Macke as well as the launch of the ambitious cooperative retrospective of Macke’s and Franz Marc’s overlapping oeuvres, the exhibition catalogue August Macke and Franz Marc: An Artist Friendship (August Macke und Franz Marc: eine Künstlerfreundschaft is its twin in the original German from which the English version has been translated) is, perhaps not surprisingly, a tour-de-force of editing and research. What is unexpected is that the editors, longtime Lenbachhaus Blaue Reiter curator Annegret Hoberg and Volker Adolphs of Kunstmuseum Bonn, along with a smartly-assembled team of university- and museum-based German art historians, bring to bear not just a wealth of knowledge but so much compassion to these essays, confronting directly the loss and sadness we naturally feel over the too-short lives of Marc and Macke. Macke, the extroverted Rhinelander, was killed in Champagne, France, at 27, while Marc, the contemplative Bavarian, died aged 36 at Verdun in the spring of 1916.

Despite their frank sentimentality, the catalogue’s chapters and essays are impeccably scholarly. Hoberg’s “August Macke and Franz Marc / Ideas for a Renewal of Painting” and Adolphs’ “Seeing the World and Seeing Through the World / Nature in the Work of August Macke and Franz Marc” are classic art historiography based in peerless analysis. Hoberg focuses on the milieu of the international avant-garde that encouraged Marc and Macke to not only follow the careers of but become personally acquainted with the Parisian Orphist Robert Delaunay and the Italian Futurist Umberto Boccioni. While Marc’s primary subjects directly encompass animals and the pastoral, albeit reframed through a unique pantheistic realism, Macke, who often painted urban scenes, has a less direct relationship to “nature,” which Adolphs teases out, particularly in comparison to Marc.
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Franz Marc, 8 February 1880 – 4 March 1916

Franz Marc's palette, from the archives of the Franz Marc Museum, Kochel.

Franz Marc’s palette, from the archives of the Franz Marc Museum, Kochel.

Franz Marc’s “Aphorism 82,” from Die 100 Aphorismen, 1915.

“Ich sah das Bild, das in den Augen des Teichhuhns sich bricht, wenn es untertaucht: die tausend Ringe, die jedes kleine Leben einfassen, das Blau der flüsternden Himmel, das der See trinkt, das verzückte Auftauchen an einem andern Ort, – erkennt, meine Freunde, was Bilder sind: das Auftauchen an einem anderen Ort.”

“I saw what the moorhen sees as it dives: the thousand rings that encircle each little life, the blue of the whispering sky swallowed by the lake, the enraptured moment of surfacing in another place. Know, my friends, what images are: the experience of surfacing in another place.”

Every Word with Love

August Macke and Franz Marc : An Artist FriendshipToday is the 99th anniversary of the death of Franz Marc. (Marc would have really liked someone who also died this week, Leonard Nimoy and Nimoy’s Mr. Spock character from Star Trek.) I didn’t write my normal “Franz Marc’s Birthday” post (Marc’s birthday is 8 February) this year because the idea of the grief we feel for Marc and August Macke has been much on my mind. This is partly owing to my own research, but also to do with the publication of the catalogue attendant to the Lenbachhaus’s current exhibition, August Macke und Franz Marc: eine Künstlerfreundschaft (August Macke and Franz Marc: An Artist Friendship in English).

The catalogue is, not surprisingly, a tour-de-force of editing and research by longtime Lenbachhaus Blaue Reiter curator Annegret Hoberg and Volker Adolphs of Kunstmuseum Bonn. What is unexpected is that the editors and included authors bring to bear not just a wealth of knowledge but so much compassion to these essays, confronting directly the loss and sadness we naturally feel over the too-short lives of Marc and Macke.

This is not to say the entries are not impeccably scholarly; Hoberg’s “August Macke and Franz Marc / Ideas for a Renewal of Painting” and Adolphs’ “Seeing the World and Seeing Through the World / Nature in the Work of August Macke and Franz Marc” are classic art historiography based in peerless analysis. Gregor Wedekind’s “The Masks of the Savages / Primitivism and Cultural Critique in the Work of August Macke and Franz Marc” was of particular interest to me as it underscores how the work of the avant-gardes was received in its time as a shocking departure from what the world then considered “civilized” painting. There are a few small errors marring Klara Drenker-Nagels’ otherwise illuminating discussion of the relationship between Maria Marc and Elisabeth Erdmann-Macke that I’m sure will be corrected in subsequent editions.

Of special delight in terms of the arrangement and presentation of the catalogue are some shorter, data-packed chapters on the Paradies (1912) mural and other anecdotes about Marc’s and Macke’s overlapping but very different lives.

Of course the catalogue is rich with the paintings, weavings, sketches, and photos that grace the exhibition itself. As a discrete publication, this is one that must truly be enjoyed as a book – I received it on a Friday afternoon and spent the entire weekend poring over every image, footnote, and phrase, alternately smiling and wiping away tears. Turning the last page, I was filled with admiration for this Lenbachhaus-Kunstmuseum Bonn collaboration, every word written with love.

Mystery Painting by August Macke?

Is this colorful village scene painted by August Macke?

I have been working on a project about authenticating a painting maybe misattributed to one of my Expressionist painters (yet maybe made by another), so I was very interested to see a story crop up over the weekend in the Münchner Merkur online edition (pretty sure Süddeutsche Zeitung, usually so on top of all news Bayern, must be spitting nails!) about a man who thinks he owns a painting by August Macke.

Even more intriguingly, the painting would have been made in 1910, the year Macke spent in Tegernsee during which time Franz Marc often came to visit the Macke family, sometimes walking there through Oberbayern from Sindelsdorf to Tegernsee with Russi Marc. This period of time is recounted with warmth and in detail by Margarethe Jochimsen and Peter Dering in the book August Macke in Tegernsee.

The man who owns the painting, Herbert Spiess, claims to have purchased it from an art dealer in Vienna in 1984. Spiess told the Merkur he became convinced the painting, a small streetscape, was a Macke simply through visual association. (The Westfälische Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte in Münster says “no” in the Merkur’s story; no comment from the Lenbachhaus or the August Macke Haus in Bonn).

Macke enjoyed his time in Tegernsee. This was a happy year for Macke and his wife, Elizabeth and their first son, Walter, was born in the quiet lakeside village. Macke was more or less amused by his botany-obsessed landlords, whose Bayerische dialect he was able to penetrate with Marc’s help. Stubbornly autodidactic and much more fanciful and imaginative than he appeared at a glance, Macke spent hours doing “copying exercises” with Marc (and doing some other fun stuff too), and experimented with many styles of painting and drawing in 1910.

During this time, despite being in a very attractive location, Macke concentrated on portraiture, making many sketches and paintings of Walter, Elizabeth, and the famous portrait of Marc.

Bildnis Franz Marc, August Macke, 1910

But Macke also was always making all sorts of things, from tapestries to fabric designs to theater decorations. So it’s certainly possible this single painting is something he just knocked out during this period of great productivity – Macke was exceedingly prolific and made more than 200 paintings between 1909 and late 1910, when the young family returned to Bonn, leaving cousin Helmuth Macke to stay with Marc.

So it’s hard to say, from looking alone, if this painting could be Macke’s. I hope it is but (and this is really just a very strong intuition as much as empirical assessment) my feeling is that it might not be. To my eye the painting lacks that little flourish of passion and verve, and of capturing the “inner realities” of the beauty he was in the physical world, that is the beautiful Expressionist hallmark of Macke’s oeuvre. With any luck I’m wrong though, and the world will have a new August Macke painting to admire.

Anyway, the reporter, Vera Markert, asks that if you have any information or ideas about the painting to get in touch with the Merkur via email at kultur@miesbacher-merkur.de wenden.

Ragnarök and Roll – Franz Marc’s Birthday

Tierschicksale, 1914, Franz Marc

Tierschicksale, 1914, Franz Marc

Was kann man thun zur Seligkeit als alles aufgeben und fliehen? als einen Strich ziehen zwischen dem Gestern und dem Heute? – Franz Marc, February 1914, from the intended introduction to the second edition of the Blaue Reiter Almanac. First printed in Der Blaue Reiter. Dokumentarische Neuausgabe by Klaus Lankheit. München, 1965, p. 325.

One of the most frequently cited articles about Franz Marc in popular literature is Frederick S. Levine’s “The Iconography of Franz Marc’s Fate of the Animals” from a 1976 issue of The Art Bulletin, and, subsequently, a short book on the same subject. Apparently there are some issues with the accuracy of the translations presented in both. What’s interesting to me is the creative idea Levine had to analyze Marc’s enormous 1913 painting Tierschicksale (mysteriously residing in the Kunstmuseum Basel) as an expression of Ragnarök, the apocalypse of Norse mythology. My opinion is that despite being generally familiar with the Eddas and with Der Ring des Nibelungen Marc wasn’t that interested in these sagas and didn’t consider them as particularly German.

A few years ago Andreas Hüneke, researching at the Lenbachhaus, discovered that the inscription on the back of the painting, „Und alles Sein ist flammend Leid“ is from a volume of the Buddhist Dhammapada of the Pali Canon of Buddha Siddhartha Gautama given to Marc by Annette von Eckardt. So it doesn’t seem to refer to Ragnarök directly as Levine (not having the benefit of Hüneke’s recent work) asserts. It seems more likely that Marc was very distressed, in the summer of 1913 when he made Tierschicksale, about von Eckardt’s move away from Munich to Sarajevo. It explains a little bit about why, upon seeing the painting again a few years later, Marc says he doesn’t even remember creating it and ascribes its meaning to the more external conflagration at hand.

In any case, Levine was not discouraged by his translating experience and went on to the faculty at Palomar College in California and also spent a lot of time studying and teaching at the University of Tasmania in Hobart.

Today, on Marc’s birthday, with so many animals imperiled, Tierschicksale doesn’t really need any overdetermining; it would be very tempting to just turn and flee, if only there was somewhere to go.

Midnight Atlantic City

Franz Marc's Deer in the Snow at the Lenbachhaus; Persona

Franz Marc’s Deer in the Snow at the Lenbachhaus; Persona

The article M83: Why Music Is Contemporary Art on the Installation website provides an excellent forum, in the comments section, for the discussion of the title subject.

I like M83 a lot and agree that their sound is ambitious beyond poptronica though as commenters on the Installation site point out this is not necessarily because of compositional enterprise or chord progression For me the attraction is the “celebrate the apocalypse” mood of “Midnight City” or the spoken “created sample” in  “OK Pal:”

“We’re walking in the streets – or what’s left of them,
I take your hand, and the city is slowly vanishing.
There’s no crowd anymore, no cars, no signals.
But in the middle of the road, a purple and mellow shape is floating.
The shape of our mutual dream.
Stay calm, hold me tight, give it a chance to take us away.
We will live, we will dream on the shadow of our world.”
I had a dream the other night that incorporated both this song and the painting in the photo, Franz Marc’s Deer in the Snow (1911). In the dream a good friend of mine who recently has been through a difficult time was one of the deer, but hampered by a hank of rope or net caught between her hoof and head.  The reindeer tender freed her, and despite being “caught,” my friend as the deer, didn’t have any broken bones, or even any bruises or lost fur. I hope she will be OK like the deer in the dream. In the dream, I heard the music from “Midnight City” (which reminds me of this friend). I don’t know why anyone would think people (and animals) don’t see colors or hear music in dreams…maybe everyone does and they just forget.

The Dream of Freezing: Gerhard Richter – Atlas MikroMega @ the Lenbachhaus

Atlas Mikromega @ the Lenbachhaus

Atlas Mikromega @ the Lenbachhaus

A few years ago I went through a phase of being consumed with interest in Gerhard Richter’s cycle of 15 paintings, Baader-Meinhof (18. Oktober 1977).  Writing this now my obsession seems doubly strange because I did not then have the  geographic or cultural context for these works I have in 2013. One spring break I had seen the paintings – based upon photographs of Ulrike Meinhof, Holger Meins, Gudrun Ensslin, Andreas Baader; the funeral of Jan-Carl Raspe, and Baader’s books and record player – at the Museum of Modern Art and had a very strong reaction to them. I think I explored this subject so intently because my response was the opposite from my feelings for Franz Marc’s animals. The blurred details of the black and white photographs of portraits, news stills, and police snapshots made the subjects abjectly lifeless. The effect was like the dream of freezing; cold, sad, and bitterly empty. The paintings made me drained and ill. Yet I was fascinated by the tension – and desire – that was generated by being repelled by images whose subjects I was very drawn to.
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Ideological Objects

Cafeful: Capitalism Can Hear You
There were opportunities during Isabelle Graw’s presentation this past week at the Lenbachhaus to make some some site-specific comments about the collections at hand, and Graw did make tangential connections to work by Joseph Beuys and Wolfgang Tillmans, thought not those which belongs to the museum’s Kunst Nach 1945 collection.

Intensely and yet breezily theoretical (I have heard Graw speak several times, on one of those occasions dismissing the Adorno-Horkheimer ‘culture industry’ works most art historians spend their lives trying to understand as insufficiently complex for her needs in explaining the reification of art) Graw is an engaging speaker, readily admitting that many of her contentions create oppositional paradoxes which thus cannot be argued against. Graw herself occupies dual roles, as professor for Art Theory and Art History at Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste in Frankfurt am Main and as an art critic and co-founder of Texte zur Kunst, the respectable but for-profit Berlin art journal. Graw also has a heavy amount of street cred coming from a lengthy association with Martin Kippenberger during Kippenberger’s time in Cologne.

objecitons3Her talk at the Lenbachhaus, Malerei als indexikalisches Medium in der neuen Ökonomie recasts the idea that paintings are “alive” somehow in the sense that they emanate an autonomous value in terms of the role of Painting with a “P” as both commodity and part of the larger “organism” of the process and documentation of the making of art.

Indexical is a word mostly associated in art history  with photography, and photography is important to Graw’s current interest, which expands upon many of the ideas she raised in her recent book High Price: Art Between the Market and Celebrity Culture in the sense that “documentary indexicality” is all but a de-facto given the ubiquity of record-making technology. Additionally, in the trinity of “icon/index/symbol,” “index” marks a definite place and time by compelling a reaction in the beholder. But I think it is the more abstruse “referential indexicality” that most interests Graw in this sense, as she used Diedrich Diedrichsen’s term “Selbstdarsteller” to describe Kippenberger’s performances of himself as himself (as opposed to performing “the other” or just “being” himself).objections2

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Synonyms for Sharp at the Neue Lenbachhaus

There’s a moment when the super-creative but detached suddenly open up and reveal actually, they do know what’s going on. It’s a brave thing to do because it both raises the stakes for intellectual performance and blows away the dandelion dander of the potentially naive. Maybe partly involuntarily but resolutely nonetheless, Liam Gillick’s two works arranged in careful complement in the subterranean Lenbachhaus annex achieve this emergence, perhaps more substantively than at their dates of creation in the ‘aughts.

LG1

Part of the KiCo Stiftung comprising the very deep “Kunst nach 1945” Sammlung, Gillick’s Screened Reduction (2001) and Glanced in the Midst of a Legislative Break (2006) are opaque Plexiglas and aluminum structures, sculptures poised at the edge of painting. In reference to the latter they clearly hearken to Kenneth Noland’s high Straight Edge (think Bridge circa 1964) and are also thematically in sync with an earlier guest in the Kunstbau, Piet Mondrian, and as such more than nod to the historical commitment to abstraction.

LG2

Gillick, who is also a composer and musician (he actually made the sampling loop of the Smiths’ How Soon is Now? you will remember – if you are a former club kid – from Soho’s 1990 nightclub single Hippy Chick!), tends to characterize his work in careful Global Art Fair-speak as being about the questioning of political authority and so on. However taking at visual and bodily encounter value, Screened Reduction and Glanced in the Midst of a Legislative Break are hardly obscurantist, inviting inspection and delectation in simple optics.

I decided to take this sort of sideways approach to writing about “Das Neue Lenbachhaus” when on a subsequent visit I saw for the first time, for a long time, and up very close, Hans Hoffman’s The Conjurer (1959). Hoffman is very collected but quite under-studied, and this painting is historically significant as well as quite lovely. I hope you can see in the adjacent image the toned translucency and balance of the aqua swatch, which is so carefully balanced on the canvas that the bright color does not preoccupy the eye, and also the charcoal impasto and general texture of the canvas, which is both thick and lustrous.

Hoffman

The Bavarian-born Hoffman traveled back and forth between Munich and the United States, and like Kandinsky once opened his own school for artists. Hoffman had many talented students, including Louise Nevelson, Allan Kaprow and Helen Frankenthaler. The Conjurer, made some years after Frankenthaler became well-known for her vertical soak-stain paintings, suggests maybe Hoffman, like Morris Louis, got some ideas from Frankenthaler, too.

 

Suspiria (!) (2011)

Königsplatz, München

Glyptothek

 

It would be impossible ever to say what the most exciting thing about visiting Munich was since it was all the most exciting thing, but one of the most most exciting things was visiting the Propyläen and Glyptothek “temples” of the Königsplatz featured in Dario Argento’s Suspiria. (The scaffolding behind the Propyläen is at the Lenbachhaus.)

Suspiria just celebrated its 35th anniversary. Here is the spectacular scene in which Daniel (Silvio Bucci) crosses the square with his German Shepherd dog:

David Gordon Green (George Washington, Pineapple Express) is doing a remake of Suspiria, and of course Argento purists hate this — on its face this film is desperately not in need of a do-over — but Green has said his version will be shot in Munich, and, I mean, George Washington and Pineapple Express are great, so, I’m for it…