Der blaue reiter and the degenerate art exhibition

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* Julie Lelièvre
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* Research paper:
* Der Blaue Reiter and the Degenerate art exhibition.
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* Cover of the Blaue Reiter almanac, W. Kandinsky, 1911 Poster for the degenerate art exhibition,
from Otto Freundlich, Der neue Mensch



At the beginning of the XXth, Germany was one of the strongest economical, military and diplomatic powersin the world. The country wanted to expand its boundaries by the way of colonization and develop its business, and was thus very opened on the world. During this rich period, German art was blossoming. The artists became aware of the international modern art and started to think about the meanings and the diversity of representations. The most famous trend of this time was Expressionism, where theartists tried to express their opinions about German industrialization, taking a leaf out of primitive art. The second degree was then a whole reflection on abstraction and its consequences. In this artistic scene, one of the major figures is Wassily Kandinsky, whose one of the best accomplishments was the creation of the Blaue Reiter, a group of artist promoting, in summary, diversity andspirituality in art.
This movement died with World War one as well as German power. The vicious circle, of both the bad economy and the hatred created by the Versailles Diktat, led to the accession to power of Adolf Hitler, under the banner of the Nazi party. Among a lot of atrocities, his government implemented a struggle against modern art, and more particularly against the pre-war German art, alsocalled German avant-garde.
In this paper, I’ll try to back up the following thesis: the call for spirituality and diversity in art of the Blaue Reiter movement in the German 1910’s is described as insane by the Nazi state 20 years later through the “Degenerate art exhibition”, and this evolution shows us that the totalitarianism needs to unify and control the culture so as to implement itsideology.
In that purpose, I’ll present successively the goals, the contents and the success of both the Blaue Reiter movement and the Degenerate art exhibition.

The founders of the Blaue Reiter are the painters Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc. So the history of the movement starts with the meeting between the two men, and their immediate complicity.
Kandinsky, one of the leaders of the Germanavant-garde decided to create in 1909 a group of artist called the Neue Kunstlervereinigung München, shortened NKVM. All their exhibitions, created with the help of the dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, were very successful. The program, written by Kandinsky and Jawlensky, asserted the aesthetic belief in an artistic eclectism, from the most archaist forms of art to the most modern ones. The majority ofthe painters of this heterogeneous group were mainly close to fauvism and Jugendstil (Art nouveau). From 1910, some artists caught up with Kandinsky’s theories and formed a smaller group in the NKVM, which would be at the roots of the Blaue Reiter. The conservative members of the movement didn’t appreciate the move to abstraction and the pluralism in terms of aesthetic expression advocated byKandinsky and his followers. Thus, Otto Fisher would say “A painting without object is senseless… These are fallacies of empty fanatics and impostors. These confused individuals may talk about the spiritual, but spirit makes for clarity, not confusion”.
On December 2, 1911, the jury meeting of the NKVM refused the Kandinsky’s canvas Composition V (cf. Figure 1) for their next exhibition, because itwas too big. Kandinsky and Marc immediately decided to leave the group, followed by Münter, Kubin, Le Fauconnier and von Hartmann. Marc would write to his brother “The editors of the Blaue Reiter will now be the starting point for new exhibitions… We will try to become the center of the modern movement”.
This quotation told us that the Blaue Reiter project was already being built while the...
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