The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) is proud to present — in a Canadian exclusive — the exhibition From Van Gogh to Kandinsky: Impressionism to Expressionism, 1900‐1914, which will run from October 11, 2014 to January 25, 2015. A century after the outbreak of the First World War, this exceptional exhibition of over one hundred paintings and an equal number of drawings and prints executed by the greatest avant-garde figures of the time, sheds new light on the extraordinary artistic cross-currents presiding over the major developments in modern art that took place in Germany and France between 1900 and 1914. First on view in Switzerland at the Kunsthaus Zürich, and then at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ showing of the exhibition will be distinguished not only for its exclusive presentation of major works, but also for its wealth of documentation, including more than 200 photographs, stereographic images and magazines focusing on Paris in 1900, as well as chronicling World War I, providing a broad historical context for this creative era.
The art produced by the French and German avant-garde between the end of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of World War I is widely celebrated today. Its creators were artists renowned in France — Cézanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Signac, Van Gogh, Vlaminck — and in Germany — Heckel, Kandinsky, Kirchner, Klee, Nolde, Pechstein. Their works, distinguished by their originality, power and beauty, are considered among the early masterpieces of modern art. When art history chronicled this fascinating era, two separate critical discourses emerged, positing distinct French and German movements. Thanks to the extensive research of Timothy O. Benson, curator of the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, this exhibition — exceptional by the importance of the works on loan — provides us with a broader understanding of the complex cross-cultural influences during the time, which gave rise to this phenomenally rich and compelling artistic production.
The political context of this prewar era informs the way we view this remarkable period of creativity and exchange between French and German artists. One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I, we consider the particularly cosmopolitan atmosphere in Europe that set the stage for this period of artistic ferment, as well as the circumstances that brought it to a dramatic halt when war was declared in 1914. The exhibition will follow the trajectory of Expressionism, from its roots in Paris in 1900 — the universally acknowledged centre of the arts at the time — to Germany in 1914, when several exponents of Expressionism responded to the call to arms.
As Nathalie Bondil, Director and Chief Curator of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, points out: “This event marks a milestone in the Museum’s history. Following the very first monographic exhibitions in North America on the work of the Fauve artist Van Dongen and the Expressionist Feininger, not to mention on that of Otto Dix, the MMFA continues to explore modern art with this other great premiere, devoted to expressionism in its broadest sense. That movement to liberate colour and brushstroke united many French and German painters in the years between 1900 and 1914. Based on in-depth research, this major initiative recounts the spirit of an era that experienced a frenzy for both creation and destruction, during which a generation of thinkers, patrons, dealers, artists and collectors open to a new avant-garde and stamped by the bellicose and nationalist ideas prevailing in the two countries were nonetheless unified across their borders by art. On this historic occasion, which comes a full century after the start of the Great War, there will be an exceptional presentation of works from over 60 international lenders, including true masterpieces by the most sought-after names in modern art. The Museum has never assembled so many valuable works for exhibition in its galleries, all in support of concepts equally as valuable — openness and freedom.”
For his part, the exhibition’s curator, Timothy O. Benson, declares: “I’ve always been fascinated with the formative stages of artistic creativity, as well as with how cultures interact, especially for modern art. A perfect opportunity for further exploration presented itself as scholars and curators became interested in the birth of both Expressionism and Fauvism a century after the fact, around 2005. Since that time I have had the privilege of working with scholars, curators, and collectors in Europe and North America to put together an exhibition examining the artistic revolution sparked by Van Gogh and Gauguin, and leading all the way to Franz Marc and Wassily Kandinsky’s innovative abstract art, a heritage still vital today.”
Works from 10 countries and over 60 lenders
The works that will be on view in this extraordinary exhibition at the MMFA have been lent by major private collectors and museums ranking amongst the most prestigious in Europe, Canada, the United States and Asia. They include New York’s The Metropolitan Museum of Art, MoMA and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Washington’s National Gallery of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, Paris’s Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie and Petit Palais, Berlin’s Brücke Museum, Kunsthaus Zürich, Hamburg’s Kunsthalle, Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum, Madrid’s El Museo Thyssen‐Bornemisza, Geneva’s Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Kunstmuseum Basel and London’s Tate Modern.
Among the works exhibited will be some twenty paintings and fifteen prints and drawings that will be presented exclusively at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. They will include:
Self-portrait, about 1887, Vincent van Gogh
The Sower: Outskirts of Arles in Background, 1888, Vincent van Gogh
The Yellow Haystacks, 1889, Paul Gauguin
Melancholic, 1891, Paul Gauguin
Portrait of Marie Castel – verso: Landscape, 1906, Alexej von Jawlensky
Cruiser Decorated with Flags in Anvers, 1906, Othon Friesz
The Beach at Sainte-Adresse, 1906, Albert Marquet
Sunny Street in Ciboure, near Saint-Jean-de-Luz, 1907, Albert Marquet
The White Man, 1907, Lyonel Feininger
The Purple Garter, about 1910, Kees van Dongen
Girl with Purple Blouse, 1912, Alexej von Jawlensky
Untitled, Improvisation III, Wassily Kandinsky, 1914