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The Blue Rider was an association of artists located in and around Munich. The group was founded by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc in 1911. Together with another group of artists, The Bridge, centered around Berlin, they represented the movement of German Expressionism.
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First Publication: June 2001
Latest Update: June 2013
The Blue Rider had a short life and a tragic end. At the outbreak of World War I, the group practically ceased to exist. Two of its founding members, Franz Marc and August Macke were called to the military and died in a senseless and barbaric war of unprecedented dimensions. After World War I, the German art scene was a different one - shell-shocked by the experience of war.
Wassily Kandinsky had one strange thing in common with Henri Matisse - he had studied law before turning to arts. In 1896 he came from Russia to Munich. Kandinsky was the focus point and intellectual head of the group.
He was rather international and other than in Munich he exhibited his works in St. Petersburg and in Paris. Around 1912 Kandinsky's paintings became semi-abstract. In 1914 at the outbreak of war, he returned to Russia.
In 1922 Kandinsky came back to Germany and took a post at the Bauhaus in Dessau, a famous art school founded by the architect Walter Gropius.
In the twenties and thirties his fame grew and he had exhibitions in Tokyo and New York. With his frequent exhibitions and trips to the USA Kandinsky helped bringing abstract art to this country. He is generally considered as the inventor of abstract art.
Franz Marc was born in Munich where he attended the local Art Academy. In Paris he had seen impressionism and cubism.
Franz Marc probably would have been an environmentalist in our days. His favorite subjects were animals shown in their natural environment. Towards the end of his life his paintings became nearly abstract. He lost his life in World War I in the battle of Verdun which cost the lives of about one million French and German soldiers.
Gabriele Münter had met Vassilli Kandinsky in Munich and the two became companions. In 1909 she bought a little house in Murnau in the scenic Bavarian foothills outside Munich. Here Gabriele Münter and Kandinsky spent the summer months.
The house soon became a meeting point for the artists of The Blaue Reiter group. The local people called the house the Russenhaus (House of the Russians). In 1914 Kandinsky left Gabriele Münter.
From 1931 until her death in 1958 Gabriele Münter lived permanently in the Russenhaus with her new companion, Johannes Eichner, an art historian.
During the Nazi era she kept dozens of paintings by Kandinsky and others hidden in a basement room of her house. These and a large number of her own paintings were donated by Gabriele Münter shortly before her death. Today they are the main attraction of the Lenbachhaus Museum in Munich.
August Macke was a close friend of Franz Marc. In 1912 the two painters visited Paris. In 1914 he made another trip, this time to Tunesia in Northern Africa with Paul Klee. In 1914 he had to join the German army and was killed in action. He was only 27 years old.
August Macke was often critical of the Blue Rider group in a humorous way.
Alexei Yavlensky was born into an aristocratic Russian family. After a military career he studied art at the Academy of St. Petersburg in Russia. Yavlensky made intensive travels to Italy and France where he saw the works of Henri Matisse. Yavlenski's art style is marked by strong colors and a broad brush stroke.
Alexei Yavlensky suffered from arthritis and after 1930 he was extremely limited in his ability to paint. He died in 1941 in Wiesbaden in Germany.
Paul Klee was born in Switzerland. He came to Munich to study art at the Munich Academy. Until 1914 he made mainly graphics and watercolors. Paul Klee's style is unique and outside the mainstream of the contemporary art of his time.
Paul Klee played with forms and colors - sometimes abstract, sometimes figurative but reduced to the essential. His paintings and graphics are small in size, nearly miniature. In 1933 after the Nazis took power in Germany, Paul Klee was dismissed from his position as a professor of the Art Academy in Düsseldorf and went back to Switzerland. During his lifetime Paul Klee produced an estimated 10,000 works of art.
Alfred Kubin's works of art are much different from the colorful works of his friends of The Blue Rider group. His art is sombre, nightmarish. Alfred Kubin's subjects are often apocalyptic. He was a loner in his art and his personality. His favorite media was ink drawing mixed with watercolor. Alfred Kubin was the only artist of the group who was not outlawed by the Nazis.
Author: Dieter Wanczura
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