gse_menu_B1

 

Alfred Kubin

The Great-Grandmother. 1926. Ink and watercolor. The Museum of Modern Art.

EXHIBITIONS (*INDICATES SOLO EXHIBITION)

Alternate Histories

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015


Alternate Histories

January 15, 2015 - April 11, 2015


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012


The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 2007


Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007


More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006


Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001


The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000


Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000


Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999


Sacred & Profane

Michel Nedjar and Expressionist Primitivism

January 13, 1998 - March 14, 1998


That Way Madness Lies

Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994


Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993


The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993


Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin

A Study in Influences

March 27, 1990 - June 2, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989


Fifty Years Galerie St. Etienne: An Overview

February 14, 1989 - April 1, 1989


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988


From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987


Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987


Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986


The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985


Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983


* Alfred Kubin

Visions From The Other Side

March 22, 1983 - May 7, 1983


Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982


The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982


Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981


* Alfred Kubin

January 30, 1968


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964


Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964


Group Show

October 15, 1962


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961


Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960


* Alfred Kubin

April 3, 1957


Small, Good Art Works from the 19th and 20th Centuries

January 27, 1949


* Alfred Kubin

Master of Drawing

December 4, 1941


Modern Austrian Art

June 13, 1936


* Alfred Kubin

April 22, 1931


* Alfred Kubin

January 20, 1925


* Alfred Kubin

April 1, 1924


THE EXPRESSIONIST CITY

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000

ARTISTS

Beckmann, Max

Dix, Otto

Faistauer, Anton

Feininger, Lyonel

Grosz, George

Höch, Hannah

Kirchner, Ernst Ludwig

Kollwitz, Käthe

Kubin, Alfred

Masereel, Franz

Meidner, Ludwig

Nolde, Emil

Schiele, Egon

 

ESSAY

The city figured prominently in many modern art movements, starting with French Impressionism. However, no group of artists was as transfixed by the metropolis as were the German Expressionists. It is difficult for most of us, living at the dawn of the twenty-first century, to imagine how differently Europeans a hundred years ago perceived the urban environment. The industrialized city as we now know it was then a fundamentally new phenomenon. Socially, economically, politically and--last but not least--aesthetically, urbanization overthrew all the comfortable assumptions and habits of the past. Whether one saw in this the prospect of utopian transformation or the death of human civilization, depended very much on one's point of view. Both attitudes were encompassed by Expressionism.

 

Expressionist ambivalence reached its peak in that movement's cityscapes. The metropolis was at once exciting and threatening, liberating and oppressive, hope-filled and doomed. Expressionists were divided, amongst and sometimes within themselves, as to whether they wanted to go backwards, to a kind of primordial natural innocence, or forwards, into a dynamic technological future. On the one hand, they reviled the stultifying bourgeois values of their parents' generation and sought to figuratively annihilate all that had come before. On the other hand, they feared urban dehumanization, which seemed to short-circuit culture and reduce all social relationships to commodity transactions. If the Expressionists could have picked and chosen, they would have taken urban energy without the squalor, and preferred a society capable of reconciling the conflicting values of individualism and community. Such a paradise was not, however, to be found in the capitals of Germany or Austria during the first decades of the twentieth century.

 

Expressionism was a diverse movement, with differing manifestations in each of the major German-speaking cities, including Vienna. Naturally, individual artists' views of the city were shaped by their specific urban experiences. Furthermore, Expressionist cityscapes varied not only according to artist and to place, but also over time. The early years of the new century were bursting with promise and ambition, whereas in Austria and Germany the period after World War I was plagued by insane inflation, crippling war debt, endemic poverty and social unrest. This shift from prewar optimism to postwar pessimism is readily observed in Expressionist cityscapes, which more closely mirrored social concerns than did other subject genres.

 

Berlin was the Expressionist metropolis. It was new, and it was big, and it was relatively ugly. Unlike other, older European capitals, Berlin did not for the most part hark back to a genteel past. Much of the city had grown up quickly following German unification in 1871. Shaped largely by modern industry, it was a sprawling mass that had little in the way of architectural or natural beauty to recommend it. Nevertheless, although Berlin embodied some of the worst aspects of urban life, it also represented Germany's claim on the future, the nation's one Weltstadt (world-class city). As such, it was a powerful magnet for artists, who came to study or teach at the city's academies and exhibit at its many galleries. Berlin nurtured the avant garde as did no other German city. Perhaps as a result, Berlin is the city that figures most prominently in the Expressionist canon. Among those whose views of urban life were shaped by Berlin are Max Beckmann, Lyonel Feininger, George Grosz, Erich Heckel, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Oskar Kokoschka, Käthe Kollwitz, Ludwig Meidner and Max Pechstein.

 

The Expressionist city was distinctive in form and content, and these two factors often worked in tandem. Harsh contrasts in black and white (epitomized by the Expressionist fascination with printmaking) were used to portray a relatively colorless landscape demarcated by tall, shadowy buildings. Germans adapted the compositional fragmentation of French Cubism to capture a disjointed reality too fast-paced to comprehend in one take. The angular, jangling Expressionist aesthetic accurately reflected a society that was constantly in flux, propelled onward by an insatiable thirst for new sensations. Particularly in the prewar period, the Expressionist city was often unpopulated or filled with abstracted "types" rather than identifiable personalities. Artists were more interested in the generic energy of the metropolis than in specifics of locale or character. These scenes can typically be read in two contradictory ways: as paeans to the force of modern technology, or diatribes against the obliteration of individuality by the urban crowd.

 

The anecdotal pleasures of urban life, so prominent in French Impressionism, are not wholly absent from German Expressionism. But for the most part, when the Germans shifted their focus from the generic to the specific, their judgments were harsh. The more realistic Expressionism became, the more scathing and explicit was its indictment of modern society. Käthe Kollwitz, whose work preceded and ultimately superseded Expressionism, was from the outset a social realist, her art always intended as a critique. In the period after World War I, many others joined her in a quest to reform society by pinpointing its shortcomings. The metropolis of Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz and other Weimar-era artists is characterized by grotesque entertainments, bloated capitalists, venal whores and downtrodden losers. To the extent that these artists still relied on Expressionist formal devices, their aesthetic matrix became a vertiginous hell. Expressionist exaggeration was used to populate the city with politically inspired caricatures.

 

Austria's political and artistic history in the first decades of the twentieth century paralleled Germany's in many ways. Both countries lost their empires after suffering defeat in World War I, and then flirted briefly with social democracy before succumbing to Nazism. And both countries developed an Expressionist aesthetic as a way of tracking the human toll of such rampant upheaval. Nevertheless, there were significant differences between Austria and Germany. For one thing, Vienna, the Austrian capital, was not heavily industrialized. This was to cost the nation dearly after World War I, when it ceded its industrial base to the newly formed countries of Hungary and Czechoslovakia. Still, the benefits of a beautiful, human-scaled and comparatively bucolic capital were not lost on Austria's Expressionists. The metropolis, as such, figured hardly at all in their work, and the city was as a rule presented in a nonthreatening manner.

 

Compared to their German counterparts, Austrian cityscapes of the Expressionist era are surprisingly serene. Quaint architecture, old walls and cobblestones evoke a very passive sort of decay, as in Egon Schiele's "dead cities" or certain works by Alfred Kubin. At the same time, however, these aged buildings seem to vouchsafe the permanence of human creation. Conceptually, many modern Austrian cityscapes are difficult to distinguish from those of nineteenth-century predecessors such as Rudolf von Alt. Gothic and Baroque monuments still dominated views of Vienna, and smaller towns, such as Anton Faistauer's Salzburg, tended to exude stability. Especially under the increasingly dire circumstances of the postwar period, there was more than a little escapism to this approach. Austria's fear of modern urbanization was expressed in a denial of its existence. At the same time, by memorializing the enduring traits of the Austrian cityscape, artists endeavored to preserve their sense of national identity in the face of impending dissolution. The modern metropolis was foreign to them.

 

Whether one confronted urbanization or attempted to flee it, loved it or hated it, the city was an unavoidable part of twentieth-century life. But Expressionists on some level failed to fully accept this reality. German ambivalence toward the city contained elements of utopianism and nihilism that proved a futile defense against Nazi efficiency. Austrian escapism and denial were equally useless. The destruction of so many German cities by Allied bombing in World War II provides an ironic coda to the pro- and anti-urban struggles of the Expressionist generation. In retrospect, it may certainly be said that neither the German-speaking peoples nor their artists fared particularly well in adapting to the dramatic exigencies of change that gripped the Western world at the turn of the last century. In this sense, the Expressionists were like the proverbial coal-miners' canaries, bravely cheeping out an unheeded warning.