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Art Movements in Art History - German Expressionism

Art Movements > German Expressionism > The Blaue Reiter Group

The Blaue Reiter Group*

The Blaue Reiter group was founded and directed by Kandinsky and Marc, artists who were
involved essentially in exploring the same themes as those tackled by the Brucke, but who
placed a greater emphasis on spiritual reality and man's relationship to the universe. They
organised two exhibitions in Munich (1911 and 1912) and produced a Blaue Reiter Almanac
(1912).The nature of the Blaue Reiter group was explained by Kandinsky in 1935:

"There never really was a Blaue Reiter society, not even a group, as is often incorrectly
stated. Nfarc and I took what we thought was good, and we selected freely without
considering certain opinions or wishes ... "

The name "Blaue Reiter" means "Blue Rider" Kandinsky has asserted:

"We invented the name "Der Blaue Reiter" while sitting at a coffee table in the garden
Sindelsdorf; we both loved blue, Marc liked horses, I riders. So the name came by
itself ... "

Kandinsky

Despite his long training in jurisprudence and political economy before coming to Munich to
paint at the age of 30, Kandinsky nevertheless had a clearly metaphysical and mystical turn
of mind. He was, for instance, unable to cope with the implications which research on the
atom had for his understanding of physical science. He described his reaction to the
developments which led to the "disintegration of the atom" by saying

"This discovery struck me with terrific impact, comparable to that of the end of the
world. In the twinkling of an eye, the mighty arches of science lay shattered before me.
All things became flimsy, with no strength or certainty. I would hardly have been
surprised if the stones would have risen in the air and disappeared."

In line with the theories of Bergson before him, Kandinsky now doubted the ability of
science or reason to cope with the fluid phenomenon of intuitive reality, and between the
years 1901 and 1912 he developed an independent way of dealing with "inner" reality
which became for him the only true guide to emotional and spiritual existence. As a result of
this research, Kandinsky found that the subject in art became not only unnecessary, but a
stumbling block to the direct perception of the meaning conveyed by colour and form alone.

The artist's move towards abstraction was, however, tempered by his perception of the
pitfalls along the way, and he feared that

" ... if we begin to break the bonds that bind us to nature and to devote ourselves purely
to combination of pure colour and independent form, we shall produce works which are
mere geometric decoration, resembling something like a necktie or a carpet."

The essence of Kandinsky's belief was that the artist must do more than manipulate
form: he must convey a message which springs from his innermost emotion. And this, in
turn, became the criterion by which Kandinsky and Marc judged the art of others which they
exhibited or published.

Kandinsky's logic is often difficult to follow, based as it is on the intuition of correspondences
and an unshakeable certainty in theories that cannot be proved.
It is better to endeavour to understand his basic ideas than become lost in the intricacies of
its writings. In your reading concentrate on Kandinsky's theory of "inner necessity" and
define for yourself what this means. Bear in mind the fundamental distinction the artist
makes between "inner" and "outer", between the realities of the "spirit" or "soul" and
those of the external, material world. The relationship of colour and line to sound is another
major preoccupation; the artist desired to communicate "inner" reality in an abstract way
by using the formal elements of colour, line and shape to create harmonies in accordance
with the tones of music.

The Blaue Reiter Almanac

Goldwater asserts that the Blaue Reiter artists, while more articulate and better
informed about aboriginal art and its kinship to their own styles than were the Brucke group,
in many respects continue the primitivism of the Dresden artists. He does however add:

"The general, emotional basis of human nature has replaced the specific, violent
primitivizing emotions of the Brucke, finally resulting in a fusion of an emotional
primitivizing and an emotional pantheism."

In this way the Blaue Reiter attitude to the art of children and naive artists takes on an
added dimension. Macke wrote in the Almanac:

"Are not the children creators who build directly from the secret of their perceptions,
rather than from the imitations of Greek form? "

This romanticising of the pure, childlike vision relates to the search for the
unconventienal and fresh which resulted in the yoking together in the Almanac of such
disparate art forms as a Brazilian mask, Japanese woodcuts and 14th century tapestries.

The Almanac not only included artists' writings on aesthetic problems, but also articles on
modern music by Schonberg, Von Hartmann and Kulbin. Claims by these writers parallel
Kadinsky's ideas on painting. Schonberg asserted, for instance, that music is abstract and
must therefore be free from literary allusions; Hartmann and Kulbin wrote that the
composer must not be troubled by questions of form, and that anything is permitted in the
scope of expression.

 

<< Previous: The Brücke Group


* Drawn from notes compiled by B. Schmahmann for the University of South Africa

 




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