Der Blaue Reiter – Blue Rider (1911-1914)

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Self Portrait, Werefkin
Cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach, Kandinsky
The Yellow Cow, Marc

Composition VII, Kandinsky
Farewell, Macke
Flower Myth, Klee
Cathedral, Feininger

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was a group of artists united in rejection of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany.

The group was founded by a number of Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and native German artists, such as Franz Marc, Paul Klee, August Macke and Gabriele Münter. They considered that the principles of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München, a group Kandinsky had founded in 1909, had become too strict and traditional.

Der Blaue Reiter was an art movement lasting from 1911 to 1914, fundamental to Expressionism, along with Die Brücke which was founded in 1905.


Image source: Wikimedia commons
This remarkable self-portrait was created during Werefkin’s time as a member of the Neue Künstvereinigung Munchen (NKVM), a group which she cofounded with Wassily Kandinsky and others in 1909 to forward ideas associated with Expressionism.

The piece epitomises many aspects of that group’s approach to art, particularly in its stylised use of colour, and its impression of psychological and spiritual intensity. Werefkin uses an array of bold colours and tones to convey her own inner life: intense blues and greens for the background; vivid browns, reds, and yellows for her skin, hat, and clothes.

The piece uses broad, loose brushwork, with the abstract patterning built up by the repetition of strokes across certain areas of the canvas assuming primary visual significance.
[Source: theartstory.org]
Self Portrait1910Tempera/PaperPortrait
Werefkin, Marianne von1860-1938, aged 77Russian/German/Swiss painterDer Blaue Reiter
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1566-11]

Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich Germany51 x 34  
The name of the movement is the title of a painting that Kandinsky created in 1903, but it is unclear whether it is the origin of the name of the movement, as Professor Klaus Lankheit learned that the title of the painting had been overwritten.

Kandinsky wrote twenty years later that the name is derived from Marc’s enthusiasm for horses and Kandinsky’s love of riders, combined with a shared love of the colour blue.

For Kandinsky, blue is the colour of spirituality: the darker the blue, the more it awakens human desire for the eternal (see his 1911 book On the Spiritual in Art).
[Source: Wikimedia commons]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Cover of Der Blaue Reiter Almanach1911Watercolour/Ink/Pencil/PaperCover
Kandinsky, Wassilly1866-1944, aged 78Russian PainterDer Blaue Reiter
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1566-12]

Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen, Berlin28 x 22  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings, Marc wrote in 1915. But animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me.

By 1907 he devoted himself almost exclusively to the representation of animals in nature. To complement this imagery, through which he expressed his spiritual ideals, Marc developed a theory of colour Symbolism.

His efforts to evoke metaphysical realms through specific colour combinations and contrasts were similar to those of Vasily Kandinsky, with whom, in 1911, he founded the Blue Rider, a loose confederation of artists devoted to the expression of inner states.

For Marc, different hues evoked gender stereotypes: yellow, a gentle, cheerful and sensual colour, symbolized femininity, while blue, representing the spiritual and intellectual, symbolised masculinity.

Marc’s colour theories and biography have been used by art historian Mark Rosenthal to interpret Yellow Cow. The frolicking yellow cow, as a symbol of the female principle, may be a veiled depiction of Maria Franck, whom Marc married in 1911. Extending this reading, Rosenthal sees the triangular blue mountains in the background as Marc’s abstract self-portrait, thereby making this painting into a private wedding picture.
[Source: guggenheim.org]
Yellow Cow, The1911Oil/CanvasAnimal Painting
Marc, Franz1880-1916, aged 36German PainerDer Blaue Reiter
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1566-13]

Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York USA141 x 189  
Kandinsky’s Composition VII is justly considered to be the apex of his artwork before the First Word War.

More than thirty sketches were made in watercolours and oil paints for this painting, and they can serve as ‘documentary’ proof of this work creation. Surprising then that after the painter had finished his long preliminary work, the composition itself was created for four days only.
[Source: wassilykandinsky.net]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Composition VII1913Oil/CanvasAbstract
Kandinsky, Wassilly1866-1944, aged 78Russian PainterDer Blaue Reiter
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1566-14]

State Tretyakov Gallery,  Lavrushinsky Ln, 10, Moscow, Russia, 119017201 x 302  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Macke’s career was cut short by his early death in the second month of the First World War at the front in Champagne, France, on 26 September 1914.

His final painting, Farewell, depicts the mood of gloom that settled after the outbreak of war. This was also the same year that he painted the famous painting Türkisches Café in München.
[Source: Wikimedia commons]
Macke, August1887-1914, aged 27German PainerDer Blaue Reiter
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1566-15]

Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany101 x 131  


In front of a deep, apparently spatial red background, a floating plant grows in the middle of the picture, accompanied by simple symbols of the sun, moon and stars.

A bird approaches the opening flower from above. A thin, silver line frames the composition.
Paul Klee was not representing objects. Instead he used typical symbols for plants and trees, for heavenly bodies and Earth and other things. This shows that he withdrew from ‘realistic’ representation.

It does not deal with a specific time, date or season. Klee considered the entirety of creation. The proximity of simultaneously portraying the sketched elements – earth, sun, moon and stars suggests this.
Paul Klee did not refer to a specific plant either.

His interest is in plants in general: a plant growing out of a bulb; that it has roots, leaves and that a blossom blooms at the top, already r esembling the fruit it will be. A creature approaches to pick the pollen. The cyclic nature of life and growth in the universe is emphasized.
[Source: paulklee.net]

Image source: Wikimedia commons
Flower Myth1918Watercolour/Pastel/BoardAbstract
Klee, Paul1879-1940, aged 60Swiss PainterDer Blaue Reiter
LOCATION:SIZE (cms): [1566-16]

Sprengel Museum, Hannover, Germany0  

Image source: Wikimedia commons
 his black-and-white woodcut served as a cover design for the Bauhaus manifesto by architect and founder Walter Gropius.

The image reflects the aura of medievalism that pervaded the initial phase of the Bauhaus, whose academic system harks back to the training employed by Late Gothic craft guilds.

Lyonel Feininger was invited by Gropius in 1919 to head the printmaking workshop, and he retained his connection with the school until it closed, in 1933.
[Source: moma.org]
Cathedral, Program of the State Bauhaus in Weimar1919WoodcutCover
Feininger, Lyonel1871-1956, aged 84German-American PainterDer Blaue Reiter
MOMA, Museum of Modern Art, New York USA31 x 19  

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