Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats



Blue Horses and Yellow Cows

Munich in 1911: The art capital



The Blue Rider is here - a lovely sentence, five words -nothing but stars. I'm now thinking like the moon. Am dwelling in the clouds, especially in the evenings when no one else is in the streets.... My eyes hurt as if your sweet horse had kicked up a cloud of dust. Come to me, you and your spouse, Blue Rider, that I may love you.

The lyric poet Else Lasker-Schuler in a letter to Franz Marc, 9 December 1912


Vasily Kandinsky, final design for the cover of the Blue Rider almanac, 1911


In 1911 a full tankard of beer in the Bavarian royal capital of Munich cost 30 pfennigs. In those days the city on the bar boasted cultural attractions on a scale that dwarfed the "Oktober Fest". Thomas Mann was writing Death in Venice in his flat in Schwabmg, the artistic and cultural hub of Munich. Bruno Walter was conducting the world premiere of Gustav Mahler's Songs of the Earth at the Conservatory. Munich gleamed as the centre of the arts. As the lyric poet Else Lasker-Schuler remarked:

"Munich is like paradise.... Listening to friends playing the accordion; strolling past the windows of the reverent old stores; old masters, tasteful jewellery, wild weapons from the tombs of biblical potentates, and everywhere the blue eyes of King Ludwig!... One can muse so effortlessly in Munich, and recline in comfort on well-upholstered memories. Here it feels good to be oneself."

However, even the disgruntled Munich of conventional wisdom found plenty to jolt it out of its stolidity. A performance staged by the nude dancer Via-Villany made the chamois tufts that Bavarian men wear on their loden hats wag with indignation. In a former shop in Tuerken Strasse two men could be seen through the window painting decidedly offensive pictures. One of them, Franz Marc, was defiantly brandishing the picture of a horse — painted blue! Loud protests were heard. The police who rushed to the scene had no legal right to make the painters stop what they were doing so they contented themselves with patrolling the area around the shop to keep public wrath from erupting. Marc and his colleague Vasily Kandinsky were committed to encouraging a dialogue between painting, literature and music with the purpose of "radically widening the bounds of expressive creativity". In 1912 they published an almanac that caused a sensation. It contained nineteen articles and quoted passages, three musical scores and 141 reproductions of pictures, including folk art and children's paintings and drawings, "primitive, Roman and Gothic art", "twentieth-century art" and Egyptian shadow-play figures. By bringing together this jumbled mixture of artworks they hoped to encourage other artists to venture in new directions. The almanac bore the title "Blauer Reiter" (Blue Rider). "We thought up the name round the coffee table in the shade of Marc's garden", Kandinsky said, adding: "We both loved blue, Marc — horses, and I — riders. The name came of its own accord". Soon afterwards, the Blue Rider had their first exhibition. Never tightly organised, the group consisted of a circle of artists around Marc and Kandinsky. Marc found animals "purer" than human beings. In his work, blue stood for masculinity, astrmgency and intellect. The horse was the attribute of the popular saints Martin and George, who as celestial riders conquered evil and materialism. Marc and Kandinsky contrived to emulate them in art. The Blue Rider did not last long; it dissolved in 1916 after Franz Marc was killed in action at Verdun.


Franz Marc
Blue Horse I


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