World Art
for Peace & Freedom

From Abstraction-Création in 1930 to the Global Language of Abstraction in 1960

Art Karlsruhe
Stand H1/b06

World Art for Peace & Freedom

From Abstraction-Création 1930 to abstract world language 1960.

Presentation of Galerie Henze & Ketterer on the occasion of Art Karlsruhe 2024
Stand H1/B06 / Hall 1

Kirchner's last drawing in the publication of 100 drawings by the artist, published by Will Grohmann in 1925, perhaps even at the beginning of 1925, was the first indication of his shift towards the "New Style". In the following years, he developed this in a strict simplification of form and color and increasing abstraction into an independent and idiosyncratic variant of the general European efforts at the same time towards a painting and sculpture of color fields and volumes framed by endless loops, which was then called "Abstraction-Création" in Paris in 1931 with the founding of a group with the same name. This group soon included up to 400 international artists, from the oldest, the Russian Wassily Kandinsky *1866, to the youngest, the Japanese Taro Okamoto *1911. This development was abruptly interrupted in 1937 and only revived in 1948, when it expanded from a more European to a global phenomenon.

Our small exhibition at Art Karlsruhe 2024 aims to tell this story of art in the middle of the 20th century, which developed over and through the violent caesura of the art ban, the Second World War and the Shoah, and yet somehow always remained coherent, using a number of very different case studies.

CHAPTER I.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
(1880 - 1938)
CHAPTER I.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner
(1880 - 1938)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Playing bathers

1928
Oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm
Gordon 0926

Signed and dated "28" upper right, monogrammed "K" incised lower left. Signed and dated "28" on the reverse as well as with the estate stamp and the numbering "KN Da/Bf 11".obj.

Id: 66673

In 1924/25, as we observed, a shift in the art of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880-1938) signaled the beginning of a new style that reached its highest consistency and purity between 1928 and 1933. While Kirchner always remained rooted in the figurative aspects of visual experience, as evident in "Spielende Badende” (Playing Bathers) from 1928, one can already recognize the interwoven fields of color enclosed by an endless contour, a hallmark of "Abstraction-Création." These elements reached their purest form in the two paintings from 1933-34, "Akte im Wald” (Nudes in the Forest), of which we are displaying the smaller version alongside drawings and two versions of the color woodcut.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Nudes in the forest (small version)

1933-1934
Oil on canvas
43 x 60 cm.
Gordon 0970
Back: KN-Da/Bf 16

Following Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's experiments with abstract forms and color changes through light and shadow at the end of the 1920s, the two paintings "Akte im Wald" and the accompanying color woodcut are the culmination of this creative phase, bringing together both endeavors. The main motif for the pictorial idea of this group of works is to reconcile the figurative drawing of the three women lying in the forest clearing with the abstract elements of the sunspots in one picture, even if Édouard Manet's painting "Das Frühstück im Grünen" (1863) cannot be overlooked as an inspiration.

In Kirchner's paintings, the two sunlit surfaces appear like independent geometric forms that override the drawing of nudes , so that some parts of the body light up in yellow and bright incarnate and others sink into dark green. The small version of "Akte im Wald", whose whereabouts were unknown for over 50 years, is characterized by its intimacy and searching form, while the later large version is characterized by its monumentality and more pronounced geometry (Wilhelm-Hack-Museum, Ludwigshafen).

By transforming the composition into the multicoloured woodcut "Drei Akte im Walde" from 1933/34 (Gercken 1728), Kirchner created one of the most important prints of his late work. The extent to which he himself appreciated the work and thus also the pictorial invention can be gauged from the many self-prints of the color woodcut, which corresponds better with the small than with the large version of the painting.

(Text: Günther Gercken, author of the catalog raisonné of E. L. Kirchner's prints)

"Just like the punctiform distribution of light and shadow in the first drawing I showed you, it comes from observing nature: the sun's rays fall through the tree branches and paint large bright spots on the earth and the figures. If you know some descriptive geometry, the drawing will be clear to you."

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner to Franz Bruhin, 25.09.1937
Note on the original document: Original in private possession in Switzerland. Handwritten letter, two pages with hand drawings by Kirchner.
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Nudes in the forest

1933
Color woodcut
35.5 x 50 on 42.5 x 61 cm
Gercken 1728 V; Dube H 637 e 1
On ribbed chamois Japan laid paper. Printed in black, red, light and dark green, ochre, orange and yellow. One of approx. 27 prints by the artist known to date. With the estate stamp with the inscription "H Da/Bf9X" in ink on the verso.

With the realization of the composition in the multi-coloured woodcut "Drei Akte im Walde" from 1933/34 (Gercken 1728), Kirchner created one of his most important woodcuts.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner continued to experiment with his painting and printing techniques in the 1930s. (Fortunately, as the son of a paper chemist and a trained architect, this was never at the expense of the permanence of his works, on the contrary).

From 1932 to 1934, he created a series of color woodcuts, each based on a drawing block. In the color blocks, he did not cut away the parts that were not to be printed, but sawed the wood panels à la fretwork, placed the individual parts next to each other in different colors and thus printed several colors at the same time. Here, the yellow and one of the shades of green from the famous composition of the "Three nudes in the Forest" from 1933, which was designed many times in all techniques.

Three nudes in the forest, 1933
Color woodcut (partial print)
52 x 62 cm
Gercken 1728; Dube H 637
Sketch for the painting Akte im Wald, 1933
Chalk
20.8 x 29.6 cm
Sketches for nudes in the forest, 1933
Black chalk
50.5 x 36 cm
Two nudes in the forest, 1933
Watercolor and pen and ink
35 x 47.5 cm
CHAPTER II.
Fritz Winter
(1905 - 1976)
CHAPTER II.
Fritz Winter
(1905 - 1976)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

K III 101

1939
Oil on canvas
90 x 70
Lohberg 0746
Monogrammed and dated lower left. 90 x 70 cm.

Obj. Id:79333

In 1928/29, Fritz Winter (1905-1976) began to paint abstract works at the Bauhaus, in Berlin, and Davos. As the child of a miner, he initially learned the trade but quickly transitioned to the freedom of the culturally significant international vagabond lifestyle of the 1920s and, ultimately, into art.

After rapidly absorbing the stylistic developments in art since 1880, he delved deeper into the recent evolution by studying at the Bauhaus from 1927 to 1930 with Kandinsky, Klee, and Schlemmer, as well as by collaborating with Kirchner in Davos from 1929 to 1932. A year before, he had already chosen abstraction, which he tirelessly explored until his death.

After hopeful artistic beginnings, combined with teaching activities in Berlin, where he encountered the work and personality of the sculptor Naum Gabo, and in Halle from 1931-33, he and his life partner went into inner emigration in Allach near Munich in the same year. This he himself immediately regarded as his "exile" and painted "in stock," as he called it. A deceptive hope emerged in 1936 when he applied for - and was granted - admission, albeit mistakenly, to the Reichskulturkammer (Reich Chamber of Culture), though he had no intention of making any artistic concessions. However, in 1937, he received a permanent ban on painting.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Shepherds In The Evening Letter
Installation view, Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

In the infinite

1949
Oil on laid paper
50 x 70 cm

In August 1939, Winter was conscripted into military service. He had to endure the entire drama of World War II, with only a few breaks for leave and hospital stays due to injuries, until May 1945, when he was captured by the Russians and only released in May 1949.

He immediately resumed his work, which attracted international attention as early as 1950 at the Venice Biennale. As a protagonist, he successfully participated in the subsequent heated "Abstraction Debate" in the following years and experienced the zenith of his success with numerous exhibitions and recognitions in the second half of the 1950s..

This brief life description is exemplary for those of the following artists.

Fritz Winter's composition in front of blue and yellow (1955) on the occasion of the first Dokumenta in 1955.

Photos: www.documenta-bauhaus.de
CHAPTER III.
Theodor Werner
(1886 - 1969)
CHAPTER III.
Theodor Werner
(1886 - 1969)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Figures

1934
Oil on canvas
81 x 100 cm
Lohkamp 14
Signed, dated and titled on the reverse. With Lohkamp: "unsigned and undated".obj.

Id: 66131

In 1930, Theodor Werner (1886-1969) also embraced abstraction, although he was almost a generation older than Fritz Winter. Living in Großsachsenheim near Stuttgart until then and more committed to Impressionist painting, he made the daring move to Paris in 1930 and became a member of the "Abstraction-Création" group. There, he met his wife, "Woty," who was also a painter and, most importantly, a weaver. Nearly his entire body of work was destroyed during the Second World War. However, we can display one of the major works from his Paris years, "Figuren” (Figures) from 1934. These figures are perhaps less "abstracted" from a visual experience, as in Kirchner's case, but rather creations of art in the same shapes and colors.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Shepherds In The Evening Letter
Installation view, Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Signs in motion II

1953
Oil on canvas
116 x 81 cm
Lohkamp 368

From 1946 to 1959, Werner lived and worked in Berlin as a significant contributor to abstraction in Germany. From this period, we are showcasing the painting "Zeichen in Bewegung II” (Signs in Motion II) from 1953. From 1959, he lived in Munich until his death and left his estate to the Bavarian State Painting Collections.

1948

Kirchner, Winter, and Werner were involved in the development of abstraction around 1930, leading to Abstraction-Création, in various direct and indirect ways. The other artists in our small exhibition belonged to the generation for whom - after the first aborted beginnings before the war - the first post-war years brought significant upheavals globally. The year 1948 became pivotal in the art world.

The full extent of worldwide destruction, suffering, and death from the Second World War, which ended in atomic warfare in 1945, as well as the Holocaust and other atrocities committed by the warring powers, had in the meantime gradually become known. The hopes for peace initiated by the United Nations, founded in 1945, were crushed with the outbreak of the Cold War, marked by the Berlin Blockade in 1948.

Against this backdrop, the representation of the human figure in art seemed no longer possible. The only way forward was the abstraction of form and color, which simultaneously offered the highest degree of artistic freedom, a coveted treasure sought after by all, especially artists.

CHAPTER IV.
Francis Bott
(1904 - 1998)
CHAPTER IV.
Francis Bott
(1904 - 1998)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Composition II

1956
Oil on canvas
81 x 116 cm
Henze 388

1948, the fateful year of abstraction, was also the year in which Francis Bott (1904-1998) began his career after decades of change in the European anarchist-communist vagabond scene of the 1920s in Germany, Vienna, Prague and Paris, as well as in the French underground in the Pyrenees and again in Paris.

There, Francis Picabia became his friend and mentor. As an independent free spirit, he did not join any groups or take part in general exhibitions, but was represented by outstanding galleries in France, England, Germany and Switzerland in the 1950s.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Composition

1962
Oil on canvas
60 x 74 cm
Henze 948

L'espace infini du silence

1952
Oil on canvas
54.5 x 72 cm
Henze 201
CHAPTER V.
Bernard Schultze
(1915 - 2005)
CHAPTER V.
Bernard Schultze
(1915 - 2005)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Vitality

1955
Oil on canvas
116 x 81 cm
Herrmann 55/63

1948, the fateful year for abstraction, also marked the beginning of Bernard Schultze's (1915-2005) artistic journey. Like other painters in the exhibited group, he had made an attempt at art studies in the 1930s before the Second World War. Unfortunately, these early works were destroyed during the war. After his military service from 1939 to 1945, he moved to Frankfurt and joined the Zimmergalerie Franck, the Quadriga group, where he met his wife Ursula. There, he became one of Germany's most significant exponents of Informel, and he lived and worked in Paris frequently. In 1968, he relocated to Cologne.

The post-war scene in Frankfurt, particularly in terms of freedom of expression, had a profound impact on Schultze and Ursula. In 1992, when the artists from East Germany were en globo admitted to "his" Academy of Arts, he left the academy in protest.

His website aptly begins with: "Bernard Schultze is one of the central protagonists of gestural-abstract art in the second half of the 20th century. His name and work are inseparably linked with the international success story of German Informel." We are showcasing some smaller works from the 1950s here. The gallery has a vast selection of Schultze's works.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Shepherds In The Evening Letter
Installation view: Kunst-Depot, Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern

Exhibition "New Expressionists" (Quadriga) in the Zimmergalerie Franck, Frankfurt am Main in December 1952, from left to right: Mrs. Schrenk, Bernard Schultze, Klaus Franck, Ursula Bluhm, Karl Otto Götz, Anneliese Hager-Götz, Heinz Kreutz, René Hinds,

Photos: bernard-schultze.org (n.a. DKA Nuremberg)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

On (over) white glaze, deformations

1966
Oil on card
51.5 x 61.5 cm
Herrmann 55/7

Sprawling on red

1956
Oil on canvas
75 x 30 cm
Herrmann 55/56/9
The Informel,
Quadriga & Co.

The art critic Michel Tapié first introduced the term art informel in 1951 on the occasion of an exhibition at Studio Facchetti in Paris, in an attempt to summarize various abstract movements in post-war art such as Tachism and Lyrical Abstraction. In contrast to other art historical terms, Art Informel does not designate a uniform style, but rather an artistic attitude that, unlike geometric abstraction, turns against classical principles of form and composition. By liberating color from the shackles of a predetermined form and by opening up the picture to spontaneous, gesturally eruptive actions, it overcomes the traditional concept of the picture. The artist no longer composes with a pre-planned result in mind. Instead, he allows dynamic processes to become vivid: He fixes the act of painting itself as a trace of movement in the picture at the moment of highest concentration or thematizes color as a material in order to release it from all form- and object-bound references.

Informal painting received its first attention in Germany with the Quadriga exhibition in 1952 at the Zimmergalerie Franck in Frankfurt am Main, which showed works by K. O. Götz, Otto Greis, Heinz Kreutz and Bernard Schultze. But other groups of artists, such as the junge westen in Recklinghausen, ZEN 49 in Munich and Gruppe 53 in Düsseldorf, also increasingly turned to painting that demanded immediacy and authenticity, emphasizing gesture and physical directness and reaching its peak in the mid-1950s. Most artists working in an informal style perceived documenta II, shown in Kassel in 1959, as a bitter turning point. Initially planned as the apotheosis of European Art Informel, its most important representatives were ultimately presented in the attic of the Fridericianum, thus bowing to the onslaught of large-format American painting, which from then on dominated art and the art trade. In retrospect, Art Informel must nevertheless be regarded as one of the most original achievements of post-war art. From today's perspective, it marks the interface between Modern art and postmodernism and continues to have an impact on contemporary art.


Text: www.stiftung-informelle-kunst.de (Hans-Jürgen Schwalm)
CHAPTER VI.
Hann Trier
(1915 - 1999)
CHAPTER VI.
Hann Trier
(1915 - 1999)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Keltern

1960
Oil on canvas
195.4 x 129.5 cm
Fehlemann 303
Signed and dated "hTrier 60" lower right. Signed, dated and titled "hTrier 1960Keltern" in black brush on the reverse of the canvas. Label of the Darmstadt 1961 exhibition on the reverse of the central cross of the stretcher.oeuvre catalog of the artist no. 275.

Obj. Id: 67514

1948, the fateful year for abstraction, also marked the beginning of Hann Trier's (1915-1999) artistic journey in Cologne. He was among the few survivors of his generation. He managed to complete his art studies from 1934 to 1938 at the Düsseldorf Academy of Art and graduated in Berlin in 1939, followed by military service until 1945. During his time in Berlin, where he worked as a technical draughtsman (as a soldier) from 1941 to 1944, he participated in the Great German Art Exhibitions in Munich in 1941 and 1943, a biographical uniqueness in our exhibition group.

After the war, he lived in Bonn, co-founded the Neue Rheinische Sezession (New Rhenish Secession) in 1948, and became a member of the Munich group ZEN49 in 1951. He participated in documenta I, documenta II, and documenta III in Kassel. From 1957 to 1980, Trier served as a professor and later as the director of the Hochschule für bildende Künste (University of Fine Arts) in West Berlin.

We are displaying an outstanding large expressive painting from the year 1960.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Shepherds In The Evening Letter
Installation view, Kunst-Depot, Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern
CHAPTER VII.
Fred Thieler
(1916 - 1999)
CHAPTER VII.
Fred Thieler
(1916 - 1999)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

untitled

1969
Mixed media on canvas
195 x 119 cm
Melchior 6/295
Signed and dated lower right. 195 x 119 cm. Signed, dated and inscribed verso and inscribed with the work number in an unknown hand on the stretcher.

Obj. Id: 80001

1948, the fateful year of abstraction, is also likely to have left its mark on Fred Thieler's (1916-1999) life and work. After serving in the army and going into hiding because of his Jewish mother in Munich, he nevertheless found the courage to attend a private art school there. From 1946 to 1950, he studied under Karl Caspar at the Academy of Arts and painted his first abstract works. He lived and worked in Paris from 1951 to 1953 and became a member of the ZEN49 group in 1952.

He was also an outstanding exponent of a particularly expressive version of Art Informel. The following small selection from his participation in exhibitions may illustrate his significance: 1958: 29th Biennale di Venezia; 1959: documenta II, Kassel; 1964: documenta III, Kassel; 1984: von hier aus, Düsseldorf. We are showing some expressive examples from the 50s and 60s. More large and expressive works in our gallery.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Shepherds In The Evening Letter
Installation view, Kunst-Depot, Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Without title X 89

1989
Mixed media on canvas
87 x 120 cm
Melchior 8/198
CHAPTER VIII.
Günther Gumpert
(1919 - 2019)
CHAPTER VIII.
Günther Gumpert
(1919 - 2019)
Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Emporsteigender woodcut

Composition

1981
Oil on canvas
152 x 127 cm
Monogrammed lower left. Signed, dated and inscribed "Washington" on the reverse.

Obj. Id: 66035

1948, the fateful year of abstraction, also marked the beginning of Günther Gumpert's (1919-2019) career. He began studying art in Krefeld and Wuppertal in 1937, but was interrupted by military service from 1939 to 1945. He continued to work self-taught in the first years after the war, in Wuppertal around the legendary Galerie Parnass and soon with a studio in Paris in the Rue de Vaugirard (where he became friends with Francis Bott and Johnny Friedlaender), but often lived and worked in Spain, Morocco, Yugoslavia, Switzerland and above all in Rome, until he moved to Washington in 1967.

Like Bott, a restless spirit with terrible memories of war in his luggage, a wanderer between worlds, a European and citizen of the world avant la lettre, always in search of a little peace and the opportunity to paint a little, lyrical poems in color and black and white.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Shepherds In The Evening Letter
Installation view, Kunst-Depot, Galerie Henze & Ketterer, Wichtrach/Bern
Freedom & Peace

This abstraction after 1948, which now seems so effortless, did not have it easy by no means. This freedom had to be fought for against the overpowering, conservative, and backward-looking ideologies that persisted beyond 1945. Battles were also waged within art academies, museums, and art criticism. It was not until 1959, at the "documenta II," that it could fully establish itself. Perhaps, as the last zeitgeist of art, it became the first global style. Its scope and spread can be seen in the five monumental volumes published by Maeght from 1971 to 1988, authored by Michel Ragon and Michel Seuphor (available here).

This abstraction, precisely in and through its "inarticulateness," is a crucial statement of art in its time: from 1930 to 1960 and beyond, against fascism and for freedom in peace.

Dr. Wolfgang Henze

Online catalog with all artworks

Galerie Henze & Ketterer

Art Karlsruhe 2024

February 22-25, 2024
Stand H1/B06 / Hall 1

Our presentation includes further works by the following artists:

FRANCIS BOTT
GÜNTHER GUMPERT
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER
BERNARD SCHULTZE
FRED THIELER
HANN TRIER
THEODOR WERNER
FRITZ WINTER