EXH: Celebration – Monet to Van Gogh (Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany – closes 18 Feb 2024)

The Kunstverein in Bremen is celebrating its 200th anniversary with masterpieces from French painting. The focus is on a particularly splendid period at the beginning of the twentieth century when the Kunsthalle director Gustav Pauli turned it into one of the leading museums of modern art in Germany. He was supported by major Bremen collectors who will be recognized for the first time.

Bremen and French modern art
During Bremen’s commercial success in the late nineteenth century, the Kunstverein gained new momentum. In 1899, Pauli, the first director of the Kunsthalle (1899–1914) with an academic background, began to develop the progressive acquisition policy to which the museum owes its most famous works. Beginning in 1905, Pauli purchased masterpieces by Courbet, Rodin, Manet, and the Impressionists. When he acquired Field with Poppies by Vincent van Gogh in 1911, it caused a scandal throughout Germany. The socially explosive nature of this dispute is difficult to imagine today.

The most progressive museum in Germany
Other German museums such as in Berlin, Frankfurt, Mannheim, and Weimar began to collect French art. The directors responsible were frequently subject to fierce criticism – the controversy surrounding French art culminated in the Bremen Van Gogh dispute. Early acquired masterpieces from these major museums will be guests at the Kunsthalle Bremen. They provide an impressive overview of painting from Realism to Post-Impressionism.

The Golden Cloud – private collectors in Bremen
During Pauli’s time, the collection of the Kunsthalle became an inspiration to visitors. Soon, Bremen businessmen also began purchasing French paintings. A circle of art lovers called the Goldene Wolke (the Golden Cloud) formed around the museum director. Members included Leopold Biermann, Alfred Walter Heymel, and Johann Georg and Adele Wolde. Major works by Courbet, Monet, Renoir, and Toulouse-Lautrec from former private collections in Bremen will be presented to the public for the first time in more than one hundred years. These Bremen collectors cultivated a new, modern lifestyle. They had their homes decorated by the poet, designer, and architect Rudolf Alexander Schröder (1878–1962), whose interiors will be documented in the exhibition. His designs contrasted with the historic grandiloquence of the nineteenth century and simultaneously maintained idiosyncratic Bremen characteristics in international Art Nouveau.

Anniversary of the Kunstverein – a celebration of art
The anniversary exhibition celebrates the key role played by Bremen and Germany in the acceptance of French art. Outstanding loans by artists including Courbet, Rodin, Monet, and Van Gogh convey a panorama of French modernism in Germany before World War I. It is also a celebration of light and colour!

For more information, visit: www.kunsthalle-bremen.de/en/view/exhibitions/exb-page/celebration