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December 1995

Munich and the birth of the Abstract: The Lenbachhaus showcases its largest-ever exhibition of Kandinsky's works.

Munich museum hosts exhibit of Walter Kandinsky's work

An exhibit of historic propor-tions, "Das bunte Leben-Wassily Kandinsky im Lenbachhaus, is on until March 10 in both the Lenbachhaus and the Kunstbau. The more than 600-piece exhibition chronicles the work of an artist who is inextricably linked to Munich and the development of abstract art. Wassily Kandinsky was thirty years old when he left Moscow in 1896, giving up teaching in order to study art in Munich. The move, Kandinsky wrote, made him feel "as if I had been born again." Kandinsky studied at the Kunstakademie under Franz von Stuck until 1900 and, in 1901, founded his own Phalanx school. There he met Gabriele Münter, his lover from 1903 until the outbreak of World War I. During the summer of 1908 the couple discovered the town of Murnau in Upper Bavaria, where they lived and worked with the Russian artist couple Alexei Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin. Münter bought a farmhouse on the edge of town which the locals, intrigued by the comings and goings of the Russian artists, skeptically called the "Russenhaus." Creatively, the Murnau period and the contact with the like-minded Russian artists were very important for Kandinsky. The artistic buzz word of the day, an idea promoted by Jawlensky, was "synthesis"-joining a painting's representational elements with the artist's impressions or ideas. Kandinsky was also greatly influenced by folk art, which he saw as a means of pure and immediate expression. It was after this rich period in Murnau that Kandinsky returned to Munich. Because he and his contemporaries had few contacts in Munich, it was difficult for them to get their art displayed-a problem which they overcame by founding the Neuer Künstlerverein München (New Artists' Association Munich) in 1909 with Kandinsky as chairman. In the meantime, Kandinsky began developing a much less representative style. The paintings he then produced were the first examples and the major vehicles of the abstract movement, embracing the total elimination of representational elements. His Composition V was too abstract for the more conservative members of the Neuer Künstlerverein, and the Verein's jury decided not to include the painting in the group's next exhibition. Kandinsky resigned in protest, followed by Münter, Franz Marc, and later Jawlensky and Werefkin. In December 1911, der Blaue Reiter was born. By World War I, Blue Rider members had begun to go their own ways, and the outbreak of the War dealt the group its death blow as many foreigners, including Kandinsky, were forced to leave Germany. Thinking the war was to be short-lived and that he could soon return to Munich, Kandinsky departed for Russia, leaving most of his belongings with Münter. The couple ended their relationship in Stockholm in 1916. As a result of Kandinsky's previous promises of marriage, Münter claimed entitlement to his property. In 1926 the couple reached a legal agreement and Münter retained possession of most of his Munich work. The extent of Münter's collection was not known until the 1950s. On the occasion of her 80th birthday on February 19, 1957, Münter made one of the largest art donations ever to the Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus. The donation consisted mainly of Kandinsky's works, including over 90 oil paintings, 24 paintings on glass, and 29 sketchbooks, as well as watercolors, tempera paintings and drawings. Münter chose the Lenbachhaus because it was dedicated solely to local artists. The exclusivity of the collection, and the museum director's favorable view of modern art, assured that the works would be afforded significant attention. The irony of the donation is that Franz von Lenbach, in whose Munich villa the museum was located, severely disliked modern art. "Motley Life" is a comprehensive exhibit of the more than 600 works which make up the Lenbachhaus' collection, supplemented by about 30 works on loan from various museums. The centerpiece of the exhibit is the 1913 piece Composition VII, on loan from Moscow's Tretyakov Museum and exhibited here for the first time. The exhibit highlights the influence of Kandinsky's Munich years; the development away from early Jugendstil influences to complete abstraction is apparent as one advances through the bright colors and clear imagery of his Murnau landscapes on to the abstract works of the Blue Rider period. A parallel exhibit chronicles some of the work of Kandinsky's contemporaries, Franz and Maria Marc. Franz Marc, who met his untimely end near Verdun in 1916, was a Munich native and also a founder of der Blaue Reiter. "Franz Marc-Sculptures" exhibits 10 works showing Marc's explorations into the different avenues of expression between painting and sculpture. Maria Marc was a painter in her own right, although continually overshadowed by her husband. "Maria Marc-Paintings and Drawings" presents a rare opportunity to see her seldom-exposed art in the form of 25 paintings and drawings as well as several tapestries. Both exhibits run from December 6 through January 21 in Rooms 19, 20 and 25. CHRONICLE OF MUNICH by Carol Scheunemann If you've noticed Munich as the backdrop for ever so many German-made films, take a close look at the Gasteig exhibition "München im Film," which starts December 3 and goes through January 7. In its celebration of the 100th anniversary of cinema, the municipal library pays homage to the city of Munich as portrayed in motion pictures. Dr. Ingo Tornow, initiator of the exhibition, documents the more-than-90-year history of movies set in Munich, and presents a historical as well as cinematic chronicle. In silent pictures days, Munich's profile was already recorded on film, but its increasing popularity as a setting for movies in recent decades has coincided with a boom in film production here. More than 500 motion pictures have been filmed in the Bavarian capital; scenes from approximately one-fourth of these are on display. The 250 stop-action film shots, photos and posters are taken largely from Dr. Tornow's own private collection of film material. On four evenings, a motion picture double feature accompanies the photo exhibition; each pair of movies focuses on a selected theme. The city as a frame of reference remains the same, but other perspectives reflect the changing attitudes, moods and times. With a Fasching theme, the first double feature is Fasching and Kehraus (03.12). Actors and acting are the motif of Lampenfieber and Kleine Haie (09.12). Dealing with personal fate is the subject of Wir Wunderkinder and Wir Enkelkinder (10.12), and life in postwar Germany forms the basis of Zwischen gestern und morgen and Rama dama (17.12). The first feature begins at 18:00; the second feature is at 20:00 in the lecture hall next to the main entrance of the library. COMEDY AT SEA Anything Goes in Starnberg's Schloßberghalle as 140 students, teachers and parents from the Munich International School perform Cole Porter's classic musical comedy, known for such hit songs as "You're the Top," "I Get a Kick out of You," and "It's Delovely." Seeking refuge from debt collectors on board a fishing boat in Panama gave the show's original producer, Vinton Freedley, the idea to set a zany script aboard an ocean liner. Enter the passengers: a nightclub singer, a debutante and her stowaway admirer, plus a character named Moon-Face, a.k.a. Public Enemy No. 13, who masquerades as a clergyman to avoid being recognized. Performed by MIS, it's a lively whirlwind of tap dancers, glamorous costumes, and hilarious comedy, and even features a cameo appearance by the school's headmaster, Brian Porter. Anything Goes runs January 24-27 at 19:30. For details, call the school at (08151) 36 60. Tickets may be ordered after December 22 from the Schloßberghalle in Starnberg, tel. (08151) 772-0.

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