This museum featured a special exhibition of the works of Otto Dix (1891-1969) who arrived from Dresden to Dusseldorf (1921) as a penniless artist and then in just 3-4 years moved to Berlin as successful, well known artist. During his highly productive period in Dusseldorf, he transformed himself from an expressive Dadist painter to a skillful portraitist of his time in the style of New Objectivity.
There was a wealth of material to enjoy – drawings, watercolours, mixed media and oils. I loved his watercolours and in particular his mix of watercolour, gouache and indian ink – a mix that I wish to try out in my drawings. (One example of this technique is Strich III – Red Light District III (1922) – another is In the Cafe (1922) – great informal head shots).
Inspiration for Part 2 of the drawing course (Interiors) could be found in Tavern in Hamburg (1922) – Watercolour, oil pastel, ink and graphite on paper. Also Suicide -Hanged Man (1922): a superb interior of which there are several versions.
His Mother and Child (1923) Oil on plywood intrigued me – Why did he paint a dark skinned woman (mother) and white child, and why were the mother’s hands painted so large and detailed? He also painted a red background and a very dominating red coat on the woman. Perhaps I need to study this painting further!
A series of etchings entitled Death and Resurrection (1922) would be useful to study for the anatomy and figure drawings in Part 4 of the drawing course. An interesting play on this theme was used in his portrait of Two circus performers – Defiers of death (1922) – this was wonderfully drawn using watercolour and pencil.
Death was also a major theme in his War Series (1924) – a series of 50 etchings which formed his ‘Record of Hell’ and experience of violence, death and decay on the battlefields and trenches of World War I.
The exhibition also featured some truly magnificent portraits of which my favorite was the very emotional and sad portrait of The poet Iwar von Lucken (1926) Oil and tempura on canvas – the image reminds me of The Pianist film which portrayed a Jewish family and their fate at the hands of the Nazis.
Also The art dealer Alfred Flechtheim (1926) Oil on wood – this was a powerful unflattering portrait which gave the subject an very long arms, huge hands and big nose/ears. Apparently this dealer never represented Dix! The texture on the dealers jacket was amazing and looks just like tweed – painted in dots and dashes – a real masterpiece!
I made some quick sketches of these two portraits.
Lastly, I wish to mention his Portrait of Frau Martha Dix (1926) – his wife lovingly painted – she is dressed in a delicately detailed dress with a pattern of very decorative flowers.
This visit was a fantastic opportunity to see a special exhibition of the works of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553), a German Renaissance painter.
I liked his religious/nudity themes that were also to influence 20th Century artists such as Picasso, Giacometti and Warhol. This exhibition will also be useful in Part 4 of the drawing course – feminism and the use of the female form in paintings.
Cranach`s paintings included some very wonderful details such as hair, veils, finger nails, trees and ornamental decoration such as jewelry and dress fabrics etc.
His woodblocks and other drawings in ink and wash have very effective use of line to show form and shadow – interesting for my current work in Part 1 of the drawing course.
Also in the exhibition were some inspirational ink drawings by Picasso on the theme of Cranach’s paintings. The drawings were drawn in ink with a brush and pen, and also a technique (that I wish to practice) of drawing/scraping on inked paper. Picasso used these themes to produce various versions/series which included lithographic works.
Finally in his 90s, Picasso painted a version of Cranach’s Venus and Cupid (1509)which he entitled Venus and Love (1968), however his version changes the emphasis of Cranach’s masterpeice from sensual to carnal voluptuousness eg. small delicate breasts to large breasts with large red nipples.
Feminism and Cranach/Influence on 20th century artists
Picasso and his use of black ink – drawing, scraping, painting, mark making
I was fortunate to have a couple of hours before catching a train in Hamburg and was able to visit the Kunsthalle Art Museum. Whilst it was a very short visit, it was enough time to find some truly inspirational artworks. I have listed those that struck me most (in that order) but could have added heaps more:
EMILE NOLDE. Tugboat on the Elbe (1910) Oil on canvas
A real inspiration for me and a subject that I love (from my days as a Merchant Navy Seaman). I love the coloursused by Nolde in his oils (and also in his watercolours). His brushwork is wonderful and expressive – I will use this as a challenge in future work.
ALBERTO GIACOMETTI. Annette in the studio (1961) Oil on canvas
Effectively a drawing made with oils…in this portrait the face is almost lost in the background and the lines of her legs and the studio details take over the composition. I really like the style of this painting and the furious use of line (brushmarks) and will use this as a reference in my future figurative work.
KARL HOFER. Friends (1923/24) Oil on canvas
In this beautifully sensitive and to me very emotional/sensual work, the artist has painted the hands and the friend’s embrace in a manner that demonstrates a very close and loving relationship between the female couple.
JEAN FRANCOIS MILLET. Sweeping countrywoman (1867) Pastel
A real treat to see such a beautifully drawing (painting) in pastel by a master of his art – inspirational mark making, modeling using line and form, and a very modest use of colour.
PABLO PICASSO. The art dealer Clovis Sagot (1909) Oil on canvas
I liked the almost drawing-like quality of this oil painting’s brushstrokes – Picasso has painted a mask-like face and used some abstraction. In this work he is also exploring 2/3 dimensional form and leading towards cubism.
CLAUDE MONET. Pears and grapes (1880) Oil on canvas
A masterclass on how to model form using just colour – no line! (see featured image above)
ERNST LUDWIG KIRCHNER. Painter and model (1910 – reworked 1926) Oil on canvas
There was a separate gallery devoted to Kirchner and fellow students (Dresden 1905): Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff and Bleyl who formed what was known as the Bridge Artists Association.
I singled out this painting because of its bright colours and what to me was an awkward relationship between the model and the artist (still in bed clothes). The very messy and almost crude use of brushwork/clour all works together.
KARL SCHMIDT-ROTTLUFF. Taking a break in the studio (1911) Oil on canvas
Here we see the artist with two nude models taking a break – apparently in this painting nudity feels very natural .