MUNICH.- On the occasion of the Academy's 200th anniversary, and of Munich's 850th birthday, the Haus der Kunst is mounting a major exhibition with exemplary works by professors and students. A pointed selection of nearly one hundred, in part large-format pieces, demonstrates the varied history of the Academy of Fine Arts from the past two centuries to the present.
Attraction and Aura (1808 around 1900)
The first part of the show recollects the Academy's early years under Peter von Langer and Peter von Cornelius, a member of the Nazarene movement. In the first decades of its existence, the Academy accepted around 50 female students, including Marie Ellenrieder. This was particularly progressive at the time since women were generally not admitted to the public art institutes until the early 20th century. The exhibition also illustrates the international importance the Munich Academy enjoyed in the 19th century, at a time when it often attracted no less European and North American artists than the Academies in Paris, Vienna or Düsseldorf did. A focal point of the show is thus history painting, to which the Munich Academy attached the most importance and which remained its greatest advertising feature until the end of the 19th century. The exhibition's title also alludes to the 'muscleman' quality, which some of the monumental paintings at the academy possessed, and makes a direct reference to the title of Franz von Defregger's painting, "Die Kraftprobe" (The Trial of Strength).
Nevertheless, history painting was in no way a purely artistic matter, but rather much more a means of expression for the growing sense of national identity within Europe. It was not without reason that the Academy had so many foreign students from Central and Eastern European countries, which had long been divided up between Prussia and Russia, as well as the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires. Because these countries referred to their history, religion, national culture and language as the justification for their independence, they were able to offer their artists returning home from Munich a large scope of art subjects in history and genre representation. Important works on loan from no fewer than 18 countries illustrate the enormous influence the Munich Academy had on the artistic schooling and history paintings of these newly created nations. Scandinavia and the Baltic States, as well as North America are presented here as well also with images of their respective myths as examples of the Academy's additional important spheres of influence.
The exhibition additionally includes two enormous canvases by German painters that have not been on view for decades and that were restored especially for the exhibition: Karl Schorn's human pyramid "Sündflut" (The Great Deluge) (592 x 827 cm) from the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen (Bavarian State Painting Collections), as well as "Alexander der Große nimmt sterbend Abschied von seinem Heer " (A Dying Alexander the Great Bids Farwell to his Army) from Berlin's Alte Nationalgalerie executed by Karl von Piloty. This painting was believe to have been lost and is the last, unfinished work by the then internationally famous representative of Munich history painting. The painting "Flagellanten" (Flagellants) from the collection of the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend and painted by the German-American Academy professor and director, Carl von Marr, depicts a medieval procession of flagellants on a canvas the size of a movie screen (420 x 790 cm) and has not been on view in Europe for a century.
Light Houses and Will-o' the-Wisp (ca. 1900 to today)
The second part of the exhibition focuses by means of examples on the Munich Secession, founded in 1892 and from which the Munich Academy quickly recruited new professors, following the decline of history painting in order to close the gap between it and the established modern movement. At the turn of the 20th century the school was briefly an international center once again, attracting students such as Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Moissey Kogan and Franz Marc. However, the academy refused to integrate the modern movement permanently in its teachings. Following the First World War few appointments carried out under pressure from the ministry and with resistance from the teaching staff were made that could be characterized as bold. The moderate Expressionist painter, Karl Caspar, was forced to resign under the Nazis without any protest from his fellow professors. The exhibition also examines the sinister alliance between the Academy of Art and the "Haus der Deutschen Kunst" (House of German Art), the two Nazi showpiece institutions, and how it came to be through the two major events, "Tag der Deutschen Kunst" (Day of German Art) and "Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung" (Major German Art Exhibition). It then shows how abstraction made its arrival with Ernst Geitlinger and Günter Fruhtrunk after the Second World War and how the Academy once again gained an international orientation to painting and sculpture, an approach, which the Anglo-Saxon realm had preferred since the early 1980's. A video installation created by contemporary students of the Academy especially for the exhibition looks at the events of the years around 1968, when the Academy was the stronghold of student protests in Munich, and examines what remains of this new awakening. With this the history of the Academy is brought full circle, from its origins to 2008.
The exhibition is curated by León Krempel, Haus der Kunst, in cooperation with the Munich research group, "Forschungen zur Künstlerausbildung" (Research on Art Education) directed by Walter Grasskamp.