A New View on Evelyn De Morgan

Can art oppose war? Can wars and conflicts be fought with art? Can a work of art influence the thinking of its viewers and create peace? If the English artist Evelyn De Morgan (1855-1919) had been asked, she would certainly have answered these questions in the affirmative. Two wars were reflected in her work: the Second Boer War (1899-1902), the last great war of the British Empire, and the First World War (1914-1918), the original catastrophe of the 20th century. Even though the artist was neither mother nor wife of a soldier, she was still deeply moved by the political events of her time and used them in her works.

About fifteen paintings refer directly to those wars.1 However, this number can only be considered an approximate value, since the artist always remained true to her allegorical-symbolistic pictorial language. In 1916, she organized an exhibition at her studio in Fulham, the so-called Red Cross Exhibition.2 None of the thirteen works on display there were for sale, although the entrance fees were donated to the English and Italian Red Cross. These “war allegories ” are usually treated as a separate and self-contained group of works. However, there is reason to suspect that other works referred indirectly to the theme of war, as will be shown below.

Insight into De Morgan’s war-specific pictorial language

In general, a strict dichotomy of good and evil, light and darkness, life and death, as well as war and peace can be observed in these works. Evelyn De Morgan and her husband William were practicing spiritualists and believed in life after death and in the possibility to communicate with the souls of deceased people. The couple published the results of numerous seances and automatic writing anonymously in a book, The Result of an Experiment. The soul of a soldier killed in the Boer War mingled with the numerous voices that contacted De Morgans. His report reveals the pacifist attitude of the artist couple.

The spiritualistic doctrine is also reflected in De Morgan’s works and the often cryptic visual language. Thus the paintings are populated by personified souls who gradually dare to ascend from the dark earthly world to the light-flooded beyond.
This can be seen in S.O.S. . A female figure dressed in white stands on a rock in the middle of a troubled sea that threatens to devour her at any moment. She is surrounded by monsters, winged dragons and snakes. But she doesn’t seem to fear them. She stretches her arms up towards a rainbow-coloured shimmering light source and is certain of her salvation. Since 1908, “S.O.S.” has been the official distress signal. The meaning “Save our Souls” was attributed to the code later, but the soul’s distress call appears paradigmatic in De Morgan’s spiritualistic context.

The artist instrumentalizes her painting into a visual “distress call”. It is aimed at the viewer and aims to draw attention to the real threat posed by the war, which threatens to attack humanity in the form of winged monsters. De Morgan’s outlook is fatalistic. Salvation seems to exist only in the afterlife. One painting that illustrates the mechanism of De Morgan’s war paintings and can therefore be included in this context is The Love Potion.

At first glance it seems to have nothing in common with the “war allegories”. A red-haired woman in a golden yellow robe, traditionally interpreted as a malicious witch,6 has taken a seat in front of an open window and pours a red liquid into a silver cup. Prominently above the chalice and the associated act of pouring, a couple of lovers can be seen in an intimate embrace.

This is the key element

De Morgan used the iconographic formula of the Knight and the White Lady preferably in her early war allegories referring to the Boer War. The Love Potion was created just one year after the end of this war. Examples include Victoria Dolorosa (the painting fell victim to a fire) and Our Lady of Peace. In the latter, the dichotomy between war (the kneeling soldier) and peace (a figure dressed in white reminiscent of the Virgin Mary) is particularly evident. The knight, the epitome of combat readiness, has laid down his weapons and has fallen to his knees in front of the allegory of peace to serve her and no longer the war. He reminds us of Saint George, who represents the British nation. However, this remains the only concrete indication of a specific British perspective.

Rather, De Morgan’s allegories are to be understood as universal messages7 on armed conflicts of all kinds that largely dispense with religious and nation-specific details. Moreover, neither war nor peace are exclusively shown. It is always a matter of bringing the two poles into a harmonious equilibrium. Exactly this moment of the unification is given in The Love Potion. The lovers are placed exactly in the axis of the potion. It seems as if he emerges from their union. So is there some kind of “antidote” brewed here for wars and conflicts of any kind? The term “love potion” would thus take on a completely new meaning. Neither does the redhead want to divide the lovers, as was so often assumed, nor does she want to ensure the continuation of her love. Rather, the two figures are to be understood as “substances” that flow into the healing juice. The fact that The Love Potion has pacifist tendencies may be shown by one of the books below the window, with legible inscriptions.

The interest in Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, the doctor, astrologer and alchemist from the 16th century, experienced a real blossoming in the 19th century, especially in the spiritualist circles in which Evelyn De Morgan moved.8 An innovation of Paracelsus is spagyric, a medical form of alchemy which no longer aimed at the production of gold but of tinctures for healing various ailments. The search for Panacea, a universal panacea, became the philosopher’s stone of the Paracelsan alchemists. Paracelsus was also known as a social reformer and, following Kurt Goldammer and Walter Pagel, was considered a pacifist physician and pioneer of modern pacifism.9 As a physician, he showed his interest in the holistic well-being of his patients. This meant that both an inner and an outer balance had to be striven for. Disturbing factors as well as deadly sources of conflict of any kind, including wars, had to be eliminated. Considering the iconographic formula of the knight with the white woman and the Paracelsan background, it becomes more and more probable that The Love Potion is also based on pacifist ideas.

Once again, reference is made to a voice from The Result of an Experiment that makes clear De Morgan’s own claim to art. The importance of art, and this is essential for De Morgan’s work, goes far beyond aesthetic added value. Art can stimulate, move, change, create truth, harmony and peace. Thus their “war allegories” become their individual response to hatred and war. The fact that her strategy convinced the visitors of the Red Cross Exhibition is shown by the excerpt of a letter the artist received from Felix Moscheles, herself an author and artist. The Love Potion shows the mechanism behind this pictorial strategy, so that the earlier interpretation of the female figure as an accident is not a matter of the individual.

Rubens is here!

From 8 February to 21 May the exhibition “Rubens. Power of transformation” takes place at the Museum in Frankfurt. The title of the exhibition is program. It is about Peter Paul Rubens’ adaptation and transformation of ancient and contemporary models. In the sense of the Aemulatio (overbid competition), the Fleming enters into dialogue with masterpieces of antiquity, but also with the great names of his time such as Titian, Tintoretto, Hendrick Goltzius and Adam Elsheimer.

But it never remains merely to copy the originals. Instead, there are refined metamorphoses and completely new pictorial inventions. This special form of artistic reception can usually only be recognized at second glance, but in the Frankfurt show it is impressively staged across genres and immediately presented to the viewer as he enters the first room: Rubens’ monumental Ecce Homo is based on a study of the ancient sculpture of the centaur tamed by Cupid.

The mythological creature as the epitome of carnal lust is transformed into the Son of God presented to the people! The exhibition with its approx. 100 exhibits promises further creative image solutions revealing the artist’s high level of education and should never be missed.

The Dead Alchemist Painting

The alchemist is exhausted in his workshop, which bears witness to eager activity, sinking down and gently falling asleep. In his right hand he still holds the pen with which, until recently, he recorded his observations in the book opened in front of him. The fire of the alchemical furnace is extinguished, the tool lies scattered in front of it as if it had been dropped in the middle of the activity. The time of death cannot be far back. It is a strange tension between zealous work and the silence of death that dominates this image. The search for the Philosopher’s Stone, so often praised in various manuscripts, seems to have failed. The journey of the adept remains unfinished. It is a picture of desperation and surrender that Elihu Vedder draws here with his work The Dead Alchemist.

The American artist used a pictorial formula that was unknown until then, even though alchemist workshops were a very popular subject, especially in Dutch genre painting of the 16th and 17th centuries. Here, too, Opus magnum occasionally goes wrong and often flies up against the gold-maker’s ears in his Sudel kitchen. However, the failure shown here cannot be compared with that of the foolish alchemists. The Dutch painters do not know the dead adept.

So how does Vedder come up with this picture theme?

The Vedder biographer, Regina Soria, has a simple answer to this question. In his painting, the artist deals with a childhood trauma; an old man who had lived in the attic of his parents’ house as a subtenant was found dead one day. This work is certainly marked in the context of Vedder’s general fascination with melancholic-dark and melodramatic pictorial subjects, as well as by his great thirst for knowledge, which has lasted since childhood and also extended to occult fields of knowledge:

“He [Vedder] spent long hours in his grandfather’s garret, where he had discovered on old volume, ‘without cover or page title’, which seemed to contain ‘all the wisdom of all the arts and sciences of ancient and modern times. It wandered from astronomy to the construction of a bird-organ; from painting, sculpture, and architecture to fortune-telling; from directions for making a clepsydra, or water-clock, to the proper wood for a divining rod’ (…) ”

The history of alchemy

What does the theme of alchemy have to do with a painting of the 19th century – a time in which practical alchemy had long since merged with modern chemistry and was practiced only in its spiritual form5 in occult circles? After Helmut Gebelein6 and Richard Caron, alchemy was in decline at the time. However, paintings like the Vedders at least suggest that their legacy was still tangible and that “royal art ” had lost nothing of its fascination. Scientists, specifically chemists, were happy to deny alchemy as the mother of their own discipline. They vehemently tried to distinguish themselves from the alchemy associated with superstition, charlatanry and black magic. Here we let the chemist Thomas Thomson have his say:

“Chemistry, unlike the other sciences, originally from delusion and superstition, and was at its commencement exactly on a level with magic and astrology. Even after it began to be useful to man, by furnishing him with better and more powerful medicines than the ancient physicians were acquainted with, it was long before it could shake off the trammels of alchymy [sic!], which hung upon it like a nightmare, cramping and blunting all its energies, and exposing it to the scorn and contempt of the enlightened part of mankind. ”

From these lines, shame and pride speak in equal parts

The dark past of chemistry cannot be undone, but, and this becomes clear, it has now been left behind and can be looked back on as an enlightened being and become aware of its erroneous belief. In the scientific discourse around the turn of the century between the 18th and 19th centuries, alchemy was stylized as a negative example that had to be left behind.

One graphic that thematizes precisely this turning point is John Chapman’s color cast from 1805, which depicts an allegory of chemistry.10 At first glance, it is a well-known pictorial formula: the working alchemist, in contrast to Vedder’s painting here alive and kicking, sits in the midst of various alchemical devices and books in a sparsely lit chamber. However, it is the events that take place in the middle and background that are more interesting and give the picture and its interpretation an interesting twist. We see a crowned lady in a white robe. The globe in her hand betrays her identity, it is a personification of the world. She turns her back on the laboring alchemist and instead turns to a younger man sitting in penumbra. Curious and interested, Frau Welt looks at what he is doing. He conducts an experiment with oxygen. The direction of the light is also striking. The beam of light falls on the two young, almost flirting people, as well as on an open book. There the word “Chemistry” is clearly to be read. The attributes of the alchemist, on the other hand, sink into darkness. Although it was placed in the foreground, it is the chemistry that dominates the picture, due to the way the light is directed and the direction of the young woman’s gaze. The message is clear: the world has turned its attention away from alchemy and is now turning to young, more attractive and interesting chemistry.

The light of alchemy will go out

This change must also be read as a subtext in Vedder’s painting. The alchemist is dead and the alchemy with him. His time is over, the era of chemistry has begun. With the peaceful, almost beautiful death of the protagonist, Vedder implies regret for this change. Alchemy, so the not yet very old age of the alchemist suggests, still had potential and was torn out of life too early. Such considerations cannot be supported by statements by Vedder himself, the sources are missing. The meticulous and historically correct depiction of the various laboratory utensils, however, testifies to the artist’s determined examination of the history of alchemy, so that the alchemical legacy at least lived on visually.

Vedder and other artists of the 19th century, who devoted themselves to alchemistic themes partly out of romantic-historical transfiguration and partly out of an interest in the history of science, would certainly have been pleased that the alchemical discourse experienced a new flourishing at the beginning of the 20th century. With the discovery of radioactivity and its truly “transmuting” properties, alchemy was suddenly on everyone’s lips again, people spoke of “modern alchemy”. Chemistry and alchemy were reconciled. Thus the death of the alchemist and of alchemy was rather a longer sleep in order to revive the alchemical heritage in a “transmuted” manifestation – the discipline itself experienced the alchemical principle of “dying and becoming”.

Corinna Gannon is a master student of art history at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. In 2015 she completed her Bachelor’s degree in Art History and English Studies with a thesis on the pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Her current research focuses on the relationship between art and alchemy, especially in Victorian England. Her master’s thesis deals with the English artist Evelyn De Morgan.

Silent designers

This link allows you to watch live recordings from cameras attached to the ISS space station. I keep coming back, primarily because it’s possible and I think it’s pretty crazy. Sometimes I get lucky and see a spectacular sunrise. But most of the time you see clouds clouds clouds clouds in various shapes and constellations. Depending on the weather, they appear from the ground as rain, thunderstorm, cirrus, fair weather and feather clouds. They form fronts and walls, towers and fields, dress with veils, ceilings and ribbons. And there are also benches, which I particularly like, because although we know that it doesn’t work, the thought that you can first walk around on the fluffy structures (or “walk like on clouds”) and then sit down on such a bench is simply too beautiful. And of course the most beautiful thing would be to sit in pairs on the coveted cloud 7.

In painting, clouds have already played many different roles

They all have one thing in common: where they are, they are on top! And above is heaven. According to a long-standing tradition, God lives there with all kinds of other beings, and that’s where you get to if you behave well during your lifetime. For really important inhabitants of the earth there are spectacular ascensions, as countless ceiling paintings in churches show. It’s a good thing that there are clouds on which the many angels can hold on, sit and do gymnastics. Those artists who didn’t have the space for a whole sky (we’ve already talked about the topic of space problems before) were using the minimal variant “cloud with legs”, plus people who look up.

During the Romantic period (very late 18th century to 1848) clouds had their big appearance. Generally, in this short epoch, one turned strongly to landscape representation, because one wanted to illustrate the human soul life in the image of nature. And clouds in their various manifestations could be used for this purpose in many ways.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), painter of German Romanticism par excellence, used clouds specifically for scene and light design. His painting “Coast by Moonlight” (1836) is a real force. One forgets immediately where one actually is, so much one is sucked into this picture. Although it is mentioned in the title and is the only light source of the picture, there is hardly anything to see of the moon. The clouds cover it almost completely, so that only a small shred of it looks out at the center of the upper edge of the picture. What we see of him, however, is the reflection of his light: it makes the surface of the sea shine brightly, lying there calm and smooth. On the horizon, which divides the picture into almost two equally sized halves, she separates this optical silence from the cloud cover above in a luminous strip, which is dramatically moved by countless levels of brightness.

Monk by the Sea

In one of his probably most famous paintings “Monk by the Sea” (1808-10), CDF makes the clouds completely the main protagonists of the painting, leaving almost the entire picture surface to them. The title-giving little monk, who stands on the beach like a small black semicolon with a bright dot/hair, makes the cloud spectacle in the sky appear even more impressive.

Perhaps it is due to the weather there, but the English painters seem to have had a special affinity for clouds. One of them was the Englishman John Constable (1776-1837). He made numerous cloud studies. Rain clouds, storm clouds, fair weather clouds – a whole cloud atlas. For him these pictures were much more than wall decorations, they were science. He spent two whole summers (1821 and 22) observing clouds closely and putting them on paper to learn more about their nature. What happened among them, on Earth, was of no interest to Constable as a pictorial motif.

Even more consistently than CD Friedrich, William Turner (1775-1851) dissolved the boundaries between heaven and earth, sea spray and clouds. If man´s didn’t know better, one could easily think of him as an abstract painter of the 20th century, because many of his paintings contain hardly anything representational. Let’s see what the clouds will bring from the sky to us in the near future. Snowflakes, white skirts, perhaps.

Like father, like son

Would the artists of that time have gone to more trouble in naming them if they had known that naming the son (the younger) after the father (the older) makes life difficult for the scientists of today? Only historians who deal with the family members of the high nobility have it even harder with all the many Charlemagne, Charles, Louis, etc.

Like father, like son

Today, art history has two Lucas Cranachs (1472-1553 and 1515-1586), two Georg Brentels (1525/30-1610 and 1581-1634), three Pieter Brueghels (1525/30-1569, 1564-1638 and 1589-1640) and four Jan Brueghels (1568-1625, 1601-1678, 1647-1719, 1628- after 1664), whereby the last two were still given the nicknames Baptist and Peeter, respectively. Fortunately, the two Brentels are somewhat apart in time, and the Brueghels, too, can be easily distinguished on the basis of the different styles in which they painted.

The two Cranachs, however, give real reason to bite their teeth. They are partly so similar in their way of painting that it is no longer possible today to say for certain which of them made them. In addition, her workshop had numerous employees who copied popular pictorial themes several times. The masters then only put the finishing touches. This approach was efficient – the high demand would otherwise not have been manageable – and profitable. Anyone who couldn’t afford a hundred percent Cranach still had the opportunity to buy a picture from the workshop for less money, in which the master had at least immortalized himself with a few brushstrokes. So the signature was more brand names than attribution. – Just as Karl Lagerfeld does not sew any of his designed garments himself today, even if his name is on the label. (The overview of the paintings on http://corpus-cranach.de/ is very revealing – there you can find, for example, the motif of Christ and the Children shown here 40 times). And those who couldn’t afford Cranach bought a copy – whereby even more “Cranach” pictures were thrown onto the market, which today cannot or only with difficulty be exposed as forgeries.

Like the master, like the apprentice

Many famous artists have had students who later became successful themselves, but during their apprenticeship copied the style of their teachers so exactly as part of their training that many a picture can no longer be assigned with certainty. And great masters also had students who did not follow in their footsteps with regard to fame, but with regard to the style of painting. During my studies I found it very fascinating when the picture of the master already showed the cooperation of a future artist. Especially if you are still in training yourself and sometimes doubt your abilities, it is good to know that even the greatest geniuses have not been successful with talent alone and would not have become the superstars they became without the appropriate training.

Student: Raphael – Teacher: Perugino

If these two pictures were part of a memory game, you could think of them as a match at first glance. No wonder, since the young Raphael has not only taken over the motif, but also the picture design almost one-to-one from his teacher Perugino: the semicircular end, which overlaps the dome building in the background at the upper edge of the picture, the wide square in the middle ground with a few staffage figures and the group of people in the foreground, who are actually the focus of attention. Their living models all seem to come from one family, with their round, almost doll-like faces. But Raphael also does things differently: his picture has more depth overall, with Perugino everything seems more compact. The younger painter’s painting also appears more animated, which is not only due to the brighter colours. Do you like how he does it compared to Perugino? It’s not so much what he does differently, but the little has a big effect.

The priest, who is standing in the middle of the group and is bringing the hands of the two married couples together, is a particularly good example of this. In Perugino’s work, he stands exactly in the middle of the overall very symmetrically composed picture. It is so perfectly straight that one could cut it through in the middle and mirror one half of the body. It doesn’t take an expert’s eye to see that this is different with Raphael. With him, the body of the Servant of God inclines slightly to the right – an attitude that not only seems more animated, but also more natural than Perugino’s rigidity.

If we look at the supporting figures next to the three main actors, we can see in both cases that they are in motion here and there: There are different postures, gestures, lines of sight, which can be seen here.


The museums today are full of great artists

That’s why I’d like to talk today about the many other artists whose names hardly tell us anything today – not because they’ve been forgotten (like Rembrandt and Caravaggio for a long time, for example), but because they were certainly technically good painters, but lacked great talent. I’m really not interested in making fun of them! I’m sure they all did their best. But some of them are so weird that only a completely humorless person wouldn’t laugh at them. I also don’t say I could do better. Like most of us (I’m just assuming now), none of the works I made in art class were worth preserving. But that’s why I didn’t become an artist.

Each picture confronts its maker with the hurdle of translating a three-dimensional model into something two-dimensional. That’s not easy, because our sense of sight is now set up for spatial vision, and it requires a series of tricks to create the impression of plasticity through shading, reflections, proportions, etc. on a flat painting support. Faces are particularly complex and complicated to draw because they consist of so many and minimal highs and lows. If we haven’t been trained in this yet and don’t know the secret, we would always put our eyes on the border between the upper and middle third of a head. That’s because we perceive the face as the area between the chin and the hairline (the orange oval). What we hide is the part between the hairline and the skullcap. If you consider that – what you should do if you want to paint a good portrait – the eyes are actually in the middle of the head .

The portrait of this young man shows two difficulties at once: 1. the correct reproduction of a face and 2. the representation in perspective distortion, which results from looking upwards (I forgot to photograph the whole picture because I was so enthusiastic about this great model for my work). Above all, of course, it is noticeable that the gentleman squints terribly. But even if this were not the case – as can be seen from my dilettante correction – the proportions and the arrangement of the individual parts of the face are simply not correct. To save his honor, however, one must say: If the painter had lived this portrait 400 years later, he would have become rich and famous. Just like Picasso, who still painted many slanted faces and thus became incredibly successful.

Big eyes were considered attractive then as they are today

The painter of this painting certainly had the good intention of depicting Maria as particularly pretty, which is why he gave her such conspicuously large eyes. However, he meant it too well, and his Madonna looks as if she has to fight with violent shield nozzle hyperactivity. Added to this is the strange nose, which looks more like a glued-on wooden wedge that is too wide and hardly modelled. The other figures in the picture also seem strangely flat and more like the early stage of a wooden sculpture, in which the details have not yet been worked out. The almost surrealistic overall impression of the picture is reinforced by the small putto on the left. Between the picture frame and the Christ Child, it looks as if it has been grafted in. Besides – what is he doing there? Hitting the Jesulein with a fly swatter?!

To sharpen your eyes

What distinguishes good from bad painters is not only the aspect that they can do much better. They are often more adept at making mistakes invisible. Rembrandt was excellent at this. Let’s look at his – respect, nothing for tender minds! – I’ll take a closer look at “Blinding the Simsons”. Do you notice anything? Take a look at the soldier who is ramming his dagger into Simson’s eye, more precisely, at his arm. Although the painting is very large (206.0 x 276.0 cm) and the figures are almost life-size, we don’t mind that the arm is actually much too short. And this is not due to the compression caused by perspective. If the man would straighten up and stand in front of us, his arm would not only grow out of his neck, it would only reach up to his hip. However, Rembrandt uses the general turmoil and especially the light, which is directed at the actual theme of the scenery, to make the most of the film.

Cézanne was fortunate not to know any money worries because of his origins, so that he could devote himself entirely to his passion, painting. This allowed him, more than other colleagues of his time, to experiment a lot and develop his own style. If you look at his pictures, you will see that he whistled for a lifelike reproduction. This is particularly evident in the depiction of people: in “Sitzenden Bauern” (1892-96) we are first captivated by the somewhat melancholy gaze of the man who has slightly collapsed into himself. If we then take a closer look, we not only see that his head is too small compared to his mighty body, here the details are also incorrect: the arms seem strangely mounted on the torso, the thigh of the crossed leg is as buxom as that of a Rubens woman, and the left hand is almost gruesomely huge. Even more striking are the proportions of the “boy in red waistcoat” (1889-90) – you can see why… Nevertheless, people (i.e.: I) like to look at the pictures, because their overall effect is harmonious.

Proportions, surfaces, forms; from the plastic to the flat – these are the challenges of art

Another is to depict things in motion. This shows once again what a complex process seeing is. Did you know, for example, that it is only at the age of 4-5 that children can tell whether something (e.g. a car) is standing at a distance or moving towards it? Against this background it is no longer so surprising that galloping horses have been misrepresented for a long time. On old representations they race through the landscape like dogs with their forelegs and hind legs stretched far from each other at the same time. It was only with the advent of photography and the resulting possibility of dividing movement sequences into individual sequences that it became clear that this was wrong. One must not believe everything one means to see…

Franz Marc on his way to the Blue Rider

Although sheets had already been removed and sold individually at that time, the Nuremberg sketchbooks contain more than 600 drawings and watercolours. The Germanisches Nationalmuseum thus possesses the most extensive part of Marc’s graphic oeuvre.

Together with its written legacy, it possesses a rich collection of materials on the life and work of the important and popular Munich Expressionist. “Many of Franz Marc’s drawings can be viewed by visitors to the first. Let’s see it at all”, General Director Prof. Dr. G. Ulrich Großmann emphasizes the importance of the exhibition. “This is a unique opportunity.”

A necessary restoration of the fragile booklets had made their temporary dissolution necessary and made this first exhibition of the largely unknown stock possible. The sketchbooks cover the period from 1904 to 1914 and thus the decisive years in the development of the work from Art Nouveau to Expressionism and Abstraction. The early ones begin with small rural scenes and landscapes in the style of the Munich Secession and the Dachau painters.

Between 1904 and 1907

Between 1904 and 1907 sketchbooks followed, which – in addition to numerous animal motifs – showed landscape sections, genre-like figure studies and portraits. Often on toned paper or with painterly wiped and white raised passages, they reflect the outer appearance of the world in the sense of Impressionism.

On a trip to Paris in 1907, Franz Marc became acquainted with the new world of post-Impressionism. Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin were instrumental in his search for his own path.

The sketchbooks VI to X of the years 1907 to 1909 bear witness to intensive studies of human anatomy and movement, but above all of animal anatomy and movement. The 1908 composition “Zwei stehende Pferde im Busch” (Two Standing Horses in the Bush) is an example of a new step in development characterized by a reduced form and the emphasis on the linear. Japanese woodcuts serve Marc as inspiration, as do classical drawings by Hans von Marées or works by sculptors such as Aristide Maillol.

The sketchbooks XI to XXII from 1908 to 1911 dominate movement studies and nudes. Dance plays an important role. To merge animals, people and landscape into one unit is Marc’s declared goal. Inspired by an article by Maurice Denis, he tried Pointillism to achieve a higher formal principle for the harmonious connection of living beings and landscape. The sketchbooks XXIV to XXIX from the years 1911 to 1912 show Franz Marc at the first peak of his career. On the outside, it was the discussions in the “Neue Künstlervereinigung München”, the new friends around Wassily Kandinsky and the appearance of the almanac “Der Blaue Reiter” that were decisive for his artistic breakthrough.

The sketchbooks illustrate the career

36 years dead. They not only document the chronology and stylistic development of the works, but also provide information about the way they worked and the origin of important major works.

In the overall view, they open up a view of many unknown facets of the artistic work in the decisive years of the struggle for modern art in Germany and encourage us to rethink the image of Franz Marc that has prevailed so far. With a view to the Nuremberg collection and the practice of the estate administrators, the selective approach with which the oeuvre of the prematurely deceased was formed for posterity becomes apparent.

The exhibition offers the visitor the unique experience of looking over the artist’s shoulder in his daily work, accompanying him on his excursions into nature and on journeys and sharing his enthusiasm for foreign cultures, Japanese, Indian and Egyptian art. At the same time, Marc’s interest remains in the down-to-earth Bavarian folk art of his immediate surroundings.

The aim of the exhibition is to depict the draughtsman Franz Marc in his many facets using the example of sketchbooks. Few loans complement each other selectively in order to show cross connections in the artist’s work.

Public and private collections have contributed thankfully with important works – such as the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe with the painting “Rehe im Walde II” from 1914 and the Saarlandmuseum in Saarbrücken with the painting “Schafe” from 1912.

Drawings, graphic prints, a sculpture as well as photos and letters from the holdings of the German Art Archive of the Germanisches Nationalmuseum complete this new view of the work of Franz Marc.

From Fountains and Alligators

Small, finely elaborated and delicate collages. Ruth Marten creates these by overpainting, expanding and colouring. At the same time they appear light and engaging. The first retrospective “Dreamlover” of the 70 year old American artist Ruth Marten at the Max Ernst Museum in Brühl shows her extensive oeuvre from the beginning until today, collages, painting and sculpture.

We live in a stormy collage that is constantly changing

Ruth Marten’s career is quite unusual and varied. She began as a tattoo artist in New York in the 1970s, worked for many renowned magazines and publishers as an illustrator, and is now a freelance artist. At the beginning of the 2000s, she began to work with her now well-known method, she began to buy and collage small graphics, engravings, lithographs, etchings and illustrations from books of the 18th and 19th centuries, for example at flea markets. She supplemented these with drawings or added colours, so that completely new small works were created, which contain an old, traditional and a new, contemporary note. Old and new linked together in the here and now. Marten does this with a captivating attention to detail. But the observer often fails to recognize where the changes begin and where they end. A precise and close look is necessary to perceive the new.

She takes up themes from zoology, fashion and the current events of this time and transforms them into current motifs and thus into new perspectives. Were these perhaps already present in the subconscious? Here she charges the motifs with new connotations, with sexual energy, lyrical or even playful the new works come along.

“The familiar past gives us a more secure feeling than the unknown future, there is hardly any doubt about that. Perhaps I long for the comradeship that all these artists, illustrators, map makers and social satirists, whose lively visualizations adorn these old pages, offer me. I also admit to being a hard case of Max-Ernst envy (who isn’t?!) even though I chose materials from the 18th century. I am impressed by their eagerness and longing to define the world they know,” says Ruth Marten.

The Max Ernst Museum in Brühl is now showing an extensive exhibition that examines Marten’s work from then until today in detail. The New York artist, who has already experienced so much, encounters almost five decades of creativity and artistic development with a great deal of wit, irony and cheerfulness. Ruth Marten stands in the tradition of Max Ernst, and so this retrospective in this small but extremely worth seeing museum is also close at hand.

“Before these collages, I was busy for 17 years depicting hair from all possible perspectives. The work may change, but not the doggedness/obsession. Drawing is the passion behind everything. What interests me most is the “what” and the “how”. (Ruth Marten)

It is important to the artist that she feels that when she finds a picture, a graphic, she can only then edit it. And this is the only way to create a feeling in the viewer. Many artists underestimate the feeling that colours and forms can convey and create in art and refer only to technology. This was already a far-reaching discussion among artists in the 19th century, especially in France.

There are no limits to Marten’s possibilities of finding pictures

In doing so, she draws on a stock of already existing prints. In this way she also connects the art history of this period, more precisely of the 18th and 19th centuries, with that of today, with contemporary art. Thus it basically creates a new field of art, far away from digital media. Ruth Marten returns to the intellectual roots of art and reinvents them.

Her works make it possible to link different worlds with each other. Fabulous creatures and colourful animals carry us off into a fairytale world, yet the graphics reflect an old and a new world and time, a current event or a fashion. Fantasy, old and new, past and present, meet and thus create a different perspective on us, on the world, on what surrounds us.

The exhibition shows almost the entire oeuvre of Ruth Marten and thus a far-reaching overview. The early paintings on the theme of hair form the framework and lead to the small fine prints that Marten worked on. The collages are finely elaborated, with a love of detail. The result is a world full of grace.