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Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Corner of a Park (1910)

 
       
 

Water Under The Bridge! 

   
 

The Brücke at the Neue Galerie

   

 

  

 

The brash, incandescent use of color combined with a youthful willingness to tackle almost any subject matter with irreverence helped to propel four unknown architecture students to artistic fame in turn-of-the-century Dresden.  The Brücke (German for bridge) was formed in 1905 by Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, who were later joined by Herman Max Pechstein, Otto Mueller and Emile Nolde.  They found inspiration in sources as diverse as Impressionism, Jugendstil, Oceanic, and African art.  And of course, Fauvism - the Brücke artists were all about wild color! 

The group's name alluded to Dresden's many picturesque bridges over the Elbe, and to a quote from Nietzsche: "Man is a rope, fastened between animal and Superman . . . What is great in man is that he is a bridge and not a goal." Their manifesto implied forward movement, the open-ended future - sweeping aside classicism and paving the way for something bold and modern. (And of course, the soaring architecture of bridges have inspired other great artists in a more literal sense - think Joseph Stella and his famous Brooklyn Bridge.)

The Brücke artists rendered the city in chaotic frenzied street scenes that sometimes bordered on the grotesque, distorting forms and facial expressions with delicious and sometimes salacious audacity.  They wanted to épater la bourgeoisie, in this case the stifling turn-of-the-century German burghers and art world denizens.

These young Bohemians achieved their greatest effects with the daring use of color, sometimes brightly fauvist, at others eerily pale.  They gave their human subjects pea-green, turmeric-yellow and carmine-red skin, electric-blue overcoats and bright lipstick-red dresses.  They transformed city landscapes and country scenes with effusive explosions of expressionistic color.  Color and emotion, color as emotion if you will - it was the birth of German expressionism!

Rottluff's Corner of a Park (1910) has a wide, red inferno of a road that flows upward, seemingly merging with an equally fiery sky above.  Yellows and pinks swirl about in a Van Gogh-esque sky.  The trees and grass are also consumed by an eruption of color - everything is set in twirling, off-kilter motion.

By the time the Brücke disbanded in 1913, it had ushered in German Expressionism and presented a raw, vibrant approach to creating art that reflected passion and emotion rather than restraint or refinement.  

 

See: Brücke: the Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913, through June 29, 2009 at The Neue Galerie New York, located at 1048 Fifth Avenue 

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