Der Blaue Reiter

The Blue Rider is a designation by Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc for their exhibition and publication activity, in which both artists acted as sole editors in the eponymous almanac, which was first published in mid-May 1912. The editorial team organized in 1911 and 1912 two exhibitions in Munich in order to prove his theory of art performances based on the works of art exhibited. This was followed by exhibitions in Germany and other European cities. The Blue Rider disbanded at the beginning of the First World War in 1914.

Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) was a group of artists united in rejection of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München in Munich, Germany. The group was founded by a number of Russian emigrants, including Wassily Kandinsky, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and native German artists, such as Franz Marc, August Macke and Gabriele Münter. They considered that the principles of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München, a group Kandinsky had founded in 1909, had become too strict and traditional.

Der Blaue Reiter was an art movement lasting from 1911 to 1914, fundamental to Expressionism, along with Die Brücke which was founded in 1905.

The artists working in the area of the Blue Rider were important pioneers of modern art in the 20th century; they formed a loose network of relationships, but not a group of artists in the narrower sense like the bridge in Dresden. The work of the affiliated artists is assigned to German Expressionism.

Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, August Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, Gabriele Münter, Lyonel Feininger, Albert Bloch and others formed the group in response to the rejection of Kandinsky’s painting Last Judgment from an exhibition. Der Blaue Reiter lacked an artistic manifesto, but it was centered on Kandinsky and Marc. Paul Klee was also involved.

The name of the movement is the title of a painting that Kandinsky created in 1903, but it is unclear whether it is the origin of the name of the movement, as Professor Klaus Lankheit learned that the title of the painting had been overwritten. Kandinsky wrote 20 years later that the name is derived from Marc’s enthusiasm for horses and Kandinsky’s love of riders, combined with a shared love of the colour blue. For Kandinsky, blue is the colour of spirituality: the darker the blue, the more it awakens human desire for the eternal (see his 1911 book On the Spiritual in Art).

Within the group, artistic approaches and aims varied from artist to artist; however, the artists shared a common desire to express spiritual truths through their art. They believed in the promotion of modern art; the connection between visual art and music; the spiritual and symbolic associations of colour; and a spontaneous, intuitive approach to painting. Members were interested in European medieval art and primitivism, as well as the contemporary, non-figurative art scene in France. As a result of their encounters with cubist, fauvist and Rayonist ideas, they moved towards abstraction.

From the New Artists’ Association for Blue Rider

The forerunner of the Blue Rider was the New Artists’ Association Munich (NKVM), co-founded by Wassily Kandinsky in 1909, and as its first chairman he organized the exhibitions from 1909 and 1910. Even before the first exhibition, due to a disagreement with the painter Charles Johann Palmié, Kandinsky introduced the so-called “four- square meter clause” into the NKVM statutes. In 1911 she gave him and Franz Marc the opportunity to leave the club and to organize the first Blauer Reiter exhibition. Der Blaue Reiter was therefore a fork (Secession) from the NKVM

When the conservative forces in the NKVM repeatedly came into dispute that sparked in Kandinsky’s increasingly abstract painting, he resigned on January 10, 1911, but remained as a simple member of the association. His successor was Adolf Erbslöh. Developed in June Kandinsky plans to own activities outside the NKVM An “Art Almanac”, possibly the chain could mean he intended to bring out. On June 19, he informed Marc of his idea and won him over to participating by offering him the joint editing of the book.

A letter from Marc to Reinhard Piper on September 10 indicates that it had now been renamed The Blue Rider. In 1930 Kandinsky commented on the naming in his review: “ We invented the name The Blue Rider at the coffee table in the gazebo in Sindelsdorf. We both loved blue, Marc – horses, I – rider. So the name came by itself. ”

Marc wrote to August Macke on August 10, complaining about Kanoldt and Erbslöh’s differing artistic intentions in the NKVM and trying to get Macke to join in order to strengthen his position. He foresaw a “horrific conflict split, or resignation of one or the other party”. On September 8, the ruin of NKVM was a done deal. Marc spoke of a “quick burial of the association”. Macke was privy to. Gabriele Münterhad been privy to the plan from the beginning, as can be seen from a letter from Kandinsky on August 6, 1911: “I paint and paint now. Lots of sketches for the Last Judgment. But I’m dissatisfied with everything. But I have to find how to tackle it! Just be patient. ”

In October Kandinsky secretly painted on the over four square meter abstract painting for the overthrow, which he completed on November 17, 1911. Kandinsky called it Composition V and gave it the very symbolic subtitle The Last Judgment. He submitted this painting to the jury on December 2, 1911, based on Palmié’s model – knowing the statutes of the NKVM – for the upcoming winter exhibition. There was the hoped-for scandal, the majority rejected Kandinsky’s picture in accordance with the statutes.

Together with Münter and Marc, Kandinsky left the NKVM after heated discussions. That same evening, Maria Marc wrote to the friend Macke and quotedMarianne von Werefkin with the words: “So, gentlemen, now we are losing the two most worthy members, plus a wonderful picture, and we will soon have sleepers on our heads.” Werefkin and Alexej von Jawlensky later left the NKVM, but were artistically on the side of the withdrawn. The still nameless new group published a short newspaper ad on December 8 of the year: “The following artists have left the New Artists’ Association in Munich: Hartmann, Kandinsky, Kubin, Fauconnier, Marc, Münter.”

Only more than twenty years later did Kandinsky reveal his and Marc’s plan for the first time: “Since we both sensed the noise earlier, we had prepared another exhibition.” [ 22 ] Kandinsky became even clearer on November 22, 1938 in a letter to Galka Scheyer who represented him in America within the exhibition community The Blue Four. For the history of art, he enlightened her about the creation of the first exhibition of the editorial team of the Blue Rider:

“My job [at the NKVM] ended with a nice noise that led to the establishment of the Blue Rider. The NKVM was founded in 1908. I left at the end of 1911. Immediately afterwards, with the help of Franz Marc, I organized an exhibition by the BR [Blauer Reiter] editorial team at Thannhauser. Our halls were close to the rooms of the NKVM exhibition. It was a sensation. Since I anticipated the ‘noise’ in good time, I had prepared a wealth of exhibition material for the BR. So the two exhibitions took place simultaneously. The first copies of the spiritual in art lay on the tables of the Thannhauser Gallery. Revenge was sweet! ”

Marc and Kandinsky did not intend to create a new artist association in the sense of a community with “fixed statutes” or to propagate a certain direction, but rather they wanted to bundle the variety of art expressions in an editorial context. In retrospect, Kandinsky wrote in 1935: “In reality there was never an association ‘The Blue Rider’, nor a ‘group’, as is often mistakenly described. Marc and I took what seemed right to us without worrying about any opinions or wishes. ”

Macke, Münter, von Werefkin, Jawlensky, Alfred Kubin, Paul Klee and Hanns Bolz felt closely connected to the Der Blaue Reiter editorial team and exhibited repeatedly with them. Composers such as Arnold Schönberg, who was also a painter, also belonged to the Blue Rider. The members combined their interest in medieval and primitive art and the contemporary movements of Fauvism and Cubism.

August Macke and Franz Marc took the view that everyone has an inner and an outer reality of experience that should be brought together by art. This idea was theoretically supported by Kandinsky. The aim was to achieve equality between the art forms.

Exhibitions 1911-1912
The first of the two exhibitions of the Blue Rider took place from December 18, 1911 to January 1, 1912 in the Modern Gallery Heinrich Thannhauser in the Arco-Palais, Theatinerstrasse 7, in Munich under the title “The first exhibition of the editorial team The Blue Rider”, parallel to the third exhibition of the NKVM in the same building. It showed “43 listed in the catalog and at least 5 other works apart from the catalog of the following artists: Henri Rousseau, Albert Bloch, David and Wladimir Burljuk, Heinrich Campendonk, Robert Delaunay, Elisabeth Epstein, Eugen von Kahler,Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, Franz Marc, Gabriele Münter, Jean-Bloé Niestlé and Arnold Schönberg ”.

In addition to the works listed in the catalog, such as Kandinsky’s composition V – the starting point of the jury dispute in the NKVM – Mackes The Storm and Indians on Horses as well as Marc’s The Yellow Cow and Roe Deer in the Forest I, his monkey frieze was hung, which was not listed in the catalog because Bernhard Koehler had made it available from his collection at short notice. The modern at that time music was also included in the exhibition, so Publications of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg and Anton Webern.

The French painter Henri Rousseau, whom Kandinsky admired as a “great realist”, who died a year ago, was honored with a laurel wreath with a mourning napkin that stood under his picture Chicken Courtyard. Schönberg, who was also a painter, had given his paintings Nocturnal Landscape (not represented in the catalog) and his self-portrait (from behind) to the exhibition. The Swiss animal painter Jean-Bloé Niestlé suspended his realistic animal pictures again, since these works were not given equal rights in relation to the abstract ones. Schönberg had at least considered this step.

The legendary first exhibition is documented by six photos by Gabriele Münter, which, together with the catalog list and the illustrated works, made it possible to reconstruct the show. Delaunay, who did not live in Munich – the contact was made through Kandinsky’s pupil Epstein – was the most successful artist, giving three of four pictures to Bernhard Koehler, the collector and patron of Macke and Marc, to Adolf Erbslöh as well as to Alexej von Jawlensky. The exhibition then went on tour in other cities, including in the Gereonsklub after Cologne and in Herwarth Walden’s newly opened galleryThe storm in Berlin. The traveling exhibition also featured works by Jawlensky and Werefkin, who had also left the NKVM and joined the Blue Rider. Further stations until 1914 were Bremen, Hagen, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Budapest, Oslo, Helsinki, Trondheim and Gothenburg.

In the exhibition – as later in the almanac – the principle of confrontation prevailed “to show an inner commonality in the diversity. Nevertheless, a staging was undertaken with the hanging, which highlighted the spectacular pictures of Delaunay, Marc and Kandinsky, around which the more modest pictures of the co-exhibitors were grouped. ”

The second exhibition followed from February 12 to March 18, 1912 on the 1st floor of the Munich book and art shop Hans Goltz in Briennerstrasse 8. The title of the catalog was “The second exhibition of the editorial team The Blue Rider Black and White”, Among the 315 exhibits, however, were not only single-color works, as the title suggests. She only showed works on paper: watercolors, etchings, drawings and woodcuts, including works by Hans Arp, Georges Braque, André Derain, Paul Klee, Alfred Kubin, Kasimir Malewitsch and Pablo Picassoin addition to the works of Marc, Mackes, Kandinsky and – originally against Kandinsky’s will – the Brücke artists. In contrast to the first exhibition, this exhibition was limited to the one-off date and did not lead to confusion among the participating artists as in the first exhibition.

The almanac “Der Blaue Reiter”
In Murnau, where Wassily Kandinsky and his partner Gabriele Münter had been living since 1909, as well as in neighboring Sindelsdorf, where Franz and Maria Marc and Heinrich Campendonk lived, crucial parts of the preparatory work and editorial discussions for the edition of the almanac took place in autumn 1911. Münter’s house, which the locals called ” Russen’s house “, quickly developed into a meeting place for artists in the area of the Blue Rider.

The name of the editorial team continued in Kandinsky’s woodcut from 1911, which served in 1912 as an illustration of the cover of the almanac with the same title The Blue Rider. The final motif after eleven designs showed Saint George for the first time. Kandinsky had already painted a picture with this title in 1903. Kandinsky wrote about the color blue, which dominates the picture:

“The deeper the blue becomes, the deeper it calls man into the infinite, awakens in him the longing for the pure and finally the supernatural. It is the color of the sky. ”
The patrons of the project were art collector Bernhard Koehler and publisher Reinhard Piper, who promised financial support. Another patron of the project, the art historian and museum specialist Hugo von Tschudi, died before the book was published. At the publisher’s request, however, the word “almanac” was omitted shortly before printing. Kandinsky had to remove it from his finished title woodcut. The Tschudi dedicated factory with 141 [mostly monochrome] reproductions, 19 articles and three musical supplements came out in May 1912 published by Kandinsky and Marc, with Piper in Munich.

The Piper Verlag took over advertising and sales, manufacturing costs Bernhard Koehler; Kandinsky and Marc had to forego a fee. The first edition was 1,200 copies, the printing plates to be retained for further editions.

An advertising slip from the publisher, the publication of which is estimated to be in March 1912, showed the image of Rousseau’s chicken farm and gave a selection of the contributors as well as the publishers Kandinsky and Marc. Three issues were displayed: The price for the general stapled issue should be 10 marks, as a bound 14 marks. The luxury edition at the price of 50 marks should consist of 50 copies and additionally contain two woodcuts colored and signed by the artists themselves. Lastly, a museum edition for 100 marks was offered in an edition of 10 copies, which should contain an original work by one of the participating artists. The original graphics of the preferred editions were glued in by hand and protected by glassine paper.

In Marc’s words, the programmatic work comprised “the latest painterly movement in France, Germany and Russia and shows its fine links with the Gothic and the primitive, with Africa and the great Orient, with the expressive original folk art and children’s art, especially with the modern musical movement in Europe and the new stage ideas of our time ”. Marc wrote three short introductory chapters, Spiritual Goods,

The “Wild” of Germany and Two Pictures. Kandinsky wrote the basic article on the question of form and an obituary for Eugen von Kahler, and August Macke wrote Die Masken, In addition to texts and pictures, Arnold Schönberg contributed the composition Herzgewächse to this font as a music supplement. Alban Berg set to music From the glowing of Alfred Mombert and Anton von Webern Stefan Georges You joined the herd. The Russian composer Thomas von Hartmann wrote the article On Anarchy in Music and had set the music for Kandinsky’s stage composition The Yellow Sound, which concluded the book. In addition to the members of the group including works of the bridge members were Arp, Cézanne, Delaunay, Gauguin, El Greco, Matisse, Picasso and Rousseau included in the almanac.

A planned second almanac no longer appeared; relations with each other had cooled due to Kandinsky’s dominant position. Macke in particular withdrew and advised his friend Marc “to work without thinking about the ‘Blue Rider’ and blue horses.” In 1913 he painted a picture entitled Persiflage on the Blue Rider, which indicates his distance. The watercolor shows Marc on the carriage on the left from the center, Kandinsky on the right next to it, sitting in the carriage, and on the top right the profile of Herwarth Walden. Macke is small and insignificant at the bottom right. The picture is covered with flowing lines and color spots and caricatures Kandinsky’s abstract style. Significantly, the reprint of the first edition appeared in 1914 with separate forewords from the two editors. Later editions followed, and it was translated into all world languages.

Participation in exhibitions in Cologne and Berlin
The artists of the Blue Rider took part in the exhibition of the Special Association of West German Art Friends and Artists in Cologne in 1912 and then in 1913 in Berlin at the First German Autumn Salon, which was organized by Herwarth Walden and his Sturm Gallery.

With few exceptions, contemporary audiences and art critics did not understand the new language of painting. Anton von Werner, director of the Berlin Art Academy, for example, saw the Blue Rider as “an interesting object for a psychiatric study”, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung recorded “a mild horror”. In contrast, the art historian Hans Tietze expressed himself positively in the magazine Kunst für alle (XXXVII / 1911/12), in which he formulated: “that imitation of nature, depicting reality are not the tasks of art”.

The end of the Blaue Reiter
The project of the Almanac series ended not only because of the growing discrepancies between the artists involved, but also because of the political circumstances. When World War I broke out in 1914, Kandinsky had to return to Russia and finally separated from Münter. The Russian citizens Jawlensky and von Werefkin also left Germany. Marc and Macke fell on the battlefields in France.


The founders of this movement, which constitutes an important stage in the evolution of expressionism, were Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc: in 1912, they published an almanac entitled Der Blaue Reiter, which contained several essays on contemporary painting and music. The almanac and Kandinsky’s book Of the spiritual in art published the same year, were two fundamental theoretical texts for the group. Other artists such as Henry Rousseau, Heinrich Campendonk, Robert Delaunay, the Bourliouk brothers, August Macke, Gabriele Münter, Paul Klee, were part of the group and participated in the two exhibitions of 1911 and 1912 in Munich.

Artistic approach
What emerges from reading the almanac is the absence of any traditional division between the different artistic techniques: there is at the same time a homogeneity of thought, a common belief in the inner life of the artist, in the form as an exteriorization of the creative intuition of the painter or the musician, in the links which unite the new arts with the ancient arts, the European arts with African or Asian arts, learned or popular, links located in the depths of man, in what is more archetypal. The almanac includes a set of articles of general aesthetics which underline the will of their authors not to enclose their thought in an unchanging system, but to be able to extend and branch their field of action as much as possible.

Musical thought has undoubtedly constituted a source of privileged reflection for artists like Kandinsky, František Kupka or Robert Delaunay, who have precisely sought the organizational structures of plastic space, likely to move away, even to escape the laws of representation. The advent of abstract art quite aptly coincides with an increased interest in musical forms. It is in this sense that Kandinsky declared music superior to painting in that it did not need to create “images” to generate sensations, emotions, thus affirming that it is in this that our ear is far superior to our eye.

Many artists and musicians participated in its realization, in particular Alexandre Scriabine, whose research on the conjunction of the arts of time (music) and space (painting) generates a long line, which continues even today, creators whose research focuses on the concept of synesthesia. This almanac brings together articles and chronicles of art written only by artists. Schönberg gives an article, his score from Herzgewächse, op. 20, and two reproductions of his paintings.

Despite its brevity, the Blue Rider truly marked an era: around this movement rallied great creators united by the same faith of spiritual renewal of our civilization, imagining an art that would know “neither people, nor border, but the only humanity ” (Kandinsky). Beyond formal differences, this spiritual vision of art allowed them to establish a fundamental relationship between the emerging abstraction and the realism of a Douanier Rousseau, between the arts of Africa or Bavarian folklore, and the latest productions from the European avant-garde.

To sum up, the Blue Rider, and more particularly the almanac, are not to be confused with the artistic approaches of the two creators, in the sense that the parallel between atonality and abstraction is not at the center of their contributions. Thus, the book is characterized by the extension of the artistic field it offers: on the one hand in space (primitive, Gothic, Renaissance arts, coming from Europe or extra-Europeans, in this case African, Chinese…), on the other hand in different fields (plastic arts, music, literature, children’s art…). The movement of the Blue Rider represents an unusual example of openness emanating from a small avant-garde group.

Influences of Der Blaue Reiter
Paul Klee taught from 1921 and Wassily Kandinsky from 1922 at the Bauhaus in Weimar and later in Dessau. With Kandinsky, Klee and Alexej von Jawlensky, three of the artists involved in the Blauer Reiter together with Lyonel Feininger under the direction of Galka Scheyer in 1924 formed the exhibition group Die Blaue Vier – a throwback to the Blauer Reiter – in Weimar, Scheyer mainly in the USA represented.

Munich as a place of avant-garde in modern art ended with the dissolution of the Blue Rider. His ideas were forgotten, and during the Nazi era, numerous works by her artists were denigrated as “ degenerate ”, destroyed or sold abroad. The sale certainly had an unintended consequence: the pictures of the Blue Rider became known to the international public and the concepts of the artists after 1945 were received abroad rather than in Germany. Artists from Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands such as Asger Jorn or the group CoBrA continued ideas from Kandinsky and Marc.

It wasn’t until 1949 that the Munich House of Art under the direction of Ludwig Grote showed in the exhibition “The Blue Rider. Munich and 20th century art. The Way from 1908-1914 “Works by the artists involved. Gabriele Münter was a member of the Honorary Committee and was able to witness the rediscovery of abstract painting, which Kandinsky had consistently continued. Among many other collectors, she was one of the lenders of the exhibits, as were the artist widows Nina Kandinsky and Sonia Delaunay. Images from the collection of Hildebrand Gurlitt, Hitler’s former art dealer, were also represented. They were the organizersBayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, the Münchner Städtische Galerie and the “Cultural Affairs Branch ‘”, a department of the American occupation authority responsible for cultural exchange. Parallel to this commemorative exhibition, the gallery Stangl from August 30, 1949 showed the exhibition Franz Marc. Watercolors and drawings, for which a catalog with a foreword by Klaus Lankheit was published.

According to today’s view, the Blue Rider is one of the most important stations of classic modernism.

The Blue Rider in the Lenbachhaus
After Wassily Kandinsky’s separation from Gabriele Münter, a legal dispute developed over the ownership of his Murnau paintings in the 1920s, which largely went in favor of Münter in 1926. During the Nazi era, she hid many pictures of Kandinsky and other members of the Blue Rider in the basement of her house. On the occasion of her 80th birthday, she bequeathed a large part of her estate to the city of Munich in 1957. These included 25 of his own paintings, 90 oil paintings by Kandinsky and more than 300 of his watercolors, tempera sheets, reverse glass pictures and drawings. Münter created the prerequisite that The Blue Rider in the Municipal Gallery in Lenbachhausis represented in Munich. In 1965, the Bernhard and Elly Koehler Foundation was added to Münter’s donation, which supplemented the holdings in particular with pictures by Franz Marc and August Macke. Since the Lenbachhaus was closed for a long time due to renovation work until spring 2013, many works by the Blue Rider artists were made available to other exhibitions. Since May 7, 2013, the day of the reopening, they have been shown to visitors in daylight.

Der Blaue Reiter led a short existence from 1911 to 1914, dissolving mainly due to the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. Franz Marc and August Macke were in fact killed in combat, while Wassily Kandinsky and Marianne von Werefkin were forced due to their citizenship to return to Russia. Even Alexej von Jawlensky was forced to flee, and, like some other German artists, took refuge in Ascona in Switzerland, where he painted for a few years before returning to Munich again at the end of the war. There were also divergences of opinion within the group, which contributed to its rapid dissolution.

The Blue 2011
The Free State of Bavaria celebrated two anniversaries in 2011, the 125th anniversary of the death of the “fairy tale king” Ludwig II and the 100th birthday of the Blue Rider. Many exhibitions in museums showed the works of the participating artists in special shows, for example the Schloßmuseum Murnau, the Franz Marc Museum in Kochel am See, the Buchheim Museum in Bernried and the Stadtmuseum Penzberg.

The German Post AG was a 100th anniversary commemorative stamp out the value of 145 euro cents. Issue date was February 9, 2012. The stamp shows the work Blue Horse I from 1911 by Franz Marc, the design comes from the communication designer Nina Clausing from Wuppertal.