The Gemeentemuseum possesses a splendid collection of German Expressionist works on paper. From October, a selection of these drawings, water colours and prints will be on display. They will include works by artists such as Paul Klee, Erich Heckel, Ernst-Ludwig Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Franz Marc, Vasily Kandinsky, Käthe Kollwitz, Max Pechstein and Paula Modersohn-Becker. In combination with small sculptures by Georg Kolbe, Ernst Barlach and Wilhelm Lehmbruck, these will give visitors a clear impression of the fascination and complexity of German Expressionism. The Expressionists used colour and line to try to represent their experience of reality, as filtered through their own perceptions and emotions.
It is hardly surprising, therefore, that – working in the turbulent decades around the First World War – they produced many socially and politically engaged works. But they also tackled other subjects, such as man in the (often dispiriting) urban environment, biblical figures, female nudes, animals gambolling in fairy-tale landscapes, and portraits of themselves and other people. Many of the over two hundred prints and drawings in the Gemeentemuseum’s collection were acquired in the period between the First and Second World Wars. In the 1920s and ’30s many other Dutch museums were still undecided about the German Expressionists’ sometimes crude and confrontational style and choice of subject. A recently completed large-scale study of the reception given to German Expressionist art in the Netherlands shows how progressive the acquisitions policy of the Gemeentemuseum was in this respect. That study, conducted by Gregor Langfeld and sponsored by the Mondrian Foundation, provides the basis for this forthcoming exhibition in the museum’s Print Room.