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Rhenish expressionists - HEINRICH CAMPENDONK

An exhibition series at Kunstmuseum Bonn

12.07.2011 - 29.02.2012

With Heinrich Campendonk (1889-1957) Kunstmuseum Bonn continues its exhibition series about the Rhenish Expressionists. Following Hans Thuar and Paul Adolf Seehaus, a selection of works by Campendonk from the museum’s collection is presented on a wall in the exhibition spaces on the ground floor, accompanied by information on the artist’s life and work. At the same time the presentation of the “Noble Guests” from Kunsthalle Bremen leaves and is replaced by classical modernist works from the museum’s collection.


Heinrich Campendonk was one of the most independent artists among the Rhenish Expressionists. The close connection to Der Blaue Reiter, which he shared with August Macke, was, biographically and stilistically seen, more important for the artist than the little concrete contact he had with the Rhenish Avantgarde. However, artistic aspects, his friendship with August and Helmuth Macke and Heinrich Nauen as well as his participation in the Exhibition of Rhenish Expressionists in Bonn in 1913 justify his classification as a Rhenish Expressionist.


Campendonk’s artistic career began at the Kunstgewerbeschule in Krefeld, where he learned about van Gogh’s work whose blazing colors had a strong impact on the artist’s early paintings. A decisive change in his art brought his moving to Sindelsdorf, close to Franz Marc, and his involvement with the artists of Der Blaue Reiter. A very unconventional intermezzo during this development is Pferdekomposition from a painting series dated 1912, which follows the form models of cubism without adopting its motives. In his gouache Gelb-weiße Kuh vor Häusern Campendonk returns to the rythmics of bright colours, setting the painting’s static structure in motion. Like August Macke and Franz Marc, Campendonk was not only influenced by the results of cubism, but also by those of futurism and, above all, Delaunay’s pointilism. It is especially the depiction of animals that connects Campendonk’s art with that of Franz Marc.


The painting Junges Paar am Tisch (Stillleben mit zwei Köpfen) from 1914, a self-portray depicting Campendonk and his wife Adda, shows one of his art’s qualities: Contrary to Macke’s art, the colors Campendonk uses are cooler and the forms harder while the elements seem to float around in space, still integrated in a well-thought-out structure. In the following years, this constructive bulkiness was, however, more and more replaced by a soft, floating and calm style.


Campendonk always sticked to the poeticizing of image-reality. This is also reflected in the woodcuts he made since 1916: The country life, the nude in nature – the dream of mankind’s reconciliation with the world in the midst of destruction. Campendonk’s world seems – contrary to Marc’s metaphysic visions of unity which exclude human beings – a lot more magical and idyllic, despite its melancholy and loneliness stemming from the often frozen frontality. And thus the harlequin and the man with the mask in the placeless bright red color space are part of this world in-between that is well aware of its ostensibility. Until his late monumental glass windows, Campendonk was the one artist who carried on the ideas of Der Blaue Reiter by asking for the possibility of making visible within a painting a superordinate reality determined by inner, spiritual forces.