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THE UNCANNY HOME

Interiors from Edvard Munch to Max Beckmann

20.10.2016 - 29.01.2017

The transformation of the home from familiar safe haven into a place both alien and uncanny is one for which art has found a host of haunting images. From the late nineteenth century onward, these images formed part of the history of the interior as a genre, providing vivid proof of how scenes of everyday life and domestic bliss increasingly became scenes of angst and imperilment.

The Modernist crisis that cast doubt on the identity and coherence of the subject eventually infected the one realm that had hitherto counted as safe, namely the subject's own home, which to a subject alienated from the self was itself bound to become alien.

This exhibition of the work of twenty-five different artists, such as Edvard Munch, Édouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Odilon Redon, Félix Vallotton, James Ensor, Vilhelm Hammershøi, Léon Spilliaert, Erich Heckel, Karl Hofer, Max Beckmann, assembles over a hundred paintings, drawings, and prints that all turn on the same basic themes and in some cases the same motifs. The period it spans, starting in the late nineteenth century and extending into the first half of the twentieth century, from the Nabis to the Symbolists, from Expressionism to Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), saw the image of the interior become an object of artistic license, spawning prison-like, uncanny interiors infused with darkness, isolation, and violence. Edvard Munch, Max Beckmann, and other artists like them took as their material the interior's potential to trouble us and proceeded to model it-Munch by laying bare how lost he was to anxiety in cavernous, drastically foreshortened rooms, and Beckmann by cramming his own spaces with clutter in a futile attempt to fend off their infinity.

The works exhibited do not belong in some rarefied realm of art, far removed from reality; on the contrary, they visualize an experience of existential significance. The message that they-literally-bring home to us is that our hopes of a safe space affording happiness and protection against an increasingly complex world are liable to be disappointed even within our own four walls, and that not even at home are we necessarily at home.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue available from Hirmer publishers at a price of 35 Euro with texts by Volker Adolphs, Johannes Binotto, Irene Horn and Felix Krämer.

With kind support from:
Hans Fries-Stiftung, Ministerium für Familie, Kinder, Jugend, Kultur und Sport des Landes NRW, Landschafsverband Rheinland and Jürgen Hall

Bild und Headerbild oben (Detail): Léon Spilliaert, Selbstporträt 3. November 1908, Aquarell, Farbkreide, Tinte, 49,7 x 65 cm, Privatbesitz © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn/SABAM Belgium

Max Beckmann, Im Artistenwagen (Zirkuswagen), 1940, Öl auf Leinwand, 86,5 x 118,5 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Foto: © Städel Museum – U. Edelmann – ARTOTHEK

Edvard Munch, Eifersucht, 1907, Öl auf Leinwand, 89 x 82,5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo, Foto: © Munch Museum