In the wake of the industrial revolution, with its unprecedented economic growth, Europe, at the turn of the twentieth century, was undergoing profound changes in every area of society. As part of a widespread challenge to social and cultural norms, artists formed influential independent exhibition societies in calculated opposition to imperial art policies or state-sponsored art academies. Secessions—pr gressive art associations that eschewed such official support—promoted painting, sculpture, graphic arts, and architecture, often within their own exhibition spaces. Looking beyond their own borders in support of an international as opposed to a regional or national agenda, they introduced their audiences to foreign avant-garde art such as French impressionism and Nordic modernism.
The first such separatist movement in central Europe was founded in Munich in 1892. Established five years later, the Vienna Secession advanced a more pronounced aesthetic position, promoting the unification of art and design.The Berlin Secession’s official formation in 1898 sought to challenge the conservative art policies of Emperor Wilhelm II; the city eventually usurped Munich’s position as Germany’s modern art center. The period also saw the rise of expressionism, exemplified in the foundation of the group Brücke (Bridge) in Dresden in 1905; it fiercely challenged academic conventions of art making, while valorizing the notion of a subjective inner vision. The increasing acceptance of the “new art” saw the waning influence of the secessions in Germany. By 1913, the year expressionist artist Erich Heckel completed the major triptych on view in this gallery, both the original Berlin Secession and the Brücke had dissolved, paving the way for even greater independence for individual artists.
This gallery includes work by prominent members of each of these organizations. Stylistically disparate, the art on view here reveals a common interest in formal experimentation with media, formats, and techniques, and in modern interpretations of the mythological and biblical art of the past.