German art exhibition catalogues

Nowadays art exhibition catalogues are frequently very substantial items, rich in illustrative matter and with extensive introductory essays as well as detailed description and discussion of individual paintings. Catalogues of exhibitions mounted 100 years ago are usually much slighter publications, but still of value for the Library for what they reveal about which art works were displayed, and the sometimes rich associations which they reveal.


Catalogue of an exhibition of the work of German painter Hans von Marées (S405:3.d.9.38)

The catalogue of an exhibition of the work of German painter Hans von Marées, held in Berlin in 1909, has just been added to the University Library catalogue (S405:3.d.9.38). Although illustrations are included, they are small scale pictures in black and white which are tipped in to the volume. 148 paintings and drawings were shown in the exhibition, but only 12 are illustrated. Nevertheless this is in many respects an interesting publication.

Selfportrait from Wiki

Self portrait from Wikipedia

Hans von Marées (1837-1887) began as a portraitist, but later turned his focus to mythological subjects. In the 1880s he had painted four monumental triptychs, which were clearly all included in the exhibition – the catalogue pays tribute to Paul Baumgarten and Franz Pallenberg, the architect and painter responsible for their installation. (Baumgarten was later to be a favourite architect of Adolf Hitler.) Marées died in Rome in 1887 at the age of 49. The Library has a number of much later exhibition catalogues on his work, one from 1987 held in Bielefeld and Winterthur (S405:3.b.9.246), one at the Alte Nationalgalerie in Berlin from 2008-2009 (S950.a.200.2040), another held in Wuppertal in 2008 (S950.b.200.4291) and another in the Neue Pinakothek in Munich in the same year (S405:3.b.9.238).

The 1909 exhibition was held in the Berliner Secession building on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin, into which it had moved four years earlier. The Berliner Secession had been founded in 1898 with an initial membership of 65 young artists. Bruno and Paul Cassirer, who owned a gallery in Berlin, acted as business managers. (Paul Cassirer, an active promoter of French impressionism and post-impressionism, was also the publisher of our Marées exhibition catalogue. He has featured before in our blog posts, as the husband of actress Tilla Durieux, in the article on German fiction in the Schobert film collection.) By the time of the Marées exhibition in 1909 the membership had expanded to 97, but in only the next year dissent over Expressionism led to 27 Expressionist artists breaking away to form the Neue Secession.

The Marées catalogue has a four page introduction by German sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand, designer of the famous Wittelsbacher Brunnen in Munich, who had been a close friend and collaborator with Marées. There is also a 21 page biography of the artist by Julius Meier-Graefe, whose writings on impressionism and post-impressionism were extremely influential, and having been translated into French, Russian and English, were considered to have been instrumental for the understanding and success of these artistic movements. Three years before the Marées exhibition, Meier-Graefe had been involved in the organisation of the centennial exhibition of German art at the National Gallery in Berlin, which had brought Caspar David Friedrich into far greater prominence. The catalogue, in two volumes, is entitled Ausstellung deutscher Kunst aus der Zeit von 1775-1875, and the second volume has as its frontispiece a painting by Hans von Marées. Sadly, and somewhat surprisingly, there is no copy in Cambridge.

The organizing committee for the Marées exhibition is a list of some of the most important figures in German art history at the turn of the century. All this detail is included in our recent catalogue description, which gives the committee members access points as organisers of the exhibition. It is only within the past couple of years that such detail has been incorporated into our catalogue records, with the introduction of our new cataloguing code RDA (Resource Description and Access), thereby providing our users with a greater variety of ways to exploit the Library’s holdings.

David Lowe

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