Exhibit highlights Brucke and birth of expressionism

Fri Feb 27, 2009 12:44pm EST
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By Walker Simon

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - For a patriotic Germany sounding the trumpet of nationalism in the run-up to World War One a group of artists known as Brucke were out of tune.

But an exhibition of their work, which opened at the Neue Galerie this week, shows how they acted as trailblazers of expressionism and influenced the development of modern art.

"Their style and subjects were scandalous in the context of the Germany of the time," said Reinhold Heller, the curator of the exhibition.

Founded in 1905 in Dresden, the artists chose the name Brucke, or bridge in German, because "they saw their movement as the bridge to a utopian future," according to Heller.

They envisioned a utopia with communal work, leafy cities and nudist retreats, as a tonic to the frenzy of urban life.

Challenging Prussian pride in burgeoning Berlin, they depicted the capital of the newly unified German Empire as plagued by industrial grime and stressed dwellers.

They were also at odds with the Kaiser's championing of patriotic art, often of battle scenes, depicting heroic young men, Heller said.

Instead, Brucke usually portrayed youths as young girls, seen as embodying free spirits.   Continued...

<p>Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 1908-1919 painting, "Street, Dresden" is displayed during a preview of the "Brucke: The Birth of Expressionism in Dresden and Berlin, 1905-1913" exhibition at the Neue Galerie in New York February 25, 2009. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>