The art produced by the French and German avantgarde between the end of the nineteenth century and the outbreak of World War I is widely celebrated today. Its creators include such renowned artists as Van Gogh, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, Cézanne and Kandinsky. Their works, distinguished by their originality, power and beauty, are considered among the early masterpieces of modern art. When art history chronicled this fascinating era, two discrete critical discourses emerged, positing distinct French and German movements. Thanks to the extensive research of Timothy O. Benson, curator of the Robert Gore Rifkind Center for German Expressionist Studies at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), this exhibition – exceptional by the importance of the works on loan – provides us with a broader understanding of the complex cross-cultural influences during the period, which gave rise to this phenomenally rich and compelling artistic production.
The political context of this prewar era informs the way we view this remarkable period of creativity and exchange between French and German artists. One hundred years after the outbreak of World War I, we consider the particularly cosmopolitan atmosphere in Europe that set the stage for this period of artistic ferment, as well as the circumstances that brought it to a dramatic halt when war was declared in 1914. The exhibition will follow the trajectory of Expressionism, from its roots in Paris in 1900 – the universally acknowledged centre of the arts at the time – to Germany in 1914, when several exponents of Expressionism responded to the call to arms.