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Der Blaue Reiter

Der Blaue Reiter Collage

Started: 1911

Ended: 1914

"The artist must train not only his eye but also his soul, so that it can weigh colors in its own scale and thus become a determinant in artistic creation."

Wassily Kandinsky Signature

Summary of Der Blaue Reiter

One of the two pioneering movements of German Expressionism, Der Blaue Reiter began in Munich as an abstract counterpart to Die Brücke's distorted figurative style. While both confronted feelings of alienation within an increasingly modernizing world, Der Blaue Reiter sought to transcend the mundane by pursuing the spiritual value of art. Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc were the theoretical centers of the group, which included a number of Russian immigrants and native Germans. This internationalism led the group to mount several traveling exhibitions during their brief tenure, making them an indispensable force in the promotion of early avant-garde painting.

Key Ideas

Though Der Blaue Reiter had no official manifesto, Kandinsky's treatise Concerning the Spiritual in Art (1910) laid out several of its guiding principles. Concerning the Spiritual crystallized the group's pursuit of non-objective or abstract painting and was widely read in avant-garde artistic circles across Europe and beyond.
Der Blaue Reiter painting was structured around an idea that color and form carried concrete spiritual values. Thus, the move into abstraction resulted partly from radically separating form and color into discrete elements within a painting or applying non-naturalistic color to recognizable objects. The name "Der Blaue Reiter" referred to Kandinsky and Marc's belief that blue was the most spiritual color and that the rider symbolized the ability to move beyond.
In searching for a language that would express their unique approach to abstract visual form, the artists of Der Blaue Reiter drew parallels between painting and music. Often naming their works Compositions, Improvisations, and Études (among other things), they explored music as the abstract art par excellence, lacking as it does a tangible or figurative manifestation. This also led them to explore notions of synesthesia, the crossing or "union" of the senses in perceiving color, sound, and other stimuli.
Beside its own groundbreaking artists, Der Blaue Reiter's traveling exhibitions featured the leading proponents of Fauvism, Cubism, and the Russian avant-garde, creating a vital central European forum for the development and proliferation of modern art.
Der Blaue Reiter Image


In January of 1909, Wassily Kandinsky proposed forming a new group of like-minded artists in opposition to traditional exhibition venues, the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (Munich New Artists' Association), a secession movement that contained several future members of Der Blaue Reiter. The founders included Kandinsky's Russian compatriots Alexej von Jawlensky and Marianne von Werefkin, as well as the Germans Gabriele Munter, Alexander Kanoldt, and the German-American Adolf Erbsloh. Aside from their desire to "secede" from the mainstream art institution and their dedication to modern art, these artists shared an expressionistic visual style culled partly from the example of Fauvism and partly from turn-of-the-century Symbolism, as exemplified by artists like Edvard Munch and Gustav Klimt.

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