February 10 – May 17, 2015
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center
LOS ANGELES – Between 1800 and 1900, the Germanic world underwent a number of profound intellectual, social, economic and political changes. The writings of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the Industrial Revolution, the formal unification of Germany, and the rise of psychoanalysis all shaped modern life and its representations in art. Art reflected the spirit of the age (Zeitgeist in German), and this influential notion held sway throughout the 19th century. Bringing together objects from the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Research Institute, and distinguished private collections, Zeitgeist: Art in the Germanic World, 1800-1900, on view February 10-May 17, 2015 at the Getty Center, features German, Austrian and Czech drawings, paintings, and prints that spectacularly reflect this transformative age.
“The romantic movement of nineteenth-century art was defined above all by German artists, composers and writers, and it is they who gave it the most explicitly spiritual expression, as a way of seeing, representing and understanding nature as the primal and defining force of life,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “It is still, however, less well known than its rival movements in nineteenth-century art—Neoclassicism and, later, French Impressionism. German Romantic drawings, paintings, and prints are rare in this country and we are fortunate to have extraordinary riches in Los Angeles, not only at the J. Paul Getty Museum and Getty Research Institute, but also in local private collections. This exhibition offers our visitors a rare insight into this fascinating and increasingly influential period in the history of art through works that are by turns dark and brooding, exhilarating and affirming.”
The transcendent domination of nature over human life was perhaps the most important defining theme of German Romantic art in the early 19th century. This concept received its greatest expression in the work of Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774-1840) and Philipp Otto Runge (German, 1777-1810), both of whom are prominently featured in the exhibition. Friedrich, a loner, found his inspiration in vast, empty landscapes that he used as vehicles for ruminating on death, the mystery of human life, and the human spirit. His haunting A Walk at Dusk (about 1830-35) features a cloaked man walking in moonlight, contemplating a megalithic tomb. The cold light of the waxing moon, moody indigo sky, and lifeless trees offer a painted reverie about death and the passage of time.
Runge‘s art also centered upon the world of nature and its relation to the cycle of human life through its perpetual process of emergence and decay. His early death at the age of 33 makes his spare meditations on life and death all the more affecting. His four prints from the Times of Day series constitute a virtual manifesto of his art, and he evokes the organic process of conception, growth, decay, and death through the blooming and fading of flowers.
Many German artists were drawn to Rome or the Eternal City and its environs because of its picturesque scenery and remnants of classical antiquity. One section of the exhibition explores this theme with drawings that range from the classically pastoral imagery of Joseph Anton Koch to the proto-Modernist sparseness of Ernst Fries.
Zeitgeist: Art in the Germanic World, 1800-1900, is on view February 10-May 17, 2015 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center. The exhibition is curated by Lee Hendrix, senior curator of drawings at the J. Paul Getty Museum. A full list of related events to be announced.
The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Malibu.
The J. Paul Getty Museum collects in seven distinct areas, including Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts, and photographs gathered internationally. The Museum's mission is to make the collection meaningful and attractive to a broad audience by presenting and interpreting the works of art through educational programs, special exhibitions, publications, conservation, and research.
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