February 16, 2015

Getty Museum Presents Zeitgeist: Art in the Germanic World

February 10 – May 17, 2015
At the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center

Julie Jaskol
Getty Communications
(310) 440-7607

Frantiek Kupka (Czech, 1871 - 1957). Girl Shading Her Eyes, about 1908. Pastel. 22 11/16 x 18 1/4 in. 2010.93. © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, Gift of Richard A. Simms in Memory of James N. Wood (1941-2010), President and Chief Executive Officer of the J. Paul Getty Trust 2007-2010

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.
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld (German, 1794 – 1872). Siegfried Battles with the Gatekeeper, 1865, Black ink and graphite. Image: 11 9/16 x 8 1/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
In the 1800s, art academies assumed prominence in Germany and Austria-Hungary for the training of young artists. The strict academic regimen hindered artists from expressing their individual temperaments, and a number of breakaway movements developed. The Nazarenes were one such movement centered in Rome, where artists shared a communal life in search of artistic renewal and spiritual purity. They created many book illustrations as seen in Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s Siegfried Battles with the Gatekeeper (1865). Used as preparation for the printed illustration for the epic poem The Song of the Nibelungs, the drawing features Siegfried, a legendary, dragon-slaying hero, fighting his way into a fortress of the evil dwarf Alberich. In the finished illustration the verses of the poem were added to the empty box.

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.

Gustav Klimt (Austrian, 1862 - 1918). Portrait of a Young Woman Reclining, 1897 - 1898, Black chalk. 45.5 x 31.5 cm (17 15/16 x 12 3/8 in.) The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
The end of the 19th century, however, saw the rise of Vienna as one of Europe’s cultural centers. Music and art flourished in an edgy atmosphere that celebrated taboo themes of sex and the unfettered subconscious. The Vienna Secession, formed in 1897 by nineteen artists and led by Gustav Klimt, searched for new forms of expression that would be in keeping with modern life. This part of the exhibition includes work by Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Franz Kupka, and other artists who worked primarily in Austria-Hungary. Klimt’s Portrait of a Young Woman Reclining (1897-98) features a young woman resting on a chaise, her face haloed by a cloud of hair. Its soft-focus handling and dreamlike atmosphere were key elements of the Vienna Secession’s artistic philosophy.

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.

Caspar David Friedrich (German, 1774 – 1840) A Walk at Dusk, about 1830 - 1835, Oil on canvas. 13 1/8 x 17 3/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles
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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.

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