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Conrad Felixmüller Between Art and Politics. Edited by Ingrid Mössinger and Thomas Bauer-Friedrich


1 Conrad Felixmüller Between Art and Politics Edited by Ingrid Mössinger and Thomas Bauer-Friedrich Wienand Art Collection Chemnitz-Museum Gunzenhauser

2 Contents Preface 7 Preface Ingrid Mössinger 8 Biography 16 Conrad Felixmüller: People Jutta Penndorf 28 People 44 Conrad Felixmüller's exhibitions in Chemnitz as an example of the change in his work and its reception between 1919 and 1933 Thomas Bauer-Friedrich 53 Family 88 Places 104 Circus 114 » canceled despite great development «Conrad Felixmüller in the years between 1933 and 1945 Thomas Bauer-Friedrich 131 Friends 156 Politics 166» You can't paint like the ox roars. «Reflections on Conrad Felixmüller's work between 1945 and 1967 Thomas Bauer-Friedrich 180 The triptych In the Coal Works Conrad Felixmüller Hanns-Conon von der Gabelentz, Arbeitswelten 220 Conrad Felixmüller in Halle / Saale against the background of the formalism debate in the GDR Katharina Heider 232 "This most beautiful task of my life" Conrad Felixmüller's paintings in the galleries of the church in Tautenhain Barbara Wiegand- Stamp 241 Tautenhain 250 Appendix The with the Gunzenhauser foundation The obligation assumed to gradually develop all works, for example, scientifically and to make them publicly accessible through exhibitions, will not be fulfilled for the first time with the first complete presentation of Conrad Felixmüller's oeuvre from the founder's holdings. After Gabriele Münter, Helmut Kolle and Otto Dix, with Conrad Felixmüller, Dr. Alfred Gunzenhauser for quality. Undeterred, he chose the permanent, even if the attention of almost all apparently art lovers was directed towards other forms of expression. In this way, Alfred Gunzenhauser succeeded early in acquiring almost unaffordable works of art today. In addition to the almost 300 works by Otto Dix or the 75 works by Alexej von Jawlensky, the 116 works by Conrad Felixmüller are among the treasures of the collection. These include important paintings from the years 1920 to 1959 and watercolors that were created between 1915 and 1970, including the gorgeous pair of lovers in the rain from the year In addition, there are numerous exquisite drawings that he created between 1914 and 1932: Conrad Felixmüller was considered a child prodigy in this regard was accepted into the Dresden Art Academy at the age of 15. Rare prints with lithographs, woodcuts, colored woodcuts and etchings from the years 1914 to 1972, including one-offs, complete the collection. Judging by the six graphic prints that the Chemnitz art collections have owned in the Haus am Theaterplatz so far, one can certainly speak of a breathtaking expansion of the Conrad Felixmüller holdings in Chemnitz. In addition to the Brücke artist Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, who was born in Chemnitz-Rottluff, Conrad Felixmüller joined as an expressionist with political and social issues. In order to do justice to the complicated artistic path of Conrad Felixmüller, we have agreed with Dr. Alfred Gunzenhauser decided to add more than 80 loans to the extensive museum holdings. With a total of 207 works, we are presenting the first retrospective of Conrad Felixmüller's work in over 20 years. The curator of the Chemnitz-Museum Gunzenhauser art collections, Thomas Bauer-Friedrich, has worked out the latest and previously unknown research results with the greatest care. They show an extremely differentiated view of the artist and his extensive oeuvre. There is therefore justified hope that, in view of the opulent publication and the extensive exhibition, the work of Conrad Felixmüller will receive a great deal of attention and a reassessment. The duration of the presentation not only provides enough time for this in the Chemnitz-Museum Gunzenhauser art collections, but also in the Bietigheim-Bissingen municipal gallery and in the Ernst Barlach Haus in Hamburg. Dr. Isabell Schenk-Weininger and Dr. I am therefore very grateful to Karsten Müller for her exhibition Conrad Felixmüller. Between art and politics will also show in their facilities. New Year's greeting "About us Fortuna Art with us", sent in 1974 to Dr. Alfred Gunzenhauser (Cat.-No. 105) Ingrid Mössinger General Director of the Chemnitz Art Collections 7

3 Fig. Left: On the balcony of the Berlin apartment with a view of the tracks, 1934 Fig. In the middle: With Londa in the Berlin apartment, October 1940 Fig. Right: As a Landesschützen, 1944 Fig. Left: Converted barn in Tautenhain Fig. September Closure of the Institute for Art Education founded a year earlier "due to poor academic quality" (centralization of art pedagogue training at the universities in Greifswald and Berlin as part of the 1952 university reform); Continued employment as a university drawing teacher 1951 In the summer, the triptych Im Kohlenwerk is created, which the state of Thuringia selects for purchase, but exchanged in the following year for two paintings from 1937 and 1947 as "not typical of Felixmüller's painting"; the GDR buys the painting In the lignite mine Piskowitz 12 13

4 Fig. Left: 189 Homesickness (Pierrot), Fig. Right: 189 Serenade, Two Woman's Heads, 1915

5 Being depressed in the studio, self-portrait with Londa, 1933

6 »stamped despite great development« 1 Conrad Felixmüller in the years between 1933 and 1945 Thomas Bauer-Friedrich The reception of Felix Müller's work by research and museums and, as a result, also by the public, was limited to the so-called Dresden years until 1934 led to a distorted perception of his oeuvre and only marginal knowledge of the works from the four creative decades between 1934 and 1977. The last comprehensive presentation of the complete works took place in 1990/91. 2 The following exhibitions were again limited to the period before 1934. 3 With regard to Felixmüller's years in the »Third Reich«, there is hardly any information in the secondary literature. In general, his defamation as a »degenerate« artist and the fact that he was no longer able to exhibit is stated. Felixmüller himself later summed up this time very succinctly with the words: "From 1933 to 1945 Felixmüller withdrew from the National Socialist public in conscious mutual rejection, which resulted in artistic and personal defamation." 4 Against the background of the stylistic change in Felixmüller From work towards the end of the 1920s to coloristic, realistic painting and a cultural-political constellation in the “Third Reich” that was indifferent until 1937, it seems reasonable to assume much more differentiated conditions for the years between 1933 and 1937 than his own statement suggests. Research by the author has confirmed these assumptions. In the following, the artist's life and work under the cultural-political conditions of the National Socialist dictatorship will be described in detail for the first time. The professional and private situation around 1930 After Conrad Felixmüller's politically motivated, avant-garde artistic beginnings around 1918/19 and the disenchantment that quickly set in with the real conditions and developments in politics and art, he began at the latest in the mid-1920s to break away from his youthful, idealistic storms. and urge years, as he himself later repeatedly described his beginnings, 5 to distance himself, and from 1925/26 he developed realistic painting that was strongly geared towards the tone effect and the elegance of the application of paint and conveyed a balanced, harmonious worldview. 6 Even if the artist never used the term in relation to his work, one can certainly speak of a highly developed peinture with a view to the works created in the 1930s. As he put it himself: »In painting, from my own studies on people, I understood the only valid rule: to set tone on tone, color on color. No contour to it that would be drawing, the end of painting. Color and tone have to form the form, the body and the space have to reflect light, shadow, material material. "7 And he wrote to his former academy teacher Carl Bantzer:" For me, color is always decisive, regardless of whether it is toned . Not reaching the old masters, but my impressions of the life seen, nature, my bliss of the knowledge before her and the same guide me. «8 Felixmüller described this development as the process of cultivation. This artistic change was noticed by the critics, but it was difficult to classify the development from a former KPD member and form-dissolving Cubist to a realistic painter of portraits and genre representations. In recognition of the painterly values, a loss of topicality and necessity was noted - Fig. 1: Lovers from Dresden, 1928, oil on canvas, 160 x 100 cm, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen 114 Dresden, painting gallery Neue Meister 115

7 fig. Above: 185 portrait of Lovis Corinth, 1925 fig. Above: 37 portrait of Max Liebermann, fig. Below: 195 portrait of Lovis Corinth, 1925 fig. Below: 120 portrait of Max Liebermann, fig. Above: 187 portrait of Christian Rohlfs, 1927 fig below: 196 Portrait of Christian Rohlfs, 1927. Above: 184 Portrait of Carl Sternheim, 1925. Below: 194 Portrait of Carl Sternheim, 1925

8 Above: 192 Franz Pfemfert and wife (I), 1919 Below left: 191 people over the world, below right: 64 dead comrade, portrait of Felix Stiemer, 1918

9 Felixmüller's depictions of workers against the background of socialist realism In addition to his daily experience of everyday socialist life as a lecturer at the University of Halle between 1949 and 1962, as a freelance artist and in the context of participating in exhibitions, he also felt the attitude of the representatives of the state towards his work. With the claim to be a workers 'and peasants' state, the representation of working people played a central role in socialist realism, especially in the 1950s. This has always been a central theme in Conrad Felixmüller's work. 52 In the early 1920s he had devoted himself to the problem of coal miners in the Ruhr area and Saxony (cat.-no. 100, 129, 169, 180) as well as the topic of rampant unemployment in the Weimar Republic (cat.-no . 8, 77/78, 127). Around 1925/26 these motives receded quantitatively; however, they had never completely disappeared from his work, and with the blast furnace workers and blast furnaces (cat. no. 133/134) he once again created important paintings on this subject. The artist was always primarily interested in the personal fate of the person, the worker as an individual and not as part of an anonymous mass in the structure of industrial production processes. In the center of his representations, people are literally raised against the background of their immediate living and working conditions. Neither heroic in the sense of political-revolutionary art nor accusatory in the sense of the verism of the New Objectivity, he portrayed the working people empathetically and empathetically in their lives. What the new state in which he lived expected from his art after 1945 political positioning and statement In the spirit of the party program, Felixmüller drew attention to this discrepancy in a letter to Hellmuth Heinz: »The human side, the humanism of my painting, is less the accusation than the empathy. I know what being a proletarian is; I know the drudgery in dirt and sweat from childhood and what it means to be well rested until a good night. [] The heaviest burdens always have to be carried in sweat and dirt and they carry them, my deepest, grateful admiration goes to them. Compassion and knowledge! «54 After the blast furnace pictures of 1927, he continued to create paintings in the 1930s and 1940s, which, according to his living conditions, mainly showed the everyday life of the workers in the countryside The family's summer trips to Mecklenburg and from 1941 after moving to Damsdorf south of the city of Brandenburg won. The paintings Seilerbahn from 1935 (cat. No. 146) and woman with a hunger rake from 1941 (cat. No. 149) are just two examples among many others. With the blind basket weaver from 1950 (cat. No. 158) and the Tautenhain train station from 1957 (cat. No. 165), the theme continued seamlessly in his work after 1945 and will not be lost until the end of his life, This is evidenced by the pensioners from 1965 (cat. no. 167) and the woodcuts by the coal miners from 1974 (cat. no. 206/207). Felixmüller made it clear in his correspondence with his friend Hellmuth Heinz in the context of a planned but unrealized monograph on his painterly work what matters to Felixmüller in works of this group of motifs: »The blind basket weaver an important man in the village []: he represents for the Farmers make the baskets for the potato and fruit pickers. In this picture of a tragic fate full of colored tensions, the child playing with snippets of willow at the lower edge clears the darkness of this working environment. [] And in 1958 it was painted the old post woman from Tautenhain, who drove her yellow mail cart through the snow that shone blue in the twilight. Fig. 3: Karl-Heinz Jakob: Three-time activist Arthur Krams, Zwickauer Maschinenfabrik, 1953, oil on canvas, 114, 5 x 88.5 cm, art collection Zwickau pushes. While the workers' train pushes smoke and steam into the frosty winter sky, the mass of industrial workers streams towards their homes: it is daily life between fields and coal works, craftsmen's rooms and stables, including animals and children, that fills Felixmüller's pictures here. «55 Apart from his woodcuts for Franz Pfemfert's action and the painting Der Redner Otto Rühle (cat. No. 125, 154), Felixmüller's work was not about agitation, but about an empathetic artistic examination of the life of those who labor hard Population. 56 Such images, however, did not correspond to the intentions of the officially required Socialist Realism. Comparable to the blast furnace worker of 1927, Felixmüller created another large-format individual portrait of a worker in 1951 on behalf of Hanns-Conon von der Gabelentz (cat. No. 163). 57 The machinist shown here, Junghans, remains at his daily work in the machine house of the briquette factory in Neukirchen, south of Leipzig. Contrary to what would be expected from state propaganda, the viewer is not confronted with a proud, active worker, but rather with Junghans traits of concern, doubt and skepticism. Von der Gabelentz bought the work as an example of Felixmüller's contemporary realistic painting through the vehicle of the socialist-realistic art doctrine for the Altenburg Museum and tried to establish it as a positive example for the genre of the new worker portrait and as a model for further art development by means of its own interpretations . 58 In view of the layout of the plant, he was only able to achieve this to a limited extent. When he sees in the figure of the machinist "the type of self-confident and conscientious German worker" who "feels himself not as a servant but as master of the machine of his machine", 59 then this hardly corresponds with the appearance of what is depicted in the picture. As a result, the portrait was only exhibited four times up to 1989: in 1966 as part of the Eighth Workers' Festival in Potsdam, in 1967 in the artist's personal exhibition shown by Helmut Scherf (a former employee of the Gabelentz in Altenburg) in the Eisenacher Museum, in 1975/76 as part of Felixmüller's GDR retrospective and in 1979 in an exhibition on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the founding of the GDR. 60 In the Berlin catalog of 1979, Helga Möbius looked back at a historical distance to Felixmüller's painting from 1951 as part of her “reflections on the iconography of GDR art” and stated that the artist “obviously made serious efforts to describe one of the artists I tried to find foreign political and social facts ”61. As an exemplary implementation of the socialist image of the worker, she referred to the works of Willi Sitte and Lea Grundig. In order to recognize the difference in Felixmüller's approach to the officially requested representations, it is sufficient to take a look at the works presented in 1953 as part of the Third German Art Exhibition in Dresden. Positive representations of deserving workers and fighters for socialism were desired, such as the portrait of the triple activist Arthur Krams, Zwickauer Maschinenfabrik (Fig. 3) or motifs from the production process that convey the workers' joy in their work (Fig. 4). While Felixmüller's machinist from Neukirchen has no relation to his work and stands passively in front of the viewer with a skeptical look, Willi Sitte's chemical worker at the control desk (Fig. 5) is bursting with pride and activity a good decade later, just as one would ideally want the socialist image of a worker. However, Felixmüller could not and did not want to deliver such designed works, as they contradicted his on-site experience in the company.As a result, it remained more and more unexhibited and the paintings that he submitted for official exhibitions were repeatedly refused. He too had sent in a work for the Third German Art Exhibition, which he fig. 4: Edmund Götz: Im Gaswerk Reick, 1953, oil on canvas, 200 x 120 cm Fig. 5: Willi Sitte: Chemical workers at the control panel, 1968, oil on hard fiber , 148 x 102 cm, Moritzburg Foundation, Art Museum of the State of Saxony-Anhalt

10 Fig. Above: 172 Easter, Fig. Below: Easter, 1952, oil painting on the north gallery of the St. Jakobikirche in Tautenhain 245 Fig. Above: 175 St. Jakobus, 1952 Fig. Below: St. Jakobus, 1952, oil painting on the South pore of St. Jakobikirche in Tautenhain