The Munich Secession and America

January 24 – April 12, 2009

The Munich Secession and America marks the first exhibition in America in one hundred years dedicated to the renowned Munich Secession movement, which laid the foundation for Modernism in twentieth-century art. Drawing on major loans from European museums and the extensive holdings of the Frye Founding Collection, this exhibition represents two generations of artists: leading Secessionists such as Franz von Stuck, Fritz von Uhde, Ludwig Dill, Max Liebermann, and Hugo von Habermann; and those artists who preceded them and were active in a rival Munich Artists’ Association, the Künstlergenossenschaft, such as Franz von Lenbach, Friedrich August von Kaulbach, Wilhelm Leibl, and Franz von Defregger. Also included in the exhibition are works by a number of the Guest Artists who exhibited with the Munich Secession: Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Pierre August Renoir, Pierre-Étienne-Théodore Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, and Narcisse Virgilio Diaz de la Peña.

Radically changing the manner in which artworks were presented in exhibitions, the Munich Secession illustrated a diversity of avant-garde techniques and philosophies that stunned American audiences when exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in January 1909 and in April of the same year at the Art Institute of Chicago. The New York Times praised “the impulsive, energetic, and extremely various art” in the exhibition and described it as “a force to be reckoned with,” noting that it showed “how far individualism may be carried.”

The exhibition at the Frye Art Museum, exactly one hundred years later, celebrates the key artistic innovations of the Munich Secessionists: Symbolism, Impressionism in its German form, and Jugendstil or Modern Style. It opens with three of the iconic paintings which were shown in the first, sparsely-hung exhibition of the Munich Secession on June 15, 1893: Max Slevogt’s Wrestling School, Franz von Stuck’s Sin, and Evening Sky by Richard Riemerschmid, which reveals the first stirrings of planar, ornamental Jugendstil.

The exhibition galleries of the Munich Secession, in a purpose-built, “modern” building with light colored walls and a gold geometric frieze designed by Franz von Stuck, astonished audiences of the time. In 1906, the director of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo described seeing exhibitions there: “The general effect of the Secession galleries this year surpasses anything of the kind which the writer hitherto has seen.”

As perhaps the only American institution whose Founding Collection was dedicated primarily to the artists of the Munich Secession and their predecessors, the Frye is proud to present seventy exemplary masterpieces produced by artists of the Munich Secession and the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft during their battle with one another, and with subsequent Secession movements in Berlin and Vienna, for artistic supremacy. As The New York Times noted in 1909: “The spectacle of the young [generation] smiting the old inevitably has its element of tragedy. …With the field won, however, it is easy to see how the truly great masters among the old had many of the virtues of the young, and how finely the best art of the different generations holds together when brought into close juxtaposition.”

The Frye is able to present important paintings of the period, many of which will be seen for the first time in America, with the generous support of major museums in Germany such as the Lenbachhaus, Bavarian State Painting Collections, Neue Pinakothek, and Museum Villa Stuck in Munich; the Berlinische Galerie – State Museum Berlin and Art Library of the State Museums of Berlin; the State Museum Mainz; the Municipal Gallery in Dresden; and the Art Museums of Krefeld: Kaiser Wilhelm Museum, the Unterberger Collection, and the Sander Collection. The exhibition will also include two important loans from the Henry Art Gallery.

The Munich Secession and America is organized by the Frye in collaboration with the Museum Villa Stuck, Munich, and is curated by Frye Foundation Scholar and Director Emerita of the Museum Villa Stuck, Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker. An illustrated 296-page companion catalogue with in-depth articles by leading scholars is available in the Museum Store. Visit the Publications page for more information.

For more information on this exhibition, read The Munich Secession Demystified, an interview with Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, Frye Foundation scholar and curator of this exhibition.

Generous support for this exhibition is provided by BNY Mellon Wealth Management and Nitze-Stagen & Co., Inc. Additional support is provided by Grousemont Foundation and Frank Stagen.

Image credits:
Oskar Zwintscher. Der Tote am Meer (The Dead Man by the Sea) (detail), 1913. Oil on canvas. 128.5 x 179 cm. Städtische Galerie Dresden, Museen der Stadt Dresden, inv. No. 1980/k1271.
Max Slevogt. Die Ringerschule (Wrestling School), 1893. Oil on canvas. 139 x 141.5 cm. Landesmuseum Mainz, Inv. Nr. SL 50.
Eugen Spiro. Tänzerin Baladine Klossowska (Merline), (The Dancer Baladine Klossowska), 1901. Oil on canvas. 181.5 x 121 cm. Berlinische Galerie – Landesmuseum für Moderne Kunst, Fotografie und Architektur. Inv. Nr. BG-M 3013/82. © 2008 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
Oskar Zwintscher. Der Tote am Meer (The Dead Man by the Sea), 1913. Oil on canvas. 128.5 x 179 cm. Städtische Galerie Dresden, Museen der Stadt Dresden, inv. No. 1980/k1271.
Leo Putz. Sommerträume (Summer Dreams), 1907. Oil on canvas. 119.5 x 110 cm. Unterberger Collection.
Hugo von Habermann. Head of a Woman, n.d. Oil on canvas. 20 7/8 x 17 3/8 in. Frye Art Museum, Charles and Emma Frye Collection.

"This show may be [the Frye's] most academically ambitious effort to date."

Gayle Clemans, The Seattle Times