The years before World War I saw a proliferation of cultural journals, which played an important role in the transmission of new ideas. Particularly significant was Blaue Reiter, an almanac first published by Kandinsky and Marc in Munich in May 1912. In the ambitious prospectus for the publication, Marc wrote that it would “show the latest movements in French, German, and Russian painting. Subtle connections are revealed between modern and Gothic and primitive art, connections with Africa and the vast Orient, with the highly expressive, spontaneous folk and children’s art, and especially with the most recent musical developments in Europe and the new ideas for theater of our time.”
In its very conception, the almanac aimed at dissolving boundaries—those between national schools, temporal realms, and media. Kandinsky’s role as one of its editors helped him to build up his vast network of international connections: in soliciting essays and images for publication, as well as art for exhibition with the Blaue Reiter group, he corresponded with artists in cities throughout Europe.
Gallery label from Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925, December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013.
In June 1911, Vasily Kandinsky proposed to Franz Marc that the two men jointly produce an almanac that would serve, in Kandinsky's words, as "the document of our modern art." The idea ultimately spawned this single volume, as well as two exhibitions and a loose association of artists. The title Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider) arose accidentally over coffee: as Kandinsky would recall in 1930, "We both loved blue, Marc—horses; I—riders. So the name invented itself."
The varied content of Der Blaue Reiter reflects Kandinsky's desire to break down walls between the visual arts and music, theater, folk art, children's art, and ethnography. In addition to essays by Kandinsky, Marc, August Macke, and other German and Russian artists, Der Blaue Reiter included Kandinsky's stage composition Der gelbe Klang (The Yellow Sound) and musical compositions by Arnold Schönberg and Alban Berg. The costly museum and deluxe editions contained two woodcuts, Kandinsky's Bogenschütze (The archer) and Marc's Fabeltier (Fantastic creatures).
Reinhard Piper was Kandinsky's only choice for publisher, although the relationship between Piper and Der Blaue Reiter's editors was at times volatile. Bernhard Koehler, August Macke's uncle-in-law, assuaged Piper's financial concerns by guaranteeing the production costs. Brisk sales prompted the publication of a second edition of the book in the summer of 1914, but World War I ended work on the digest's next volume.
Publication excerpt from Heather Hess, German Expressionist Digital Archive Project, German Expressionism: Works from the Collection. 2011.