German Expressionism

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Cologne Sonderbund

Starr Figura, German Expressionism: The Graphic Impulse, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011

"Special League of West-German Art Lovers and Artists." Progressive, internationally minded exhibition organization and art association established in 1909 to promote the major currents of contemporary German and French art in the Rhine region. First president was the collector and patron Karl Ernst Osthaus, founder and director of the pioneering Folkwang Museum in Hagen (1902), the leading public collection of contemporary art at the time; membership included artists, museum professionals, art historians, gallerists, collectors, and "art lovers" (passive members). Associate membership, limited to three hundred, was upon invitation, and these members received an annual print edition for their subscription. The 1913 edition was a lithograph by Emil Nolde, a board member. The name "Sonderbund"—translatable as "Special League" or "Separate League"—was meant to signify resistance against academicism and nationalism. Organized altogether four major exhibitions, including both modern German and French art between 1909 and 1912; the last and most significant one, in Cologne, featured an international survey of more than six hundred works, including Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, Fauvists, and Austrian and German Expressionists. The organization's international outlook and its innovative approach to exhibitions had a significant impact on the contemporary art market. It was dissolved in 1915 due to internal strife.

Selected Bibliography

Herzogenrath, Wulf, ed. Frühe Kölner Kunstausstellungen: Sonderbund 1912. Werkbund 1914. Pressa USSR 1928. Cologne: Wienand, 1981.

Moeller, Magdalena M. Der Sonderbund: Seine Voraussetzungen und Anfänge in Düsseldorf. Cologne: Rheinland, 1984.

Iris Schmeisser

Published by Cologne Sonderbund

  • Emil Nolde. Die heiligen drei Könige (The Three Magi). (1913)
    Emil Nolde
    Die heiligen drei Könige (The Three Magi)
    Emil Nolde. Die heiligen drei Könige (The Three Magi). (1913)
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