Just before the advent of WWI, a group of artists came together in Germany to break almost every rule that existed about art — and became the Expressionists. Now, their works are on display at Tate Modern in a collective for the first time in sixty years.

There have been previous shows, one in 1938 of these new artists in direct response to the German government’s rejection of such decadent and un-German art, and later in 1960, but nothing on this scale since.

Known as The Blue Rider, the group only existed for a couple of years, but their range has inspired artists ever since.

That range though can make for a very mixed exhibition, which jumps around quite a bit and there can be a struggle to understand the flow of what’s been collected together for the exhibition.

Many of the paintings on display will look familiar, even if you’ve never seen them before such is the influence they left, while others are, maybe justifiably less well known.

There’s also a lot here about the artists themselves, as their range of art was so wide that this isn’t an exhibition of Expressionism but of Expressionists, the people behind the art – from gender-bending performance art to contemporary self-portraits and early photography.

Part of the difficulty with the exhibition is a latent expectation that you are already familiar with the artists and the politics of the era they worked in, otherwise it can feel a bit disjointed and hard to follow.

If you’re a fan, you’ll love the exhibition. If not, it’s a chance to see a lot of paintings that are rarely seen together, but read up on their work before visiting to better understand what and why they were trying to achieve.

Before WWI broke the group up.

The exhibition, Expressionists Kandinsky, Münter and The Blue Rider is at Tate Modern until late October 2024.

Tickets can be bought here.


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One comment
  1. John Poole says:

    Excellently put. I know the period, so enjoyed it a lot. Without knowledge, I can see people having a hard time. Your advice on reading up beforehand is very wise.

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