Munich in the early twentieth century
Friday 11 – Sunday 13 September 2020
Dr Niccola Shearman, with Maria Mehlstäubl-Truman
NB. Only a few places remain on this course; please contact firstname.lastname@example.org directly to book.
After 1900, the city of Munich rivalled Paris as a cosmopolitan hub of experiment. Stepping onto fertile ground prepared by the first Secessionist artists, here it was that Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc, Gabriele Mϋnter and others developed an emotional expressionism, in which colour and form were to serve an ‘inner necessity’. During the chaotic months following the armistice in 1918, the city was ruled for a brief period by a revolutionary council of artists and writers. However, in stark contrast to the colourful environment that characterised this cradle of German modernism, the sinister events that followed Hitler’s rise to power in 1933 would see Munich become the grave of such potential.
This weekend of study is designed with two aims in mind: firstly, it will provide a close encounter with art works from Munich’s modernist collections, beginning with a virtual tour of the Lenbachhaus, where the celebrated collection of expressionist paintings presents the unfolding path towards abstraction. The second aim concerns the broader picture of cultural life in this art-loving city, from the Wittelsbach kings through the period of democracy after 1918, to the rise of Nazi dictatorship. To this end, a tour of the architectural fabric of the city – existing and long-since erased – will be animated by maps and photographs, plus extracts of literature, music and personal memoirs from figures including Lion Feuchtwanger, Thomas and Katja Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, Arnold Schoenberg and others. Thus equipped, we shall nose around the favourite haunts of the avant-garde in the bohemian district of Schwabing and venture further afield to follow the artists of the Blaue Reiter to their summer retreat in the foothills of the Bavarian Alps. The story will close with some of the architectural relics of the Nazi propaganda machine, including the gargantuan Haus der Kunst – temple to ‘Great German Art’ opened in 1937 as the vitriolic ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition was staged nearby.
Dr Niccola Shearman is a freelance lecturer in twentieth-century German and Austrian art. Currently completing a year of teaching full-time at the University of Manchester, she worked previously as Associate Lecturer at The Courtauld, where she gained her PhD on the modernist woodcut in Germany (2017). In addition to a focus on print histories in Germany, her research interests include the psychology of vision, especially the work of Gestalt scientists in 1920s Berlin. Academic articles have concerned approaches to the woodcuts of Ernst Barlach and Lyonel Feininger, and religious themes in the work of Oskar Kokoschka. She writes regular book reviews and has translated a number of books.
Maria Mehlstäubl-Truman works in primary education, having previously completed degrees in anthropology and in interpreting and translation. As a true ‘Münchner Kindl’ with long family connections to the bohemian artists’ quarter of Schwabing, Maria combines a passion for art and literature with her experience of the rich oral history of the city. All of this makes her ideally qualified to be our personal guide for several short walking tours in Munich.