June 21, 2009

The Blue Rider in the Yellow House

“You can imagine the opposite.”

Scrawled in violet neon across the yellow Italianate façade of Lenbachhaus these words make you pause and say “it doesn’t get much more opposite than that”. Inside too, Munich's Lenbach House exhibits distinct styles of art. Here advocates of Romanticism and Biedermeier share space with the proponents of the "Blaue Reiter" movement.

My son and I had been to the Paläontologisches Museum in Munich, and while that was fun, mainly from an architectural standpoint, he nixed the idea of anymore museums. Little did I know that the yellow building we had been looking out upon was The "Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus", the former villa of the "painter prince" Franz von Lenbach, The palatial house had been on my list. So I told him "Just 45 minutes."

Franz von Lenbach was a Bavarian who spent most of his career in Munich. Remembered as a portraitist, his Venetian style of painting appealed to the aristocracy and rulers of Germany. He met and befriended Otto von Bismarck in 1878. Lenbach painted the Iron Chancellor nearly one hundred times during his career. Richard Wagner, Franz Liszt, and William Gladstone were other subjects.

Lenbach’s fame gained him the title of "Malerfürst" or “Painter Prince”, and the accompanying commissions made it possible for him to build palatial house for his family and himself. Gabriel von Seidl designed his Florentine villa and the years 1887 – 1891 saw its construction on Munich’s Königsplatz. After his death, Lenbach’s house was turned into a museum.

Today Lenbachhaus owes its reputation as an internationally significant museum to its unique collection of works by the group of artists known as “Der Blaue Reiter” or "The Blue Rider". “Der Blaue Reiter” was a group of expressionist artists who established themselves in Munich in 1911 and contributed greatly to the development of abstract art. The museum contains examples of works by Wassily Kandinsky, Gabriele Münter, Franz Marc, Paul Klee, and August Macke.

Many examples of “The Blue Rider” contained within Lenbachhaus are courtesy of Gabriele Münter. Once Kandinsky´s pupil and companion she left many of their works to Lenbachhaus on the occasion of her eightieth birthday in 1957.

In addition, Lenbachhaus also offers a look at the 19th century Munich painters such as Lenbach himself, his teacher Carl Theodor von Piloty, August von Kaulbach, and Franz von Stuck.

Also on display are works by members of the Munich Secession founded in 1892, including painters such as Lovis Corinth, Max Slevogt and Fritz von Uhde. Some of the rooms have kept Lenbach’s original design and it’s staggering just how rich an artist could be. The 45 minutes I allotted myself was not enough. Next time I’ll be at my leisure and also visit the amazing gift shop and restaurant on the terrace.

Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus


Address: Luisenstraße 33, 80333 München

Phone: (089) 233 320 00

Opening Hours: Tue. – Sun. from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Mon. closed

A daily ticket is 12 Euros with reductions for concessions.

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