Works of European sculpture

EXHIBITION 01.11.1950 – 24.12.1950

The exhibition "Works of European Sculpture" focused not only on sculpture as an art form, but also on its interpretation by European artists. According to the show's organizer, Ausstellungsleitung München e. V. Haus der Kunst, four sculptors were responsible for its realization: Toni Stadler, Georg Brenninger, Josef Wackerle, and Theodor Georgii. Its short preface (in English, French, and Italian) emphasized the claim to internationalism that accompanied the dawn of modernity. In 1950, people associated the long-awaited expansion of the regional horizon with the wish: "May the sculptures [presented here] from various regions of sculptural understanding not be antagonistic but, rather, demonstrate an internal relationship through their quality."

The exhibition brought together 70 predominately bronze sculptures by famous sculptors in Germany and neighboring countries. These works were supplemented by individual drawings, which were on loan from the Bavarian State Painting Collections and from German and international museums, galleries, and private collections. The selection of works was preceded by an ancient grave relief from the Munich Glyptothek, "Hunter with Dog" (around 360 BC), which reflected an exhibition concept that understood contemporary sculptural forms as the continuation of a tradition rooted in antiquity. The works demonstrated a commitment to Realism, with the main motifs being the human figure and animals.

While Pierre-Auguste Renoir's "Little Venus" introduced – in the Impressionist style – the play of light and shadow, in "Crouching Woman" (1880/82) his contemporary Auguste Rodin combined the academic heritage of the nineteenth century with an emotionally expressive dynamic that characterized him as a pioneer of modernism. A series of ten works by Aristide Maillol, including the "Great Venus", testified to the fact that the artist had refined the classic mythological figure to a simplifying abstraction. This abstraction was far advanced in the work of Wilhelm Lehmbruck, five of whose sculptures were on display, as demonstrated in his version of "Girl's Torso, Turning" (1913/14), on loan from the artist's family. The small bronze by Henri Matisse, executed around the same time, was less preoccupied with capturing the rendition of a reclining naked woman's body as seen by the artist than with the intrinsic value of the sculptural volumes. With the works of Ernst Barlach ("Russian Beggar Woman", 1907), Bernhard Heiliger, and Gerhard Marcks, human images were again shown in Haus der Kunst, which, because of their formal abstraction and their symbolic excessive expressivity, had long been considered "degenerate". 

In 1950, some of the artists represented in the exhibition were, as contemporary sculptors, members of the postwar avant-garde art scene in Germany and whose fame was only to be solidified in the following years. The Italian Marino Marini, with his work "Rider", and the Englishman Henry Moore, with several versions of his famous "Reclining" sculptures, exemplified the break with ancient tradition and the fragility of human existence through the fall of the rider and the hollowing out of the figure. In contrast, the works of the show's co-organizers and sculptors George Brenninger, Josef Wackerle, and Toni Stadler, who was represented with the animal sculpture "Dog" (1935), were mainly of regional importance. By omitting works of object art, Surrealism, Cubism, Abstraction, and other movements, the exhibition "Works of European Sculpture" describes the broad arch spanning the development of sculpture, from the late nineteenth century to modernism and ending with the early days of postmodernism. The show demonstrated a moderate-modernist understanding of art that, nonetheless, drew attention to the seminal impulses emanating from various major European artists.

In addition to the curators' short preface, printed in English, French, and Italian, the 35-page, A5-format catalogue contained 24 black and white photographs of the nearly 70 sculptural works presented in the exhibition. The specifications of the images, as well as the list of works, were limited to the artists' names and the titles of the works.

The exhibition presented works by Ernst Barlach, Otto Bänninger, Bernhard Bleeker, Hermann Blumenthal, George Brenninger Despiau, Alexander Fischer, Marcel Gimond, Hermann Hahn, Hermann Haller, Philipp Harth, Bernhard Heiliger, Adolf von Hildebrand, Anton Hiller, Ludwig Kasper Heinrich Kirchner, Richard Knecht, Moissey Kogan, Wilhelm Lehmbruck, Aristide Maillol, Giacomo Manzú, Gerhard Marcks, Marino Marini, Priscilla Martin, Ewald Mataré, Henri Matisse, Hans Mettl, Henry Moore, George Muller, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Auguste Rodin, Edwin Sharp, Toni Stadler, Joseph Wackerle, Hans Wimmer, and Fritz Wrampe.

Henry Moore, Reclining Figure I, 1951, Sprengel Museum Hannover © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, 1950 / bpk Bildagentur, photo Michael Herling, Aline Gwose

Stretch your view

Stretch your view


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Permanent Exhibition

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