Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy
• Dates: September 21, 2018–March 24, 2019
• Curator: Megan Fontanella, Curator, Modern Art and Provenance, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
• With the exclusive sponsorship of Fundación BBVA
Drawn from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s Thannhauser Collection, Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy features nearly fifty works by Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early modern masters, including Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh.
The exhibition marks the first occasion that a significant portion of the renowned Thannhauser Collection has been exhibited outside of New York since its arrival at the Guggenheim in New York in 1965—over fifty years ago.
The Thannhauser works bring to the fore avant-gardists who sought to liberate art from academic genres and techniques in the late nineteenth century. These artists explored the fleeting effects of nature and ways to capture the spectacle of the changing city at the start of the twentieth century, and employed stylistic devices such as loose brushwork and innovative practices like fracturing and faceting the picture plane.
In addition to paintings, sculptures, and works on paper, the exhibition includes archival material ranging from gallery stock books to historical photographs, further documenting the Thannhauser family’s engagement with some of the most pioneering artists, collectors, and dealers of their day.
The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy, featuring the celebrated Thannhauser Collection gifted to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and marking the first time the majority of the collection as such leaves New York to be exhibited elsewhere. With the exclusive sponsorship of Fundación BBVA, the show includes some fifty works by a number of the most well recognized Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and modern masters, such as Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh.
The Thannhauser Collection is a bequest of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century art given to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation by Justin K. and Hilde Thannhauser. Justin K. Thannhauser was the son of the German Jewish art dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, who founded the Moderne Galerie in Munich in 1909. From an early age, Justin K. worked alongside his father in the flourishing gallery and helped build an impressive and versatile exhibition program that included the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and regularly featured contemporary German artists. For example, the Moderne Galerie presented the premier exhibitions of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists’ Association of Munich) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), both of which included Vasily Kandinsky, in 1909 and 1911, respectively. The Thannhausers also mounted in 1913 one of the first major Pablo Picasso retrospectives, thus initiating the close relationship between Justin K. Thannhauser and Picasso that lasted until the artist’s death in 1973.
An ambitious businessman, Justin K. Thannhauser opened a second gallery in Lucerne in 1919 with his cousin Siegfried Rosengart. Eight years later, the highly successful Thannhauser galleries relocated their Munich gallery to the thriving art center of Berlin. There, the dealer organized major exhibitions of the work of such artists as Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and Claude Monet. Business operations were nonetheless hindered in the next decade with the establishment of a Nazi government bent on purging the “degenerate art” of the avant-garde. The Thannhauser gallery in Berlin closed in 1937, shortly after Justin K. Thannhauser and his family immigrated to Paris. Thannhauser eventually settled in New York in 1940 and established himself as a private art dealer.
The Thannhausers’ commitment to promoting artistic innovation paralleled the vision of Solomon R. Guggenheim. In appreciation of this shared spirit, Justin K. Thannhauser gave a significant portion of his art collection, including more than 30 works by Picasso, to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which owns and operates the eponymous museum in New York. Selections from the Thannhauser Collection have been on view at the Guggenheim since 1965. A bequest of ten additional works received after the death of Hilde Thannhauser, Justin’s second wife and widow, in 1991, augmented the Guggenheim’s holdings and enhanced the legacy of this family of important art dealers. This landmark presentation of the Thannhauser Collection at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will not only trace the development of modernism at the turn of the century, but also underscore the Thannhauser family’s steadfast support of experimental art.
OVERVIEW OF THE EXHIBITION
Gallery 305: Collecting Impressionism
The Thannhauser Collection played a major role in expanding the range of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s holdings to include the immediate precursors to the modern era. As prominent dealers in Germany in the first decades of the twentieth century, the Thannhauser family not only made a commitment to local contemporary artists, but also they organized important group and solo exhibitions featuring French avant-gardists from the late nineteenth century, including Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet. These rebellious artists, centered in Paris and largely associated with the loosely defined group of Impressionists, sought to liberate themselves from academic genres and techniques, exploring instead the fleeting effects of nature and urban subject matter, and employing stylistic devices such as loose brushwork in order to impart an illusion of spontaneity. They developed formal innovations that prepared the ground for the rapid proliferation of radically new approaches to art in the next century.
Manet’s Before the Mirror (1876), for example, illustrates the unconventional new types of subject matter in its depiction of a courtesan before her psyche, or mirror, in a state of partial undress. One assumes the role of spectator and intrudes upon this private moment in the boudoir, as the model—back turned—grasps an extended corset string. Another painting, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Woman with Parakeet (1871), predates the artist’s Impressionist style but is nonetheless rendered with the feathery, textured brushwork that characterizes his work. The intimate scene captures a young, upper-middle-class woman playing with her pet bird, yet the stifling interior restricts the model’s space, just like that of her parakeet when confined to its gilded cage. These tensions embody the daily experience of a fashionable Parisian lady. Unlike men, women were confined almost exclusively to indoor domestic spaces and were not permitted to move freely about the city.
Gallery 306: Collecting Post-Impressionism and Early Modernism
The Thannhausers’ assembling of European art of the fin-de-siècle—a complex period defined by economic, political, social, and psychological turmoil, often in the name of progress—captures the diversity of artistic styles that emerged in reaction to the two dominant strains in art at the time: academic naturalism and the Impressionist adherence to the natural world. Artists such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, both subjects of critical exhibitions organized at the early Thannhauser gallery in Munich, turned their artistic eye inward. Van Gogh, in particular, translated reality through the lens of personal experience and emotion. As so-called Post-Impressionists, these artists reacted against the idea of art as a “window to the world” and used sinuous lines and non-naturalistic colors to imbue their paintings with an emotive tenor.
Painted during Van Gogh’s recovery from an attack of mental distress, Mountains at Saint-Rémy (July 1889) evokes the artist’s emotional state—not to mention the awe-inspiring presence of the rock formations near his hospital grounds—through its thick application of paint and animated brushstrokes. Similarly, Georges Braque, in his Fauvist painting Landscape near Antwerp (1906), employed vibrant, expressionistic colors and deconstructed the landscape as a sensation of patterned light. Still other varied art forms appeared at the turn of the century, including the flattened, stylized work of the untrained artist Henri Rousseau. Set amid an unspecified forest setting, Rousseau’s The Football Players (1908) is at once a joyful romp and a hauntingly dreamlike scene.
Gallery 307: Pablo Picasso
Drawn to Paris, which had become the international nexus of the art world, the Spanish-born artist Pablo Picasso first came to the city in 1900 for the World’s Fair. Le Moulin de la Galette (1900), the foremost painting executed during the course of his two-month stay, reflects the young Picasso’s fascination with the lusty decadence and gaudy glamour of Parisian night life. His artistic style rapidly evolved from more naturalistic to his melancholic Blue period and subsequent Rose period, before Picasso came to pioneer with Georges Braque the faceted forms and flattened spatial planes associated with Cubism. This movement developed in the crucial years from 1907 to 1914 and is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artistic styles of the twentieth century.
By the 1930s, Picasso is a renowned and established artist and his practice continues to evolve. Collector and dealer Justin K. Thannhauser, had a strong personal relationship with Picasso that started early in both men’s careers, in February 1913, when the Thannhauser family gallery in Munich mounted one of the first major Picasso exhibitions in Germany. More than 30 works by Picasso—spanning 65 years of the artist’s career—entered the Guggenheim Foundation’s collection in 1978 and 1991 with the respective donations of Justin K. and Hilde Thannhauser.
Highlights from the Thannhauser Collection include Picasso’s Fernande with a Black Mantilla (1905–06) and Woman with Yellow Hair (1931). The subject of the former painting is Fernande Olivier (née Amélie Lang), Picasso’s mistress, whom he met in 1904. The artist produced more than sixty works featuring Olivier before the pair parted ways in 1912. Here Picasso depicts an enigmatic Olivier wearing a traditional Spanish mantilla. The sleeping woman in the 1931 canvas portrays another companion, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Walter became a constant subject in Picasso’s work of the 1930s, the period in which she lived with him; she is often shown in a state of graceful repose or sleep—for Picasso, the most intimate of depictions.
Entitled “Past and Present,” the installation in the museum’s didactic space will analyze the latest news, whose themes, such as gender, the ideal of beauty, diversity, globalization, communication, and social relationships, are anticipated in certain works in the Thannhauser Collection. The past was never so current.
Here are some of the activities centered on the exhibition:
Lecture: The Thannhausser Collection (September 19)
Megan Fontanella, curator of the exhibition Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy and Curator of Modern Art and Provenance at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, will speak about the works that make up this collection, the activities of the Thannhauser family’s, and their engagement with modern art.
Discover the latest exhibitions, the behind-the-scenes installation work, and other curious details about each show on these unique tours led by museum professionals.
Creative Sessions: Music workshop reflections (Saturdays in November)
Two-day workshop, which will bring together late-19th/early-20th-century music and contemporary rhythms.
Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy is accompanied by a richly illustrated publication that offers a concentrated survey of works by such modern masters as Georges Braque, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gaugin, Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh, and brings to light revelatory new scholarship on the history of the Thannhauser family and galleries and, more broadly, the cultural milieu of early-twentieth-century Europe. Texts on the individual artworks present extensive technical analyses based on the latest advances in conservation technology, offering rare insights into the artists’ materials and processes. Short essays on collection highlights written by current and former Guggenheim curators and conservators illuminate the artists’ stylistic innovations, and an in-depth essay by Megan Fontanella, Curator, Modern Art and Provenance, Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, recounts the genesis of Justin K. Thannhauser’s art collection and its eventual transfer to the Guggenheim. Outlining his ambitious career as an art dealer and collector in Europe during the interwar years and into the calamity of World War II, Fontanella explores how Thannhauser’s lifelong endorsement of avant-garde art and eye for original talent helped define the artistic vanguards of twentieth-century art. The publication will be printed in English and Spanish. Edited by Megan Fontanella; texts by Julie Barten, Susan Davidson, John K. Delaney, Lidia Ferrara, Megan Fontanella, Vivien Greene, Sasha Kalter-Wasserman, Natalia Lauricella, Gillian McMillan, Nathan Otterson, Federica Pozzi, Samantha Small, Lena Stringari, Jeffrey Warda, and Jeffrey Weiss.
Woman with Yellow Hair (Femme aux cheveux jaunes), December 27, 1931
Oil and Ripolin (est.) on canvas
100 x 81.1 cm
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York
Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.59
© Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2018
Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF)
Complete information about the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is available at www.guggenheim-bilbao.es (press room).