Wednesday June 21, 2017
Tags for: The Cleveland Museum of Art Acquires German Expressionist Painting at Auction
  • Press Release

The Cleveland Museum of Art Acquires German Expressionist Painting at Auction

exterior of the CMA building


Cleveland, OH (June 21, 2017)—The Cleveland Museum of Art recently acquired a painting by Heinrich Maria Davringhausen called Der Krieg (War) from the auction house Ketterer Kunst in Munich, Germany. Painted in 1914, the first year of World War I, the artwork is a historically significant and powerful depiction of conflict, and is a rare surviving work from Davringhausen’s early years as an avant-garde painter (c. 1914–19). In 1920, the artist joined the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement and developed a more realistic style. Condemned as a “degenerate” by the Nazis, the majority of Davringhausen’s early works were lost or destroyed during World War II.

In this painting, Davringhausen imagines war as an apocalyptic vision of tiny black figures—some apparently armed—engulfed in a collapsing vortex of burning buildings. The artist intensified the painting’s impact through the use of modernist compositional devices such as a vibrant, abstracted palette combined with intersecting geometric planes that appear shattered like shards of broken glass. This painting represents a significant contribution to the theme of apocalyptic war scenes painted by fellow German Expressionists such as Wassily Kandinsky and Otto Dix, and stands out as a masterful merging of German Expressionist emotion with Futurist and Cubist formal devices.

“The acquisition of Heinrich Maria Davringhausen’s important early painting War demonstrates the museum’s commitment to the nimble pursuit of works of art that will strengthen our collections and presentations in the galleries,” stated Heather Lemonedes, Ph.D., the museum’s chief curator. “The emotional intensity of Davringhausen’s War resonates as much today as it did when it was painted more than one hundred years ago.”

Born in Aachen, Davringhausen attended the Düsseldorf Art Academy and began his career exploring avant-garde styles influenced by Fauvism, Cubism, and Futurism. In 1933, he left Germany and moved to Spain. His paintings were removed from German museums by the Nazis and shown in the infamous Degenerate Art exhibition that toured Germany in 1937. After the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936, Davringhausen moved from Majorca to Ascona, Switzerland. He left Switzerland in 1939 and settled in southern France, where he remained until his death in 1970. 

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