Storm and Spirit: The Eckhardt-Gramatté Collection of German Expressionist Art
In 2009 the Winnipeg Art Gallery received a major donation of some 200 works of art once belonging to Austrian-born Dr. Ferdinand Eckhardt (1902-1995), the WAG’s longest-serving director from 1953 to 1974. The donation was made possible through the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation, established by Eckhardt in 1982 to spread public awareness of the artistic contributions of his wife, composer and musician Sophie Carmen Eckhardt-Gramatté (1899-1974), and her first husband, the second generation German Expressionist artist Walter Gramatté (1897-1929).
Storm and Spirit pays tribute to the heart of the Eckhardt-Gramatté Foundation’s generous, valuable, and unique gift—its holdings of German and Austrian Expressionist art. Of particular significance are paintings by Walter Gramatté; woodcuts by Erich Heckel, Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, and Emil Nolde; lithographs by Oskar Kokoschka and George Grosz; and etchings by Käthe Kollwitz and Egon Schiele. The scope of the exhibition has been broadened by a selection of graphic work by artists such as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, Vasily Kandinsky, and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner generously loaned by the McMaster Museum of Art in Hamilton. The exhibition contains close to 90 works by more than 25 artists.
The term “Expressionism,” as it was applied to visual art in the early 20th century, came to designate a wide range of attitudes and artistic practices fostered by individuals and groups working, for the most part, in Dresden, Munich, Vienna, and Berlin, before and after World War I. While they shared certain attractions and aversions—love for “primitive” Oceanic and African art, for instance, as well as a loathing for middle-class social mores—Expressionist artists explored various, complicated, and sometimes contradictory themes. Images of sex, death, and satire share the stage with those celebrating the bonds of family, spiritual awakening, and moral commitment amid social upheaval. As such, Storm and Spirit aims to foreground the tensions within the movement itself.
The exhibition catalogue includes essays by international scholars who explore a range of topics that relate to the WAG’s collection and Expressionism in general. Writers include Dr. Carla Schulz-Hoffmann (Academy of Fine Arts, Munich, and former Deputy Director of the Bavarian State Painting Collection), Dr. Christian Weikop (University of Edinburgh), Dr. Anabelle Kienle Ponke (National Gallery of Canada), Dr. Ihor Holubizky (McMaster Museum of Art), and Andrew Kear (Winnipeg Art Gallery).