The name, derived from a small picture by Kandinsky, The Blue Rider, is used to designate the most fertile artistic movement that arose in Germany before 1914. At the beginning of the century Munich was one of the main centres of German artistic activity. When Kandinsky settled there in 1896, the Jugendstil was thriving. In 1902 he opened his own school of art, and became president of the 'Phalanx' group. In 1904 all the advanced groups of artists united, and exhibitions were arranged of works by Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and the NeoImpressionists. In January 1909 Erbslöh, Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Kanoldt, Kubin, Gabriele Münter, Marianna von Werefkin, Schnabel and Wittenstein formed the New Artists' Federation of Munich, and held their first exhibition at the Tannhäuser Gallery from December 1909 to January 1910. Other artists joined the movement: Bechtejeff, Erma Bossi, Kogan, Sacharoff ( 1909), Girieud, Le Fauconnier ( 1910), Franz Marc, Otto Fischer ( 1911) and Mogilewsky ( 1912). In addition, Picasso, Derain, Rouault, Vlaminck, Braque and Van Dongen were invited to take part in the exhibitions.
This vast group, with no definite programme, had no aim other than to unite all the young artistic forces. To show its importance and its variety, Marc and Kandinsky took it upon themselves, in July 1911, to prepare a collective volume of aesthetic studies and numerous illustrations under the title of Der Blaue Reiter. But even before it appeared, in the course of the third combined exhibition ( December 1911) differences of opinion arose over questions of jury, and Kandinsky, Kubin, Marc and Cabriele Miinter left the Association. On the 18th of December, also at the Tannhäuser Gallery, the first exhibition of the new Blaue Reiter group was held, showing, forty-three pictures by Henri Rousseau, Delaunay, Epstein, Kahler, Macke, Bloch, Schönberg, David and Wladimir Burljuk, Bloè-Niestlé, Gabriele Münter Kandinsky, Marc and Campendonck. A second exhibition, confined to drawings and engravings (in black-and-white), took place at the Goltz Gallery three months later. The circle was enlarged by the inclusion of the Brücke group of Dresden, the New Secession of Berlin, the French artists Braque, Derain, Picasso, La Fresnaye, Vlaminck, Lotiron and Véra, and the Russians Nathalie Gontcharova, Larionov and Malevitch. In 1912 Paul Klee, moved by the works of Marc, Delaunay and Kandinsky, joined the group and exhibited his poetic water-colours.
The Blaue Reiter year book gives a fairly good picture of the scope of this movement, which embraced all the arts, and its revolutionary enthusiasm. 'Traditions', said Franz Marc, 'are a fine thing, but what is really fine is to create a tradition, and not just live off one.' Kandinsky, prime mover and fighting theoretician, contributed an article on the problem of form, a sequel and conclusion to his basic work, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, which had appeared a little while before. (An English translation of this work by Michael Sadleir, under the title of The Art of Spiritual Harmony, was published in 1914.) Marc wrote a study of the different tendencies in modern art in Germany; David Burijuk, of tendencies in Russia. Roger Allard introduced Cubism; Erwin von Busse wrote of Delaunay. Theodor van Hartmann, Sabanjeff and Arnold Schönberg dealt with modern music. There was no formulation of any aesthetic rule, unless perhaps an aversion to academic formulas, and a faith in what Kandinsky called the 'inner necessity'. This was the simple declaration that appeared on the title-page of the inaugural catalogue: 'We do not seek to propagate any precise or particular form: our aim is to show, through the variety of forms represented, how the inner desire of the artist expresses itself in different ways'. Expressionism, Cubism, Orphism and Abstract tendencies (vide Abstract Art) were to be seen there in a generous fraternity of romantic inspiration.
The war dispersed the efforts and energy of the Blaue Reiter. Macke was killed in 1914, Franz Marc in 1916. Klee and Kandinsky went back to the Bauhaus at Weimar and Dessau. A retrospective exhibition of the movement was arranged in Munich in 1949 (vide Jawlensky, Kandinsky, Klee, Macke, Malevitch, Marc).

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