Dachau Before Dachau: European Artist Colony 1860-1914

Dachau Concentration Camp: Years of Destruction 1933-1945

March 10 – August 30,2009

GogartenHenriOglethorpe University Museum of Art is privileged to introduce Dachau Before Dachau: European Artist Colony 1860-1914.  The Dachau Artist Colony is considered to be Germany’s equivalent to the Barbizon Artist Colon and its art had been overshadowed by a dark period in 20th century history – the infamy of Dachau’s concentration camp. A selection of excellent art works from the Dachau Artist Colony are exhibited for the first time in the U.S.

Along with the fine art exhibition are 15 panels documenting Dachau’s infamous period in Dachau Concentration Camp: Years of Destruction 1933-1945, from before it was a camp until present day. Both exhibitions demonstrate the fragility of creativity in the face of destruction.

The Artists’ Colony Dachau

The Dachau Painting Gallery is situated in the middle of the picturesque historic city of Dachau right opposite the city hall. Its permanent collection provides documentary evidence of the artists’ movement in the 19th century, which gave an important stimulus to the development of art in Germany. It was here in Dachau that open-air painting found one of its origins, the discovery of the landscape as an independent motif. 

Due to its location within the vicinity of Munich, Dachau became a popular meeting point for landscape painters in the 19th century. First, they were enthusiastic about the atmospheric landscape of the Dachau Moss with its changing natural light. Later, the painters began to show interest for the picturesque city, the village life and for the people in their traditional costumes. Besides purely artistic reasons which made the landscape painters leave the Munich art scene and go to Dachau, some of them came because of economic considerations. In comparison to Munich, the cost of living in Dachau was cheaper and the rents for studios were reasonable. Dachau became an artists’ location where the painters tried to portray the landscape in a true-to-life way. This was successfully achieved by painting right in front of the motif, in the landscape itself. Nature had become a work of art.

The Dachau Moss was discovered in the first half of the 19th century, by Johann Georg von Dillis, who was a teacher in landscape painting at the Munich Academy from 1804 to 1814. He visited the Dachau Moss together with his students and encouraged them to paint from nature. It was only in the middle of the 19th century that artists like Eduard Schleich the older, Carl Spitzweg and Christian Morgenstern came to Dachau. They were strongly influenced by the artists from Barbizon whom they had visited in 1851. The style in painting of the second half of the century was characterized by Adolf Lier and Wilhelm von Diez, two famous teachers in landscape painting at the Munich Academy. Among their students were painters like Fritz Baer, Josua von Gietl, Richard von Poschinger, Joseph Wenglein and Ludwig Willroider, or Hans am Ende, Ludwig Herterich, Fritz Mackensen, Max Slevogt and Wilhelm Trübner.

Around 1900 Dachau became an artistic colony through the work of art of Ludwig Dill, Adolf Hoelzel and Arthur Langhammer and an art centre from which an important new style developed. From 1893 until 1905 they met in Dachau to discover new styles in painting and expressions. Their break-through came in 1898 when the three artists had a joint exhibition as “The Dachauer” in Berlin. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Dachau, as many other artistic colonies, lost its importance. New, sensational fashions in painting were created in the big cities and only a small group of painters remained in Dachau. Nevertheless, besides the traditional open-air painting which still was continued by some artists, there were also avant-garde style painters in Dachau, like August Kallert, Adolf Schinnerer and Paula Wimmer, all artists who were looking for development out of the regional boundaries. After World War II the art scene in Dachau was influenced by the international trends in art. Artists like Oskar Coester, later Heinz Braun and Fred Arnus Zigldrum are good examples of this development.

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