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Groninger Expressionisten: klassische Avantgarde aus den nördliche Niederlanden

Groningen Expressionists: classical avant-garde from the northern Netherlands Exhibition: 8 June - 12 October 2008

Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman, The way back, from Chassidic legends, 1941. Groningen, Groninger Museum

Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman (1882-1945), The way back
From Chassidic legends, 1941
Groningen, Groninger Museum

Museum information

The exhibition in the Museum Schloss Moyland will be the first in Germany to present the artists of the Groningen avant-garde.

Expressionism was international. In the Netherlands the town of Groningen was the most important centre of this avant-garde movement outside Amsterdam. In 1918 a group of artists came together under the name of De Ploeg (lit: the plough). The group united artists whose works may be ordered under three main currents of Expressionism: a vitalist current as represented in Germany by groups like “die Brücke”; a lyrical metaphysic current such as can be found in artists with affinities to the Blue Rider (Blauer Reiter) group; and a geometric group that later developed in the direction of non-figurative constructivism. Most of the 60 paintings and 75 works on paper exhibited in the exhibition have been borrowed from the Groningen Museum; the exhibition is completed by many loans from private collectors.

Three major currents of Expressionism

In the vitalist current of the artists’ group “De Ploeg” there are above all clear stylistic affinities with the German Expressionist artists of “die Brücke”.

The exhibition shows works by the best-known and pioneering “De Ploeg” artists, Jan Altink, Johan Dijkstra, Job G. Hansen, Jan G. Jordens, George B. Martens, Henk J. Melgers, Alida J. Pott, Jannes de Vries and Jan Wiegers, whose personal contact with Ernst Ludwig Kirchner can be seen in a portrait of Kirchner in his atelier, painted in 1925. Contrasting colours and a predominantly emotional brushwork express the artists’ powerful love of life and their personal connection to the local landscape.

The works of Hendrik Nicolaas Werkman best represent the current of lyric/metaphysic Expressionism. The artist became internationally well known for his poetic colour compositions, some of which were inspired by typography. In Germany this form of Expressionism can be found principally amongst the artists of the Blue Rider (Blauer Reiter) group.

Werkman was a printer and typographer before he took up painting and turned to the “De Ploeg” group at the start of the 1920s. His work featured in many of their joint exhibitions. From 1922 onwards Werkman published an avant-garde journal entitled “The Next Call” in his printers workshop. It functioned as an organ of the “De Ploeg” artists for a time. In 1940 Werkman began publishing two portfolios with several prints inspired by Chassidic Legends in the Jewish storytelling tradition. A complete cycle can be seen in the exhibition.

Although it was not particularly large, there was also a geometric current to Expressionism that later developed into non-figurative constructivism. This current is represented by Wobbe Alkema and Jan van der Zee. These artists were in search of metaphysical laws and values. They first attempted to portray the world as bound up in a geometrical order. However, after a relatively short period of time, Alkema turned his back completely on visible reality in favour of constructivism.


Groninger Expressionisten: klassische Avantgarde aus den nördlichen Niederlanden | Groningse Expressionisten: de klassieke avant-garde uit het noorden van Nederland
Ron Manheim, with a foreword by Bettina Paust
Catalogue of an exhibition held in 2008 in Bedburg (MUseum Schloss Moyland)
100 pp., 37 illustrations in color, 29 x 22 cm.
Bedburg-Hau (Stiftung Museum Schloss Moyland) 2008
ISBN-13: 978-3-935166-42-3

Guided tours

An open guided tour of the exhibition takes place every Sunday at 15.00.
Special guided tours for groups – also in English – can be booked on request by telephoning: +49 (0) 2824 / 9510-68.

Erstmalig kann außerhalb der Niederlande mit diesem Ausstellungsprojekt die Groninger Avantgarde, eine spezifische Strömung des Expressionismus, umfassend präsentiert werden. Auch in den Niederlanden – dort in den Städten Amsterdam und Groningen – bildeten sich Zentren dieser internationalen Avantgardebewegung.

Eine Reihe von Künstlern der 1918 in Groningen gegründeten Künstlervereinigung De Ploeg (dt. Der Pflug) orientierten sich vor allem an den Entwicklungen des deutschen Expressionismus, wie sie sich in den Künstlergruppen Brücke und Der Blaue Reiter vollzogen. Durch die persönliche Verbindung des De Ploeg-Künstlers Jan Wiegers zu Ernst Ludwig Kirchner wurde dieser zu einem wichtigen Impulsgeber für die Groninger Expressionisten. In der Ausstellung werden insgesamt 127 Werke von 12 Künstlern der Künstlergruppe De Ploeg, die insbesondere in den 1920er Jahren ihre jeweils eigene expressionistische Bildsprache entwickelten, präsentiert.

Der Ausstellungskatalog gibt einen umfassenden Überblick über die dem Expressionismus zugewandten Künstler der Gruppe De Ploeg. In seinem Text unternimmt Ron Manheim nicht nur den Versuch einer Neubestimmung des Begriffs „Expressionismus“, sondern arbeitet zugleich erstmalig die drei zentralen expressionistischen Tendenzen innerhalb dieser künstlerischen Strömung im Kreis der Künstlergruppe De Ploeg heraus: die vitalistisch-expressive, die lyrisch-metaphysische und die geometrisierend-metaphysische. Zahlreiche Farbabbildungen sowie Künstlerbiografien machen diesen Katalog zu einem unverzichtbaren Nachschlagewerk zum Groninger Expressionismus.