DAS HAUS DER FRAU
BUGRA 1914 - 1939 revisited
This lovely colourful print by Hedwig Matthiessen was chosen to be the icon of this new website and collection display. It illustrates rarity (another copy was never seen), artisticity and craftsmanship. Hedwigs design is obviously inspired by a famous and revolutionary painting by Edvard Munch, below). Hedwig was one of the first generation of German woman artists pioneering with a new medium: colour printmaking without the aid of an etching press.
“Die Sonne” by Edvard Munch, painted in 1911 is a huge mural
created after winning a competition decorating the central Aula of Kristiana University (today Oslo). It is the spectacular central piece of an eleven piece series of mural paintings. Today considered an icon of Modern Art and a masterpiece in its days of conception the painting was very controversial.
Welcome to a mysterious and forgotten exhibition. It was planned to take place in 1939, to commemorate the 25. anniversary of the Leipzig 1914 all-women graphic artist exhibitions in the “Das Haus der Frau” pavilion at the Leipzig World Fair: the BUGRA.
The 1914 exhibition ended unexpectedly shortly after opening with the outbreak of WW-I. The 1939 exhibition was cancelled before it was even opened.
Read more below about the this forgotten exhibition, its rediscovery and the pursuit of works of art in an attempt to recreate its catalogue by assembling the works that were chosen by the organising committee.
The result can be visited in this virtual display of the works created by two generations of exceptional but mostly forgotten German women artists.
Rare and mysterious 1939 exhibition catalogue.
Its finding in the 1970’s ultimately lead to this special collection, exhibition and website.
In the early 1970’s, when I was a student roaming the antiquarian books shops and flea markets in the city on Saturdays, an old German exhibition catalogue was found. After it was purchased it became part of my expanding library and lived forgotten on a shelf. It was not until the late 1990’s rearranging overflowing book cases, it came to light for the second time, it was catalogued and stored again.
And then, entered in the digital age and trying to find out what it actually was about, Googling on a rainy day, this remarkable history unfolds.
Das Haus der Frau 1914-1939:
Leipzig BUGRA: “ein Wiederbesuchen”
Berlin juli - oktober 1939
The booklet, besides containing details concerning the organising committee, sponsors, address lists, opening hours, exhibition lenders etc… , alphabetically sums up the works of the represented women artists, the lay out and arrangements of the works in the different rooms of the exhibition building. In adjacent rooms selected works by important male colleagues (and teachers) and collections of works by sister artists in surrounding countries (Netherlands and Scandinavia) were to be displayed.
After a year of preparations, the exhibition was cancelled by the Nazi regime: many of the Jewish represented artists had fled Nazi Germany, had gone underground or “disappeared”. Several of the other artists withdrew their contributions to openly show their solidarity.
Later “officials” removed and destroyed all proof of the exhibition’s existence: advertising print work, posters, invitations, newspaper announcements, catalogues etc..
Not long after most of the surviving Jewish artist were captured, deported and murdered in the years to follow. On September 1. 1939 Germany invaded Poland.
Together with a copy of the actual 1914 Leipzig exhibitions in “Das Haus der Frau” these two documents cover the Golden age of Modern German printmaking (without the aid of an etching press) by German women artists. They proved all to be born between 1850-1900.
In the years that followed collecting colour woodblock prints (“Farbholzschnitte”) was mainly focussed on works created by the artists represented in those two catalogues.
This website is an attempt to recreate, with my personal collection, the actual 1939 exhibition. Many of the works were found, some of them extremely rare, as “only known copy to exist”. Because of the immense destructions of Germany’s cities by allied bombing in the aftermath of WW-II some prints mentioned were, to this day, ”never seen again”.
The Corona pandemic blocked the initiatives of these works to be displayed in an actual exhibition. A digital display in a website gallery also reduces air-miles considerably.
An illustrated exhibition book is not foreseen but the exhibition and collection administration is available as a 500 page newly composed Lexicon with hundreds of new short biographies covering all the represented artists involved in printmaking and many, many more …. A Who-is-Who in artistic Imperial and Weimar Germany.
A digital version (PDF) will also be made available.