Expressionists Exhibition to Open This Week at Tate Modern

Britain’s last major exhibition of German expressionist art from the Blue Rider movement was held in 1960.

Apr 23, 2024By Emily Snow, MA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial Studies
Tate Modern in London, photographed by Mara Brandl. Source: Imagebroker. Improvisation Deluge by Wassily Kandinsky, 1913. Source: Lenbachhaus Munich.


The new exhibition Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider opens to the public on Thursday, April 25 at Tate Modern in London. It showcases over 130 groundbreaking German Expressionist masterpieces—including paintings, sculpture, photography, performance, and sound—all brought together in the UK for the first time in over sixty years.


Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider

Tiger by Franz Marc, 1912. Source: Lenbachhaus Munich.


Shortly before the onset of World War I, painters Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc founded Der Blaue Reiter, German for the Blue Rider, in Munich. The radical collective of artists associated with the Blue Rider rejected traditional realism in art. Instead, they used subjective color palettes and symbolic abstracted forms to explore emotional and spiritual ideas.


Comprising of artists from across Europe and the United States, the Blue Rider formed what they called “a union of various countries to serve one purpose”—to transform modern art. Expressionists positions Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter, rather than Marc, as the key figureheads of the Blue Rider’s collective experimentation with color, abstraction, sound, and light. Kandinsky emigrated from Russia to Munich in the 1890s to study art, where he met Münter, a German painter immersed in the local avant-garde art scene. They enjoyed a professional and personal relationship for ten years, traveling abroad together and strongly influencing each other’s work.



The International “Union” of Modern Artists

Portrait of Marianne von Werefkin by Gabriele Münter, 1909. Source: Lenbachhaus Munich.


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According to Expressionists, the artists of the Blue Rider orbited around Kandinsky and Münter as a diverse and deeply interconnected network. They dissolved the barriers of nationality, gender, and chosen medium between them to more effectively experiment with artistic expression. The exhibition brings together all the revolutionary facets of the Blue Rider—including Franz Marc’s colorful and evocative animals, powerful sharp-eyed portraits by Marianne von Werefkin, freestyle performance art by Alexander Sacharoff, forward-thinking photographs by Gabriele Münter, and more.


“From the beginning the Blue Rider was less a strict group than a broad-church community of artists,” said Expressionists curator Natalia Sidlina. “They were transnational and were linked through various friendships and relationships—intimate, unconventional and professional—as well as through artistic collaborations, and shared quests and beliefs around spiritual and social renewal.”


Tate Modern Exhibition Details

Cossacks by Wassily Kandinsky, 1910-11. Source: Tate Modern.


Expressionists: Kandinsky, Münter and the Blue Rider was curated by Tate Modern in collaboration with Lenbachhaus in Munich, which offered rare access to its prestigious collection of German Expressionist art. The exhibition is on view at the iconic riverside museum in London from April 25 to October 20, 2024.


Viewers can expect to encounter many of the most significant Blue Rider artworks, some of which have never been exhibited in the UK until now. Expressionists also provides fascinating context about Munich as an avant-garde artistic hub in the early 20th century, as well as the efforts of the Blue Rider artists to publish manifestos, curate exhibitions, and otherwise spread their ideas internationally.

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By Emily SnowMA History of Art, BA Art History & Curatorial StudiesEmily Snow is a contributing writer and art historian based in Amsterdam. She earned an MA in art history from the Courtauld Institute of Art and loves knitting, her calico cat, and everything Victorian.