George Mylonas: Back to 1912: “Mission Moderne”

A hundred years of modern art


Almost 100 years ago Cologne was host to what clearly was the single most important presentation of European Modernism. Entitled the “Sonderbund Exhibition”, the show charted the developments in the latest movements in painting and the plastic arts by means of 577 canvases and 57 sculptures by 173 artists.

This unique exhibition brought together an abundance of masters that would be quite inconceivable today, including Cézanne, Gauguin, Macke, Munch, Nolde, Picasso, Schiele, Signac and van Gogh. The spectrum of the works ranged from Postimpressionism to German Expressionism – the young painters of die Brücke and the Blauer Reiter. With “1912 – Mission Moderne“, the Wallraf celebrates the centenary of the original exhibition by taking a spectacular look back at the Sonderbund’s show.

With over 100 masterpieces that were all exhibited on the occasion, the original goals and focuses of the exhibition will all be reconstructed. The Wallraf will bring back to light the fundamental trends that held sway at the dawn of the 20th century art. Thanks to the historical distance afforded by the hundred years in between, this fascinating retrospective underscores just how revolutionary and trail-blazing the “Sonderbund Exhibition” was in its time.

The Sonderbund was an organisation founded in the early twentieth century in order to disseminate and popularise modern art. Artists, collectors, art lovers, or personalities of the art world gathered around the banker and collector Karl Ernst Osthaus.

The Sonderbund organised three exhibitions in Düsseldorf and Cologne in 1912. This exhibition brought together the avant-garde artists and presented new trends. Major figures today such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Gauguin and Munch participated in the exhibitions.

To celebrate the centenary of this exhibition, the Cologne Wallraf Museum reconsiders this period and highlights the advances made possible by the Sonderbund towards the recognition of Modern Art. The retrospective is scheduled to run through December 30.

Read about the Wallraf Richartz Museum


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