During the first half of the 20th century immens social and technological changes took place. Moreover, Europe found itself engaged in two world wars.
A number of paintings in this room were conceived during this period. They were acquired in the 1950s by the director at that time, Edy de Wilde, to put the contemporary art in a historical context. By getting to know work by such artists as Picasso, Braque, Chagall and Delaunay, who were already famous, the public would be better able to understand the art of their own age – that was the thinking. Today these paintings are among the classic works of modern art. They show how radically painting broke with tradition at the start of the last century in Paris. These are works that celebrate modern life and in which painters experimented with form and colour. In this information leaflet two of famous paintings in this room are discussed.
The Russian painter Marc Chagall (1887-1985) moved to Paris in 1910. There he met a number of Cubist painters. They depicted their three-dimensional subjects in several aspects on the flat picture plane. The influence of this ground-breaking movement in painting is evident in ‘Hommage à Apollinaire’ (1911-1912) in the way in chich Chagall divides the figures and the circle form into fragments, before joining them together again in a new way. His admiration of the avant-garde art of his day is reflected in the title of this painting and the heart with the names. Apollinaire was a leading art critic and champion of the new art forms that evolved in Paris early in the twentieth century. Canudo, Cendras and Walden are also people who helped to promote this contemporary art. But Chagall’s painting also has a deeper meaning. Man stands at the centre as the midpoint of time and space. The circle in ‘Hommage à Apollinaire’ can be thought of as a globe and also, because of the numbers, as a clock face.
The personal aspiration of everyone must be to restore the original harmony between man and the universe, which was disrupted at the time of the Fall, symbolised here by the apple. The disintegration into opposites and the striving to reunite them is expressed by Chagall both thematically and formally.
The French painter Robert Delaunay (1885-1941) was one of the advocates of Cubism. In ‘L’équipe de Cardiff’ (1913) he does not proceed from one main motif, but interweaves different motifs to produce a dynamic whole. Here again we see a circle that links the composition: the big wheel. Delaunay’s painting is based on a photo of the Cardiff rugby team in a French sporting magazine. He combines this motif with several new feats of technology of the time: the Eiffel Tower and the aeroplane. With his inscriptions he alludes to advertising signs. ASTRA was the name of an aircraft factory, but it is also Latin for ‘star’. The words MAGIC PARIS evoke the attractions of the French capital. All in all, the subject is very contemporary: Paris as a bustling city, full of new things and entertainment.
In Plug #01 the paintings in this room were combined with ‘The Castle’, a recently acquired work by Pavel Büchler (Prague, 1952). This work is on loan to the Kunsthalle Bern for an exhibition of the work of Büchler. This exhibition takes place from 21 October– 3 December 2006.