The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao exhibits fifty works from the Thannhauser Collection

artdaily_BILBAO.-The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao presents Van Gogh to Picasso: The Thannhauser Legacy, featuring the celebrated Thannhauser Collection gifted to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, and marking the first time the majority of the collection as such leaves New York to be exhibited elsewhere. The show includes some fifty works by a number of the most well recognized Impressionists, Post-Impressionists, and modern masters, such as Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent van Gogh.

Paul Cézanne, Still Life: Flask, Glass, and Jug (Fiasque, verre et poterie), ca. 1877 (detail). Oil on canvas, 46.2 x 55.2 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.3. Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF).

The Thannhauser Collection is a bequest of nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century art given to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation by Justin K. and Hilde Thannhauser. Justin K. Thannhauser was the son of the German Jewish art dealer Heinrich Thannhauser, who founded the Moderne Galerie in Munich in 1909. From an early age, Justin K. worked alongside his father in the flourishing gallery and helped build an impressive and versatile exhibition program that included the French Impressionists and Post-Impressionists and regularly featured contemporary German artists. For example, the Moderne Galerie presented the premier exhibitions of the Neue Künstlervereinigung München (New Artists’ Association of Munich) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), both of which included Vasily Kandinsky, in 1909 and 1911, respectively. The Thannhausers also mounted in 1913 one of the first major Pablo Picasso retrospectives, thus initiating the close relationship between Justin K. Thannhauser and Picasso that lasted until the artist’s death in 1973.

Paul Gauguin, Haere Mai, 1891. Oil on burlap, 73 x 92 cm. Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. Thannhauser Collection, Gift, Justin K. Thannhauser 78.2514.16. Photo: © Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, New York (SRGF).

An ambitious businessman, Justin K. Thannhauser opened a second gallery in Lucerne in 1919 with his cousin Siegfried Rosengart. Eight years later, the highly successful Thannhauser galleries relocated their Munich gallery to the thriving art center of Berlin. There, the dealer organized major exhibitions of the work of such artists as Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, and Claude Monet. Business operations were nonetheless hindered in the next decade with the establishment of a Nazi government bent on purging the “degenerate art” of the avant-garde. The Thannhauser gallery in Berlin closed in 1937, shortly after Justin K. Thannhauser and his family immigrated to Paris. Thannhauser eventually settled in New York in 1940 and established himself as a private art dealer.

The Thannhausers’ commitment to promoting artistic innovation paralleled the vision of Solomon R. Guggenheim. In appreciation of this shared spirit, Justin K. Thannhauser gave a significant portion of his art collection, including more than 30 works by Picasso, to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, which owns and operates the eponymous museum in New York. Selections from the Thannhauser Collection have been on view at the Guggenheim since 1965. A bequest of ten additional works received after the death of Hilde Thannhauser, Justin’s second wife and widow, in 1991, augmented the Guggenheim’s holdings and enhanced the legacy of this family of important art dealers. This landmark presentation of the Thannhauser Collection at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao will not only trace the development of modernism at the turn of the century, but also underscore the Thannhauser family’s steadfast support of experimental art.


Gallery 305: Collecting Impressionism

The Thannhauser Collection played a major role in expanding the range of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation’s holdings to include the immediate precursors to the modern era. As prominent dealers in Germany in the first decades of the twentieth century, the Thannhauser family not only made a commitment to local contemporary artists, but also they organized important group and solo exhibitions featuring French avant-gardists from the late nineteenth century, including Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, and Édouard Manet. These rebellious artists, centered in Paris and largely associated with the loosely defined group of Impressionists, sought to liberate themselves from academic genres and techniques, exploring instead the fleeting effects of nature and urban subject matter, and employing stylistic devices such as loose brushwork in order to impart an illusion of spontaneity. They developed formal innovations that prepared the ground for the rapid proliferation of radically new approaches to art in the next century.

Manet’s Before the Mirror (1876), for example, illustrates the unconventional new types of subject matter in its depiction of a courtesan before her psyche, or mirror, in a state of partial undress. One assumes the role of spectator and intrudes upon this private moment in the boudoir, as the model—back turned—grasps an extended corset string. Another painting, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s Woman with Parakeet (1871), predates the artist’s Impressionist style but is nonetheless rendered with the feathery, textured brushwork that characterizes his work. The intimate scene captures a young, upper-middle-class woman playing with her pet bird, yet the stifling interior restricts the model’s space, just like that of her parakeet when confined to its gilded cage. These tensions embody the daily experience of a fashionable Parisian lady. Unlike men, women were confined almost exclusively to indoor domestic spaces and were not permitted to move freely about the city.

Gallery 306: Collecting Post-Impressionism and Early Modernism

The Thannhausers’ assembling of European art of the fin-de-siècle—a complex period defined by economic, political, social, and psychological turmoil, often in the name of progress—captures the diversity of artistic styles that emerged in reaction to the two dominant strains in art at the time: academic naturalism and the Impressionist adherence to the natural world. Artists such as Paul Gauguin and Vincent van Gogh, both subjects of critical exhibitions organized at the early Thannhauser gallery in Munich, turned their artistic eye inward. Van Gogh, in particular, translated reality through the lens of personal experience and emotion. As socalled Post-Impressionists, these artists reacted against the idea of art as a “window to the world” and used sinuous lines and non-naturalistic colors to imbue their paintings with an emotive tenor.

Painted during Van Gogh’s recovery from an attack of mental distress, Mountains at Saint - Rémy (July 1889) evokes the artist’s emotional state—not to mention the awe-inspiring presence of the rock formations near his hospital grounds—through its thick application of paint and animated brushstrokes. Similarly, Georges Braque, in his Fauvist painting Landscape nea r Antwerp (1906), employed vibrant, expressionistic colors and deconstructed the landscape as a sensation of patterned light. Still other varied art forms appeared at the turn of the century, including the flattened, stylized work of the untrained artist Henri Rousseau. Set amid an unspecified forest setting, Rousseau’s The Football Players (1908) is at once a joyful romp and a hauntingly dreamlike scene.

Gallery 307: Pablo Picasso

Drawn to Paris, which had become the international nexus of the art world, the Spanish-born artist Pablo Picasso first came to the city in 1900 for the World’s Fair. Le Moulin de la Galette (1900), the foremost painting executed during the course of his two-month stay, reflects the young Picasso’s fascination with the lusty decadence and gaudy glamour of Parisian night life. His artistic style rapidly evolved from more naturalistic to his melancholic Blue period and subsequent Rose period, before Picasso came to pioneer with Georges Braque the faceted forms and flattened spatial planes associated with Cubism. This movement developed in the crucial years from 1907 to 1914 and is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artistic styles of the twentieth century.

By the 1930s, Picasso is a renowned and established artist and his practice continues to evolve. Collector and dealer Justin K. Thannhauser, had a strong personal relationship with Picasso that started early in both men’s careers, in February 1913, when the Thannhauser family gallery in Munich mounted one of the first major Picasso exhibitions in Germany. More than 30 works by Picasso—spanning 65 years of the artist’s career— entered the Guggenheim Foundation’s collection in 1978 and 1991 with the respective donations of Justin K. and Hilde Thannhauser.

Highlights from the Thannhauser Collection include Picasso’s Fernande with a Black Mantilla (1905–06) and Woman with Yellow Hair (1931). The subject of the former painting is Fernande Olivier (née Amélie Lang), Picasso’s mistress, whom he met in 1904. The artist produced more than sixty works featuring Olivier before the pair parted ways in 1912. Here Picasso depicts an enigmatic Olivier wearing a traditional Spanish mantilla. The sleeping woman in the 1931 canvas portrays another companion, Marie-Thérèse Walter. Walter became a constant subject in Picasso’s work of the 1930s, the period in which she lived with him; she is often shown in a state of graceful repose or sleep—for Picasso, the most intimate of depictions.