Invitation to the press conference | “Escapism and Modernity: Oskar Zwintscher. Art in 1900”

06 May 2022

Oskar Zwintscher (1870–1916) ist international ein wieder z

This exhibition finally gives Oskar Zwintscher (1870–1916) the status he deserves as one of the most important artists of the fin de siècle. From the 1890s on, he painted scenes that were charged with symbolism, evocative landscapes and sensitive portraits. With his unusual pictures, Zwintscher gained great recognition during his lifetime, but also met with strong disapproval. In 1910, his fame eventually culminated in a solo exhibition at the Venice Biennale. The Albertinum of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (SKD) is now dedicating "Escapism and Modernity: Oskar Zwintscher. Art in 1900", a comprehensive retrospective of this epoch of art around 1900, showing the artist in a series with Arnold Böcklin, Ferdinand Hodler, Franz von Stuck and Gustav Klimt.

More than fifty paintings offer an insight into the full range of Zwintscher’s multifaceted oeuvre, extending from Jugendstil to symbolism. In the joint presentation with 50 other paintings and 10 sculptures by artists of his time, as well as photographs, illustrations, magazines and books from the years around 1900, the importance of the Dresden painter is shown in a new light. This interplay of different forms of media – painting, sculpture, drawings and photography – most of which are from the SKD’s holdings, provides a vivid impression of this exciting era at the dawn of the 20th century.

While Städtische Galerie Dresden is the source of most of the works on loan, the Albertinum owns the majority of the works painted by Oskar Zwintscher. Other important loans will be coming from Chemnitz, Freital, Leipzig and Meißen. Hilke Wagner, director of the Albertinum, explains: “Most of Zwintscher’s works are in East German collections, meaning that he has remained largely unnoticed in post-war West German art history. To this day, well over 30 years after the Peaceful Revolution, one of our main tasks as a museum is still to make retroactive corrections to the art historiography and to set the canon right to some extent. That is what we will now be doing at the Albertinum, which holds the lion’s share of Zwintscher’s works, in the biggest retrospective since 1916, the year of his death.”

In 2019 and 2020, the collection of Oskar Zwintscher’s works at the Albertinum was subjected to intensive artistic and technological investigations in cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts, Dresden. The research project produced astonishing findings offering deep insights into the artist’s painting processes. They depict Oskar Zwintscher as a skilled master of colour and composition with an equally great love of experimentation, who often spent months trying to perfect his works by altering and painting over them.

In the special exhibition based on this project, paintings by this unconventional artist are now united with selected loans and works from the Albertinum’s holdings to create a stunning retrospective of his era. Oskar Zwintscher’s paintings are studied from a variety of perspectives to place them in the context of the national and international developments occurring around 1900. Juxtaposing Zwintscher’s paintings with works by secessionist artists and from the Jugendstil hotspots of Brussels and Vienna, or with paintings by Paula Modersohn-Becker and Emilie Mediz-Pelikan, sheds light on key artistic highways, byways and crossroads, closing a long-standing gap in European art history in a form that captivates the public.

To accompany the exhibition, Sandstein Verlag Dresden has announced the book “Escapism and Modernity: Oskar Zwintscher. Art in 1900” (German only), with contributions by more than 30 recognised experts. Published by Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Andreas Dehmer, Birgit Dalbajewa. 304 pages, 258 illustrations, mostly in colour, 28 x 22 cm, hardback, 42 euros, ISBN 978‑3‑95498‑681‑1.

From 24 February to 23 July 2023, a modified version of the exhibition will be on display in its next venue at the Wiesbaden Museum.


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