Saturday, January 28, 2017

Picasso, Braque, Juan Gris, Léger, Klee, Kandinsky: The Collection of Hermann and Margrit Rupf:

Guggenheim Museum Bilbao  

November 11, 2016, to April 23, 2017

Curators: Susanne Friedli, Hermann and Margrit Rupf Foundation, and Petra Joos, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is presenting The Collection of Hermann and Margrit Rupf. This exhibition brings together 70 works by key artists in the history of art during the first half of the 20th century, including Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger, Paul Klee, and Vasily Kandinsky, in dialogue with works by contemporary artists dating from the second half of the 20th century until today. 
  • Hardly any time went by between the creation of works by artists like Picasso, Braque, and Derain and their acquisition by Hermann Rupf, who was personally involved with these artists at the beginning of their careers.
  • The Rupfs were close friends with artists like Vasily Kandinsky and Paul Klee, who gave Hermann and Margrit Rupf dedicated works on important occasions like birthdays and Christmas.
  • Even today, the Rupf Foundation strives to expand the collection with the most recent contemporary art without losing sight of the core of the art collection that the couple amassed over their lifetime.
  • This is the first time that this collection, consisting of an extensive selection of works rendered between 1907 and 2016, is travelling to Spain.

In 1963, one year after the death of Hermann Rupf, the Foundation managed to purchase Henri Laurens’s 1918 work Fruit Bowl and Pipe (Compotier et pipe) to complete its already extensive group of sculptures and works on paper by this artist. In 1964, a relief by Hans Arp was purchased (Gallery 307).

 In 1964, a relief by Hans Arp was  purchased (Gallery 3 07).  In the 1990’s, the existing collection was expanded with works by  American artists as  Donald Judd  (Gallery 307), Joseph Kosuth, Brice Marden, Ad Reinhard, and James Turrell, and European artists as Piero Manzoni (Gallery 307), Enrico Castellani (Gallery 307), Lucio Fontana (Gallery 307), and  Christian Megert (Gallery 307) , among others. 

A group of works representing Minimalism and the  ZERO Movement was  also  acquired, which today  remains a fascinating continuation of the Rupfs’ original collection, since in the early days of their collecting we can see an undeniable preference for the tradition ofconstructivist and conceptual art. 

The creation of the Rupf Foundation guaranteed that the collection would be conserved,  consolidat ed  and expan ded. Th e Foundation  still focuses on the most recent contemporary art  without losing sight of the core of the collection, comprised of the wonderful  works of art gathered  by Rupf. This exhibition reveals the coherence and evolution of the  Collection  of  Hermann and  Margrit Rupf as a reflection of the art of their day. 

This is the first time that this collection has travelled to Spain, with an extensive selection of works  rendered between 1907 and 2016. 


Gallery 3 5 This gallery displays some of the first paintings that Hermann Rupf purchased between 1907 and 1908 from the Parisian gallery owned by his friend Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler . They include the three  portraits of Kahnweiler painted by Picasso in 1957, all of which are  on  display in this exhibition. Both Rupf and  Kahnweiler were trained at the  Commerz und Disconto Bank in Frankfurt. While  Kahnweiler continued his training as an intern at a stock broker age firm in Paris from 1902 to 1904,  Rupf began to work at the company Jacques Meyer Fils & Cie (currently Galleries Lafayette). From  the very start, the two shared an interest in literature and music, and th ey both attended a host of theatre performances and concerts. Fascinated by both classical and modern art , they spent a great deal of time at the Louvre and in different galleries . 

After yet another sojourn abroad, this time in  London, Rupf returned to his hometown of Bern started to work at the mercery and haberdashery owned by his brother -in- law, Ruedi Hossmann, where he became a co -proprietor in 1908.  Thereafter  the company was known as “Hossmann & Rupf .” After  marrying Margrit Rupf in 1910, he tended to heed  his own judgement when purchasing the works in his collection, al though  his Paris  art dealer and personal friend Daniel -Henry Kahnweiler played a key role in shaping the collection.   

Thanks to his gallery, Rupf was able to boost his collection with of works by Fernand Léger (Gallery 306), Juan Gris (Gallery 306), and later André Masson. As attested to in the almost 800 letters still  conserved, Hermann Rupf and Kahnweiler enjoyed a life-long friendship .  

On Rupf’s business trips to Paris to expand his assortment of mercery  and haberdashery goods with fashion accessories, he would meet with Kahnweiler in his gallery and sometimes accompany him on his visits to artists. As early as 1907 , Rupf began to purchase works by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the artists of Fauvism, such as Othon Friesz and André Derain. 

Pablo Picasso (Málaga, Spain, 1881 –Mougins, France, 1973) Head of a Man  ( Tête d‘homme ), 1908  Oil on wood  27 x 21 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern  © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016.  
 One of his first purchases was  Head of a Man ( Tête d’homme ) by Picasso  from 1908, 
as well as the  Georges Braque  work  Houses at L’Estaque  ( Maisons à l’Estaque )

The latter painting had been  carried by the artist directly from L’Estaque, a town in southern France where he had lived for a  period , to what would be his first major exhibition in Kahnweiler’s gallery. In the ensuing years, Rupf gradually expanded his collection with works by Picasso, Braque, André  Derain, Juan Gris , and Maurice de Vlaminck. 

Until the outbreak of World War I, his collection kept  growing  to becom e a select set of almost 30 works, most of them Cubist. When the war broke out, the Parisian gallery owner accepted Rupf’s invitation to stay in Bern until it  ended. During his exile, Kahnweiler wrote several texts on philosophy and art theory and forged  relationships with major figures of the period, including Hans Arp, who was living in Zurich at the  time

(Gallery 307).  The work in this gallery by Florian Slotawa,  Bernese Pedestals  ( Berner  Sockel ), from 2010, deserves  special mention. The artist carefully studied the Collection of Hermann and Margrit Rupf, as well as  its history, and he chose four sculptures:  Leaf -Torso ( Blatt -Torso , 1963) by Hans Arp, Margrit Rupf - Wirz (1922) by Max Fueter ,  Kneeling Nude (Nu agenouillé , 1929) by Henri Laurens, and  Lying Cow (Liegende Kuh , 1925) by Ewald Mataré. For each of these four pieces, which are representative of  the Rupf Collection, Slotawa  designed  with a pedestal made with furnishings that  were  originally  found in  the collectors’ home.

 Gallery 306 In the years after the Great  War, the Rupf s were able to resume the expansion of their collection. In  the early 1920’s, they added the latest works by Georges Braque (Gallery 305), André Derain  (Gallery 305), Juan Gris (Gallery 206), Henri Laurens (Gallery 306), Fernand Léger (Gallery 306),  Paul Klee (Gallery 307) , and Louis Moillet (Gallery 307. 

Just  like prior to the war, during this period hardly any time elapsed between the creation of the works a nd  their acquisition  by the Rupfs. At that point, Kahnweiler  did not manage to keep all the artists with which he worked before the war  at his gallery. However, he soon landed new artists such as Paul Klee, whom he represented abroad  in 1933 thanks to Rupf’s mediation. In this gallery, you can see the artistic evolution of Juan Gris from 1913 until 1925, 

Pablo Picasso ( Málaga, Spain, 1881 – Mougins, France, 1973) Violin Hanging on a Wall (The Violin) ( Un violon accroché au mur [Le  violon ] ), 1913 Oil and sand on canvas 65 x 46 cm  Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern © Sucesión Pablo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid,  2016

along with a work  by Picasso also from 1913,  Violin Hanging on the wall ( Violin)  [ Un violon accroché au mur ( Le  violon )] 


He also forged ties with other artists, such as Fernand Léger in Contrasts of Forms   Contrastes de formes), also from 1913, and Henri Laurens, whose works in this exhibition illustrate part of the evolution of his sculptural oeuvre; after his early days as a Cubist, Laurens shifted to working with voluminous forms and the female figure. 

 Untitled  No. 85 –065 (1985) by Donald Judd is an abstract sculpture made of aluminum mounted on  the wall ; it is part of a series of modular works in bright colors crafted between 1983 and 1990. All  the modules are the same height, depth , and width, and in them the artist deliberately tried to avoid  combinations of “harmonious” or “dissonant” colors.  

 Gallery 307 The Rupfs were close friends with Paul and Lily Klee, and after 1913 they regularly acquired works from Klee. Paul Klee moved back to Bern a fter the closure of the Bauhaus Dessau, where he taught, because  the Nazis regarded  him as a “degenerate painter .” One clear illustration of their close friendship is the fact that the artist gave Hermann and Margrit Rupf dedicated works on important occasions like birthdays and Christmas. Likewise, the Rupfs were also patrons of many artists, scientists , and musicians in the city of Bern.   

Hermann Rupf was an active art critic and played a prominent role in nurturing the taste for contemporary art. Between 1909 and 1931, he wrote criticism for the Social Democratic weekly Berner Tagwacht which was targeted at the conservative cultural policy of the era and called for a  greater understanding of contemporary art. 

Rupf purchased a series of drawings directly from Klee for the first time in 1914, and between 1931  and 1933 he belonged to the Klee Society, created in the 1920’s to guarantee the artist additional  income by contributions of at least 50 Imperial Marks in exchange for the privilege of being able to  purchase works from the artist under special conditions. 

By 1940, when Klee died after a long  illness, the Rupfs owned 26 of his works. From then on, the artist’s widow, Lily Klee, was in charge of his legacy, from which Rupf purchased another 17 works until her death in 1946. Thanks to their relationship with Klee, in the early 1930’s the Rupfs met Vasily Kandinsky and his  wife, Nina. 

Just like Klee, Kandinsky had also been a teacher at the Bauhaus  Dessau. The Kandinskys and Rupfs met in 1933, although initially they were brought together not so much over  art but because of Rupf’s economic assistance.

In 1934, Kandinsky gave his “Swiss financial advisor”  the  watercolor he titled Sonorous (Klangvoll, 1929) to show his appreciation for Rupf’ s help. In the ensuing years, the two couples became close friends, and the Rupfs remained close with Nina Kandinsky even after her husband ’s death in 1944. Sixteen of his works (five of which can be seen in this gallery) reached the Collection of Hermann and Margrit Rupf, not without difficulties, since during the artist’s lifetime they had only purchased one painting in the autumn of 1935,   

Calm Tension (Tension tranquille), painted that same year. The works displayed in the exhibition date  from 1916 to 1940 and encompass Kandinsky’s oeuvre from his temporary return to Russia until his later works in Paris. 

The collection harbors two special works that Rupf purchased in 1939 in a historical auction of  “paintings and sculptures by modern masters from German Museums” —regarded as “degenerate  art” —held in Lucerne. At first, Rupf expressed his doubts to Kahnweiler , as hinted at by his own  words: “With regard to the sale of German paintings in Lucerne, “ I am of the opinion that no one  should bid so that that gang w ill have no more expenses and w ill sell nothing. That would be  wonderful. Or, if possible, all the paintings should be purchased at rock -bottom prices, with no high  bids.  But this can’t be arranged in advance.” 

Despite his initial qualms, he ultimately bought two works,  

Garden Restaurant ( Gartenrestaurant , 1912) by August Macke 

and  Lying Cow (Liegende Kuh , 1925) by Ewald Mataré (Gallery 305). This purchase was particularly valuable to Rupf, since his three best “artist friends” were now represented in his collection —Klee, Macke, and Moillet —with  whom he had taken a celebrated trip to Tunis in 1914. In this gallery, we can see that the Rupf collection as it stood as not supposed to be viewed as complete; instead , it had to continue to evolve. Works by Hans Arp, Meret Oppenheim, Lucio Fontana, and the ZERO Group, among others, close and complete the show. 

Hermann Rupf repeatedly supported the local art scene, often despite his own personal concerns and fears. He regularly provided financing to different creators, and his commitment to the public soon led him to lend paintings from his collection. In the mid-1930’s, the Rupfs began to ponder where their collection should go so that it could be displayed in public. Almost 20 years later, in  1954, they finally managed to create the Hermann and Margrit Rupf Foundation.   

In 1956, the collection was catalogued and displayed  in the Kunstmuseum Bern for the first time. In the early years, Hermann Rupf kept careful watch over the Foundation’s activities , and even  considered the possibility of selling some of its works. In 1961 , Margrit Rupf died, and her husband  followed her one year later. From that time on, the responsibility for new acquisitions shifted to the  Board. 

After the founders’ deaths in the early 1960’s, the Hermann and Magrit Rupf Collection  belonging  to the Hermann and Margrit Rupf Foundation, made up of 41 paintings, 14 sculptures, 23 drawings,  149 prints , and 32 books containing original engravings was deposited at the Kunstmuseum Bern.  The Rupfs also left the rest of their assets to the Foundation as well, thus guaranteeing that it could  continue to acquire new art works in the future. 

Without losing sight of the impressive  core collection of  art works  assembled  by the Rupfs, the Foundation continues to expand the collection today with  more recent works of contemporary art.

Pablo Picasso (Málaga, Spain, 1881 – Mougins, France, 1973) Portrait of D.-H. Kahnweiler II, 1957 Lithography  65 x 49 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern © Sucesión Pab lo Picasso, VEGAP, Madrid, 2016 

André Derain (Chatou, France, 1880 –Garches, France, 1954) Landscape near Cassis ( Paysage aux environs de Cassis ), 1907 Oil on canvas 33x 41cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern © An dré Derain, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2016 

Georges Braque  (Argenteuil -sur -Seine, France , 1882 –Pari s, 1963) Violin and Bow (Violon et archet), 1911 Oil on canvas 46 x 33 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern  © Geor ges Braque, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2016  

 Juan Gris (Madrid, 1887 –Boulogne -Billancourt, France, 1927) Book and Pipe  ( Livre et pipe ), 1925 Oil on canvas 27 x 35 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern   

Fernand Léger ( Argentan, France , 1881 – Gif - sur - Yvette, France , 1955 ) Still Life (Nature morte), 1922 Oil on canvas 65 x 50 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern  © Fer nand Léger, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2016 

Paul Klee (Münchenbuchsee, Switzerland, 1879 –Muralto, Switzerland,  1940) Full Moon in the Garden  ( Vollmond im Garten ), 1934  Oil on primed canvas 50 .3 x 60 .1 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern  © Paul Klee ’s Estate/VEGAP, 2016 

  Vasily Kandinsky (Moscow , 1866 –Neuilly -sur -Seine, Franc e, 1944) Split Horizontal  (Horizontale divisée ), 1935 Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper  35 x 54 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern  ©  Vasily Kandi nsky, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2016 

André Masson ( Balagny -sur -Thérain,  Franc e, 1896 –Par is, 1987 )  Beheaded Ox (Le bœuf égorgé), 1930 Oil on canvas 65 x 81 cm Hermann und Margrit Rupf -Stiftung, Kunstmuseum Bern  © André Masson, VEGAP, Bilbao, 2016