On Thursday, April14, the art appreciation group, An Alphabet of Art, led by John Shearman, went on their annual outing. This year it was to the New Walk Museum, Leicester. The principal attraction was the recently rehung largest collection of German Expressionist art in the United Kingdom. An hour long lecture-tour was arranged for each of a morning and an afternoon group, given by Simon Lake, the present Curator, whose enthusiasm and expertise held us spellbound.
German Expressionism, a modernist movement of the twentieth century reflected the history of those turbulent times. Two groups of artists were at the heart of the early days. The Bridge was founded in 1905 and the Blue Rider in 1911. Some of the key artists involved include Nolde, Marc, Kandinsky and Klee. These sought to express the inner, emotional and spiritual dimensions of life in contradistinction to the objectivist traditions they inherited. But the First World War and its aftermath turned their attention to criticism of the harshness of modern industrial society and the need for a new social vision. Under Nazism Expressionism was condemned as ‘degenerate art’. It was this, fortuitously, that saw the beginning of this significant collection. The then Curator, Trevor Thomas, met Alfred Hess, the wealthy patron of the movement. As a result, when the original collection had to be dispersed, members of the family came to Britain with part of their collection, bringing them to Leicester.
There was also opportunity to visit, at leisure, other galleries in this interesting museum, including a considerable collection of nineteenth and later art, Sir Richard Attenborough’s collection of Picasso’s ceramics, and the vibrant annual exhibition of local art. Some also found their way down New Walk to the Cathedral and Richard III’s new resting place. All in all Leicester provide a pleasant and worthwhile day out. Try it!