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BMA exhibit explores German Expressionism

Vibrant display includes works by artists breaking with tradition

February 01, 2014|By Tim Smith, The Baltimore Sun

This piece and several other war-related works give the exhibit extra weight — actual weight in the case of Lovis Corinth's "The Black Hussar," a huge, heavy 1917 portrait in oil of a fierce-looking Prussian captain. Corinth seems to have attacked the canvas with paint, unconcerned about nuance, yet creating all sorts of subtle layers beneath the almost harsh, smeary surface.

The painting has not been on display for some years in the museum. "When it was on display, they used to get letters complaining about it," Shell says. "It is scary. But it's a perfect precursor to [Willem] de Kooning."

A fitting answer to the haughty Prussian who stares from the canvas with a mix of pride and uncertainty is a small, eerie etching by Otto Dix from 1924, "Sappers Have to Keep Up Firing at Night." This is a view from the trenches, with moonlight falling on corpses that surround two soldiers aiming their guns at the enemy.

Whether facing killing fields or urban streets and nightspots, the Expressionists had a compelling way of getting up close and personal with their subjects, looking for answers, for truth. The BMA exhibit provides a rewarding reminder of what, and how, they saw.

tim.smith@baltsun.com

If you go

"German Expressionism: A Revolutionary Spirit" runs through Sept. 14 at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive. Free admission. Call 443-573-1700, or go to artbma.org.

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