Art dealer of the Avantgarde

Rheinischer Expressionismus

The Rhenish Expressionist artists were central to Flechtheim’s gallery agenda up until the mid 1920s. Well-known protoganists include Heinrich Campendonk and Paul Adolf Seehaus, August and Helmuth Macke and Heinrich Nauen. A number of less familiar artists and regionally known names are also included among the Rhenish Expressionists such as Paul Baum, Heinz Ehmsen, Ernst Moritz Engert, Otto Feldmann, Franz Seraph Henseler, Franz M. Jansen, Walter Kniebe, Joseph Kölschbach, Matthias Lau, Marie von Malachowski-Nauen, Rudi and Carlo Mense, Walter Ophey, Olga Oppenheimer, William Straube, Hans Thuar and Felicitas Trillhase. Adolf Erbslöh, Max Ernst and Heinrich Maria Dawringhausen are also considered proponents of this style in certain phases of their work.

Stylistically, the artists orientated themselves on Fauvism and Futurism although they did not actually devise any common artistic concept. It was August Macke who invented the term ‘Rheinischer Expressionismus’ and initiated a sensational exhibition in Bonn in 1913 of the same name. This had been preceded by the famous Sonderbund exhibition in Cologne, at which many representatives of this direction in art had already exhibited. Through the exhibition in Bonn Macke wanted to establish the Rhineland region as the artistic centre of the avant-garde alongside Munich and Berlin, and his house and studio became a meeting place for artists. The exhibition venue was the Kunstsalon Cohen, run by Fritz Cohen, the proprietor of the lithography business and bookshop of the same name.
Alfred Flechtheim was one of the first art dealer’s to promote the Rhenish Expressionists from the outset. An exhibition of works by Paul Baum, Walter Ophey and other Rhenish Expressionists was held as early as May 1914 in the Galerie Flechtheim in Düsseldorf. After reopening the gallery in Düsseldorf works by these artists were again exhibited at Easter and Whitsun in 1919 together with works by Vincent van Gogh and Pablo Picasso, George Braque, Marie Laurencin, Max Liebermann and Karl Schuch. The exhibition to mark the reopening of the Galerie Flechtheim in Berlin in October 1921 included works by Henrich Nauen alongside those of Braque and Piacsso, Karl Hofer and Paul Klee. Solo exhibitions were held in succession at Flechtheim’s galleries for Heinrich Campendonk (1920), Walter Ophey (1920) and Helmuth Macke (1927), with important group exhibitions such as ‘Ostasiatische Gemälde von rheinischen Künstlern’ in summer 1920 and ‘Das Problem der Generation. Die um 1880 geborenen Meister von heute’ in Berlin in 1927. The archive of the Rhenish Expressionists and a reference library are now accommodated in the August-Macke-Haus in Bonn.