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Jury for the Berlin Secession 1908 exhibition. From the left: sculptors Fritz Klimsch and August Gaul, painters Walter Leistikow and Hans Baluschek, art dealer Paul Cassirer, painters Max Slevogt (sitting) and George Mosson (standing), sculptor Max Kruse, painters Max Liebermann (sitting), Emil Rudolf Weiß and Lovis Corinth.
Meeting of the Berlin Secession. From the left: Wilhelm Kohlhoff, Erich Büttner, Friedrich Scholz, Ernst Fritsch, Leo von König, Lovis Corinth, Ernst Oppler, Emil Orlik, Bruno Krauskopf, Charlotte Behrend-Corinth, Erich Waske, Franz Heckendorf by Ernst Oppler, 1921

Berlin Secession (also: Berlin Secession)[1] is the name of a German artist group . Founded on May 2, 1898, as the antithesis to the hitherto dominant academic art industry, it has become the leading art association at the latest since the transfer of Munich artists, which today is stylistically referred to as Berlin Impressionism and occupies an outstanding position in German impressionism .



The upheavals that led to the formation of the Berlin Secession and other groups of artists began in 1891 on the occasion of the Great International Art Exhibition in Berlin. The dispute was about the Department of Norwegian Artists, which escalated in the following year, after the commission of the Association of Berlin artists had rejected the images of Edvard Munch . In February 1892, under the leadership of Walter Leistikow , Franz Skarbina and Max Liebermann, some painters joined together to form a "free association for the organization of artistic exhibitions" and organized an art exhibition in the spring of 1892 as Die Elf , without, however, leaving the Verein Berliner Künstler or to avoid the annual salon - the " Great Berlin Art Exhibition ". The Free Union of the XXIV was founded in Munich and exhibited under this name in Berlin.

A revision of the statutes of the General German Art Cooperative by Anton von Werner and Hugo Schnars-Alquist held in October 1892 still the business association together. But in November 1892 it came to a scandal when an exhibition of the works of Edvard Munch was this time closed by a majority of the members of the Association of Berlin Artists and Munch's images were described as "repugnant, ugly and mean". The opposing group of painters, however, was not yet strong enough to leave the established exhibition system. Thus the "Freie Berliner Kunstausstellung 1893" parallel to the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, in which the Munich Secession was embedded, to which a number of artists had meanwhile joined (inter alia Adolf Brütt , Max Kruse , Walter Leistikow , Reinhold Lepsius , Lesser Ury and Max Liebermann).

The jury of the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in 1898 rejected a landscape painting by the painter Walter Leistikow. Now the proof was finally provided that the "modern art" of the existing organizations had no support to expect. As a consequence, 65 artists founded the Berlin Secession with Walter Leistikow as organizer. Among the 65 founding members were three artists , among them Julie Wolfthorn and Käthe Kollwitz . The term secession is derived from the Latin term secessio and means "separation" or "splitting off". Max Liebermann was elected president. In addition to the presidents Liebermann and Walter Leistikow, the board formed the artists Otto Heinrich Engel , Ludwig Dettmann , Oskar Frenzel , Curt Herrmann and Fritz Klimsch . Liebermann demanded a separate room for the Secession at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition in 1899; After this was rejected, the members of the Secession closed the association of Berlin artists. From then on, it was also necessary to find suitable own exhibition rooms, which the Secession wanted to rebuild.

Liebermann recruited the art dealers Bruno and Paul Cassirer , and offered them to become executive secretaries of the Secession. They joined in 1899 and together had a seat on the board but without voting rights. They were responsible for the planning and execution of the building, which was built according to plans by Hans Grisebach at Kantstraße 12 (corner Fasanenstraße ).

On May 19, 1899, the building with an exhibition of 330 pictures and graphics and 50 sculptures was opened in Charlottenburger Kantstraße. Of the 187 exhibitors, 46 lived in Berlin and 57 in Munich. Foreign contributions were still missing, but should follow in a later edition. The audience of 2000 invited guests was impressed, the exhibits were perceived as overcoming the prevailing mediocrity. At the second exhibition, the international claim was honored, of which 414 exhibits were over ten percent of foreign artists, including Pissarro , Renoir , Segantini and Whistler . This baffled nationalist circles, so that a conservative minority separated again until 1902 from the Secession. In addition to the summer exhibitions, there were also winter exhibitions reserved for graphics under the title "Black and White Exhibitions". At the 1902 exhibition, works by Kandinsky , Manet , Monet and Munch were shown for the first time. For the first time, the trend showed that Berlin Munich declined the rank of art metropolis Germany. When Germany wanted to participate with art in the World Exhibition in 1904 in St. Louis , failed to reach an agreement of the Commission to Anton von Werner and the Emperor with the Berlin Secession.

In 1905, the relocation to the then new larger building on Kurfürstendamm 208, the place where today the theater on Kurfürstendamm is located. Jury members this year were Heinrich Reifferscheid, Philipp Franck, Leo von König, Lovis Corinth and Ernst Oppler.[2] In the same year Gerhart Captain was appointed honorary member.[3]

On May 5, 1909, there was a private performance of the Russian Court Ballet in the Krolloper . Among the visitors were Max Slevogt, Georg Kolbe, Fritz Klimsch and Ernst Oppler, as well as representatives of the press.[4] The ballet and the tennis courts were among the most popular motifs of the Berlin Secession.

Conflicts and splitsEdit

The Berlin Secession had developed from the counter-movement to the recognized size of the art business. Many important artists were active or joined, in 1906 it was August Kraus, in 1907 it was Max Beckmann , Bernhard Pankok , Hans Purrmann , and Emil Rudolf Weiß , 1908 Ernst Barlach , Wassily Kandinsky and Emil Orlik , 1909 Lyonel Feininger , 1910 Rudolf Grossmann and 1911 Hans Meid . Around 1909, the Berlin Secession consisted of 97 members. There was still criticism from conservative circles, who consider the Berlin impressionism as decadent and a threat to German art, such as the nationalist Werdandi-Bund . From an artistic point of view, the Secession was very tolerant, even towards opposing positions: none of the representatives of the Secession, who were close to German impressionism , viewed Paul Baum's approach to pointillism in the style of French Post-Impressionism as negative.

The success was accompanied by economic interests and the despotic behavior of the art dealer Paul Cassirer . Thus, it is narrated by Emil Nolde that Cassirer called the artists his slaves. In particular, artists who had no chance to exhibit at Cassirer, believe in the exhibition of the Secession to have disadvantages.

After 27 mostly Expressionist artists had been rejected by the jury, it came in 1910 to withdraw, including Max Beckmann. On the initiative of Georg Tappert , Heinrich Richter-Berlin and others, u. a. Otto Mueller and Max Pechstein , through whom the Dresdner Künstlergruppe Brücke was added, formed a new group, the Neue Secession . In May she opened her first exhibition "Rejected of the Secession Berlin 1910". Pechstein was elected president, Tappert chairman. After a fierce dispute by Emil Nolde against President Max Liebermann, Nolde was expelled from the Secession, and a little later Liebermann and his closest associates resigned from office. Successor of Liebermann 1911 Lovis Corinth . After he suffered a stroke, he could no longer perform the office.

Numerous artists were dependent on the sales of the art dealers Bruno and Paul Cassirer, sometimes even denied their livelihood on this way.[5] Paul Cassirer ran and was elected first chairman. He organized the summer exhibition of 1913. Although this was very successful, but he had also 13 (mostly younger) members can not be exhibited. They then organized their own exhibition and did not follow the call to leave the Secession. To solve the problems, u met. a. Max Neumann, Ernst Oppler, Adolph Herstein and Max Liebermann in his studio. They agreed on a desegregation Cassirers on June 6, 1913. Oppler held the scene in his work consultation in the studio . Art criticism interpreted the picture as planning the break with Cassirer. In fact, the depicted persons Struck, Emil Pottner , Bischoff-Culm, Max Neumann and Herrstein, along with Corinth, were the members who remained loyal to the Secession.[6] Although Lovis Corinth took over again, the break was unstoppable. Around 40 artists left the Secession, including Slevogt and Liebermann and even Paul Cassirer. In March 1914, some of the departed founded the existing until 1924 Free Secession with Max Liebermann as Honorary President. A little later, the " Juryfreie Kunstausstellung " opened, which allowed a picture market entirely without a jury, art dealers and groupings. Oppler did not resign from the Secession, but renounced in the future to participate in the annual exhibitions of the now approaching Expressionism Berlin Secessionists.

Building of the Berlin Secession in Tiergartenstraße 21a

1915 to 1934Edit

On Kurfürstendamm No. 232 in 1915 a new exhibition house was moved, which had been donated by the AEG . As a gift, the artists of the Secession put together a portfolio of works for the director of AEG Heinrich Hirschberg . The building now regularly hosts spring and autumn exhibitions. In addition, meetings were held. From then on, new members were accepted by a three-fourths majority. Corinth remained president of the association until his death in 1925. Thereafter, at the request of Charlotte Corinth no president was elected; the businesses carried several equal members of the executive board. In 1928, the Berlin Secession moved into new rooms in Tiergartenstraße No. 21a, which were redesigned by Leo Nachtlicht . From 1931 to 1933, rooms on one floor of the Romanesque house on Budapester Strasse served as an exhibition space. Then there was no fixed address, but it was hired for exhibitions rooms. On 19 April 1934 Leo von König re-elected a president, as the last entry in the minutes shows.

Berlin secession in time of National-SocialismEdit

Memorial plaque for the Berlin Secession on Kurfürstendamm 208

After the First World War had had a negative impact on the Secession, the cultural policy in the period of National Socialism led to a lasting damage that made the once influential artists' association meaningless.

After the " seizure of power " of the National Socialists in February 1933, a new board was elected, which included, among others, Max Pechstein, Eugene Spiro , Magnus Zeller , Hans Purrmann , Bruno Krauskopf and Rudolf Belling . At the meeting of March 10, 1933, Pechstein spoke about the position of some members of the Secession, and emphasized that no policy should be carried into the Secession. A week later, however, was discussed about the possible cooperation with the Nazi regime and the Kampfbund for German culture . Eugene Spiro resigned from his position on the Executive Board, and further withdrawals were made in April 1933. At an important meeting on April 25, 1933, Pechstein read a statement to the government in which the Berlin Secession undertook to help build the new Germany . Emil van Hauth , a member of the Secession since 1932, read a program he had designed that was in the spirit of the National Socialist Kampfbund. Accordingly, Jewish artists and those who were disparagingly called Bolshevik were no longer allowed to be members of German artists' associations. At the same time he called for a transformation of the Secession in the sense of the new state and its so-called German art . The bill was accepted by 27 votes to 2 with one abstention.

Subsequently, the statutes were changed, and on May 2, Emil van Hauth, Artur Degener and Philipp Harth were elected to the new board. All three were members of the Kampfbund for German Culture. At a meeting in the Prussian Ministry of Culture , as it later turned out, van Hauth vilified the Secession as an assembly with a Marxist attitude and wanted to achieve dissolution. In the Secession van Hauth, on the other hand, reported that the Berlin Secession was no longer wanted by the government and that a dissolution by the Gestapo was possible. On June 16, 1933, the board was expanded, but no chairman elected. Emil van Hauth resigned from the community on September 28, 1933. On October 12, 1933, the liquidation of the association was discussed, which, however, many artists who were interested in the continued existence, rejected.

At a further appointment in the Ministry of Culture, the board member Adolf Strübe managed to convince the responsible speaker that there had never been anti-state or political tendencies on the part of the artist community and that the association was loyal to the Hitler government. In April 1934 Ernst Barlach , Lyonel Feininger and Erich Heckel were elected to the community. The logbook was conducted from 1915 to 19 April 1934. In a document, a page of the Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger of January 26, 1936, is reported by the annual meeting of the Berlin Secession, where Adolf Strübe was re-elected chairman, as his deputy painter Franz Lenk was determined. The sculptor Ernesto de Fiori and Herbert Garbe also belonged to the board. Lenk and Fiori were artists of the new objectivity . Garbe, first member of the November Group , joined the NSDAP in 1933. Presumably, the Berlin Secession continued even after 1936.

Notable membersEdit



  • Anke Daemgen und Uta Kuhl: Liebermanns Gegner – die Neue Secession in Berlin und der Expressionismus. Ausstellungskatalog. Wienand, Köln 2011. ISBN 978-3-86832-046-6
  • Werner Doede: Die Berliner Secession. Berlin als Zentrum der deutschen Kunst von der Jahrhundertwende bis zum 1. WeltkriegDie Berliner Sezession. Propyläen, Frankfurt am Main. 2. Auflage 1981. ISBN 3-549-16618-4
  • Walter Stephan Laux: Waldemar Rösler. Eine Studie zur Kunst der Berliner Sezession = Manuskripte für Kunstwissenschaft in der Wernerschen Verlagsgesellschaft 24. Wernersche Verlagsgesellschaft, Worms 1989. ISBN 978-3-88462-923-9
  • Anke Matelowski: Kunstgeschichte im Protokoll. Neue Aktenfunde zur Berliner Secession. In: Museumsjournal 12 vom 3. Juli 1998. ISSN 0933-0593, S. 42–45.
  • Anke Matelowski: Die Berliner Secession 1899–1937. Chronik, Kontext, Schicksal. Quellenstudien zur Kunst, Band 12, Wädenswil am Zürichsee: Nimbus 2017. ISBN 978-3-03850-033-9
  • Peter Paret: Die Berliner Secession. Moderne Kunst und ihre Feinde im Kaiserlichen DeutschlandUllstein-Buch 36074. Ullstein Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1983. ISBN 3-548-36074-2.
  • Rudolf Pfefferkorn: Die Berliner Secession. Eine Epoche deutscher Kunstgeschichte. Haude & Spener, Berlin 1972. ISBN 3-7759-0150-7


  1. ^ abgerufen am 3. November 2010
  2. ^ Website. Zugriff am 20. Dezember 2013.
  3. ^ [1].
  4. ^ Museums Journal, Nr. 11, Ausgabe 25, S. 38, 1997
  5. ^ Der Fall Corinth und die Zeitzeugen, Wellner, S. 140
  6. ^ Die Berliner Secession in neuem Hause. Bei: Universitätsbibliothek Heidelberg
  7. ^ Siegfried und Dorothea Salzmann: Oskar Moll – Leben und Werk, München 1975, S. 63;
    Oskar Moll – Gemälde und Aquarelle, Ausst.-Kat, Landesmuseum Mainz, Mainz 1997, Michael Kirchner, Chronologie zu Leben und Werk, S. 9


  • Paret, Peter: The Berlin Secession. Modernism and its enemies in Imperial Germany, Harvard University Press 1980

External linksEdit