Paul Hippolyte Delaroche (1797-1856), Louise Vernet, the artist's wife, on her Deathbed, 1845/46, Oil on canvas, 62 x 74,5 cm, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nants, © Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nantes.

Ernst Ferdinand Oehme (1797-1855), Procession in the Fog, 1828, Oil on canvas, 81,5 x 105,5 cm, Galerie Neue Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), Flying Folly (Disparate Volante), from The proverbs (Los proverbios), plate 5, 1816-1819, 1. Edition, 1864, Etching and aquatint, 21,7 x 32,6 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Romanticism's 'Dark' Response to the Enlightenment

Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901), Villa by the Sea, 1871-1874, Oil on canvas, 108 x 154 cm, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main.

Caspar David Friedrich (1774-1840), Kügelgen's Tomb, 1821/22, Oil on canvas, 41,5 × 55,5 cm, Die Lübecker Museen, Museum Behnhaus Drägerhaus, on loan from private collection.

James Whale (1889-1957), Frankenstein, USA, 1931, Filmstill, © Universal Studios. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

James Whale (1889-1957), Frankenstein, USA, 1931, Filmstill, © Universal Studios. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.

Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Vampire, 1916-1918, Oil on canvas, 85 × 110 cm. Collection Würth, Photo: Archiv Würth, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931), Faust, Germany, 1926, Filmstill, Silent film, © Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.

Victor Hugo (1802-1885), The Blessing Hand of the Abbess, no date, Pen, brush, brown India ink on vellum, 13,7 × 11,3 cm, Maisons de Victor Hugo, Paris et Guernesey, © Maisons de Victor Hugo, Paris et Guernesey / Roger-Viollet.

Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), The Nightmare, 1790/91, Oil on canvas, 76,5 x 63,6 cm, Frankfurter Goethe-Haus – Freies Deutsches Hochstift, © Frankfurter Goethe-Haus – Freies Deutsches Hochstift.

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Dream caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before
, 1944, Oil on wood, 51 x 41 cm, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.

William Blake (1757-1827), The Great Red Dragon and the Woman Clothed with the Sun, about 1803-1805, Watercolor, graphite and incised lines 43,7 × 34,8 cm, Brooklyn Museum, Gift of William Augustus White.

Salvador Dalí (1904-1989), Ballerina in a Death's Head, 1932 (rather 1939), Oil on canvas, 24,5 × 19,5 cm, Collection Merz / Kunstmuseum Liechtenstein, Vaduz, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.


Städel Museum
Sürerstrasse 2
+ 49(0)69-605098-111
Frankfurt am Main
Dark Romanticism.
From Goya to Max Ernst

September 26, 2012-January 20, 2013

The Städel Museum's major special exhibition Dark Romanticism. From Goya to Max Ernst is the first German exhibition to focus on the dark aspect of Romanticism and its legacy. Mainly evident in Symbolism and Surrealism. In the museum's exhibition house this important exhibition, comprising over 200 paintings, sculptures, graphic works, photographs, and films, presents the fascination that many artists felt for the gloomy, the secretive, and the evil. Using outstanding works in the museum's collection on the subject by Francisco de Goya, Eugene Delacroix, Franz von Stuck or Max rnst as a starting point, the exhibition also presents important loans from internationally renowned collections, such as Musée d'Orsay, Musée du Louvre, both in Paris, Museo del Prado in Madrid, and Art Institute of Chicago. The works on display by Goya, Johann Heinrich Fuseli, William Blake, Théodore Géricault and Delacroix, as well as Caspar David Friedrich, convey a Romantic spirit whcy by the tnd of the 18th century had taken hold all over Europe. In the 20th century artists such as Salvador Dali, René Magritte or Paul Klee and Max Ernst continued to think in this vein. The artworks speak of loneliness and melancholy, passion and death, of the fascination with horror and the irrationality of dreams. After Frankfurt the exhibition, conceived by the Städel Museum, travels to Musée d'Orsay in Paris.

The exhibition is realized as part of the initiative of the Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain in the context of 'Impuls Romantik." It is supported by the City of Frankfurt am Main.

The exhibition's take on the subject is geographically and chronologiclly comprehensive, thereby shedding light on links between different centres of Romanticism, and thus retracing complex iconographic developments of the time. It is conceived to stimulate interest in the sombre aspects of Romanticism and to expand understanding of this movement. Mony of the artistic developments and positions presented here emerge from a shattered trust in enlightened and progressive thought, which took hold soon after the French Revolution — initially celebrated as the dawn of a new age — at the end of the 18th Century. Bloodstained terror and war brought suffering and enentually caused the social order in large parts of Europe to break down. The disillusionment was a great as the original enthusiasm when the dark aspects of the enlightenment were reveled in all their harshness. Young literary figures and artist turned to the reverse side of Reason. The horrific, the miraculous, and the grotesque challenged the supremacy of the beautiful and the immaculate. The appeal of legends and fairy tales and the fascination with the Middle Ages competed with the ideal of Antiquity The local countryside became increasingly attractive and was a favored subject for artists. The bright light of day encountered the fog and mysterious darkness of the night.

The exhibition is divided into seven chapters. It begins with a group of outstanding works by Johan Heinrich Fuseli. The artist had initially studied to be an evangelical preacher in Switzerland. With his painting The Nightmare (Frankfurt Goethe-Museum) he created an icon of dark Romanticism. The work opens the presentation, which extends over two levels of the temporary exhibition space. Fuseli's contemporaries were deeply disturbed by the presence of the incubus (daemon) and the lecherous horse — elements of popular superstition — enriching a scene set in the present. In addition, the erotic-compulsive and Daemonic content, as well as the depressed atmosphere, catered to the needs of the voyeur. The other six works by Fuseli — loans from Kunsthaus Zürich, Royal Academy London and Staatsgalerie Stuttgard — represent the characteristics of his art: the competition between good and evil, suffering and lust, light and darkness. Fuseli's innovative pictorial language influenced a number of artists — among them William Blake whose famous water color The Great Red Dragon from the Brooklyn Museum is on view in Europe for the first time in ten years.

The second room of the exhibition is dedicated to Spanish artist Francisco de Goya. The Städel displays six of his works — including masterpieces such as The Witches' Flight from the Prado in Madrid and the representations of cannibals from Besançon. A large group of works on paper from the Städel's own colection is also shown. The Spaniard blurs the distinction between the real and the imaginary. Perpetrator and victim repeated exchange roles. Good and evil, sense and nonsense — much remains enigmatic. Goya's cryptic pictorial worlds influenced numerous artist in France and Belgium, including Delacroix. Géricault, Victor Hugo and Antoine Wiertz, whose works are presented in the following room Atmosphere and passion were more important to these artists than anatomical accuracy.

Among German artists — who are the focus of the next section of the exhibition — it is Carl Blechen who is especially glose to Goya and Delacroix His paintings are a testimony to his lust for gloom. His soft spot for the controversial author E.T.A. Hoffman — also known as "Ghost-Hoffmann" in Germany — led Blechen to paint works such as Pater Medardus (Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin) — a portrait of the mad protagonist in The Devil's Elixirs. The Artist was not alone in Germany when it cam to a penchant for dark and disturbing subjects. Caspar David Friedrich's works, too, contain gruesome elements: cemeteries, open graves, abandoned ruins, ships steered by an invisible hand, long=ely gorges and forests are pervasive in his oeubre. One does no only need to look at the scenes of mourning in the sketchbook at the Kunsthalle Mannheim for the omnipresent theme of death. Friedrich is prominently represented in the exhibition with is paintings Moon Behind Clouds obove the Seashore from the Hamburger Kunsthalle and Kügelgen's Grave from the Lübecker Museums, as well as with one of his last privately owned works, Ship at Deep Sea with full Sails.

Friedrich's paintings are steeped in oppressive silence. This uncompromising attitude anticipates the ideas of Symbolism, which is considered in the next chapter of the exhibition. These "Neo-Romantics" stylized speechlessness as the ideal mode of human communication, which would lead to fundamental and seminal insights. Odilon Redon's masterpiece Closed Eyes, a loan from the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, impressively encapsulats this notion. Paintings by Arnold Böcklin. James Ensor, Fernand Khnopff, or Edvard Munch also embody this idea. however, as with the Romantics, these restrained works are face to face with works where aanxiety and repressed passions are brought unrestrainedly to the surface: works that are unsettling in their radicalism even today. While gustave Moreau, Max Klinger, Franze von Stuck and Albred Kubin belong to the are historical canon, here the exhibiton presents artists who are still to be discovered in Germany: Jaan-Joseph Carriés, Paurl Dardé, Jean Delville, Julien-Adolphe Duvocelle, Léon Frédéric, Eugéne Laemans, and Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer.

The presentation concludes with the Surrealist movement, founded by André Breton. He inspired artists such as Ernst, Brassaï, or Dali, to create their wondrous pictorial realms from the reservoir of the subconscious and celebrated them s fantasy's victory over the "factual world." Max Ernes vehemently called for "the borders between the so-called inner and outer world" to be blurred. he demonstrated this most clearly in his forest paintings, four of which have been assembled for the exhibition, ofe of them the major work Vision Provoked by the Nocturnal Aspect of the Porte Saint-Denis (private collection). The art historian Carl Einstein considered the Surrealists to be the Romantics' successors and coined the phrase "The Romantic generation." In spite of this historical link the Surrealists were far from retrospective On the contrary: no other movement was so open to new media: photography and film were seen as equal to traditional media. Alongside literature, film established itself as the main arena from dark Romanticism in the 20th century. This is hwere evil, the thrill of fear and the luct for horror and gloom found a new home. Incooperation with Deutsches Filmmuseum the Städel will for the first time present extracts from classics such as Frankenstein (1931) Dracula (1931), Faust (1926), Vampyr (1931/32), and The Phantom Carriage (1921) within the exhibition.

The exhibition which presents the Romantic as a mindset that prevailed throughout Europe and remained influential beyond the 19th century, is accompanied by a substantial catalogue. As is true for any designation of an epoch, Romanticism too is nothing more than an auxiliary construction, defined less by the exterior chracteristics of an artwork than by the inner sentimnt of the artist. The term "dark Romanticism" cannot be traced to its origins, but — as is also valid for Romanticism per se — comes from literary studies. The German term is closely linked to the Professor of English Studies Mario Praz and his publication La carne. la morte e il diavolo nella letteratura romantica of 1930 which was translated to German in 1963 as Liebe, Tod und Teufel. Die Schwarae Romantik (literally: Love, Death and Devil. Dark Romanticism).

Roger Parry (1905-1977), Untitled, 1929, Illustration from Léon-Paul Fargue's Banalité (Paris 1930), gelatin silver print, 21,8 × 16,5 cm, Collection Dietmar Siegert, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.

Julien Adolphe Duvocelle (1873-1961), Skull with Protruding Eyes, ca. 1904, Pencil and charcoal on paper, 36 x 25 cm, Musée d’Orsay, Paris.

Henry Fuseli, 1741-1825, Thor Battering the Midgard Serpent, 1770, Oil on canvas, 133 × 94,6 cm, Royal Academy of Arts, London, Photo: John Hammond, © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Gabriel von Max (1840-1915), The White Woman, 1900, Oil on canvas, 100 x 72 cm, Private Collection.

Francisco de Goya (1746-1828), Flight of Witches, 1797/98, Oil on canvas, 43 × 30,5 cm, Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid, © Museo Nacional del Prado, Madrid.

Franz von Stuck (1863-1928), The Sin, 1893, Oil on canvas, 88 × 53,5 cm, Galerie Katharina Büttiker, Zürich.

Carlos Schwabe (1866-1926), The Wave, 1907, Oil on canvas, 196 x 116 cm, Collection des Musées d’art et d’histoire de la Ville de Genéve, Photo: Bettina Jacot-Descombes, © Musée d’art et d’histoire de la Ville de Genéve.

Samuel Colman (1780-1845), The Edge of Doom, 1836-1838, Oil on canvas, 137,2 × 199,4 cm, Brooklyn Museum, Bequest of Laura L. Barnes.

Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau (1888-1931), Nosferatu – A Symphony of Horror, Germany 1922, Filmstill, Silent film, © Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung.

René Magritte (1898-1967), Sentimental Conversation, 1945, Oil on canvas, 54 x 65 cm, Private Collection, © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2012.