The bus driver did not understand English, so I had to speak in German. When we got to the park, where the museum was located, I was busy reading. I would have missed my stop, but a nice German lady, nudged me and explained in English that this was where I had to get off the bus. All in all, this was an appropriate introduction to the Die Brucke Museum in Berlin that celebrates such internationally renown artists such as Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, Ernst Kirchner, Emil Nolde, Max Pechstein and Erich Heckel. They were all a part of Die Brucke (the bridge), and except for Nolde and Kirchner, most of these artists are probably not household names.
A large donation of artwork in the mid-sixties to the city of Berlin from the collection of Karl Schmidt-Rottluff, got the idea of a Brucke Museum off the ground. Another donation from another artist central to the Brucke Movement, Erich Heckel, and the idea of a Brucke museum was certain to become reality. In 1967 the cubist looking building first opened to the public. Located in a small city park, the museum is surrounded with trees, shrubbery and grassy lawns. On the inside it is a small, but a very well designed exhibition space. The museum is not much larger than the average art gallery, but the overall collection is quite impressive. It includes over 400 paintings and sculptures, plus thousands of works on paper. Only a small part of the collection is ever shown at one time. Exhibitions center around members of the Brucke, although other visual artists of the era are sometimes exhibited.
“The bridge” first began in Dresden in 1905. Four architecture students declared themselves independent of the academic institution and started to experiment with color and design in an attempt to free themselves from the limits of classical painting. They invited other artists to join them and by 1911 the group had moved to Berlin and they were no longer connected with any academic institution. They became the northern branch of German Expressionism, while Munich and the Blaue Reiter group formed the southern group. They both flourished in the pre-war years, often trading ideas and even showing together on a few occasions.
Together they pretty much defined German Expressionism. This movement can best be summed up as the intense use of color, shape and form to express strongly emotional ideas in painting and drawing. The Blue Rider were open to women in the group and had a softer yet more intense feeling for color. Many of the blue riders were from Russia. Die Brucke was more male oriented and all from Germany. They used more human figures than their Munich counterparts and were more likely to work in black and white. Also, they were much more interested in the primitive art of Africa and the South Seas and incorporated some of those primitive ideas into their efforts. Through the use of the nude figures, both male and female, their work had a different emotional edge than their southern companions. Still it is fair to say that the similarities of the groups greatly outweighed the differences.
It is well worth the time to take part of the day and visit this small art house that is away from the city center and off the beaten path. While you are there, you can contemplate how this art movement successfully survived two world wars and how the museum was conceived and built in a divided city that was the symbol of the cold war conflict.