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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
A passion for colour
Boats in the Port of Collioure by Andrz Derain, 1905, courtesy of the Merzbacher Foundation
The exhibition looks at approaches from two different movements

First light, now colour.

Following the National Gallery show illustrating the use of light by artists, the Royal Academy has chosen to highlight the use of colour in its new exhibition.

The show is a delight to the eye, illustrating the diverse ways in which artists approach the palate.

Most of the works selected are gems, a compliment to the superb taste of the private collectors, Werner and Gabriella Merzbacher, who are showing their full collection of paintings in Europe for the first time.

It contains some of the key works of two of the most important artistic movements of the early 20th Century.

Angel of the Last Judgement, 1911, from the Merzbacher Foundation
Kadinsky's work became increasingly abstract
The Fauves ("wild beasts") includes Matisse, Derain, and Vlaminck, and the German Expressionists looks to Kandinsky, Klee, Kirchner, and Kokoschka.

The two movements took a very different view of colour.

The bright shades of the Fauves, according to the exhibition's curator MaryAnne Stevens, were mainly decorative and led directly to abstraction.

In the hands of Derain, colour became a substitute for perspective, with the sky and sea the same shade.

The German expressionists, however, especially the Dresden-based "Die Brucke" group, used colour to express emotion.

This became evident as the painters moved from landscape to portrait paintings, with von Jawlensky's Lady in a Straw Yellow Hat showing passion through discordant colours.

This is taken to an extreme in Kirchner's Two Pink Nudes by the Moritzburg Lake where the flesh is a disturbing pink against the green grass background.

Modigliani's Woman's Head, 1911 - 12, courtesy of the Merzbacher Foundation
It is unusual for a private collector to have so many works
The exhibition includes a dramatic series of works by Kandinsky that show his journey from colour to abstraction between the years 1908 - 1911.

This period culminated in the extraordinary Angel of the Last Judgement, one of the key works of 20th Century abstraction.

The show also contains other treasures, including rarely seen works by Van Gogh (Sunny Lawn in a Public Park), Matisse, Klee, and Picasso.

And it highlights the role of colour in the Russian abstract painters of the early part of the century, including a delightful harbour scene by the relatively unknown female artist Olga Rozanova.

The show also includes - somewhat oddly - a small selection of modern sculpture, including a Calder and a Lipschitz - in wood and metal.

It is unusual for so many works of quality and importance to still be in the hands of a private collector.

And that unique quality should make this show, along with the Matisse-Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern, one of the hits of the summer season.

The Royal Academy show, Masters of Colour: From Derain to Kandinsky, runs from 27 July to 17 November in London.

See also:

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