Myth and massacre. Ernst Wilhelm Nay and André Masson
| Sammlung Scharf-Gerstenberg
A special exhibition at the Nationalgalerie – Berlin State Museums
For the first time, the exhibition in the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection is dedicated to the artistic connection between the French surrealist André Masson and the Berlin artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay, whose art became a symbol of abstract modernism in post-war West Germany.
The exhibition has its starting point in André Masson's (1896-1987) large-format painting "Massacre" from 1931, which was published a year later in Christian Zervos' magazine "Cahiers d'art".
On a formal level, this painting and other works by Masson from this period show surprising similarities to the works of Ernst Wilhelm Nay (1902-1968) from the 1940s, although the two artists took largely opposite positions in terms of content. While Masson's works foregrounded the memory of the horrors of the First World War, the young soldier Nay created a mythological alternative world in response to the catastrophe of the Second World War.
The new formal language that can be seen in the works of Masson and Nay was developed by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) and Georges Braque (1882-1963) in analytical cubism from 1909 to 1912 and by the Surrealists around André Breton at the beginning of the 19th century Developed in the 1920s with the introduction of “automatic writing” (“écriture automatique”). This formal language was also used in the 1940s and 1950s by artists such as Asger Jorn (1914-1973), Georg Meistermann (1911-1990) and Theodor Werner (1886-1969).
A total of around 70 works are presented in the exhibition, which is curated by Kyllikki Zacharias, head of the Scharf-Gerstenberg Collection.