[Translate to Englisch:] ORPHEUS

Dream and Myth in modern art
11 October 2019 to 16 February 2020

Orpheus – The ultimate artistic fi gure: musician and poet of myth whose song charms humans, animals, trees, and even stony cliffs into rapture. The ultimate lover: in boundless mourning for Eurydice he descends into the underworld, melts the hearts of the gods with his melodies, and is allowed to lead his beloved Eurydice out of the realm of the dead. Alas, he disobeys the order not to turn around for a glance toward Eurydice, and thus loses her forever. And finally, martyr: after the tragic loss of Eurydice he abandons the love of women, whereupon the Maenads tear him to pieces. His head, ever singing, is interred on Lesbos and becomes the source of the Orphic mysteries.

Few other stories have stirred artists‘ emotions to such a wideranging extent and called forth such highly personal interpretations as this myth which combines elements of happiness, mourning, death, and gruesome fate alongside bold artistic inspiration and doubt. Orpheus has fascinated creative artists in all branches at all times; he is the prototype musician and artist. 

The August Macke House Museum highlights Orpheus in an exhibition conducted on the occasion of the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven who, like August Macke, spent the years of his youth in Bonn. The show presents the artistic treatment of the mythical story in an exciting succession of international interpretations from the end of the 19th century up to our present time. The exhibition covers all branches of artistic endeavor from the clustering of symbols in paintings and sculptures to graphics series, drafts for stage sets, and artistic handicrafts.

The starting point is an embroidery depicting Orpheus and the animals as drafted by August Macke in 1912/13. The subject engaged his interest early on and, while he rarely addressed mythological themes, this topic drew him into what became the center of his esthetic ideal: the search for an art that would proclaim life‘s harmonious and Arcadian beauty. The show then moves along an arc reaching from the Symbolism that marked August Macke‘s artistic beginnings to the art of our time, all the while displaying the multi-faceted spectrum of Orpheus interpretations that have since evolved. 

Some 100 works are presented, including those of artists such as Horst Antes, Eugen Batz, Max Beckmann, Jean Cocteau, Lovis Corinth, Nathalie David/Anita Rée, Raoul Dufy/Guillaume Apollinaire, Willi Geiger, Werner Gilles, Oskar Kokoschka, Alfred Kubin, Markus Lüpertz, August Macke, Gerhard Marcks, Pablo Picasso, Odilon Redon, Ker-Xavier Roussel, Franz von Stuck, Hans Thoma, Hans Wildermann, Ossip Zadkine, and Mac Zimmermann. 

Curator: Dr. Gesa Bartholomeyczik