The Relief from Rodin to Picasso

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Is it painting, or is it sculpture? No other artistic medium transcends the boundaries of our vision like a relief. This ambiguity has always made reliefs appealing to the most famous artists. In the spring of 2023, the Städel Museum will present a major survey exhibition on the possibilities explored in reliefs from 1800 to the 1960s.

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About the Exhibition

Literally outstanding works will be on display, spanning some 150 years, by artists that include Bertel Thorvaldsen, Jules Dalou, Auguste Rodin, Medardo Rosso, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, and Alexander Archipenko, as well as Hans Arp, Kurt Schwitters, Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Yves Klein, Louise Nevelson, and Lee Bontecou. To this end, the Städel Museum – in cooperation with the Hamburger Kunsthalle – is bringing together important works of art from European museums, including the Petit Palais and the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Kunstmuseum Basel, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon, as well as rarely seen works from various private collections.

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    Pablo Picasso, Violin (Violon), 1915

    Pablo Picasso (1881–1973)

    Violin (Violon), 1915
    Painted sheet metal and iron wire, 100 x 63,7 x 18 cm
    Musée national Picasso, Paris
    © Paris, Musée national Picasso - Paris, bpk | RMN - Grand Palais | Béatrice Hatala

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    Hans Arp, The Eggboard (La planche à œufs), 1922

    Jean Arp (1886–1966)

    The Eggboard (La planche à œufs), 1922
    Painted wood, 76,2 x 96,5 cm
    Private collection

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    Auguste Rodin, Young Mother in the Grotto, 1885

    Auguste Rodin (1840–1917)

    Young Mother in the Grotto (Jeune mère à la grotte), 1885
    Plaster, 36,3 x 26,8 x 24 cm
    Musée Rodin, Paris
    © Musée Rodin, Photo: Christian Baraja

The exhibition begins with works of Classicism, which draw on prominent reliefs from antiquity. The increasingly intense dialogue between relief art and painting during the nineteenth century ultimately led to a final breaking away from the genre scheme in the early twentieth century. As a result, the aesthetics of reliefs also changed. Innovation and experimentation became increasingly important for their production: While the artists of the nineteenth century still worked in marble or bronze in a more classical sculptural style, the artistic-technical spectrum fundamentally expanded. Impressive reliefs were created from everyday materials and found objects, which – assembled into collages and assemblages – became an outlet for a new understanding of space. With this unique exhibition, the Städel Museum sheds light on the little-known discourse surrounding this fascinating artistic medium.

An exhibition of the Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, and the Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg

Curators, Städel Museum: Dr Alexander Eiling (Head of Modern Art), Dr Eva Mongi-Vollmer (Curator for Special Projects)
Project management: Dr. Friederike Schütt

Supported by: Kulturfonds Frankfurt RheinMain gGmbH, Städelfreunde 1815 – Städelscher Museums-Verein e.V.

Picture: Yves Klein, Relief éponge bleu (Kleine Nachtmusik), 1960, Städel Museum, Frankfurt am Main, © The Estate of Yves Klein / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2022