German artist Rudolph Riemerschmid was charged with a modern and experimental impulse. His luminously coloured and emotionally evocative works represent the influence of Art Nouveau in Germany during the 20th century.
Riemerschmid was first educated at the Karlsruhe Academy by renowned artist Friedrich Fehr (1862-1927). Returning to his hometown of Munich, Riemerschmid began to successfully exhibit with the German Secession. This was an association of artists who had banded together in order to form a united front and state their discontent at the academies and established institutions, who were unwilling to recognise modern styles and modes of art. They were forward-thinking and progressive, expanding on the rich artistic legacy of their homeland whilst innovating and furthering this legacy.
Riemerschmid’s fascinating and experimental works were suited to the association’s ethos. There is a Pre-Raphaelite feel to his luminous use of colour, the flat appearance of the canvas, and the attention paid to nature. Each wrinkle and crinkle in the bark of trees is picked out in fine detail. The bushel of leaves is a shimmering wash of verdancy. Yet there is also a modern verve. The bold definition of each line is very evocative of Art Nouveau, each curving strand of river reeds or the soft swoop of the naked body of a woman. Riemerschmid was elevating existing art forms and offering to the German art scene something modernised and innovative.
Riemerschmid was also experimental in his artistic technique. It seems he would combine the process of lithography, in which a chemical reaction is involved to create an image, with traditional painting techniques. There is some debate over which techniques he used and the exact processes, however the effect creates distinctive works with a unique zeal. Using such experimental techniques was indicative of the artistic mindset of the time, keen to challenge the status quo. Riemerschmid was a modern spirit.
Riemerschmid was both an active part of the Munich Secession and other modern art groups. He was also featured prominently in the publication ‘Jugend.’ This was a magazine intended to promote German artists, and it became influential in the spread of German Art Nouveau and the overall modernisation of German art in the early 20th century. His cover images have a modernity of spirit, he once again utilises bold lines and luminous colours to define his modern approach.
Unfortunately, the First World War would have a detrimental effect on his artistic career. Riemerschmid was wounded whilst serving, and as a result, suffered a head injury which slowly led to a denigration of his eyesight and eventual blindness.
The focus of his paintings also changed following the war. Perhaps because the horrors of warfare were so psychologically shocking, Riemerschmid began to focus more heavily on childhood innocence and the joys of a simple life. Children frolic against plush landscapes, dressed traditionally with full, rosy cheeks split into grins of delight.
Overall, there seems to be a more traditional style taken with these images. This perhaps suggests that the experimental modernity that had fuelled his earlier work was never quite recovered after the exhaustion and damage of war.
Born in Munich, Germany.
Exhibited annually at the Munich Succession exhibition.
Awarded a golden state medal.