Painting and Prints

Painting collection

Incorporated in the exhibition of international sculpture is a select collection of German painting, ranging from the turn of the 20th century through to the 1960s. The works currently making up the collection represent all areas of importance, and were acquired between 1945 and 1970 by the director at the time, Gerhard Händler.

The collection is noteworthy for the high quality of its individual works, all of them bearing witness to artistic development from Expressionism through to the Informal movement. The masterpieces include paintings by members of the Die Brücke movement, namely artists Kirchner, Heckel, Schmidt-Rottluff, Pechstein and Mueller, as well as Emil Nolde, who was affiliated to them. Paintings by Jawlensky, Kokoschka, Campendonk, Macke, Rohlfs, the “Sturm” artists Molzahn and Ring round out the expressionism of the “Brücke” association.

The works that make up the next group, which initially derived its productive impetus from Cubism, were all linked by constructive trends. Schlemmer, Dexel, Feininger and Muche represent among other things “Bauhaus”; Max Beckmann’s “Rugby Players” and Max Ernsts’ “The Temptation of St. Anthony” are considered today to be outstanding individual examples of Expressionism, New Objectivity and Surrealism.

Following the end of WW II the art of the “Informal” emerged as an international artistic phenomenon. Many German artists considered abstract painting to be a liberation from, and the only valid alternative to, realistic art, which had been used as an instrument and perverted by Fascist ideologies and had acquired a new dogma through Socialist Realism. Even today the powerful, often anarchic desire for expression and the feeling of liberation after dictatorship and war can be felt in the works of Baumeister, Nay, Schumacher, Götz, Hoehme and Schultze. The struggle for new forms and new functions for art reveals itself to be a process of creating pictures from gestures or material, which towards the end of the 1950s imbued art with a new objective character. The borderline between art and objects and sculpture began to become blurred.


The museum’s collection of graphic prints, like that of drawings, concentrates on 20th century works and contemporary art, with a special focus on sculptural graphics.

During the course of the 20th century the functions of painting and sculptural graphics changed enormously, as did the development of and preference for various artistic techniques. Alongside older techniques such as woodcarving, etching, and lithography, screen printing and, since the 1960s offset printing in particular now dominate new technical processes, whereby the combination of various techniques and individual inventions and treatment especially were the hallmark of this genre of reproducible art in the 20th century.

Until the end of the 1960s the concept behind the collection embraced German painting, sculpture, drawing and graphic prints from “Lehmbruck until today”, as well as contemporary French graphic prints of the day, including “Informal” representatives. As such, from the very beginning the museum’s collection included, alongside Lehmbruck, works by Maillol, Kollwitz, Barlach, Marc, the Bauhaus teachers Schwitters and Schlemmer and the Surrealists Dali, Miró and Max Ernst.

As of the 1960s the first change in direction manifested itself, towards international 20th century sculpture, a development which was followed by more intense purchasing of sculptural graphics, initially works representing Nouveau Realisme, kinetic art, happenings and Fluxus, Op Art, Pop Art, as well as Concept Art, and later in particular of sculptors of the 1980s. Nowadays the collection of graphic prints includes extensive sets of work by individual artists, for example the entire graphic work of Wilhelm Lehmbruck, over 450 graphic prints by Henry Moore, 117 graphics by Fritz Wotrubas, and extensive collections of works by Jakob Steinhardt, Franz Bernhard and Erwin Heerich.

Furthermore, the Lehmbruck Museum is in possession of a considerable quantity of photographies and sketches that serve as illustrastive material for the genesis of the works included in the collection of prints.