Dr Ludwig Grote, Nuremberg
Karl Ströher, Darmstadt (acquired in 1952)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Berlin, Landesausstellungsgebäude am Lehrter Bahnhof, Juryfreie Kunstschau, 1924, no. 1314
Mannheim, Städtische Kunsthalle, Wege und Richtungen der abstrakten Malerei in Europa, 1927, no. 281
Dresden, Stadthalle Nordplatz, Allgemeine Deutsche Kunstausstellung, 1946 (titled Am Tisch)
Bern, Kunsthalle, Moderne Deutsche Kunst, 1947, no. 238
Munich, Haus der Kunst; Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunstsammlungen & Berlin, Amt für Kunst des Magistrats von Groß-Berlin Schloss Charlottenburg, Die Maler am Bauhaus, 1950, no. 219, illustrated in the catalogue
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein & Munich, Haus der Kunst, Oskar Schlemmer, Gedächtnisausstellung zum 10-jährigen Todestag, 1953, no. 42 (in Stuttgart); no. 35 (in Munich), illustrated in the catalogue
Lucerne, Kunstmuseum, Deutsche Kunst, Meisterwerke des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1953, no. 292, illustrated in the catalogue
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Kunst unserer Zeit, Privatsammlung Karl Ströher, Darmstadt, 1954, no. 156, illustrated in the catalogue
Venice, XXVII Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte, 1954, no. 61
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Oskar Schlemmer, 1954-55, no. 21
Basel, Kunsthalle, Henry Moore, Oskar Schlemmer, 1955, no. 19
Kassel, Museum Fridericianum, Documenta I, Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, 1955, no. 570
Wolfsburg, Stadthalle/Volkswagenwerk, Deutsche Malerei, Ausgewählte Meister seit Caspar David Friedrich, 1956, no. 142 (as dating from 1936)
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, De Renaissance der XXe eeuw, 1958, no. 115
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landesmuseum, Die Sammlung Karl Ströher Darmstadt. 2: Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, 1965-66, no. 116, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Mannheim, Kunstverein, Oskar Schlemmer, Gemälde 1909 bis 1942, 1967, no. 14, illustrated in the catalogue
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein, 50 Jahre Bauhaus, 1968, no. 249
Darmstadt, Hessisches Landsmuseum, Bildnerische Ausdrucksformen 1910-1960, Sammlung Karl Ströher, 1970, illustrated in the catalogue
Stuttgart, Württembergischer Kunstverein & Hamburg, Kunstverein, Oskar Schlemmer. Der Maler, Der Wandgestalter, Der Plastiker, Der Zeichner, Der Graphiker, Der Bühnengestalter, Der Lehrer, 1977, no. 43, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
Hannes Meyer (ed.), Bauhaus, Vierteljahr-Zeitschrift für Gestaltung, Dessau, October-December 1929, vol. III, no. 4, illustrated p. 6
Hans Hildebrandt, Die Kunst des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts, Handbuch der Kunstwissenschaft, Potsdam, 1924-31, no. 436, illustrated p. 404
Will Grohmann, 'Sammlung Ida Bienert Dresden', in Museum der Gegenwart, Berlin, 1932, vol. III, no. 2.3, mentioned p. 65
Will Grohmann, Die Sammlung Ida Bienert Dresden, Potsdam, no. 78, 1933, illustrated
Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, Vision in Motion, Chicago, 1947 & 1969, fig. 420, illustrated p. 330
Wilfried Daim, 'Unbewusstes Verständnis Moderner Kunst, Zu Schlemmers Tischgesellschaft', in Wissenschaft und Weltbild, Vienna, May 1951, vol. 4, no. 5, pp. 152-161
Hans Hildebrandt (ed.), Oskar Schlemmer, Munich, 1952, no. 103, fig. 19, illustrated p. 70
Erich Wiese, 'Die Sammlung Karl Ströher in Darmstadt', in Das Kunstwerk, Baden-Baden, November-December 1957, vol. XI, no. 5/6, illustrated in colour before p. 41
John Anthony Thwaites, Ich hasse die moderne Kunst, Krefeld & Baden-Baden, 1957, no. 21, illustrated p. 51
Oskar Schlemmer, Briefe und Tagebücher, Munich, 1958, mentioned p. 220
Hans M. Wingler, Das Bauhaus 1919-1933, Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, Bramsche, 1962, illustrated p. 234
Eberhard Roters, Maler am Bauhaus, Berlin, 1965, no. 29, illustrated p. 79 (with incorrect measurements)
Oskar Schlemmer, Ausstellung zum 80. Geburtstag (exhibition catalogue), Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, 1968, mentioned p. 66
Karin von Maur, 'Music of the Spheres, and Cubes', in Artnews, vol. 68, no. 7, New York, November 1969, illustrated p. 63
Paul Vogt, Geschichte der deutschen Malerei im 20. Jahrhundert, Cologne, 1972, no. 174, illustrated
Hans Martin Schmidt, 'Das Werk im Blickpunkt (zu Oskar Schlemmers Gemälde Tischgesellschaft)', in Lebendiges Darmstadt, 1973, no. 1/2, illustrated p. 3
Karin von Maur, Oskar Schlemmer, Œuvrekatalog der Gemälde, Aquarelle, Pastelle und Plastiken, Munich, 1979, vol. I, no. G124, pl. 18, illustrated in colour p. 118 and fig. 121, illustrated p. 152; vol. II, no. G124, illustrated p. 57
Erika Pohl, Ursula Ströher & Gerhard Pohl, Karl Ströher, Sammler und Sammlung, Stuttgart, 1982, no. 508, illustrated in colour p. 201
Museum für Moderne Kunst und Sammlung Ströher, Frankfurt, 1991, fig. 7, illustrated in colour p. 65; fig. 11, illustrated in a photograph of the Ströher residence in Darmstadt p. 66
In 1920 Oskar Schlemmer, alongside Paul Klee, was invited by Walter Gropius to join the Bauhaus school. During his years at the Bauhaus, first in Weimar and later in Dessau, Schlemmer worked as the ‘master’ of mural, wood and metal workshops and was also passionate about architecture and dance. Fascinated by the synthesis of art and architecture, in his paintings he focused on positioning figures within a pictorial space, which he formed by opposing horizontal, vertical and diagonal planes. According to Karin von Maur, Tischgesellschft is Schlemmer’s first painting showing a group of people in perspectival space (K. von Maur in Oskar Schlemmer. Der Maler, Der Wandgestalter, Der Plastiker, Der Zeichner, Der Graphiker, Der Bühnengestalter, Der Lehrer (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 52). Here, the pictorial space is defined simply by the vertical line in the top of the composition, denoting the corner of a room, which is dominated by the dramatically foreshortened table, which in turn is defined by the horizontal and diagonal lines taking the viewer’s eye into the far distance of the room. The figures are rendered in solid, gently curved shapes that evoke a sense of classical harmony and give the composition a meditative quality.
Karin von Maur wrote that from the early days of his career Schlemmer ‘began vigorously to restrict the basic means of his painting to two-dimensional surfaces with vertical, horizontal or diagonal coordinates, and to the elementary shapes such as line, point, triangle, circle, ellipse, square. […] Schlemmer felt that man should not be represented as a psychic being agitated by feelings and emotions, marked by the “stigmata” of civilization, but that the figure could be conceived as an ideal Gestalt, purified of all individual or temporary features – as an eidetic image in Plato’s sense, as a harmonic shape with perfect proportions, as it was seen by the Egyptians and Greeks, by Leonardo and Dürer […] By containing the human shape in regular, linear, geometric patterns, he wanted to raise it to the sphere of the idol’ (K. von Maur, op. cit., 1969, p. 63).
Probably more than any other artist of the Bauhaus, Schlemmer strove to achieve a synthesis of the arts, formulated by the movement’s founder Walter Gropius. Schlemmer’s path towards this synthesis involved combining dance, stage and costume design as well as architecture with the three-dimensional medium of painting. The present work was executed shortly after the creation of Schlemmer’s Das Triadische Ballett (‘The Triadic Ballet’), which had its premiere in Stuttgart in September 1922. His work on various aspects of this theatrical production certainly influenced the artist’s view of the relationship between figure and space, a central theme of Tischgesellschaft which was painted the following year.
While until this point Schlemmer’s work had strictly emphasised the flatness of the picture plane, with his work on the stage production he started introducing the third dimension into his paintings. Discussing the present work in the context of this change, Karin von Maur wrote: ‘The “magic” tension created in his paintings before 1920 by binding the figures into a two-dimensional system was now produced by abrupt spatial recessions which contradict the expected room dimensions for instance in Group at the Table, 1923, the exaggerated dive of the table into the background causes an almost Surreal effect’ (ibid., p. 65). The correlation between the present work and Surrealism was previously pointed out by László Moholy-Nagy – the Bauhaus artist, professor and theoretician – who illustrated Tischgesellschaft in his discussion of the importance of dream and the language of the subconscious in the art of the Surrealists (L. Moholy-Nagy, op. cit., p. 330).
With its sharply receding lines of perspective, the present composition and the related works on paper (fig. 1) bring to mind studies in perspective by the Italian Quattrocento masters. Schlemmer wanted to submit his intuition to rational control, but rejected the theory of pure abstraction developed by Kandinsky and his Bauhaus colleagues, choosing instead to integrate figurative subjects into most of his works. He sought to capture the feeling of space, not by showing the identity or individual gestures of his figures, but by reducing them to simplified forms that become purely a function of the space surrounding them. Tischgesellschaft is a superlative visual rendering of Schlemmer’s statement: ‘The figure is static, the space is movement’ (quoted in Werner Haftmann, Malerei im 20. Jahrhundert, Munich, 1987, p. 294).
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