Avant-garde impressionist painters Max Slevogt and Paul Klee visited Egypt just a few years apart, and the country inspired many of their works – albeit in very different ways. A new exhibit at K20 Museum in Düsseldorf – September 6, 2014, through January 4, 2015 – features about 130 of these works and juxtaposes the artist’s different styles and artistic travel expressions.
Düsseldorf, Germany – Egypt had a strong influence on two of the leading representatives of the artistic avant-garde, impressionist painters Max Slevogt (1868-1932) and Paul Klee (1879-1940). Both visited the country and expressed their visions and impressions in much of their art. About 130 paintings, watercolors, and drawings produced in connection with their Egypt travels – and their astonishing differences – are the focus of a new exhibit at Düsseldorf’s K20 Museum (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen) – the art collection of the German Federal State of North Rhine-Westphalia.
Slevogt traveled to Egypt as part of a grand tour from Alexandria via Cairo and Luxor to Aswan in spring of 1914 when the country was still under British colonial rule. Klee followed the same route fifteen years later, from 1928-29, after Egypt had achieved independence in 1922. Unlike Slevogt, Klee traveled alone and with minimal luggage and produced almost no work in Africa – instead, he used his inspiration after returning to Germany.
Klee’s works show an idiosyncratic and poetic pictorial universe and incorporate forms reminiscent of pyramids and hieroglyphs – elements that show up in Klee’s works as early as 1900. Slevogt’s interests were not Egypt’s historic buildings and architecture, but people, everyday life, and desert landscape. Moreover, Egypt sparked an unprecedented coloristic and compositional virtuosity in Slevogt.
The contrast of artistic expression inspired by the same source makes “To Egypt!” a fascinating show. At the same time, it illuminates the dramatic transition from Impressionism to Classical Modernism. The exhibit is complemented by historic photographs and documents.
K20 will also show the video trilogy “Cabaret Crusades” by Egyptian artist Wael Shawky (born 1971). Featuring marionettes, the films, like the art in the exhibit, are explorations of the unknown from a personal perspective. Shawky will complete the trilogy’s third part – the most elaborate – right in front of visitors to the exhibit, and its world premiere will take place on December 4, 2014, at the museum.
Düsseldorf’s tourism office is offering hotel and city specials for many of the city’s art events throughout 2014, including “To Egypt!”. The package, called “Düsseldorf à la Card,” can be booked right from the tourism office’s website at https://www.duesseldorf-tourismus.de/en/accommodation/hotel-packages/duesseldorf-a-la-card/. Prices start at €49 per night per person based on double-occupancy for a 2-3-star hotel in the city center and at €95 per person for a 4-star hotel. The package includes breakfast, one DüsseldorfCard (free public transportation within city limits plus 30 free or reduced admissions to city attractions), and a city information package. Please check the website for current information.

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