Sunday, January 3, 2010

Konrad Cramer (1888 Wurtzburg, Germany - 1963 Woodstock, NY)

Konrad Cramer
Self Protrait, 1925
Oil on Masonite
20" x 16"
Courtesy of Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

Konrad Cramer was born in 1888, in Wurtzburg Germany. He studied at Karlsruhe Kunstakademie in Munich from 1906 -08. Kramer found his interactions with fellow students to be much more stimulating than many of the art classes at the Academy. He did, however, study with Ludwig Schid-Reutte who most likely introduced him to cubism, an approach that would remain central to Cramer’s work throughout his life.

In 1909 and 1910 he had the opportunity to see two exhibitions of French artists in Munich, among them Picasso and Braque, along with post-impressionist paintings by Cezanne, Seurat and others. He was part of the bourgeoning Blaue Reiter group where artists were beginning to exhibit a new form of Expressionist art. Kramer was particularly influenced by the spiritual and improvisational nature of Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings of the period. Cramer visited Franz Marc’s studio, bringing along his young American fiancĂ© Florence Ballin before they married in London and moved to New York.

In New York City he befriended the photographer and gallery owner, Alfred Stieglitz, who studied at the Karlsruhe, Realgymnasium in Munich in 1881. Stieglitz’s gallery 291 was the only place New Yorkers could find the contemporary art from Europe and later its counterparts in America. It was 291 that established what we now consider to be the model of a private contemporary art gallery. Cramer maintained a close lifelong friendship with Stieglitz. He contributed to the periodical Camera Work and had his portrait taken by the photographer, offering an insightful description of the simple techniques employed by Stieglitz to make a photographic portrait.

In America, on the heels of the controversial Armory exhibition of 1913, Cramer became an important early figure of abstract modern painting, developing a style closely related to the works of Kandinsky. In November of 1913 he held his first exhibition of 6 non-objective paintings at the MacDowell Club at 108 West 55th Street. This 10 day exhibition represented some of the most radical paintings shown at MacDowell at the time. A number of paintings are titled “Improvisation” a reference to the work being generated by Kandinsky in Munich around same time.

Konrad Cramer

Improvisation, circa 1911 - 1913

Oil on Board, 16" x 18 3/4"

Christie's Sale October 4th, 2000

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