Ella Bergmann-Michel und Robert Michel – A Modernist Artist Couple

26. May 2018 – 02. September 2018
Sprengel Museum HannoverSprengel Museum Hannover
Ella Bergmann-Michel (Paderborn 1895 – 1971 Vockenhausen) and Robert Michel (Vockenhausen 1897 – 1983 Titisee-Neustadt) are unjustly two of the lesser-known artists of modern avant-garde art. The paintings and collages by these artists are a synthesis of Expressionist and Dadaist approaches as well as constructive tendencies. They furthermore occupied themselves with the new media of their time: typography, neon signs, photography and film.
The artist couple met each in 1917 while studying in the drawing class at the Grand Ducal Saxon School of Applied Art in Weimar. They left the Academy a year later in protest against academic educational methods and moved into their own studio in Weimar. They maintained close contacts with their classmates Karl-Peter Röhl and Johannes Molzahn in addition to making new ones at the recently founded Bauhaus. In 1920, the family moved to the parental home, the ‘Smelting Mill’ at Vockenhausen im Taunus, where they would live for the rest of their lives.
The first exhibitions of their works were shown in the early 1920s at the Kestner-Gesellschaft and the Galerie von Garvens in Hannover, the Kunstverein Leipzig, the Nassauischer Kunstverein in Wiesbaden and the Galerie Nierendorf in Cologne and Berlin. They were close friends with Kurt Schwitters since 1921, undertaking diverse trips together (for example to Holland in 1927, where they expanded their contact to Mart Stam, Hannah Höch and Piet Zwart) and collaborating on joint exhibitions and projects. At Schwitters’s instigation, they took part in the travelling exhibitions of the Société Anonyme through the United States. Schwitters regularly visited the Michels family at their Taunus home around 1925/1927, where they founded the ‘ring neuer werbegestalter’ (Circle of New Advertising Designers) interest group together with László Moholy-Nagy, Carl Buchheister and Jan Tschichold in 1927.
Beginning in the mid 1920s, Robert Michel increasingly occupied himself with architectural design, neon signs, typography and advertising. In 1928, Ella Bergmann-Michel established contact with the developing ‘das neue frankfurt’ association. She operated her own Frankfurt studio for advertising graphic and photography since 1929 and also occupied herself with experimental films, heading ‘The League for Independent Film’ with Paul Seligmann from 1930.
The couple lessened its artistic activities during the Nazi era and the Second World War; Robert Michel only resumed making drawings and collages in 1954. Ella Bergmann-Michel continued working largely as a graphic artist, occupying herself critically with the ‘dark time’. Both artists were rediscovered in the post-war period as ‘pioneers of the artistic collage’ and were the subjects of numerous major exhibitions.
The artistic estate of Robert Michel and Ella Bergmann-Michel encompassing far more than 2000 collages, drawings, sketches, drafts for advertisements and typography is on permanent loan at the Sprengel Museum Hannover. The documentary estate was transferred by the family to the Sprengel Museum Hannover as the ‘Archiv Robert Michel/Ella Bergmann-Michel’ in 1988. In the summer of 2018, the exhibition dedicated to this artist couple will be presented based on these enormous holdings and supplemented by specific loans and embedded in the artistic avant-garde of the Weimar Period.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a catalogue.
Curator: Dr Karin Orchard

With funding from the Land of Lower Saxony

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Sprengel Museum Hannover
Lupe zum Vergrößern
Sprengel Museum Hannover
Lupe zum Vergrößern