I Hope You Will Like It. That’s My Whole Life!

—– Guggenheim Thannhauser Collection arrives in Palazzo Reale

by: lunaviola

Recently, one of my Instagram post talking about a Venetian exhibition unexpectedly boosted 10 times engagement than normal flat traffic due to a simple hashtag #peggyguggenheim. What a surprise! I would never imagine that Guggenheim, even renowned for its global fame as an advocator of modern art, today could still be a name to guarantee the top on the ranking list of “best-sellers”.

Besides the “Peggy Guggenheim. L’ultima Dogaressa” in Venice, Italy has something much more significant to offer to you in Milan. In Palazzo Reale, since for the very first time the same Peggy exhibited the Guggenheim collection in Italy in 1949, after 70 years, today will bring you a hundred-year panorama of modern art treasures by the Thanhauser collections, to conclude its cadenza European tour after Guggenheim of Bilbao and Hôtel de Caumont ad Aix-en-Provence.

The stunning collection will feature around 50 works by leading Impressionists, Post-Impressionists and exponents of the early 20th-century avant-gardes, including Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Édouard Manet, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Vincent van Gogh and a significant number of works by Pablo Picasso.

A true icon of world architecture, the Guggenheim Museum in New York poetically designed by Frank Lloyd Wright celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, and that obviously doubles the reasons that we should extend our warmest welcomes to Guggenheim in our Italian cultural landmark in Palazzo Reale of Milan.

Today Guggenheim stands out as a giant and synonym of modern and contemporary art in the world scene, but if we date back to the history, at the very beginning, actually the collections were limited to the abstractionism as of the taste by the founder of Solomon R. Guggenheim. The story then changed and largely expended to cover the whole range of impressionism, post-impressionism, early modern and contemporary art thanks to an under-shaded German art dealer.

Thannhauser by name is not just the opera of Wagner, but also means a very important figure in promoting art scenes in early 20th century. Today this name is unfairly dusted and neglected due to the unfortunate fate that this 500 years German family extinguished after Justin K. Thannhauser tragically lost both two sons and his early-gone wife.

In the fall of 1909, Heinrich Thannhauser (1859–1935) opened the Modern Gallery in the glass-domed Arcopalais at Theatinerstraße 7, in the heart of Munich’s shopping district. Heinrich and his son Justin had very critical and pioneer eyes to foresee the art stars of tomorrow. Just to think that back to 1908, when Van Gogh was still perfectly unknown, the Thannhauser already devoted their definite consecration to the young Dutch painter. In 1911, the exhibition of Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), a school co-founded by Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) and Franz Marc (1880-1916), was also held at the Thannhauser’s gallery. In 1913, still the Thannhauser, hosted the first ever futurism exhibition in Germany and bringing them to Armory Show in New York, European modern art therefore entered into the American art scene. Still in 1913, they organized one the biggest exhibitions in Germany for Picasso and that originated a long-lasting 60 years profound friendship with the son Justin Thannhauser until the Spanish artist’s death in 1973. In 1930, a biggest scale exhibition in German standard witnessed Gauguin, Monet, Cezanne and Matisse, just to name a few. Remember, we are talking about the year 1930. With the minimum knowledge of the history of impressionism, you would surely know what that would mean.

Then you would ask how come possibly you never heard of this name Thannhauser as should be listed in chapter one of the modern art’s history as worth to be.

In fact, business got possibly imagined so well and the galleries expanded also in Luzern and Berlin. During the 1930s, however, all operations of Thannhauser galleries were sanctioned and delayed by the Nazi government as considered “degenerate art.” After the death of Heinrich in 1935 and the formal closing of the galleries in 1937, the German Jewish Justin Thannhauser and the whole family fled to Paris and then moved to New York.

Family tragedy as explained before constrained Justin to think an alternative solution for the significant artistic legacy. The linkage with Guggenheim is obviously bases on the similar artistic vision, but also partially thanks to the personal friendship with Peggy. The two families were recorded to have a continuous pleasant gathering over the years in their German and Venetian homes. That is how we may be so blessed today to be able to appreciate these masterpieces, even though the organizers are too timid to add the word in the title or maybe just their thoughtful choice to escape from the usual mediocre.

“May you live in an interesting time!” Late 19th century and early 20th century was just such an interesting period to live in. All types of schools and voices blossomed, integrated, and interacted among the artists. That reflects in the world of paintings, but also in the field of music, if we see how Debussy, Strauss, Bartok. List and Rachmaninoff influenced each other…..

As I always say, the only functional way to appreciate art is to continuously expose yourself to the very best works and top level interpreters. They will, as every other treasure in your life, save any possible explanation, and make you realize: Yes, got it!

“I Hope you will like it. That’s my whole Life!” These are the words when Justin Thannhauser bequeathed the most essential and iconic works of his collection for the generous philanthropic donation to the Guggenheim Foundation in 1963. These simple but so sincere and profound expressions moved me into tears. That’s it! I will make it the title of my article. And I just hope, rather, I am very sure, that you will really like it!

Pablo Picasso <Woman with Yellow Hair>
Pierre-Auguste Renoir <Woman with Parrot>
Van Gogh <Landscape with Snow>
Edouard Manet <Before the Mirror>
Wassily Kandinsky <Blue Mountain>
Franz Marc <Yellow Cow>

GUGGENHEIM The Thannhauser Collection. From Van Gogh to Picasso

Palazzo Reale, Milan

from October 17th 2019 to March 1st 2020