In real life, they were mercenaries, gardeners or market wrestlers. As artists, they were auto-didacts. Who created a cosmos of pictures that impresses with its direct sensuality to this day and secures a permanent place for academically untrained artists in art history: Henri Rousseau (1844–1910), Camille Bombois (1883–1970), André Bauchant (1873–1958), Louis Vivin (1861-1939) and above all Séraphine Louis (1864–1942). They count among the circle of artists known as the “Painters of the Sacred Heart“. Their scenarios, often inspired by nature, especially flowers and fruit, but also people in parks and landscapes, testify to a direct bond with nature, a sensitive awareness of the things in their immediate surroundings, through which they would appear to have sought and escape from the coldness of incipient modernity. The people they portrayed especially, do not dispense with the extremes of real life.
This French forerunner to an authentic form of art – previously referred to as “naïve art” or “outsider art” – was discovered by the German art historian Wilhelm Uhde. Uhde (1874 – 1947) was not only a leading German art historian and dealer who was among the first to exhibit rising stars of the 20th century such as Pablo Picasso and George Braque. He also played a crucial role as mentor to the “Painters of the Sacred Heart” and organized their first joint exhibition, which was held in Paris in 1928. Uhde had recognized the fascination of an artistic approach not dominated by academic training or the art canon at an early stage. He proclaimed a kind of art that directly touched people’s hearts. He was especially enthusiastic about the large-scale paintings by his housekeeper, Séraphine Louis, with their vividly colored flowers and ripe fruit.
The exhibition traces the footsteps of these special French painters and hence honors their early discoverer and patron, Wilhelm Uhde. It is based on a selection of works from the collection of Charlotte Zander (1930–2014), who assembled one of the world’s largest collections of its kind. Thus, an extensive exhibition of the artists’ works is being held for the first time. The show is deliberately and consciously in the tradition of Museum Frieder Burda, which constantly strives to reinvigorate and accentuate its strong ties with French art. The exhibition is curated by Udo Kittelmann, artistic director of the museum.