Like many of the avant-garde groups that broke away from existing institutions in the early years of the twentieth century, the circle of modernist painters that came to be known as the Blue Rider in Munich in 1911 owed its existence to a quarrel with authority. In the case of the Blue Rider painters, however, the quarrel was not with a benighted academy but with another artists’ group—the New Artists Association of Munich—that had been founded only two years earlier, in 1909, to foster the fortunes of the avant-garde. No less a modernist firebrand than the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky had been elected president of the New Artists group, yet this did not prevent the chairman of its exhibition committee from summarily rejecting a large abstract painting by Kandinsky—his CompositionV (1911)—that had been submitted to the Association’s third exhibition in 1911....


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