“We wanted to collect the art of today.” (Viktor Langen)
The collection “Painting of the Twentieth Century” encompasses around 300 works by important artists of the past century. With the core themes of classical modernism and post-war abstract art, this collection also covers other fields within twentieth-century art history.
The strategy pursued by Viktor and Marianne Langen was simple and clear: they wanted to “collect the art of today” (Viktor Langen) and also artwork that spontaneously caught their eye. At the Düsseldorfer Kunstverein they discovered a “Meditation” created by Alexej von Jawlensky in 1934 and an oil sketch by Fernand Léger from the year 1927. The acquisition of these two works of art in the late-1940s laid the foundation for their modern collection.
Soon thereafter an intensive exploration of various currents of abstract art from the post-war period ensued. The married couple acquired works from École de Paris artists, including Jean René Bazaine, Alfred Manessier, Gustave Singier, Pierre Soulages, and Nicolas de Staël. They also compiled Europe’s most extensive private collection of Jean Dubuffet, with whom they shared an enduring friendship.
In addition to French abstract painting, Viktor and Marianne Langen followed the newly emerging Zero movement. Artists like Hans Mack, Otto Piene, and Günther Uecker from the Langens’ Düsseldorf environment also became part of the collection, as did Lucio Fontana and Yves Klein. In parallel, an interest in American art was awakened early on. With artists like Sam Francis, Roy Lichtenstein, Louise Nevelson, Kenneth Noland, Robert Rauschenberg, and Andy Warhol, the collection encompasses works by important protagonists.
In later years, the collector couple increasingly turned to classical modernism and purchased works by George Braque, Paul Cézanne, Salvador Dalí, Robert Delaunay, Max Ernst, Paul Klee, László Moholy-Nagy, Piet Mondrian, Pablo Picasso, and Kurt Schwitters. And besides the Blaue Reiter artists – Wassily Kandinsky, August Macke, and Franz Marc – the Russian avant-garde forms a further focal point of the collection, with artists like El Lissitzky, Lyubov Popova, Alexander Rodtschenko, and Varvara Stepanova.
After her husband’s passing, Marianne Langen continued their collecting activities on her own and once again opened up to contemporary tendencies by bringing works by Louise Bourgeois, Tony Cragg, Mario Merz, and Sigmar Polke into the collection. The Langen Collection is now considered complete in its present form. Through the establishment of the Langen Foundation in the year 2004, the family is continuing the legacy of Viktor and Marianne Langen.
Max Ernst, Forêt, 1927, Gouache und Öl auf Karton © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2011
Paul Cézanne, La Montagne Sainte-Victoire vue des Lauves, 1904-1906, Öl auf Leinwand
Fernand Léger, Nature Morte, 1927, Öl auf Leinwand