Wilhelm Morgner

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Wilhelm Morgner

Wilhelm Morgner (born January 27, 1891 in Soest , † August 16, 1917 near Langemark in West Flanders ) was one of the most important Westphalian painters and graphic artists of Expressionism .


Wilhelm Morgner was born as the son of a former military musician who immigrated to Soest and who later worked as a conductor on the railway. The mother came from Soest. She was interested in art and published a volume of poetry in 1920. The father died on November 27, 1892, and the upbringing of Wilhelm and his sister was entirely in the hands of the mother. Artistic inclinations are known from his early childhood.

After primary school , he attended the Archigymnasium in his hometown because his mother would have liked to see him become a Protestant pastor. In addition to his growing enthusiasm for painting, school played only a minor role for Morgner - as an outsider and rebel as a student - and he asked about training opportunities as a painter. He left grammar school at the age of one (a conscript with a higher school leaving certificate) and in 1908, on the advice of Otto Modersohn , a native of Soester and co-founder of the painter's colony in Worpswede , moved there, where he attended Georg Tappert's private art school. There he learned basic craft training as a painter. Tappert also prompted Morgner to undertake intensive studies of nature and introduced him to modern art. The first artistic works were created there. He initially looked for his subjects in the everyday life of farmers, lumberjacks or quarry workers. He maintained close contact with Tappert until his death. A detailed correspondence between the two of them on art theory has been preserved.

Self-portrait IV (frock coat) , 1910
The woodworker , 1911, shown at an exhibition at the New Secession
Entry into Jerusalem , 1912
Horseman with two figures , 1913

Morgner returned to Soest in 1909, where he set up studios in the city and the surrounding area. In the same year he was able to exhibit his pictures for the first time in Soest. In 1910 he attended the painting school of Tappert again for a short time, which was meanwhile in Berlin. Tappert, who next to the President Max Pechstein was the first chairman of the “New Secession” in Berlin, gave Morgner access to the modern art scene in Berlin. Morgner was on friendly terms with the artists Arnold Topp , Wilhelm Wulff and Eberhard Viegener . In 1911 he met Franz Marc in Berlin, who was impressed by some of Morgner's works. He passed on some of the work to Kandinsky in Munich, who was also taken with the work. Herwarth Walden , editor of the magazine Der Sturm , became aware of Morgner in Berlin . Some of his work was also published there.

As a result of his growing reputation, Morgner was able to show his work in important exhibitions. From 1911 to 1913 he took part in exhibitions at the New Secession in Berlin, the Blue Rider in Munich and the Sonderbund in Cologne. Mediated by Walden, Morgner was also able to take part in an exhibition in Budapest in 1913 . He was also represented at the 4th exhibition of the jury-free in Berlin and in the exhibition "Deutsche Graphik" in Tokyo . From 1913 he also published in the art magazine Die Aktion .

In 1913 he was drafted into the military. During this time he was able to maintain contact with Tappert and exhibit some works. However, he could no longer paint paintings during his military service. His work was limited to drawings and watercolors.

At the beginning of the First World War he took part in several battles on the Western Front. In 1914 he was admitted to a hospital in Berlin because of a foot injury. On home leave in Soest, he met the painter Eberhard Viegener . After his recovery he served on the Eastern Front in 1915 and was promoted to NCO. He also received the Iron Cross, Second Class. Another hospital stay followed because of an illness. In 1916 he served as a draftsman in Bulgaria and Serbia . He was able to spend Christmas 1916 in Soest. In 1917 he initially returned to service in Serbia. He was transferred to Flanders in mid-May . He died in combat operations at Langemarck when he resisted capture by British soldiers.

In 1920 Georg Tappert created a handwritten catalog of Morgner's works in which 235 paintings, 1,920 drawings and watercolors, 67 prints and 2 wooden reliefs were recorded. This catalog still forms a basis for the artist's work. At times, Tappert also had the rights to Morgner's work before the mother noticed irregularities and demanded the rights back. Some of his works were ostracized as " degenerate " in 1937 and 94 works were taken from the museums in Berlin, Bochum, Dortmund, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Erfurt, Essen, Hamburg, Hamm, Cologne, Mönchengladbach, Mülheim an der Ruhr, Münster, Recklinghausen, Soest and Barmen confiscated. In 1938 eight pictures were shown at the Berlin exhibition “ Degenerate Art ”.

Works by Wilhelm Morgner are represented in numerous collections of museums in Germany and abroad. With 60 paintings and more than 300 watercolors, drawings and prints, the city of Soest has the largest collection of Wilhelm Morgner's work. Another large collection of works can be found in the LWL Museum for Art and Culture in Münster. The Wilhelm-Morgner-Haus art museum was opened in his hometown of Soest in 1962. In addition to changing exhibitions, a selection of Wilhelm Morgner's paintings and graphic works is constantly on display.


Although Morgner's creative period was short, 200 paintings, some in large format, and 2,000 drawings by him are known. In his work, influences of the French Fauves and the German Expressionists are evident. He leaves behind the initially emphatically naturalistic style of painting. Even in his early work, the tendency towards an increasingly abstract visual language can be seen. This is further promoted by the acquaintance with the art of Robert Delaunay , Alexej von Jawlensky and above all Wassily Kandinsky . Today Morgner's work is also assigned to the "Westphalian Expressionism" style.

Memorial plaque on Morgner's birthplace in Soest

Works in public collections (selection)

Exhibitions (selection)


  • Annegret HobergMorgner, Wilhelm. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 18, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1997, ISBN 3-428-00199-0 , p. 123 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Ernst-Gerhard Güse: Wilhelm Morgner . Münster 1983 (picture books of the Westphalian State Museum for Art and Cultural History, vol. 20)
  • Harald Seiler : Wilhelm Morgner . Cologne 1956.
  • Harald Seiler: Wilhelm Morgner . Aurel Bongers, Recklinghausen, 1958 (monographs on Rhenish-Westphalian contemporary art, vol. 3)
  • State museums in Berlin, expressionists. The avant-garde in Germany 1905-1920 , Henschelverlag Art and Society, Berlin 1986, ISBN 3362000819 .
  • Klaus Bussmann (Ed.): Wilhelm Morgner 1891–1917, paintings, drawings, prints . Exhibition catalog, including a biography by Walter Weihs, pp. 275–283. Regional Association Westphalia-Lippe, Gerd Hatje, Stuttgart, 1991, ISBN 3-89322-220-0 .
  • Katrin Winter (conc.): I + the others, Wilhelm Morgner, drawings of expressionism . Exhibition catalog, Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, Westfälisches Museumsamt, Münster, 2005, ISBN 3-927204-62-5 .
  • Friederike Weimar: Folded Dreams: Works by Young Artists - Victims of the First World War. Benno Berneis, Hans Fuglsang, Franz Henseler, Wilhelm Morgner, Franz Nölken, Otto Soltau, Hermann Stenner and Albert Weisgerber. Edited by Helga Gutbrod. Gebr. Mann Verlag / Deutscher Verlag für Kunstwissenschaft, Berlin 2014, ISBN 978-3-7861-2712-3
  • Andrea Witte: Wilhelm Morgner 1891–1917. Graphics. Directory of all woodcuts and linocuts, lithographs and etchings. Soest 1991, ISBN 3-87902-553-3 .
  • Andrea Witte: Wilhelm Morgner 1891–1917. Drawings and watercolors. Edited in cooperation with the Westphalian State Museum for Art and Cultural History , 2 volumes, Münster 1998, ISBN 3-88789-125-2 .
  • Wilhelm Morgner and the modern age. Edited by the LWL Museum for Art and Culture. Bonn 2015, ISBN 978-3-86832-299-6 .
  • Thomas Drebusch: Wilhelm Morgner. A special case of the “Degenerate Art” campaign . Soest 2016, ISBN 978-3-00-053360-0 .
  • Wilhelm Morgner and the beginnings of modern art. Edited by Klaus Kösters. Hatje Cantz, Berlin 2016, ISBN 978-3-7757-4097-5 .

Web links

Commons : Wilhelm Morgner  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Thomas Drebusch: Wilhelm Morgner. A special case of the "Degenerate Art" campaign. Soest, 2016
  2. Short biography on the homepage of the city of Soest
  3. Jutta Hülsewig-Johnen, Thomas Kellein : Der Westphalian Expressionism . Verlag Hirmer 2010, ISBN 3777431710