Hans Thuar, Begegnung im Park, 1921, Privatbesitz, Foto Auktionshaus Lempertz, Sascha Fuis Photographie
Sonderausstellung Kunstmuseum

Quite best friendsHans Thuar and August Macke

August Macke and Hans Thuar were linked by a touching friendship as children and ultimately as artists. The two children who lived in the same neighborhood were nine and ten years old when they met in Cologne in 1897 and soon spent every day together − building ships, carving arrows, or marveling at the Japanese woodcuts of Thuar’s father. 

Macke, Portrait Hans Thuar, 1903_Foto Reni Hansen
August Macke, Portrait Hans Thuar, 1903, tempera, gouache, pencil on paper, mounted on cardboard. © Kunstmuseum Bonn. Photo: Kunstmuseum Bonn/Reni Hansen

Two years later, in 1899, Hans had an accident and lost both legs − it was August Macke who cheered him up with his humorous manner and his drawn stories and gave his friend the courage to face life. Even the departure of Macke’s family did not diminish their friendship. Drawing and painting together led both of them to the desire to become artists. Yet the academic studies at the Düsseldorf Art Academy did not satisfy them.

Hans Thuar, Blossoming fruit trees (Endenich), 1911, oil on canvas.
Hans Thuar, Blossoming fruit trees (Endenich), 1911, oil on canvas. © Private property. Photo: Museums Stade/Margot Schmidt

The friends tended towards a colorrful, atmospheric way of painting, which Macke studied on his travels and Thuar, whose radius of movement was more limited, acquired in the Rhineland, through magazines and in exchanges with his friend. “To form a strong, living sensation” (Macke) is the motto that drove them in their experiments. Before World War I, both belonged to the fiercely opposed expressionist modernists. While Macke was searching for a way to express his idea of an earthly paradise, Thuar’s works reflected an existential relationship to nature.

August Macke, Walter, three days old, 1910
August Macke, Walter, three days old, 1910, oil, ink/pen on wood. © Private property. Photo: Museums Stade/Margot Schmidt
Hans Thuar, Rhenish landscape (railroad line), 1912, oil on canvas.
Hans Thuar, Rhenish landscape (railroad line), 1912, oil on canvas. © Kunstmuseum Bonn. Photo: Reni Hansen
August Macke, Pierrot, 1912, Buffet support, wood.
August Macke, Pierrot, 1912, Buffet prop, wood. © Private property. Photo: Museums Stade/Margot Schmidt

Macke’s early death as a soldier in World War I hit his friend Thuar hard and led to the interruption of his artistic work. When Thuar began painting again in the early 1920s, he created magnificent, brightly coloured, and completely independent compositions −”expressive to the point of bursting,” as August Macke’s son Wolfgang judged. At the same time, inflation and the economic crisis repeatedly brought Thuar and his wife and three children to the brink of subsistence. In addition, his physical limitations often made him miserable.

Yet the friendship and contact with Macke’s wife, his sons and their circle of friends continued throughout his life. When August Macke’s son Wolfgang finally married Thuar’s daughter Gisela at Christmas 1937, the artist families became even closer.

Hans Thuar, W. Sch. (Walter Schede), 1923, Oil on canvas
Hans Thuar, Portrait W. Sch. (Walter Schede), 1923, oil on canvas. © Private property. Photo: Axel Hartmann Photography, Cologne

The exhibition, curated by the Macke and Thuar expert Ina Ewers-Schultz, explores for the first time the unique artist friendship and focuses on Hans Thuar, an artist whose work has unjustly fallen into oblivion. Memories and letter quotations from both artists have also inspired the illustrator Yuka Masuko to create a graphic novel-style short story that traces this special friendship. The exhibition catalogue including the graphic novel is available at the museum’s shop.

The exhibition was created in cooperation with Museen Stade. We would like to thank the museums, the Macke-Thuar family and all private lenders for their great support.

Header photo: Hans Thuar, Begegnung im Park, 1921, private collection, photo: Auktionshaus Lempertz, Sascha Fuis Photographie