German ‘expressionist’ painter and printmaker Heinrich Campendonk (3 November 1889 – 9 May 1957), born in Krefeld, was a member of Der Blaue Reiter group from 1911 to 1912. By this time Campendonk had discovered the theme, harmony between animals and man, circle of life and creation, which dominated his work. Campendonk experimented with gouaches, watercolors and woodcuts. Macke, Marc and Kandinsky influenced the artist deeply in these years. Heinrich’s creations were initially rhythmic in form, eventually transforming into multicolored geometric patterns. His most famous painting, “Composition with Two Cows (Komposition mit zwei Kuhen),” was created during this period.

A gouache and watercolor on paper measuring 17″ x 21 ¼”, “Composition with Two Cows” was created around 1913. Campendonk completed this beautiful creation while living in Sindelsdorf and having ‘Fauvist’ and ‘Futurist’ influences. This artwork is a chain of paintings depicting farm animals in geometric prints, a theme that was also of interest to Franz Marc. Both artists had a fascination for depictions of nature, especially rural scenarios. The difference in their work was that unlike Marc, Campendonk created his works with a luminous multicolored palette, creating a transparent and overlapping look.

After 1916 Heinrich moved to Seeshaupt on the Starnberger See and then traveled a lot. At this time, his painting style expanded to accommodate subtle, flowing designs, with large illuminated spaces and an atmosphere reminiscent of fairy tales. Campendonk wanted to create an idyllic environment, inspired by his own inner experiences. His works are more instinctive than being rational or intellectual. Quite unlike the work of other contemporaries, Campendonk’s work did not reflect any kind of connection with the social and political problems of the time. From the mid-1920s onwards he was recognized for his stained glass windows, especially the windows of public buildings and churches, including the Landtag & Paulskirche in Düsseldorf and the Essener Munster.

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Heinrich Campendonk was called a ‘degenerate artist’, along with many other ‘modernists’, and was not allowed to exhibit his works. He therefore moved to the Netherlands and continued to work as a teacher at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam and later became academy director. Heinrich did not return to Germany even after World War II. He stayed and died in Amsterdam, in 1957, but not before he had given the world memorable creations such as “Composition with Two Cows”.

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