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First steps

Art Academy

Old masters


His Sister Emma

His friend Marya

The exile


Munich: the artistic capital of Central Europe

by Domenico Maria Ardizzone

The Munich Academy of Fine Arts, designed by Gottfried von Neureuther, was completed in 1884 in the district of Schwabing. Christian Hess studied here from 1919 to 1924 under Professor Carl Johann Becker-Gundhal. Founded in 1770, by the early 19th century the Academy was second only in importance to the Academies in Paris and Dusseldorf. Munich was considered the artistic capital of Central Europe: the city exerted enormous artistic influence over a vast area from Scandinavia to Russia, from Poland to Greece and could boast a special relationship with Hungary.

Louis Christian Hess (1921) the photo from his student card at the Academy

In the mid-nineteenth century when the importance of the Dusseldorf Academy was waning, the Munich Academy began to attract growing numbers of students from throughout Europe and the United States.
The Bavarian capital attracted a host of young artists who were destined to become leading members of the most radically modern art movement. At the end of the 19th century the Munich Academy welcomed students such as Lovis Corinth, Emil Nolde, Otto Müller, Wassily Kandinsky, Alfred Kubin, Christian Schad, Alexander Kanoldt, Paul Klee, Franz Marc, Josef Albers, Richard Riemerschmid and Bruno Paul.

Akademie der Bildende Kunste Munich - 1919. Prof. Becker-Gundhal's drawing class. Hess is the first on the left, second row.

Here, from 1919 Christian Hess was to forge his artistic talent. (On the right Hess in a group photo of students from Prof. Carl Johann Becker-Gundhal’s class). In the first half of the 1930’s the international prestige of the Academy rapidly declined, as it submitted to the artistic tenets of National Socialism. But, following the mysterious blaze at the Munich Glaspalast in which some of his own works were destroyed and the growing threats from Hitler to ban the avant-guard Juryfreie movement of which he was a leading member, Hess had already fled Bavaria and sought refuge in Sicily. His continuous wanderings finally took him to Innsbruck, where he was to die of injuries sustained in an air-raid on the city at Schwaz Hospital on 26 November 1944. In Munich allied bombings severely damaged the Academy. Its archives were destroyed, along with its vast collection of paintings and historic costumes. The destruction left no trace of the works produced by Christian Hess during his years of study at the Academy.
Fortunately the contents of the Academy’s vast library were transferred for safety reasons before the worst of the bombings.
The magnificent 90,000-volume collection was saved and  now forms one of the world’s most important art libraries.

Students pose with a skeleton

Munich 1919 - A group of students at the Akademie der Bildende Kunste pose with a skeleton. Christian Hess is first on the left, back row. On the reverse side of Hess' copy of the photograph are the signatures of his fellow students.

In 1948 the Academy was merged with the schools for arts-and-crafts and applied arts and new educational guidelines laid down which are still in force today, each separate discipline being taught in specialist courses.
In the 1960’s a school of interior design was opened, followed by a faculty of architecture. Courses in visual arts and art therapy were to follow. 

L’Akademie der Bildenden Künste is twinned with a number of European art academies including l’Accademia di Brera in Milan. It is a participating member of the Erasmus Programme which promotes international student exchange.