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Zen 49

Artists' association

1949 in Munich
1957 in Munich


On 19 July 1949 the Gruppe der Ungegenständlichen (Group of Abstract Artists) was formed in the Galerie Otto Stangl in Munich. One year later they renamed themselves ZEN 49. The founding members were Willi Baumeister, Rolf Cavael, Gerhard Fietz, Rupprecht Geiger, Willi Hempel, Brigitte Meier-Denninghoff and Fritz Winter. The name of the group is a reference to Zen Buddhism, which many artists were studying at the time. The members of ZEN 49 used black symbols in their work which sometimes echoed calligraphic signs. The artists appreciated these symbols’ ambiguous semantic meaning and were aware of their connection to the realm of religion. Together they devoted themselves to a non-representational painting which they regarded as an expression of freedom and diversity in post-war Germany. They referred to artistic approaches which were regarded as degenerate under the National Socialists – especially the Blauer Reiter and the Bauhaus. ZEN 49 did not formulate a manifesto, and the artists' group was not an exclusive one. Even at the first exhibition they invited guests whose works were also displayed. Their aim was to propagate abstract art and to find like-minded artists on an international level. During the 1950s many artistic links were established, especially to painters of Art Informel such as Hans Hartung and Pierre Soulages.

Persons belonging to Zen 49

Works associated with Zen 49