Formed in response to the increasing conservatism of the Neue Künstlervereinigung (NKV), the Blaue Reiter's aim was simply to ensure exhibition space for artist's dedicated to unrestricted freedom of expression.
The name derived from a drawing by Wassily Kandinsky that appeared on the cover of the Almanac featuring a blue horseman; blue happened also to be Franz Marc's favourite colour and, along with Kandinsky, the horse was a particularly favoured subject.
Established in December 1911 by Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Gabriele Münter their first show was entitled 'First Exhibition by the Editorial Board of the Blue Rider' and was launched to coincide with the last show by the NKV in the same gallery in Munich. It featured some 43 artists including Albert Bloch, Robert Delaunay, Elizabeth Epstein, August Macke and Henri Rousseau. The second exhibition opened in 1912 again in Munich but this time was on a grander scale, showing 315 works by 31 artists, among whom were Picasso, Braque, Klee and Goncharova.
Although only two exhibitions took place under the Blaue Reiter name, Kandinsky, Marc, Macke and Klee went on to exhibit together at the influential 'First German Salon d'Automne' in Berlin at the Sturm Gallery in 1913. Although short-lived, the Blaue Reiter represented the pinnacle of German Expressionist painting. It also served to promote individual expression and to break free from any artistic restraints. These words from Nietzsche sum up the group's modus operandi, "Who wishes to be creative must first blast and destroy accepted values."