Posts Tagged ‘First World War

07
Aug
22

Exhibition: ‘Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander’ at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Exhibition dates: 11th May – 5th September 2022

 

Ludwig Meidner (German, 1884-1966) 'Selfportrait' 1913 (installation view)

 

Ludwig Meidner (German, 1884-1966)
Selfportrait (installation view)
1913
Oil on canvas
Hessisches Landesmuseum Darmstadt
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

A portent of things to come…

In Germany, the years 1919-1933 were an extraordinary period of turbulence, emancipation, depravation and creativity. After the humiliation of defeat at the end of the First World War, revolution swept Germany which led to the establishment of democracy through the Weimar Republic, which was born out of the struggle for a new social order and political system.

The flowering of German Expressionism (modern art labelled by Hitler Entartete Kunst or “Degenerate Art” in the 1920s) in painting and sculpture took place under the Weimar Republic of the 1920s and the country emerged as a leading centre of the avant-garde. This exhibition focuses on the art and culture of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), a style which was a challenge to Expressionism and which advocated a return to realism and social commentary in art. “As its name suggests, it offered a return to unsentimental reality and a focus on the objective world, as opposed to the more abstract, romantic, or idealistic tendencies of Expressionism.”1

This multidisciplinary exhibition is structured into eight thematic sections corresponding to the groups and sociocultural categories created by August Sander in his seminal work Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th century), “intended, as he stated, to be “a physiognomic image of an age,” and a catalogue of “all the characteristics of the universally human.””2 In other words, Sander focused more on “archetypes” than on individuals, using his photographs to classify groups of people, to create a taxonomic ordering of society. At the time physiognomy (the art of discovering temperament and character from outward appearance) – today classified as a pseudoscience but at the time regarded as a genuine science – used photography to classify individuals and groups, notably used by the Nazis to classify Untermensch, that is, “non-Aryan “inferior people” notably Jews, Roma, and Slavs (Poles, Serbs, Ukrainians, and Russians). The term was also applied to Mixed race and Black people. Jewish, Polish and Romani people, along with the physically and mentally disabled, as well as homosexuals and political dissidents were to be exterminated in the Holocaust.” (Wikipedia)

“[Johannes] Molzahn, [László] Moholy-Nagy and others anticipated photography’s eventual achievement of a universally accessible and highly efficient form of communication. Germany’s immediate future did not fulfil such emancipatory predictions. By the end of the Weimar Republic, it was clear that one of photography’s most significant achievements was repackaging physiognomy, the ancient practice of identifying and classifying people according to racial and ethnic type, as a modern visual language… Declarations of photography as a new universal language and its revival of physiognomic looking went hand in hand with the racialized and metaphysical pursuits of National Socialist photography. This continuity points to uncomfortable connections between Weimar modernism and the fascist ideology of totalitarian regimes. As Eric Kurlander points out … scholars acknowledge that National-Socialist-era culture developed from – rather than broke with – Weimar aesthetic traditions.”3

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The Weimar Republic and its culture is full of contradictions. On the one hand you have changes in gender norms, such as the open appearance of homosexuality, the emergence of the emancipated female, the establishment of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and World League for Sexual Reform which carried out “the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights”, and the disclosed existence of people such as Lili Elbe, who was a Danish painter and transgender woman, and among the early recipients of sex reassignment surgery. At the time of Elbe’s last surgery, her case was already a sensation in newspapers of Denmark and Germany. “Artists are also interested in changes in gender norms, like August Sander, who photographs “La femme” in Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts. With an almost sociological eye, they construct a typology of the emancipated Neue Frau (New Woman): Bubikopf (short variant of the bob cut), cigarette, wearing of a shirt or even a tie become recurring attributes in the female portraits of the time.” (Text from the exhibition)

On the other hand you have male artists whose depiction of women – and not just the emancipated female – is highly misogynistic. Women are seen as a threat to men … and in many art works from this period, women’s bodies are mutilated, decapitated and hung. These art works attest to the misogyny of many male artists,4 to the desire of men to control women, to see them as fantasies (to be disfigured or killed), or to see them as unfit for purpose.

For example, Rudolf Schlichter’s smiling / grimacing Mutilated proletarian woman (1922-1923) who is missing a hand and half her forearm whilst still holding a child (which can just be seen in an installation image below), presages against her ability to be a “good” mother; Schlichter’s Der Künstler mit zwei erhängten Frauen (The Artist with Two Hanged Women) (1924) focuses on private fantasies of sexualised murder which was a recurrent theme within this period and the public interest in the rise of suicide; Otto Dix’s group of Lustmord (Sex Murder) paintings (one of which is pictured below) “attest to the anxieties of ’emasculated’, defeated men toward newly independent women. Such depraved fantasies of control, accomplished not by gunshots but gashes, were exploited and sensationalized in the rightwing press”5; and Heinrich Maria Davringhausen’s The Dreamer (1919, below) “is an especially surreal example: a grey-faced figure sits at a table, staring out; a bloody straight razor lays by his hand, while in the corner is a woman with her throat cut; above, the ceiling phases into a beach.”6

“The post-war period saw an emancipation of women, which influenced fashion towards masculinity: short hair, shirt, tie and flat chest. you see women active in all the technical fields previously reserved for male heroes. But… these are exceptions reserved for a certain urban high society because the traditional woman remains KKK (Kirchen, Küchen, Kinders: church, kitchen, children).

It is also the time of a liberation of morals, where Jeanne Mammen draws lesbian encounters… and Christian Schad of boys lovingly entwined… But, an opposite current is born towards a biological determinism of homosexuality, artists make violent reminders of the norm and Rudolf Schlichter, Karl Hubbuch or Otto Dix, for example, multiply the representations of sexual crimes by patients: the emancipated female is seen as a threat.”7

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The interwar German interregnum was a period of incredible sensitivity and brutality at one and the same time. It was a period of disease (Spanish Flu), disfigurement (homecoming soldiers after the First World War), and economic depression and inflation (especially during the Great Depression of 1929). It was a period of the rise of the machine (machine gun, tank, aeroplane, total war). It saw the rise of aerodynamics, modernist architecture, graphic design, new typography, and photography (notably through the Bauhaus) as prolific forms of visual communication in which reading would be an obsolete skill. ‘”Stop reading! Look!” will be the motto in education,’ Molzahn wrote, ‘”Stop Reading! Look!” will be the guiding principle of daily newspapers’.”8 The period also saw the development of archetypes as socio-cultural norms, of the montage of “things” and their standardisation and rationalisation as utilities to be used (and abused).9

In Europe, the interwar period was one of the most wonderful eras of creativity the world has ever seen, the one to which I would most like to return if I had the possibility of going back in time. It was a period of transgression and experimentation, in which the new possibilities and new points of view opened up to the inquiring mind. The cabaret of life was in full flow in Europe in the interwar years: revolution and street battles, poverty and perversion, living for the moment… for tomorrow might never come, evidenced by the brutality a disillusioned society had witnessed during the First World War. The advances to social freedom and female emancipation which occurred during the period were only the scab that covered a gaping wound beneath, a wounding that would be brutally exposed anew during the repression, genocide and conflagration leading up to and during the Second World War. The depictions of life and death, of the i/rational, in the “objective” art of Neue Sachlichkeit were a portent of things to come…

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Word count: 1,235

 

Footnotes

  1. Anonymous text. “New Objectivity,” on the German Expressionism MoMA website Nd [Online] Cited 07/08/2022
  2. Anonymous text. “August Sander: People of the Twentieth Century. A Photographic Portrait of Germany,” press release on the Metropolitan Museum of Art website 2004 [Online] Cited 07/08/2022
  3. Pepper Stetler. “Photo Lessons: Teaching Physiognomy during the Weimar Republic,” in Christopher Webster (ed.,). Photography in the Third Reich, Open Book Publishers, 2021, p. 15-28 [Online] Cited 07/08/2022
  4. “During the years following World War I, and until the consolidation of the Nazi party in 1933, paintings and drawings of butchered, semi-nude women proliferated in the art galleries and publications of the Weimar Republic.2 This phenomenon coincided with the sensationalized serial killings of women and children by men who were known as – among other names – Lustmörders. Lustmord, a term derived from criminology and psychology, was the label assigned to this sensational genre.3 The Weimar Lustmördes clearly bother modern scholars, who are faced with the challenge that Weimar critics failed to comment on how these paintings represented the disfiguring of women. The misogyny of these works, uncommented upon in their own time, has become the central focus of much modern Lustmord scholarship, which ultimately defines this treatment of the female form as implicit attacks on the so-called New Woman, a name given to middle- and upper-class women pushing against the traditional roles and restrictions imposed upon them by society.”4
    Stephanie Bender. “Lady Killers and Lust-Murderers: The Lustmord Paintings of Weimar Germany,” in Athanor XXIX (Vol. 29), 2011, pp. 77-83. Florida Online Journals [Online] Cited 07/08/2022
  5. Travis Diehl. “New Objectivity,” in Frieze magazine 10 March 2016 [Online] Cited 07/08/2022
  6. Ibid.,
  7. Anonymous text. “la Nouvelle Objectivité, Allemagne années 20,” on the Almanart website Nd [Online] Cited 04/08/2022 (translated from the French by Google translate)
  8. Johannes Molzahn. ‘Nicht mehr lessen! Sehen!’ Das Kunstblatt 12: 3 (1928), p. 80, quoted in Pepper Stetler, Op cit.,
  9. “Rationality is an important aspect of literary representations of Lustmord, and the suggestion of the metropolis as a rational sphere is linked to the role of the male protagonist.14 The male figure is depicted as intellectual and cultured, and even though he commits Lustmord, it is because his rational foundation has been somehow destroyed.15 The manifestation of this violence, this monstrosity that overtakes the rational male, is rooted in the feminine and consequently lashes out at women.”
    Jay Michael Layne. “Uncanny Collapse: Sexual Violence and Unsettled Rhetoric in German-Language Lustmord Representations, 1900-1933” (PhD diss., University of Michigan, 2008, pp. 60-671) quoted in Stephanie Bender. “Lady Killers and Lust-Murderers: The Lustmord Paintings of Weimar Germany,” in Athanor XXIX (Vol. 29), 2011, pp. 77-83. Florida Online Journals [Online] Cited 07/08/2022

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Many thankx to the Centre Pompidou for allowing me to publish some of the images in the posting. Thankx also to Aubrey Perry for the use of most of the installation photographs of the exhibition (except the five noted below)

 

0 – Introduction
1 – Prologue

2 – Standardisation

What is standardisation? The singularities are erased, in favour of recourse to models, standardised types, simple forms reproducible in series. Here we see paintings like those of George Grosz, with his faceless figures, schematic human beings with neutral expressions set in empty towns. This corresponds, in architecture, to the launch in Germany of major programs of housing estates, as in Frankfurt, for which the habitat is designed from standardized models. Here we see engravings made by Gernd Arntz, where people are schematized and geometricized. The silhouettes appear in a simple and subtle game of black and white: the stripes of a prisoner play with the grid, the attitudes of the workers are repeated to the rhythm of the wheels of the machine.

[Anglea Lampe, curator of the exhibition]: The attention of the artists is focused on the social belonging of the people. The sociological notion becomes important, especially with the group which was created in Cologne with the artists Gerd Arntz, Heinrich Hoerle, Franz W. Seiwert, who form the Cologne Progressives group with whom  August Sander exhibits. Arntz produced the series of engravings Häuser der Zeit (12 Houses of the Time), where he represents social classes according to a set of codes. It’s a very political speech of the time. Arntz continues to develop this approach with the philosopher and economist Otto Neurath, who works in Vienna: he develops a universal visual language, called isotype. Isotype is the acronym for “international system of typographic picture education”, in other words it is the precursor of the pictogram or emoticons.

In the 1920s, there was the desire, this dream to create universal languages. These pictograms, which are associated with a colour code, make up, for example, a typology of professions, social categories or elements of daily life, for a democratization of knowledge. Economic and societal problems could be visualised and broadcast thanks to this new visual system… it really is a system of infographics before the letter.

 

3 – Visages de ce temps (Face of our time)

[Florian Ebner, curator of the “August Sander” section]: This two-part exhibition explores the dialogue between August Sander and the Progressive artists of Cologne. We see on the wall the portraits that Sander dedicated to artists and next to it, paintings by artists like Heinrich Hoerle, Franz Seiwert and Anton Räderscheidt. We see how much Sander is inspired by their art and it is a magical moment.

We see on a large table the exchanges between Sander and the Progressives of Cologne: the letters, but also the reproductions he made of their paintings. And at that moment, there is an opening in the picture rail which gives the perspective on the Sander corridor and we see the first group, Les Paysans (Farmers). We see these two forces that run through his work, both rooted in the land – he comes from Westerwald – and revolutionary energy. These are twelve sources of energy that make part of the productive tensions that marked his work.

“By seeing, observing and thinking, with the aid of the photo apparatus and adding a date indication, we can fix universal history and, thanks to the expressive possibilities of photography as a universal language, influence all of humanity.” ~ August Sander

[Florian Ebner]: To return to photography as a universal language, the 1920s in Germany are marked by discussions on the different types of society. It is a society that has asked many questions about itself.

“The fundamental idea of ​​my photographic work People of the Twentieth Century, which I began in 1910 and which contains about five to six hundred photos, a selection of which was published in 1929 under the Antlitz der Zeit (Face of Our Time), is nothing but a profession of faith in photography as a universal language and the attempt to paint a physiognomic portrait of the German man, based on the optical-chemical process of the photography, therefore on the pure shaping of light.” ~ August Sander

[Florian Ebner]: I think Sander’s portraiture embodies something specific in photography: he invites people to stage themselves in front of his camera, to take a posture for several seconds. It is therefore a “self-portrait assisted”, according to photography historian Olivier Lugon, and at the same time he assigns these people a place in his theory of society.

The idea of ​​editing society is exactly that: then in his photographic archives, he assigns models and their images a place in these seven groups and 45 portfolios. Face of our time, his book, allows people to understand in a subtle and fine way the class differences of the Weimar Republic.

 

4 – Montage

Photomontage appeared during the war among Dada artists. A few years later, this technique is taken up in painting, photography, cinema, literature, to be put at the service of the analysis of society. The mix of patterns or information, dissociated in reality, allows artists to offer a form of visual synthesis of the time.

 

5 – Les Choses (Things)

The scrutinising gaze of New Objectivity artists brings them take objects as models. Due to its supposedly objective technique, photography seems adapted to the precise rendering of things in their materiality. A dialogue is established between the two arts, painting and photography.

[Angela Lampe]: The paintings are animated by this tension between this inert plant and this bare and geometric environment which gives the false appearance of a bourgeois interior but which is completely artificial and fictitious. Architecture, geometric, abstract, these are the attributes that fascinate artists.

[Sophie Goetzmann]: No photo is objective from the moment there is a framing, a choice of motif, a choice of object photographed, we are in the order of choice. There is a whole practice of plant staging, sometimes point-based original views, close-ups, with attention to rendering detail and matter of these plants. These plants are photographed truly as objects. We are not interested in plants as living beings; they have no vividness, whether in paintings or photographs, they are very rigid, they are placed in neutral and empty environments. They are still life very dead!

 

6 – Persona froide (Cold persona)

The four murderous years of the war that ended in defeat cause general disappointment. Humiliation breeds a culture of shame. In the 1920s appears what the university specialist in culture German Helmut Lethen calls the “cold persona”.

[Sophie Goetzmann]: Helmut Lethen explains that guilt and shame are two different things. Guilt is having made a mistake and racking your brain, torturing yourself with this mistake to try to fix it; so the guilt, according to him, has to do with interiority.

Shame is having made a mistake but, instead of going into introspection, it’s about thinking outward, to think, “What are people going to think of me? How do I save face with others, how do I erase this shame?”. This is what he calls the culture of shame, people are dominated by a shame of ideas that they never had before the First World War, in particular because everyone had gone merrily to war. The war was a real moment of patriotism in Germany as in France, and all these people found themselves face to face with the reality of war: mutilation, dead, traumatised, bereaved families. At the end of the First World War there is a kind of shame that takes hold people compared to their ideas of four years ago.

How is it transcribed in portraits and in attitudes in general? Through a new way of being, of playing the detached person, of protecting oneself using a mask of indifference. In portraits, people don’t smile, do not display any particular expression, are detached on a neutral background. At the same time, portraits say something about people. In place to express their interiority, they show their position in the social order or their occupation. New Objectivity artists put people in boxes and represent people according to their profession, their place of work.

The portraits say something in general, which is to hide one’s feelings. In this section, there is a portrait of a woman putting on makeup. The make-up is a symbol of this new social attitude which is to put a layer of make-up on oneself so as not to reveal one’s torment, one’s feelings to others, it becomes something embarrassing to do that. Another example is the painter Otto Dix who represents the journalist Sylvia von Harden without complacency, as a typical emancipated intellectual of the Weimar Republic. She has short hair, wears a monocle, smokes and drinks a glass of alcohol. His sentimental torments are reflected in the choice of attributes: her bottom is undone, her pose is constrained, she is uncomfortable in a feminized pink universe. Its interior is exposed.

[Florian Ebner] There is a second meeting point where the two paths intersect. This is Chapter 6: The Cold Persona for the New Objectivity Exposition and  group 3 of Sander dedicated to the woman. For women, he thinks about five portfolios that attempt to describe the role of women in society. The first three describe the woman passively; it is always someone else who defines the woman: The Woman and the Child, The Woman and the Man, The Family. It’s still a quite conservative design about society and the role of women. The last two portfolios, The Elegant Woman, The Intellectual Woman underline the new role and type of woman, the Neue Frau, the new woman. We can see together, the very beautiful portrait painted by Otto Dix of the journalist Sylvia von Harden and that of a German radio secretary photographed by Sander: the game of gestures, the hand, the cigarette, the clothes, they could be sisters, twins.

It is a conception of the portrait that no longer speaks of the interiority of a person but how to describe a person by external attributes, by gesture, accessories, the habitus. At this point, the dialogue between the painted portraits and the photographs of August Sander is very rich.

 

7 – Rationalité (Rationality)

After the war, it was the economic crisis in Germany, which experienced hyperinflation. In 1924, the Dawes Plan aimed to help Germany reconnect with the growth, thanks to the injection of American capital. It then develops in Germans a fascination for America which has invested generously. The model society of the United States is methodical, harmonious, innovative because it is governed by technology. It is in this context that rationalisation infuses culture in Germany, from how to organise interiors to popular entertainment, through graphic design.

[Angela Lampe]: The rationalisation of work developed by Taylor is imported into German companies, leading to rapid industrialisation and a mechanisation of tasks. The principle of rationalisation soon becomes a new norm that structures social and cultural life itself. For example, the graphic designer Paul Renner develops the Futura font, based on geometric shapes elementary. This new standard of rationality also applies to the development interior. Viennese architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, who works in Frankfurt, designs a modern and functional kitchen.

 

8 – Utilité

New musical styles imported from America appear in Germany in the 1920s and became very popular. especially jazz and dance music like foxtrot. Composers Ernst Krenek, Kurt Wild or Paul Hindemith drew inspiration from it to create a new musical genre, the Zeitoper, in French: topical opera. The plots take place in the contemporary world, the sets incorporate modern machines like trains, cars, telephones. The opera then addresses a wide audience and draws its references from popular culture.

[Angela Lampe]: There is a great democratisation of this, let’s say, elitist medium, which was the opera. An important figure in the theatre of the 1920s was Bertolt Brecht. At the antipodes of the lyrical outpourings of expressionism it was he, Bertolt Brecht, with the director Erwin Piscator, who developed new forms of theatre, what is called epic theatre, episches theater. In fiction, they introduce scenic devices into their plays that allow the viewer to analyse the plot in order to participate in its awakening Politics. They work from the effects of distancing. The introduction, for example, of the narrator or the break in the unity of the action are all elements generating a distance that encourages reflection. The goal is really to make the spectator.

There are other moments, which can be called moments of neo-objectivity, so Neue Sachlichkeit, in Brecht. It is the theme of sport, he is keen on sport. Moreover, he compares the theatre to sporting events, especially boxing, which really becomes a very important reference for his pieces. There is also his dry and very sober style, which distinguishes it as a representative of this New Objectivity, especially in his poetry.

It is prose that takes precedence over poetry. It’s really another form of literature, which is with an approach, let’s say, rather sociological than poetic. Brecht shares with the New Objectivity also the concern for a democratisation of art. He was interested in the possibilities offered by mass broadcasting devices. For example, he works with recorded poems and radio plays, so broadcast on the radio which spread very quickly in German homes during that time. It’s really a novelty of the mass media, as they say today, which makes it possible to disseminate and democratise culture.

 

9 – Transgressions

[Sophie Goetzmann]: We have two forms of transgression which are shown in these rooms. The transgression of gender norms, first: the idea of gender norms that will shift, especially in expression, in clothes, for example, that we are going to choose, and in particular the women of that time.

So, often, the women of the upper middle class, who live in the big cities, will resort to men’s fashion, dress boyishly, wear short hair, a flat torso, ties, to modify the feminine fashion of the time. So transgression of gender norms and transgression of heterosexuality because, in the Berlin of the 1920s, there was a whole
very important homosexual subculture, in particular through clubs, meeting places, restaurants, bars.

[Angela Lampe]: The painter and designer Jeanne Mammen creates watercolours featuring the daily life of lesbian meeting places, depicting the relationships between women with a certain tenderness, just like Christian Schad, who draws two young boys lovingly embraced. Otto Dix, in his portraits, depicts on the other hand its models according to a more heteronormative vision. The dancer Anita Berber, an openly bisexual star with multiple escapades, is caricatured as a personification of sin. All in red, she is presented as a figure really out of hell. She is truly the embodiment of Babylon, sinful.

[Sophie Goetzmann]: It is these two forms of transgression that are shown in the first two rooms. The last room in the section shows what is rather the opposite of a transgression, i.e. a reminder of the norm and the attitude of most male artists in the face of these transgressions, which is an attitude of anguish, which is an attitude of fear of seeing lesbian women who openly display their sexuality, to see gender norms that are blurred.

Doesn’t that open the door to a mix, too, of gender roles, a take on the power of women over men? So many of these men will multiply the images of women bruised, murdered, butchered, which also echoes the various facts of the time, where there is a whole phenomenon with serial killers that make the headlines, photographs of murders that are broadcast in the press. These are images that draw a lot of inspiration from this visual culture, almost, murder at that time. These are works that translate a certain anguish of these artists in the face of all these transgressions of the standards of gender and these transgressions of heterosexuality.

The shame felt by the men following the defeat of Germany after the First World War, is expressed through representations of violence against women because, too, women progressed on the social ladder during the First World War. Most of the time, positions that have been left vacant by men who went to the front were taken by women.

 

10 – Regard vers le bas (Look back)

In this last section, we are interested in artists who have been excluded, the losers from the appearance of Taylorism, who are obviously the workers who are
exploited and which become an interchangeable mass and simple cogs in enormous machinery that overtakes them. But also, all the people who live in a form of marginality, whether war-disabled, or the unemployed, or people who live on the fringes of cities and who do not go to shows, operas or Zeitoper, or Brecht’s shows which are visible in city centres, but who are completely excluded from all this entertainment and who are doomed to a form of marginality in their life, in their place of living, and who are completely crushed by the capitalist economic machinery.

[Angela Lampe]: Far from the bustling boulevards and their neon signs, the painters like Hans Baluschek and Hans Grundig paint those excluded from urban entertainment, like poor families moving through these terrains, waves relegated to the fringes of cities. During these years, there was really a gap between what we call the rich and poor, between underprivileged backgrounds and bourgeois backgrounds, even industrialised capitals. This gap was widening during these years.

[Florian Ebner]: So Sander is going to dedicate portfolio 11 to this group, La grande ville, where we also see the youth of the big city, the young high school girl, the young high school student, dressed in a very chic way, but we also see the uprooted from society, we also see the invalids of the First World War, we see the left-behinds of the system capitalist.

There is a portfolio called The People Who Came to My Door, which is as a sort of mise-en-abyme of his method. That is to say, he invites people who came to ask for money (beggars, hawkers, unemployed), to have their photograph taken in the frame of their door, in front of the entrance wall. It is a true typology of these people. And there is a very beautiful sentence, a very nice idea, where he asks himself: “Can you imagine taking in all the employment offices in Germany, at the same time, a photograph. What strong image would that give of poverty?”

“Here, the photo speaks a very cultured language that can be heard by everybody; it is another language, but just as expressive, as photography would speak if cameras were installed in the 365 existing unemployment offices today on the sole territory of the German Reich and if we made them work simultaneously. If we photographed the people in these offices, then we gathered the results thus obtained and we added the date, 1931, the tragedy of this photographic language would certainly be understandable, without further comment, by all men today and in times to come.” ~ August Sander

11 – Epilogue

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Text from the exhibition podcast transcription on the Centre Pompidou website translated from the French by Google translate

 

This exhibition on the art and culture of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) in Germany is the first overview presented in France of this artistic trend. Apart from painting and photography, the project brings together architecture, design, film, theatre, literature and music.

People of the 20th century, the masterwork by photographer August Sander, establishes the motif of a cross-section of a society, an “exhibition in the exhibition”, as a structural principle, the two interlinked perspectives opening up a large panorama of German art in the late 1920s.

This multidisciplinary exhibition is structured into eight thematic sections corresponding to the groups and sociocultural categories created by August Sander.

A review of German history in the context of contemporary Europe with populist movements and divergent societies in the throes of the digital revolution invites us to observe the political resonances and media analogies between yesterday’s situations and those of today.

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation views of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at right in the bottom image, works by Rudolf Schlichter: from left to right, Arbeiter mit Mütze (Worker with hat), 1926; Verstümmelte Proletarierfrau (Mutilated proletarian woman), 1922-1923; and  Schwachsinnige II (Imbeciles II), 1923-1924
Photos: Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

 

Les choses / Things

The artists of the New Objectivity were particularly interested in the genre of still life and represented objects with great clarity, their gaze being both scrutinising and cutting. Because of its supposed objectivity, photography seems particularly suited to the precise rendering of things in their materiality. Inspired by this hyperrealistic fidelity, the painters appropriated the visual language of photography. Rubber cacti and fig trees were very popular in 1920s Germany, where they were sought after for their exoticism. Artists are passionate about these plants then perceived as the plant equivalent of crystalline stone: architectural, geometric, abstract. Xaver Fuhr and Alexander Kanoldt paint figs with great meticulousness, in uncluttered compositions that bring out their clear structure. Georg Scholz values ​​the stiffness of the cactus, in resonance with the rigid pictorial style of the New Objectivity.

This reified nature is part of a broader fascination with the world of objects. Photographers and painters are also interested in glass objects, light bulbs and tableware, often depicted in plunging or unusual perspectives.

 

Persona froide / Cold persona

The four murderous years of the war ended in defeat engendered a form of general disillusion in Germany. According to literary historian Helmut Lethen, the humiliation inflicted by the victors gave rise to a culture of shame, characterised by widespread embarrassment about pre-war utopias. If guilt implies an introspective approach and supposes questioning oneself about one’s wrongs, shame is external and requires above all to preserve one’s image with others. In the 1920s, what Lethen called the “cold persona” appeared, a new social type that consisted of seeking to escape feelings of humiliation by displaying a mask of coldness and indifference.

This new behaviour profoundly modifies the practice of portraiture. Previously turned towards the interiority and the psychological expression of the model, it now focuses on the external signs of individuals. The artists of the New Objectivity thus represent less personalities than social types, defined by their profession. Often displayed in the very title of the work (businessman, textile merchant, doctor, etc.), it is also identifiable through attributes that allow it to be recognised.

In Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts (People of the 20th century), August Sander devotes a group to “Socio-professional categories”, photographing less individual characters than occupations.

Like Julius Bissier, who represents himself forging his own image without emotion or affect (see below), the portraits appear cold, emptied of all feeling, in resonance with their often neutral and deserted backgrounds. The subjects appear alone and wear a detached expression, an absent, even empty gaze. Like the young girl represented by Lotte Laserstein, they seem to seek to disguise their feelings behind an impenetrable appearance.

Artists are also interested in changes in gender norms, like August Sander, who photographs “La femme” in Menschen des 20. Jahrhunderts. With an almost sociological eye, they construct a typology of the emancipated Neue Frau (New Woman): Bubikopf (short variant of the bob cut), cigarette, wearing of a shirt or even a tie become recurring attributes in the female portraits of the time.

 

Rationalité / Rationality

The economic crisis and spectacular post-war inflation were followed by a period of stabilisation and relative growth, favoured in particular by the Dawes Plan and the injection of American capital in 1924. A fascination for America and its model of society seen as methodical and harmonious, governed by technique, was born in Germany.

The rationalisation of work developed by Taylor is imported into German companies, leading to rapid industrialisation and the mechanisation of tasks. The aestheticisation of machines is found in the artists of the New Objectivity, who praise their beauty. Carl Grossberg’s paintings show sparkling clean industrial sites in clean, meticulously detailed compositions. The cult of technology continued with the appearance of the radio, a new domestic machine perceived by the painter Max Radler or the playwright Bertolt Brecht as a potential tool for emancipation.

The principle of rationalisation soon becomes a new norm that structures social and cultural life. The interior layout of the small-sized accommodation is studied by the architects and designers to optimise the space. Along the same lines, Marcel Breuer and Franz Schuster developed sleek, space-saving furniture that freed up as much space as possible. The architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky has designed a modern and functional kitchen in Frankfurt, organised as a workspace to limit the movements of the housewife. This concern to improve the daily life of women is part of a general desire for emancipation: the 1920s are those of the appearance of a financially independent Neue Frau (New Woman), who leaves her traditional role to confront to modern technology or to sports previously reserved for men.

 

Transgressions

In Germany, traditional gender roles were redefined after the First World War. After occupying vacant positions during the conflict, women are now established in the labor market, and obtain the right to vote in 1918. This new position leads them to adopt an androgynous appearance by appropriating the codes of masculinity: short hair, shirt, tie and flat chest, as shown in Selbstbildnis als Malerin (Self-Portrait as a Painter) (1935, below) by Kate Diehn-Bitt (1900-1978), oil on plywood.

In Berlin, in the famous Eldorado cabaret, transvestite artists push this confusion of genres even further. An important homosexual subculture develops in these clubs tolerated by the police. The painter and designer Jeanne Mammen creates watercolours that capture the daily life of lesbian meeting places, depicting the relationships between women with a certain tenderness.

The portraits of Otto Dix, on the other hand, are more imbued with the homophobic stereotypes of the time. The dancer Anita Berber, openly bisexual star with multiple escapades, is caricatured as a personification of sin. Jeweller Karl Krall appears with disproportionately scooped and wide hips, echoing physiologist Eugen Steinach’s ideas about “feminized men”.

Transgressions of heterosexuality and decompartmentalisation of genres generate anxiety in some male artists which is reflected in their works by a violent reminder of the norm. Rudolf Schlichter, Karl Hubbuch or Otto Dix multiply the representations of Lustmörder, sexual crimes showing women violently murdered by knife or hanging.

 

Regard vers le bas / Look down

The fascination for industry and machines clashes with the harsh reality of the daily life of the most modest populations. Driven by a desire to represent the reverse side of triumphant capitalism, certain artists of the New Objectivity turn their gaze towards those invisible things that technical progress excludes or condemns. Although pretending to a representation objective of the social world, they refuse political neutrality, most of them being committed to the Communist Party.

Karl Völker and Oskar Nerlinger create portraits of anonymous crowds of workers in the oppressive environment of industrial architecture: de-individuated, they are no more than simple cogs in the capitalist economic machine. Using a detached style, the artists represent the precarious populations living on the edge of large modern urban centres, showcases of German capitalism. Far from the bustling boulevards and their neon signs, Hans Baluschek and Hans Grundig paint those excluded from urban entertainment, poor families living in vacant lots on the outskirts of cities.

 

Max Radler (1904-1971) 'Der Radiohörer' (The Radio Listener) 1930

 

Max Radler (1904-1971)
Der Radiohörer (The Radio Listener)
1930
Oil on canvas

 

Wilhelm Heise (German, 1892–1965) 'Verblühender Frühling. Selbstbildnis als Radiobastler' (Faded Spring. Self-portrait as a radio amateur) 1926

 

Wilhelm Heise (German, 1892–1965)
Verblühender Frühling. Selbstbildnis als Radiobastler (Faded Spring. Self-portrait as a radio amateur)
1926
Oil on canvas

 

Raoul Hausmann (Austrian, 1886-1971) 'Mechanischer Kopf (Der Geist Unserer Zeit)' The Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Time) 1919

 

Raoul Hausmann (Austrian, 1886-1971)
Mechanischer Kopf (Der Geist Unserer Zeit) The Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Time)
1919
Assemblage
Wooden hairdresser’s puppet and various objects attached to it: telescopic beaker, a leather case, pipe stem, white cardboard bearing the number 22, a piece of a seamstress’ tape measure, a double decimeter, a watch cog, a roll of character d printing
32.5 x 21 x 20cm
Pompidou Centre collection
Purchase, 1974

 

 

“I wanted to unveil the spirit of our time, the spirit of everyone in its rudimentary state.”

Reducing the individual to a series of figures, this head criticises a harmful mechanisation revealed by the Great War. It also constitutes the announcement of a new, rational and impersonal man in tune with modern society. Anti-bourgeois and corrosive, does Raoul Hausmann reject the present or does he project himself into the future?

 

The most famous work by Hausmann, Mechanischer Kopf (Der Geist Unserer Zeit), “The Mechanical Head (The Spirit of Our Time)”, c. 1920, is the only surviving assemblage that Hausmann produced around 1919-1920. Constructed from a hairdresser’s wig-making dummy, the piece has various measuring devices attached including a ruler, a pocket watch mechanism, a typewriter, some camera segments and a crocodile wallet.

Der Geist Unserer Zeit – Mechanischer Kopf specifically evokes the philosopher George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). For Hegel… everything is mind. Among Hegel’s disciples and critics was Karl Marx. Hausmann’s sculpture might be seen as an aggressively Marxist reversal of Hegel: this is a head whose “thoughts” are materially determined by objects literally fixed to it. However, there are deeper targets in western culture that give this modern masterpiece its force. Hausmann turns inside out the notion of the head as seat of reason, an assumption that lies behind the European fascination with the portrait. He reveals a head that is penetrated and governed by brute external forces.”

Jonathan Jones. “The Spirit of Our Time – Mechanical Head, Raoul Hausmann (1919),” on The Guardian website Saturday 27th September 2003 quoted in “Raoul Hausmann,” on the Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 01/08/2022

 

Carl Grossberg (German, 1894-1940) 'Jacquard-Weberei' (Jacquard weaving workshop) 1934

 

Carl Grossberg (German, 1894-1940)
Jacquard-Weberei (Jacquard weaving workshop)
1934
Oil on wood

 

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935) 'Sommernacht' (Summer Evening) 1929 (installation view)

 

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935)
Sommernacht (Summer Evening) (installation view)
1929
Oil on canvas
120 x 151cm
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935) 'Sommernacht' (Summer Evening) 1929

 

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935)
Sommernacht (Summer Evening)
1929
Oil on canvas
120 x 151cm

 

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935)

Hans Baluschek (9 May 1870 – 28 September 1935) was a German painter, graphic artist and writer.

Baluschek was a prominent representative of German Critical Realism, and as such he sought to portray the life of the common people with vivid frankness. His paintings centred on the working class of Berlin. He belonged to the Berlin Secession movement, a group of artists interested in modern developments in art. Yet during his lifetime he was most widely known for his fanciful illustrations of the popular children’s book Little Peter’s Journey to the Moon (German title: Peterchens Mondfahrt).

Hans Baluschek, after 1920, was an active member of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which at the time still professed a Marxist view of history.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at left, Karl Hubbuch’s Twice Hilde II and Twice Hilde (c. 1929, below); and at right, Otto Dix’s An die Schönheit (Selbstbildnis) (To the beauty (Selfportrait)) (1922, below).
Photo: Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Karl Hubbuch (German, 1891-1979) 'Zweimal Hilde II' (Twice Hilde II) c. 1929 (installation view)

 

Karl Hubbuch (German, 1891-1979)
Zweimal Hilde II (Twice Hilde II) (installation view)
c. 1929
Oil on canvas mounted on masonite
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bomemsiza, Madrid
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Karl Hubbuch (German, 1891-1979) 'Zweimal Hilde' (Twice Hilde) c. 1929 (installation view)

 

Karl Hubbuch (German, 1891-1979)
Zweimal Hilde (Twice Hilde) (installation view)
c. 1929
Oil on canvas mounted on masonite
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bomemsiza, Madrid
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Karl Hubbuch, who was originally from Karlsruhe, often travelled to Berlin. It was there that he met George Grosz and Rudolf Schlichter, with whom he joined the radical Novembergruppe and Rote Gruppe, and later the Neue Sachlichkeit. Despite his radical ideological stance, the critical accent of his painting was tempered by the more moderate and classical style characteristic of the Karlsruhe artists.

Twice Hilde II is a double image of Hubbuch’s wife, whom he painted on numerous occasions. Hilde Isai (1905-1971), one of his drawing from life students at the Karlsruhe academy, whom he married in 1928, was an energetic and independent woman who eventually left her husband to devote herself to her passion for photography at the Dessau Bauhaus. The composition, in the manner of a Doppelgänger, was initially designed as a quadruple portrait which the artist later cut into two after the central part was damaged by a leak. The two pieces, which were exhibited together on a few occasions, and the preparatory drawings provide a progressive sequence of Hilde’s personality. Hubbuch, who was very fond of multiple portraits, instead of attempting to capture Hilde’s personality in a single figure, breaks it down into numerous facets, from the image on the left – which shows her seated with crossed legs on a modern tube chair designed by Marcel Breuer in a serious, prim pose wearing glasses that give her an intellectual air – to the provocative, coquettish woman in her underclothes on the far right of the Munich double portrait. Like most of the members of the German New Objectivity movement, Hubbuch was attracted by everyday scenes and by rendering various objects and textures in minute detail.

Although the painting has often been dated to 1923, in the catalogue of the retrospective exhibition of the painter’s work in 1981, the first serious critical study of his oeuvre, Wolfgang Hartmann ascribed it to 1929 on the grounds of particular stylistic features and the fact that Hubbuch did not meet Hilde until 1926.

Paloma Alarcó. “Karl Hubbuch,” on the Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bomemsiza website Nd [Online] Cited 02/08/2022

 

Karl Hubbuch (German, 1891-1979) 'Zweimal Hilde II' (Twice Hilde II) c. 1929

 

Karl Hubbuch (German, 1891-1979)
Zweimal Hilde II (Twice Hilde II)
c. 1929
Oil on canvas mounted on masonite
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bomemsiza, Madrid

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'An die Schönheit (Selbstbildnis)' (To the beauty (Selfportrait)) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
An die Schönheit (Selbstbildnis) (To the beauty (Selfportrait))
1922
Oil on canvas
139.5 x 120.5cm
Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal, Wuppertal
© Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970) 'The Dreamer II' 1919 (installation view)

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970)
The Dreamer II (installation view)
1919
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970)

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (1894-1970) spent his youth in Aachen and studied sculpture at the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1913-14, where he met Carlo Mense. Rhenish Expressionism, with its leanings towards Fauvism, Cubism and Futurism, exerted a formative influence on Davringhausen’s palette and composition.

In the years that followed, Davringhausen travelled constantly and met Georg Schrimpf at the Monte Verità artists’ colony near Ascona. Several portraits were done of him in a realistically overpainted manner which show the artist against a coloured Futurist background. The loss of an eye in his childhood ensured that Davringhausen was spared military service when the first world war broke out. Heinrich Maria Davringhausen returned to Germany, moved to Munich in 1918 and joined the group of Düsseldorf artists known as Das junge Rheinland.

Under the influence of the Cologne “progressives”, Davringhausen now painted primarily abstract pictures with colour surfaces, some of them conceived in series. Between 1924 and 1925 the artist lived in Toledo, Spain, but chose to settle in Cologne in 1928, where he founded “Gruppe 32” with Anton Räderscheidt et al.

After he married Lore Auerbach, the daughter of a Jewish industrialist, Davringhausen emigrated with his wife to Cala Ratjada on Mallorca in 1933. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War in 1936 compelled Davringhausen to flee to Ascona via Marseilles and Paris. A year later his work was shown in the exhibition of Degenerate Art. In 1939 Davringhausen was expelled from Switzerland and moved with his family to Haut-de-Cagnes near Nice. After managing to escape from Les Milles, where he was interned in 1939-1940, Davringhausen hid with his wife in Auvergne, returning to Haut-de-Cagnes after the war.

Most of Davringhausen’s work was lost during the war due to his being outlawed by the National Socialists and being continually on the run. In the postwar years Davringhausen exhibited his work, which reveals a close affinity with “Neue Sachlichkeit”, at many galleries across the world.

By the close of the 1950s art history was beginning to take notice of the New Objectivist style. As a result, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen’s early work was shown at numerous exhibitions and was included in publications dealing with the “Neue Sachlichkeit” movement. The artist’s comprehensive body of late work is primarily geometric and abstract yet it did not win much recognition. Heinrich Maria Davringhausen died in Nice on 13 December 1970.

Kraftgenie. “Heinrich Maria Davringhausen,” on the Weimar website, Tuesday, June 8, 2010 [Online] Cited 02/08/2022

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970) 'The Dreamer' 1919

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970)
The Dreamer
1919

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982) 'Die Melancholische' (The Melancholy) 1931 (installation view)

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982)
Die Melancholische (The Melancholy) (installation view)
1931
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Christian Schad (21 August 1894 – 25 February 1982) was a German painter and photographer. He was associated with the Dada and the New Objectivity movements. Considered as a group, Schad’s portraits form an extraordinary record of life in Vienna and Berlin in the years following World War I.

 

 

The four devastating years of World War I, which ended in defeat for Germany, led to a general sense of disillusionment among the people. Abandoning the visionary, spiritual and psychological aesthetics of expressionism, the disabused artists turned to reality. In painting, this paradigm shift was reflected in the emergence of a more neutral and less expressive figurative style that tended towards greater objectivity.

The German empire was succeeded by a new political regime, the Weimar Republic, which promoted the development of a new democratic culture focused on the masses. The exaltation of the individual was replaced by an ideal of standardisation: singularities were erased in favour of models, standardised types and simple forms reproduced in series. In urban development, the unprecedented shortage of housing at the end of World War I led to the construction of large housing blocks with simple and identical forms, designed according to a principal of rationalisation. The notion of utility which was linked to the new objectivity movement, emerged in theatre, music and literature. This new concept promoted the creation of works intended for a wide audience, strongly anchored in their time and designed to be immediately understandable.

Art also expressed the social upheavals under the new German democracy. After World War I, women joined the labour market and obtained the right to vote in 1918; this very definition of traditional gender roles was a subject explored by painters and photographers. From 1924 onwards, the injection of American Capital ushered in a period of relative economic stabilisation, but many Germans remained excluded from the benefits of growth. Artists who are members of the communist party depicted labourers, the unemployed and beggars, driven by a desire to represent the underside of triumphant capitalism.

 

 

August Sander. 'Malerehepaar' (Couple of painters) (Martha and Otto Dix)

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Malerehepaar (Couple of painters) (Martha et Otto Dix)
1925-1926
Modern gelatin silver print
20.6 x 24.3 cm
Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur, Cologne
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne/ Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Painter (Marta Hegemann)' c. 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter (Marta Hegemann)
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 × 7 3/8″ (25.8 × 18.7cm)
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln / Adagp, Paris

 

Carl Grossberg (German, 1894-1940) 'Self portrait' 1928

 

Carl Grossberg (German, 1894-1940)
Self portrait
1928
Oil on panel
70.1 x 60cm

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Hausierer' (Peddler) 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Hausierer (Peddler)
1930
Gelatin silver print
17.5 x 11.8cm (6.9 x 4.6 in)

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Bailiff' c. 1930

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bailiff
c. 1930
Gelatin silver print
10 3/16 × 7 3/8″ (25.8 × 18.7cm)

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) '[Unemployed Man in Winter Coat, Hat in Hand]' 1920

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
[Unemployed Man in Winter Coat, Hat in Hand]
1920
Gelatin silver print
23.0 x 14.7cm (9 1/16 x 5 13/16 in)

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Frau eines Architekten (Dora Lüttgen)' (Architect's Wife (Dora Lüttgen)) 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Frau eines Architekten (Dora Lüttgen) (Architect’s Wife (Dora Lüttgen))
1926
Gelatin silver print
25.8 × 18.7cm

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Rothaarige Frau (Damenporträt)' Red-haired woman (female portrait) 1931 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Rothaarige Frau (Damenporträt) (Red-haired woman (female portrait))
1931
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Rothaarige Frau (Damenporträt)' Red-haired woman (female portrait) 1931 

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Rothaarige Frau (Damenporträt) Red-haired woman (female portrait)
1931

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at centre left, Rudolf Schlichter’s Margot (1924, below); and at second right, Otto Dix’s Bildnis der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden (Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden) (1926, below)
Photo: Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955) 'Margot' 1924

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
Margot
1924
© Städel Museum

 

 

The prostitute Margot was portrayed several times by Rudolf Schlichter around 1924. Margot, portrayed in the pose of baroque portraits of rulers with a challenging look and self-confident right arm on her hips, bob haircut and cigarette, presents the type of the new woman. She buys her emancipation with the sale and – her swollen left eyelid indicates it – with the maltreatment of her body. The background shows a dreary tenement barracks, their “kingdom” is the street.

Text from the Städel Museum website

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)

Rudolf Schlichter (or Rudolph Schlichter) (December 6, 1890 – May 3, 1955) was a German painter and one of the most important representatives of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement.

Schlichter was born in Calw, Württemberg. After an apprenticeship as an enamel painter at a Pforzheim factory he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart. He subsequently studied under Hans Thoma and Wilhelm Trübner at the Academy in Karlsruhe. Called for military service in World War I, he carried out a hunger strike to secure early release, and in 1919 he moved to Berlin where he joined the Communist Party of Germany and the “November” group. He took part in a Dada fair in 1920 and also worked as an illustrator for several periodicals.

A major work from this period is his Dada Roof Studio, a watercolour showing an assortment of figures on an urban rooftop. Around a table sit a woman and two men in top hats. One of the men has a prosthetic hand and the other, also missing a hand, appears on closer scrutiny to be mannequin. Two other figures in gas masks may also be mannequins. A child holds a pail and a woman wearing high button shoes (for which Schlichter displayed a marked fetish) stands on a pedestal, gesturing inexplicably.

In 1925 Schlichter participated in the “Neue Sachlichkeit” exhibit at the Mannheim Kunsthalle. His work from this period is realistic, a good example being the Portrait of Margot (1924, above) now in the Berlin Märkisches Museum. It depicts a prostitute who often modelled for Schlichter, standing on a deserted street and holding a cigarette.

When Adolf Hitler took power, bringing to an end the Weimar period, his activities were greatly curtailed. In 1935 he returned to Stuttgart, and four years later to Munich. In 1937 his works were seized as degenerate art, and in 1939 the Nazi authorities banned him from exhibiting. His studio was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1942.

At the war’s end, Schlichter resumed exhibiting works. His works from this period were surrealistic in character. He died in Munich in 1955.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955) 'Damenkneipe' (Ladies' Bistro) c. 1925

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
Damenkneipe (Ladies’ Bistro)
c. 1925
Watercolour, India ink and pencil on paper

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Bildnis der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden' (Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden) 1926 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Bildnis der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden (Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden) (installation view)
1926
Oil and tempera on wood
121 x 89cm
Pompidou Centre collection
Purchase, 1961
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Bildnis der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden' (Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden) 1926

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Bildnis der Journalistin Sylvia von Harden (Portrait of the journalist Sylvia von Harden)
1926
Oil and tempera on wood
121 x 89cm
Pompidou Centre collection
Purchase, 1961
© Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © Audrey Laurans – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist. RMN-GP

 

 

Who is this woman who dares to appear in public alone, cigarette in hand, at a table of the Romanische Café, a haunt of the Berlin art worlds?

Sylvia von Harden was a journalist in Berlin in the 1920s. Her nonchalant stance is a statement of her emancipated intellectual role. Otto Dix undermines her arrogance with the detail of a loose stocking and her rather awkward pose. Her red-check dress contrast with the pink environment, typically Art Nouveau. The cold, satirical realism typifies the New Objectivity movement to which the painter belonged. Inspired by early 16th-century German masters (Cranach, Holbein), he embraced the tempera on wood panel technique as well as the choice to exhibit the ugliness.

 

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Sekretärin beim Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Köln (Secretary at the Westdeutscher Rundfunk in Cologne)
1931
Gelatin silver print
28.6 x 20.5cm
Pompidou Centre collection
Purchase, 1979
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln / Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © Guy Carrard – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist. RMN-GP

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Der Maler Anton Räderscheidt' (Painter Anton Räderscheidt) 1926

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Maler Anton Räderscheidt (Painter Anton Räderscheidt)
1926
Gelatin silver print
27.9 x 21.9cm
Pompidou Centre collection
Purchase, 1979
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln / Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © Adam Rzepka – Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI /Dist. RMN-GP

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970) 'Junger Mann mit gelben Handschuhen' (Young man with yellow gloves) 1921

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970)
Junger Mann mit gelben Handschuhen (Young man with yellow gloves)
1921
Oil on panel
27.4 x 18.6cm

 

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970)

Anton Räderscheidt (October 11, 1892 – March 8, 1970) was a German painter who was a leading figure of the New Objectivity.

Räderscheidt was born in Cologne. His father was a schoolmaster who also wrote poetry. From 1910 to 1914, Räderscheidt studied at the Academy of Düsseldorf. He was severely wounded in the First World War, during which he fought at Verdun. After the war he returned to Cologne, where in 1919 he cofounded the artists’ group Stupid with other members of the local constructivist and Dada scene. The group was short-lived, as Räderscheidt was by 1920 abandoning constructivism for a magic realist style. In 1925 he participated in the Neue Sachlichkeit (“New Objectivity”) exhibition at the Mannheim Kunsthalle.

Many of the works Räderscheidt produced in the 1920s depict a stiffly posed, isolated couple that usually bear the features of Räderscheidt and his wife, the painter Marta Hegemann. The influence of metaphysical art is apparent in the way the mannequin-like figures stand detached from their environment and from each other. A pervasive theme is the incompatibility of the sexes, according to the art historian Dennis Crockett. Few of Räderscheidt’s works from this era survive, because most of them were either seized by the Nazis as degenerate art and destroyed, or were destroyed in Allied bombing raids. His work was also part of the painting event in the art competition at the 1932 Summer Olympics.

His marriage to Marta ended in 1933. In 1934-1935 he lived in Berlin. He fled to France in 1936, and settled in Paris, where his work became more colourful, curvilinear and rhythmic. He was interned by the occupation authorities in 1940, but he escaped to Switzerland. In 1949 he returned to Cologne and resumed his work, producing many paintings of horses shortly before adopting an abstract style in 1957.

Räderscheidt was to return to the themes of his earlier work in some of his paintings of the 1960s. After suffering a stroke in 1967, he had to relearn the act of painting. He produced a penetrating series of self-portraits in gouache in the final years of his life. Anton Räderscheidt died in Cologne in 1970.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970) 'Junger Mann mit gelben Handschuhen' (Young man with yellow gloves) 1921 (installation view)

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970)
Junger Mann mit gelben Handschuhen (Young man with yellow gloves)
1921
Oil on panel
27.4 x 18.6cm
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970) 'Painter with Model (Self Portrait)' 1928 (installation view)

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970)
Painter with Model (Self Portrait)
1928
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970) 'Painter with Model (Self Portrait)' 1928

 

Anton Räderscheidt (German, 1892-1970)
Painter with Model (Self Portrait)
1928

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Zirkusarbeiter' (Circus Workers) 1926-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Zirkusarbeiter (Circus Workers)
1926-1932
Gelatin silver print
28 x 21.10cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
© Die Photographische Sammlung / SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Köln / Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne/ Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber' (Portrait of the dancer Anita Berber) 1925 (installation view)

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber' (Portrait of the dancer Anita Berber) 1925 (installation view)

 

Installation views of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing Otto Dix’s Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber (Portrait of the dancer Anita Berber) (1925, below)
Photos: Aubrey Perry

 

Wall text from the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Anita Berber in real life

 

This is Anita Berber in real life. The painted portrait was her at 26. She died three years later. “Sex, drugs, and rock & roll”

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber' (Portrait of the dancer Anita Berber) 1925

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Bildnis der Tänzerin Anita Berber (Portrait of the dancer Anita Berber)
1925
© Sammlung Landesbank Baden-Württemberg im Kunstmuseum Stuttgart
Photo: Frank Kleinbac

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) Lustmord (Sex Murder) 1922 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Lustmord (Sex Murder) (installation view)
1922
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Otto Dix Sex Murder (Lustmord), 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Lustmord (Sex Murder)
1922

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'Transvestitenlokal' (Local transvestite) c. 1931

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Transvestitenlokal (Local transvestite)
c. 1931
Watercolour and pencil
29.50 x 58cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
© BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Dietmar Katz

 

Heinrich Hoerle (German, 1895-1936) 'Selfportrait' c. 1931

 

Heinrich Hoerle (German, 1895-1936)
Selfportrait
c. 1931
Oil on canvas
41 x 29cm

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Painter [Heinrich Hoerle]' 1928-1932

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Painter (Heinrich Hoerle)
1928-1932
Gelatin silver print

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959) 'Porträt des Schriftstellers Max Herrmann-Neiße' (Portrait of the writer Max Herrmann-Neisse) 1925 (installation view)

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959)
Porträt des Schriftstellers Max Herrmann-Neiße (Portrait of the writer Max Herrmann-Neisse) (installation view)
1925
Oil on canvas
100 x 101.50cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Wall text from the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959) 'Porträt des Schriftstellers Max Herrmann-Neiße' (Portrait of the writer Max Herrmann-Neisse) 1925

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959)
Porträt des Schriftstellers Max Herrmann-Neiße (Portrait of the writer Max Herrmann-Neisse)
1925
Oil on canvas
100 x 101.50cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
© The estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. / Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Cem Yücetas

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964) 'Proletarian Intellectuals' [Else Schuler, Tristan Rémy, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, Gerd Arntz] c. 1925

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Proletarian Intellectuals [Else Schuler, Tristan Rémy, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, Gerd Arntz]
c. 1925
Gelatin silver print
From the Pompidou Centre collection

 

Heinrich Jost (German, 1889-1948) 'Werbefaltblatt "Für Fotomontage Futura"' (Promotional leaflet "For photomontage Futura") Nd

 

Heinrich Jost (German, 1889-1948)
Werbefaltblatt “Für Fotomontage Futura” (Promotional leaflet “For photomontage Futura”)
Nd
Press advertisement in four inserted pages
From the Pompidou Centre collection
Photo credits: © Archiv der Massenpresse P. Rössler

 

Erich Wegner (German, 1899-1980) 'Wirtshaustheke' (Pub bar) c. 1927

 

Erich Wegner (German, 1899-1980)
Wirtshaustheke (Pub bar)
c. 1927
Canvas on plywood

 

Walter Schulz-Matan (German, 1899-1965) 'Der Fayencesammler' (The faience collector) 1927

 

Walter Schulz-Matan (German, 1899-1965)
Der Fayencesammler (The faience collector)
1927
Oil on canvas
© Münchner Stadtmuseum

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978) 'Gläser' (Glasses) 1927 (installation view)

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978)
Gläser (Glasses) (installation view)
1927
Oil on canvas
77.50 x 77.50cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Better known for her Dadaist collages and photomontages, the Berlin artist Hannah Höch creates here a hyperrealistic still life whose composition is strongly influenced by photography of the time: overhanging point of view, tight framing, neutral space, absence of context particular. The texture of the glass objects is rendered with great precision: this transparency symbolises a new conception of painting, which must show the objects in a limpid manner, without filter. In the very foreground, in an inverted reflection, the painter has represented herself at her easel in front of a window.

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978) 'Gläser' (Glasses) 1927

 

Hannah Höch (German, 1889-1978)
Gläser (Glasses)
1927
Oil on canvas
77.50 x 77.50cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
© Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © BPK, Berlin, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image MHK

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Gläser' (Glasses) 1926-1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Gläser (Glasses)
1926-1927
Gelatin silver print
From the Pompidou Centre collection
© Albert Renger-Patzch-Archiv / Ann & Jürgen Wilde / Adagp, Paris
Photo credits: © Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933) 'Bärwurz' Between 1926-1928

 

Aenne Biermann (German, 1898-1933)
Bärwurz
Between 1926-1928
Gelatin silver print
48 x 35.50cm
From the Pompidou Centre collection
Photo credits: © Stiftung Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich

 

Sasha Stone (1895, Russia - 1940, France) 'Wenn Berlin Konstantinopel wäre' (If Berlin were Constantinople) Before 1929

 

Sasha Stone (1895, Russia – 1940, France)
Wenn Berlin Konstantinopel wäre (If Berlin were Constantinople)
Before 1929
Photo montage
From the Pompidou Centre collection
Public domain
Photo credits: © Museum Folkwang Essen – ARTOTHEK

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation views of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at second left, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert’s Wandbild für einen Fotografen (Mural for a Photographer) (1925, below); and at right, George Grosz’s Konstruktion (Ohne Titel) (1920, below)
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933) 'Wandbild für einen Fotografen' (Mural for a Photographer) 1925 (installation view)

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933)
Wandbild für einen Fotografen (Mural for a Photographer)
1925
Oil on canvas
109.5 × 154.5cm
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933) 'Wandbild für einen Fotografen' (Mural for a Photographer) 1925

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933)
Wandbild für einen Fotografen (Mural for a Photographer)
1925
Oil on canvas
109.5 × 154.5cm

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959) 'Construction (Untitled)' (Konstruktion [Ohne Titel]) 1920 (installation view)

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959)
Konstruktion (Ohne Titel) (Construction (Untitled)) (installation view)
1920
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

George Grosz. 'Construction (Untitled) (Konstruktion [Ohne Titel])' 1920

 

George Grosz (Georg Ehrenfried Gross) (German, 1893-1959)
Konstruktion (Ohne Titel) (Construction (Untitled))
1920

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933) 'Freudlose Gasse' (Joyless Street) 1927 (installation view)

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933)
Freudlose Gasse (Joyless Street) (installation view)
1927
Oil on canvas
65.5 x 80cm
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933)

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (March 9, 1894 – July 3, 1933) was a German painter and sculptor in a constructivist style. He was also politically active as a communist making significant contributions, both graphic and theoretical to Die Aktion.

Seiwert was born in Cologne. He was seriously burned in 1901, at the age of seven, in an experimental radiological treatment. As a result, he subsequently lived with the fear that his life would be short.

He studied from 1910 to 1914 at the Cologne School of Arts and Crafts. In 1919 he met Max Ernst and took part in Dada activities. He was invited to exhibit in the large Dada exhibit in Cologne but withdrew at the last moment. In that same year he formed the Stupid group which included Heinrich Hoerle and Anton Räderscheidt. According to Ernst, “Stupid was a secession from Cologne Dada. As far as Hoerle and especially Seiwert were concerned, Dada’s activities were aesthetically too radical and socially not concrete enough”.

His first large solo exhibition was in Cologne at the Kunstverein in 1923, and by the mid-1920s he was a leader of the “Group of Progressive Artists”, who sought to reconcile constructivism with realism while expressing radical political views. In 1929 he founded the magazine “a-z”, a journal of progressive art. This became a vehicle for the exposition of Figurative Constructivism.

Seiwert was actively involved in the international discussions concerning proletarian culture during the revolutionary upsurge following the First World War. “Throw out the old false idols! In the name of the coming proletarian culture.”

Seiwert was the leading theorist of Figurative Constructivism describing its origins as “From the expressionist-cubist art-form abstract constructivism was developed, which in turn led into Figurative Constructivism”.

When Hitler came to power in 1933, Seiwert briefly fled to the mountain range Siebengebirge, but his health was badly deteriorating, and friends brought him back to Cologne, where he died on July 3, 1933.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933) 'Freudlose Gasse' (Joyless Street) 1927

 

Franz Wilhelm Seiwert (German, 1894-1933)
Freudlose Gasse (Joyless Street) (installation view)
1927
Oil on canvas
65.5 x 80cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at left, Kate Diehn-Bitt’s Self Portrait as an Artist (1935, below); at middle, Gert Wollheim’s Untitled (Couple) (1926, below); and at right, Otto Dix’s Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall (1923, below).
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Kate Diehn-Bitt (German, 1900-1978) 'Self Portrait as an Artist' 1935 (installation view)

 

Kate Diehn-Bitt (German, 1900-1978)
Self Portrait as an Artist (installation view)
1935
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Gert Wollheim (German, 1894-1974) 'Untitled (Couple)' 1926 (installation view)

 

Gert Wollheim (German, 1894-1974)
Untitled (Couple) (installation view)
1926
Oil on canvas
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (German, 1894-1974)

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (11 September 1894 – 22 April 1974) was a German expressionist painter later associated with the New Objectivity, who fled nazi Germany and worked in the United States after 1947.

Gert Heinrich Wollheim was born in Dresden-Loschwitz. From 1911 to 1913, he studied at the College of Fine Arts in Weimar , where his instructors included Albin Egger-Lienz and Gottlieb Forster. From 1914-1917 he was in military service in World War I, where he sustained an abdominal wound. After the war he lived in Berlin until 1919, when Wollheim, Otto Pankok (whom he had met at the academy in Weimar), Ulfert Lüken, Hermann Hundt and others created an artists’ colony in Remels, East Frisia.

At the end of 1919, Wollheim and Pankok went to Düsseldorf and became founding members of the “Young Rhineland” group, which also included Max Ernst, Otto Dix, and Ulrich Leman. Wollheim was one of the artists associated with the art dealer Johanna Ey, and in 1922 he was taken to court over a painting displayed at her gallery. In 1925, he moved to Berlin, and his work, which always emphasised the theatrical and the grotesque, began a new phase of coolly objective representation. His work was part of the art competitions at the 1928 Summer Olympics and the 1932 Summer Olympics.

After Hitler seized power in 1933 Wollheim’s works were declared degenerate art and many were destroyed. He fled to France and became active in the Resistance. He was one of the co-founders of the Union des Artistes Allemandes Libres, an organisation of exiled German artists founded in Paris in autumn 1937. In that same year, he became the companion of the dancer Tatjana Barbakoff. Meanwhile, in Munich, three of his pictures were displayed in the defamatory Nazi exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in 1937.

From Paris, Wollheim fled to Saarbrücken and later to Switzerland. He was arrested in 1939 and held in a series of labour camps in France (Vierzon, Ruchard, Gurs and Septfonds) until his escape in 1942, after which he and his wife hid in the Pyrénées with the help of a peasant woman. At war’s end in 1945 he returned to France.

In 1947 he moved to New York and became an American citizen. He died in New York in 1974.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Gert Wollheim (German, 1894-1974) 'Untitled (Couple)' 1926

 

Gert Wollheim (German, 1894-1974)
Untitled (Couple)
1926
Oil on canvas

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall' 1923 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall (installation view)
1923
Kunst- und Museumsverein im Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his professorship teaching art at the Dresden Academy, where he had worked since 1927. The reason given was that, through his painting, he had committed a ‘violation of the moral sensibilities and subversion of the militant spirit of the German people’.

In the years following, some 260 of his works were confiscated by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. Several of these works, including The Jeweller Karl Krall 1923, appeared in the Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) exhibition of 1937-1938. The exhibition was staged by the Nazis to destroy the careers of those artists they considered mentally ill, inappropriate or unpatriotic.

 

Otto Dix. 'The Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall)' 1923

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall)
1923
Kunst- und Museumsverein im Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal
Photo: Antje Zeis-Loi, Medienzentrum Wuppertal
© DACS 2017

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Portrait of the Art Dealer Alfred Flechtheim' 1926 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Portrait of the Art Dealer Alfred Flechtheim (installation view)
1926
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Alfred Flechtheim entered the art world as a collector of Far Eastern art. In 1910, he married the daughter of a wealthy Dortmund merchant. This union helped provide him with the means to open a gallery in 1913. On the eve of the First World War, Flechtheim’s gallery was filled with works by the French avant-garde. He had a reputation as Francophile with a particular affection for Cubism. In Düsseldorf, local artists unfairly suggested that he had turned his back on German art. In this unflattering, uncommissioned work by Dix, he is surrounded by Cubist works. He clutches one in one hand and bills in another. To Dix, he’s little more than a salesman in a cheap suit, hawking foreign merchandise for the local Bourgeoisie.

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Portrait of the Art Dealer Alfred Flechtheim' 1926

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Portrait of the Art Dealer Alfred Flechtheim
1926

 

Julius Bissier. 'Bildhauer mit Selbstbildnis' (Sculptor with Self-portrait) 1928

 

Julius Bissier (German, 1893-1965)
Bildhauer mit Selbstbildnis (Sculptor with Self-portrait)
1928
Oil on canvas
77 x 61cm
Museum für Neue Kunst, Städtische Museen Freiburg, Germany

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'Two Women, Dancing' c. 1928 (installation view)

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Two Women, Dancing
c. 1928
Watercolour and pencil on paper
48 x 36cm
Private Collection, Berlin
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

She was born in Germany in 1890, but her family moved to Paris where she enjoyed a carefree and progressive upbringing (including art studies at the Académie Julian, as well as at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels). In 1914, she returned to Germany and, from 1919, worked from a small fourth-floor, two-room living-quarters-cum-studio at Kurfürstendamm 29 in Berlin for more than 60 years, until her death in 1976.

During her lifetime, she gained a reputation beyond Berlin as a chronicler of life in the city, providing for herself largely by designing film posters for the then booming UFA studios and selling her illustrations to fashion and satirical magazines, including Simplicissimus, Uhu and Jugend. Especially during the 20s and 30s, when out and about, she was never without her sketchbook – several of which are included in the exhibition – capturing the goings-on in cafes, bars and on the streets…

In her early years in Berlin, Mammen lived with her sister Mimi. She was close friends with Hans Uhlmann, later visiting him in prison, following his arrest for distributing flyers in 1933, and some posit more than a friendship between the two artists; others, however, in particular the scholar Laurel Lampela, suppose that Mammen may have been more attracted to women, arguing that such intimate and tender paintings of lesbian couples could only have been made from experience.

Whatever the case, Mammen often withdrew from the world entirely, with repeated periods of isolation. She survived the years of dictatorship from 1933-1945 with the help of friends and mini-commissions, as well as by selling used books from a handcart. Although she had the opportunity to seek exile abroad, she did not want to start afresh for a second time in a foreign country. Instead, she lived the life of a recluse, working by candlelight after her building had been bombed, and often scarcely leaving her studio for days at a time. When she did, she noted (in the only interview she ever gave, carried out a year before her death): “I have always wanted to be just a pair of eyes, walking through the world unseen, only to be able to see others.”

Anna McNay. “Jeanne Mammen: The Observer. Retrospective (1910-75),” on the Studio International website 16/12/2017 [Online] Cited 02/08/2022

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'Two Women, Dancing' c. 1928

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Two Women, Dancing
c. 1928
Watercolour and pencil on paper
48 x 36cm
Private Collection, Berlin
© VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017

 

Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976) 'Valeska Gert' 1928-1929

 

Jeanne Mammen (1890-1976)
Valeska Gert
1928-1929
Oil on canvas

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'Café Nollendorf' c. 1931

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Café Nollendorf
c. 1931
Watercolour and India ink over pencil on paper

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945) 'The House of Gatekeeper' 1924 (installation view)

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945)
The House of Gatekeeper (installation view)
1924
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945)

Georg Scholz (October 10, 1890 – November 27, 1945) was a German realist painter.

Scholz was born in Wolfenbüttel and had his artistic training at the Karlsruhe Academy, where his teachers included Hans Thoma and Wilhelm Trübner. He later studied in Berlin under Lovis Corinth. After military service in World War I lasting from 1915 to 1918, he resumed painting, working in a style fusing cubist and futurist ideas.

In 1919 Scholz became a member of the Communist Party of Germany, and his work of the next few years is harshly critical of the social and economic order in postwar Germany. His Industrial Farmers of 1920 is an oil painting with collage that depicts a Bible-clutching farmer with money erupting from his forehead, seated next to his monstrous wife who cradles a piglet. Their subhuman son, his head open at the top to show that it is empty, is torturing a frog. Perhaps Scholz’ best-known work, it is typical of the paintings he produced in the early 1920s, combining a controlled, crisp execution with corrosive sarcasm.

Scholz quickly became one of the leaders of the New Objectivity, a group of artists who practiced a cynical form of realism. The most famous among this group are Max Beckmann, George Grosz and Otto Dix, and Scholz’s work briefly vied with theirs for ferocity of attack. By 1925, however, his approach had softened into something closer to neoclassicism, as seen in the Self-Portrait in front of an Advertising Column of 1926 and the Seated Nude with Plaster Bust of 1927.

In 1925, he was appointed a professor at the Baden State Academy of Art in Karlsruhe, where his students included Rudolf Dischinger. Scholz began contributing in 1926 to the satirical magazine Simplicissimus, and in 1928 he visited Paris where he especially appreciated the work of Bonnard.

With the rise to power of Hitler and the National Socialists in 1933, Scholz was quickly dismissed from his teaching position. Declared a Degenerate Artist, his works were among those seized in 1937 as part of a campaign by the Nazis to “purify” German culture, and he was forbidden to paint in 1939.

In 1945, the French occupation forces appointed Scholz mayor of Waldkirch, but he died that same year, in Waldkirch.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Isolatorenkette' (Chain of insulators) 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Isolatorenkette (Chain of insulators)
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
27.30 x 37.50cm
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Triebwerk einer Lokomotive' (Engine of a locomotive) 1925

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Triebwerk einer Lokomotive (Engine of a locomotive)
1925
Vintage gelatin silver print
17 x 21.2 cm
Galerie Berinson, Berlin
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Nockenwelle einer Dampfmaschine' (Camshaft of a steam engine) 1927

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Nockenwelle einer Dampfmaschine (Camshaft of a steam engine)
1927
Gelatin silver print

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966) 'Musterzimmer im Fagus-Werk Benscheidt in Alfeld' (Shoe trees at the Fagus factory, Alfeld) 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Musterzimmer im Fagus-Werk Benscheidt in Alfeld (Shoe trees at the Fagus factory, Alfeld)
1928
Vintage gelatin silver print
16.9 × 22.8cm
Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (1897-1966) 'Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation, Faguswerk Alfeld [Shoemakers' irons, Fagus factory, Alfeld]' 1928

 

Albert Renger-Patzsch (German, 1897-1966)
Bügeleisen für Schuhfabrikation (Irons for shoemaking)
1928
Gelatin silver print
22.7 × 16.9 cm
Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Munich
© Albert Renger-Patzsch Archiv / Ann und Jürgen Wilde, Zülpich / Adagp, Paris, 2022

 

Anonymous artist. 'Isotype Brochure' Around 1935

 

Anonymous artist
Isotype Brochure
Around 1935
Sheet, front
University of Reading, Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection

 

Anonymous artist. 'Isotype Brochure' Around 1935

 

Anonymous artist
Isotype Brochure
Around 1935
Sheet, front
University of Reading, Otto and Marie Neurath Isotype Collection

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at right, Grethe Jürgens’s Stoffhändler (Fabric Merchant) (1936, below)
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Grethe Jürgens (German, 1899-1981)

Grethe Jürgens (February 15, 1899 – May 8, 1981) was a German painter associated with the New Objectivity.

Jürgens was born in Holzhausen and grew up in Wilhelmshaven.[1] In 1918 she enrolled in the Berlin Technical College, where she studied architecture. From 1919 until 1922 she studied at the Hanover School of Arts and Crafts under Fritz Burgr-Mühlfeld. She was employed in advertising as a draftswoman for the Hackethal Wire Company in Hanover from 1923 to 1927, and continued afterward to work as a freelance commercial artist. Her paintings from this period, such as Garden Picture (1928) and Employment Exchange (1929), show the influence of French artists such as Henri Rousseau and Auguste Herbin.

From 1931 to 1932, Jürgens edited the 12-issue run of the magazine Der Wachsbogen, which served as a theoretical organ of the Hanover artists of the New Objectivity movement. In an essay she published in the magazine, she described the group’s artistic approach:

“One paints a landscape, trees, houses, vehicles, and sees the world in a new way. Unemployed people, tramps, or beggars are painted, not because they are “interesting characters” … or through a desire to appeal to the sympathy of society, but because one suddenly realizes that it is in these people that the most powerful expression of the present time is to be found.”

.
In 1932, she participated in the exhibition “Neue Sachlichkeit in Hanover” (“New Objectivity in Hanover”) at the Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Brunswick. In 1933 she had a solo exhibition in Cologne. After 1933, she worked extensively as an illustrator and designer of book covers. In 1951, the Wilhelm Busch Museum in Hanover presented a retrospective exhibition of her works. Jürgens died in 1981 in Hanover.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Grethe Jürgens (German, 1899-1981) 'Stoffhändler' (Fabric Merchant) 1936

 

Grethe Jürgens (German, 1899-1981)
Stoffhändler (Fabric Merchant)
1936

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at left, Lotte Laserstein’s Russian Girl with Compact (1928, below); and at right, Rudolf Schlichter’s Margot (1924, below)
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Lotte Laserstein (German-Swedish, 1898-1993) 'Russian Girl with Compact' 1928

 

Lotte Laserstein (German-Swedish, 1898-1993)
Russian Girl with Compact (Russisches Mädchen mit Puderdose)
1928
Oil on panel
31.7 x 41cm
Städel Museum
Acquired in 2014 with means provided by the Werner Wirthle bequest

 

 

With a critical gaze, the Russian Girl with Compact examines her face in her pocket mirror. Her other hand is holding a fluffy powder puff. Facing the viewer, she is nonetheless interested only in what is hidden from our view. And yet the viewer still gets to see the young woman’s reflection, in the profile of her in the mirror on the wall. This duplication heightens her presence, as does the red colour of her elegant blouse. Lotte Laserstein repeatedly painted different types of women. Here, she portrays a modern woman of the 1920s: her bob hairstyle, clothing and use of make-up point to this new type of emancipated woman.

Text from the Städel Museum website

 

Lotte Laserstein (28 November 1898 – 21 January 1993) was a German-Swedish painter. She was an artist of figurative paintings in Germany’s Weimar Republic. The National Socialist regime and its anti-Semitism forced her to leave Germany in 1937 and to emigrate to Sweden. In Sweden, she continued to work as a portraitist and painter of landscapes until her death. The paintings she created during the 1920s and 1930s fit into the movement of New Objectivity in Germany.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955) 'Margot' 1924

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
Margot
1924

 

Bernhard Dörries (German, 1898-1978) 'Breakfast Still Life' 1927 (installation view)

 

Bernhard Dörries (German, 1898-1978)
Breakfast Still Life (installation view)
1927
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Bernhard Dörries (German, 1898-1978)

Bernhard Dörries ( May 26, 1898 in Hanover – July 15, 1978 in Bielefeld ) was a German painter and art writer .

Bernhard Dörries was a son of the Protestant theologian Bernhard Dörries (1856-1934), his older brother was the church historian Hermann Dörries (1895-1977).

In 1917 Dörries studied architecture at the Technical University of Hanover, but through Kurt Schwitters he began painting and studied at the Art Academy in Berlin. During study visits he got to know Italy, Spain and France. From 1924 he became a board member of the Kunstverein Hannover. In 1933 Dörries joined the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP). At the Paris World Exhibition of 1937 he won a “Grand Prix” for a portrait of a girl. After the death of Georg Schrimpf in 1938, he received a professorship at the Art Academy in Berlin, which he held until the end of the Second World War held. From 1937 to 1944, Dörries was represented with 10 paintings at seven major German art exhibitions in Munich.

After the war, Dörries lived in Langenholtensen near Northeim until 1949 and then in Hanover. In 1955 he became a professor again at the Berlin University of the Arts and retired in 1970. From 1973 he was a member of the German Association of Artists.

Text translated from the German Wikipedia website

 

Bernhard Dörries (German, 1898-1978) 'Breakfast Still Life' 1927

 

Bernhard Dörries (German, 1898-1978)
Breakfast Still Life
1927

 

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (German, 1894-1974) 'Abshied von Düsseldorf' (Farewell from Dusseldorf) 1924 (installation view)

 

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (German, 1894-1974)
Abshied von Düsseldorf (Farewell from Dusseldorf) (installation view)
1924
Oil on canvas
Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

 

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (German, 1894-1974)

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (11 September 1894 – 22 April 1974) was a German expressionist painter later associated with the New Objectivity, who fled Nazi Germany and worked in the United States after 1947.

Gert Heinrich Wollheim was born in Dresden-Loschwitz. From 1911 to 1913, he studied at the College of Fine Arts in Weimar , where his instructors included Albin Egger-Lienz and Gottlieb Forster. From 1914-1917 he was in military service in World War I, where he sustained an abdominal wound. After the war he lived in Berlin until 1919, when Wollheim, Otto Pankok (whom he had met at the academy in Weimar), Ulfert Lüken, Hermann Hundt and others created an artists’ colony in Remels, East Frisia.

At the end of 1919, Wollheim and Pankok went to Düsseldorf and became founding members of the “Young Rhineland” group, which also included Max Ernst, Otto Dix, and Ulrich Leman. Wollheim was one of the artists associated with the art dealer Johanna Ey, and in 1922 he was taken to court over a painting displayed at her gallery. In 1925, he moved to Berlin, and his work, which always emphasised the theatrical and the grotesque, began a new phase of coolly objective representation. His work was part of the art competitions at the 1928 Summer Olympics and the 1932 Summer Olympics.

After Hitler seized power in 1933 Wollheim’s works were declared degenerate art and many were destroyed. He fled to France and became active in the Resistance. He was one of the co-founders of the Union des Artistes Allemandes Libres, an organisation of exiled German artists founded in Paris in autumn 1937. In that same year, he became the companion of the dancer Tatjana Barbakoff. Meanwhile, in Munich, three of his pictures were displayed in the defamatory Nazi exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in 1937.

From Paris, Wollheim fled to Saarbrücken and later to Switzerland. He was arrested in 1939 and held in a series of labor camps in France (Vierzon, Ruchard, Gurs and Septfonds) until his escape in 1942, after which he and his wife hid in the Pyrénées with the help of a peasant woman. At war’s end in 1945 he returned to France.

In 1947 he moved to New York and became an American citizen. He died in New York in 1974.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (German, 1894-1974) 'Abshied von Düsseldorf' (Farewell from Dusseldorf) 1924

 

Gert Heinrich Wollheim (German, 1894-1974)
Abshied von Düsseldorf (Farewell from Dusseldorf)
1924
Oil on canvas
Kunstpalast, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Karton zum "Groβstadt-Triptychon"' (Cartoon for "The Grande Ville triptych") 1927-1928 (installation view)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Karton zum “Groβstadt-Triptychon” (Cartoon for “The Grande Ville triptych”) (installation view)
1927-1928
Charcoal, chalk, pencil, sanguine, gouache on drawing paper laid down on tile
3 panels
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Wall text from the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) Karton zum "Groβstadt-Triptychon" (Cartoon for "The Grande Ville triptych") 1927-1928 (installation view detail)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Karton zum “Groβstadt-Triptychon” (Cartoon for “The Grande Ville triptych”) (installation view detail)
1927-1928
Charcoal, chalk, pencil, sanguine, gouache on drawing paper laid down on tile
3 panels
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) Karton zum "Groβstadt-Triptychon" (Cartoon for "The Grande Ville triptych") 1927-1928 (installation view detail)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Karton zum “Groβstadt-Triptychon” (Cartoon for “The Grande Ville triptych”) (installation view detail)
1927-1928
Charcoal, chalk, pencil, sanguine, gouache on drawing paper laid down on tile
3 panels
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) Karton zum "Groβstadt-Triptychon" (Cartoon for "The Grande Ville triptych") 1927-1928 (installation view detail)

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Karton zum “Groβstadt-Triptychon” (Cartoon for “The Grande Ville triptych”) (installation view detail)
1927-1928
Charcoal, chalk, pencil, sanguine, gouache on drawing paper laid down on tile
3 panels
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945) 'Weiblicher Akt auf dem Sofa' (Female nude on the sofa) 1928

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945)
Weiblicher Akt auf dem Sofa (Female nude on the sofa)
1928
Oil on canvas

 

Hans Grundig (German, 1901-1958) 'Am Stadtrand' (On the outskirts) 1926

 

Hans Grundig (German, 1901-1958)
Am Stadtrand (On the outskirts)
1926
Oil on canvas

 

 

Hans Grundig (German, 1901-1958)

Hans Grundig (February 19, 1901 – September 11, 1958) was a German painter and graphic artist associated with the New Objectivity movement.

He was born in Dresden and, after an apprenticeship as an interior decorator, studied in 1920–1921 at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts. He then studied at the Dresden Academy from 1922 to 1923. During the 1920s his paintings, primarily portraits of working-class subjects, were influenced by the work of Otto Dix. Like his friend Gert Heinrich Wollheim, he often depicted himself in a theatrical manner, as in his Self-Portrait during the Carnival Season (1930).

He had his first solo exhibition in 1930 at the Dresden gallery of Józef Sandel. He made his first etchings in 1933.

Politically anti-fascist, he joined the German Communist Party in 1926, and was a founding member of the arts organisation Assoziation revolutionärer bildender Künstler in Dresden in 1929.

Following the fall of the Weimar Republic, Grundig was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazis, who included his works in the defamatory Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich in 1937. He expressed his antagonism toward the regime in paintings such as The Thousand Year Reich (1936). Forbidden to practice his profession, he was arrested twice – briefly in 1936, and again in 1938, after which he was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp from 1940 to 1944.

In 1945 he went to Moscow, where he attended an anti-fascist school. Returning to Berlin in 1946, he became a professor of painting at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. In 1957 he published his autobiography, Zwischen Karneval und Aschermittwoch (“Between Shrovetide carnival and Ash Wednesday”). He was awarded the Heinrich Mann Prize in Berlin in 1958, the year of his death.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Hanna Nagel (German, 1907-1975) 'Untitled (Bare-Breasted Woman in Front of a Printing Press)' 1929

 

Hanna Nagel (German, 1907-1975)
Untitled (Bare-Breasted Woman in Front of a Printing Press)
1929
Graphite and watercolour on paper
46 x 60.5cm

 

 

Hanna Nagel (German, 1907-1975)

The daughter of a merchant and a teacher, Hanna Nagel was trained as a bookbinder before enrolling in the Fine Arts School in Karlsruhe in 1919. In an institution that had set up a lithographic and engraving studio at the beginning of the century, the young artist naturally turned towards these techniques, in which she demonstrated great skill. She took courses with Walter Conz, Wilelm Schnarrenberger and, most importantly, Karl Hubbuch, head of the Baden branch of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), the post-war German movement that advocated for a realist representation of the contemporary world. This began the first period in the artist’s work: she followed the example of her professor in terms of themes, highly social content, as well as in her bold and sharp style, which was generally unflattering for models. However, contrary to K. Hubbuch, she chose to treat her figures alone, isolated in their environment, giving them a strange presence (Zigeunerin (gypsy), Munich, 1928; Mädchen mit Blauem Mantel (girl in blue coat), 1929). In 1929, she moved to Berlin, where she took courses with Hans Meid and Emil Orlik at the Fine Arts Academy. She married the painter Hans Fischer in 1931. This marked the end of her realist period.

Marie Gispert. “Hanna Nagel,” on the AWARE (Archives of Women Artists Research & Exhibitions) website 2013 [Online] Cited 04/08/2022. From the Dictionnaire universel des créatrices. Translated from French by Katia Porro. © 2013 Des femmes – Antoinette Fouque © Archives of Women Artists, Research and Exhibitions

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982) 'Graf St. Genois d'Anneaucourt' 1927 (installation view)

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982)
Graf St. Genois d’Anneaucourt (installation view)
1927
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982) 'Graf St. Genois d'Anneaucourt' 1927

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982)
Graf St. Genois d’Anneaucourt
1927

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982) 'Anna Gabbioneta' 1927

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982)
Anna Gabbioneta
1927
Oil on canvas

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982) 'Bildnis Dr. Haustein' (Portrait of Dr. Haustein) 1928

 

Christian Schad (German, 1894-1982)
Bildnis Dr. Haustein (Portrait of Dr. Haustein)
1928
Oil on canvas

 

Willi Müller-Hufschmid (German, 1890-1966) 'Akademie modell' (Academic model) c. 1922

 

Willi Müller-Hufschmid (German, 1890-1966)
Akademie modell (Academic model)
c. 1922
Oil on paper on plywood

 

 

Willi Müller-Hufschmid studied from 1908 at the Academy of Fine Arts in Karlsruhe. During this time he got to know Rudolf Schlichter, Georg Scholz and other painters from the “Rih” group. He became known as a representative of the New Objectivity towards the end of the 1920s. In the 1950s he turned to abstract painting.

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander' at Centre Pompidou, Paris

 

Installation view of the exhibition Germany / 1920s / New Objectivity / August Sander at Centre Pompidou, Paris showing at left, Georg Scholz’s Kacteen und Semaphore (Cacti and semaphores) (1923, below); at centre, Rudolf Dischinger’s Grammophon (Gramophone) (1930, below); and at right, Franz Xaver Fuhr’s Stillleben (Gummibaum) (Still life (Rubber tree)) (c. 1925, below)
Photo: Aubrey Perry

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945) 'Kacteen und Semaphore' (Cacti and semaphores) 1923

 

Georg Scholz (German, 1890-1945)
Kacteen und Semaphore (Cacti and semaphores)
1923
Oil on hardboard

 

Franz Xaver Fuhr (German, 1898-1973) 'Stillleben (Gummibaum)' (Still life (Rubber tree)) c. 1925

 

Franz Xaver Fuhr (German, 1898-1973)
Stillleben (Gummibaum) (Still life (Rubber tree))
c. 1925
Oil on canvas

 

 

Franz Xaver Fuhr (German, 1898-1973)

Franz Xaver Fuhr was born in Mannheim-Neckarau on 23 September 1898. As a painter Fuhr was an autodidact. Obeying his father’s wishes, he learned the painter’s trade. When Fuhr presented his watercolours at the Mannheim “Kunsthalle” for appraisal, the “Kunsthalle” immediately bought several works. As a token of his high esteem of Fuhr’s work the director of the Kunsthalle, Gustav Hartlaub, offered the artist financial support as well as a studio and an apartment in the Mannheim palace.

The artist exhibited watercolours in the autumn exhibition at the Berlin Akademie in 1927 as well as at the Gallery Nierendorf in 1928. Exhibitions in Danzig, Königsberg, Düsseldorf and Lübeck followed.

Fuhr was admitted to the “Deutscher Künstlerbund” and participated regularly in the association’s exhibitions. A sign of public appraisal was the award of the Prize of the “Preußische Akademie” and the Villa-Romana-Prize in 1930 and 1931. During this period Fuhr’s work is characterised by a delicate, flowing colour combined with a grid-like, austere linearity which structures the composition. The artist consistently elaborated this compositional principle during the early 1930s. His works became less austere for the benefit of a more painterly aspect. The deteriorating economic situation and the effects of National Socialist cultural politics also effected Fuhr. The “Städtische Kunsthalle” took his works off show as early as 1934 and three years later 23 of his works were confiscated in German museums. Several works were shown in the exhibition “Degenerate Art”. Fuhr was banned from pursuing his profession.

When his apartment in Mannheim was hit during an air-raid in 1943 the painter decided to leave his home town. He moved to Nabburg, where he stayed until 1950, and then took up residence in Regensburg. The painter was appointed professor at the “Akademie der Bildenden Künste” in Munich in 1946, a post which he held for 20 years.

Franz Xaver Fuhr retreated during the last years of his life and died on 16 December 1973.

Anonymous text. “Franz Xaver Fuhr,” on the Art Directory website Nd [Online] Cited 03/08/2022

 

Rudolf Dischinger (German, 1904-1988) 'Grammophon' (Gramophone) 1930

 

Rudolf Dischinger (German, 1904-1988)
Grammophon (Gramophone)
1930
Oil on plywood

 

 

Rudolf Dischinger studied at the Baden State Art School with Georg Scholz and Karl Hubbuch. In 1927 he graduated from school with the drawing teacher examination and worked as a teacher in Freiburg until 1939. During this time he painted urban landscapes and still lifes in the New Objectivity style. From 1939 until he was wounded in 1942 he was a soldier in France and Russia. From 1946 he lived again as a freelance artist in Freiburg. There he taught at the art academy until it was closed in 1954. He then worked again in school until his retirement in 1965. In 1976 he received the Reinhold Schneider Prize of the City of Freiburg. After 1945 he started abstract painting. In his last years he turned back to representational painting.

 

Alexander Kanoldt (German, 1881-1939) 'Stillleben mit Gitarre' (Still Life with Guitar) 1926

 

Alexander Kanoldt (German, 1881-1939)
Stillleben mit Gitarre (Still Life with Guitar)
1926
Oil on canvas

 

 

Alexander Kanoldt (German, 1881-1939)

Alexander Kanoldt (29 September 1881 – 24 January 1939) was a German magic realist painter and one of the artists of the New Objectivity. …

Alexander Kanoldt was born on 29 September 1881 in Karlsruhe in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. His father was the painter Edmund Kanoldt [de], a late practitioner of the Nazarene style.

After studies at the Academy of Fine Arts Karlsruhe he went to Munich in 1908, where he met a number of modernists such as Alexej von Jawlensky, Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Münter. He became a member of the Munich New Secession in 1913, with Jawlensky and Paul Klee.

After military service in World War I from 1914 to 1918, the still lifes Kanoldt painted show the influence of Derain and an adaptation of cubist ideas.

By the early 1920s Kanoldt developed the manner for which he is best known, a magic realist rendering of potted plants, angular tins, fruit and mugs on tabletops. He also painted portraits in the same severe style, as well as geometrical landscapes. In 1925 he was made a professor at Breslau Academy, a post he held until 1931. During this time he came into conflict with the Bauhaus faction at the Academy, and he was increasingly at odds with the avant garde. From 1933 until his resignation in 1936 he was the director of the State School of Art in Berlin.

With the rise of the Nazi regime in 1933 Kanoldt attempted accommodation, painting in a romantic style, but nonetheless many of his works were seized by the authorities as degenerate art in 1937. He died in Berlin on 24 January 1939.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Franz Lenk (1898-1968) 'Amaryllis' 1930

 

Franz Lenk (German, 1898-1968)
Amaryllis
1930
Egg tempera on canvas on wood
66 x 44cm

 

 

Franz Lenk (German, 1898-1968)

Franz Lenk (June 21, 1898 Langenbernsdorf, Germany – September 13, 1968 Schwäbisch Hall, Germany) was a landscape artist and co-founder of the group “The Seven”.

After an apprenticeship as a decorative painter and lithograph from 1912 to 1915, Franz Lenk studied at the Dresden Academy in 1916. Lenk was drafted for military service, and after from 1922 onwards he continued his studies. In 1928, Lenk was co-founder of the “Die Sieben” group and in 1929 Lenk was a member of the Berlin Artists’ Association, a member of the Berlin Secession in 1936, and a member of the Prussian Academy of Arts in 1937.

From 1933 to 1936 Franz Lenk was a member of the presidential council of the Reichskammer der bildenden Künste. Also in 1933, he was appointed professor to the United States School in Berlin. In 1937, Lenk denied his participation in the Great German Art Exhibition at the House of German Art and laid down his lecture at the United State School in protest against the defamation of his colleagues and against the repressive “art policy” in the “Third Reich”.

In 1950, he received a teaching assignment at the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh. In 1959, Lenk settled in Schwäbisch Hall, where he became the city’s cultural commissioner.

Anonymous text. “Lenz, Frank,” on the Hundertmarkartfair website Nd [Online] Cited 03/08/2022

 

Franz Lenk (German, 1898-1968) 'Stillleben mit gelber Tüte' (Still life with a yellow bag ) 1927

 

Franz Lenk (German, 1898-1968)
Stillleben mit gelber Tüte (Still life with a yellow bag)
1927
Mixed technique on canvas

 

Oskar Nerlinger (German, 1893-1969) 'Straßen der Arbeit' (Labour routes) 1930

 

Oskar Nerlinger (German, 1893-1969)
Straßen der Arbeit (Labour routes)
1930
Tempera on cardboard

 

Karl Völker (German, 1889-1962) 'Beton' c. 1924

 

Karl Völker (German, 1889-1962)
Beton
c. 1924
Oil on canvas

 

Karl Völker (German, 1889-1962) 'Industriebild' (Picture of Industry) 1924

 

Karl Völker (German, 1889-1962)
Industriebild (Picture of Industry)
1924
Oil on canvas

 

Karl Völker (German, 1889-1962) 'Bahnhof' (Train station) 1924-1926

 

Karl Völker (German, 1889-1962)
Bahnhof (Train station)
1924-1926
Oil on wood

 

 

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05
Jul
19

Exhibition: ‘Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-33’ at the Tate Modern, London

Exhibition dates: 30th July 2018 – 14th July 2019

 

Conrad Felixmuller. 'The Beggar of Prachatice' 1924

 

Conrad Felixmüller (German, 1897-1977)
The Beggar of Prachatice
1924
Watercolour, gouache and graphite on paper
500 x 645 mm
The George Economou Collection
© DACS, 2018

 

 

Butchers, lion tamers, and Lustmord (sexualised murder) makers. War, rape, prostitution, violence, old age and death. Creativity, defeat, disfigurement, and revelry. Suicide and misery, poverty and widowhood, beauty and song. Magic in realism, realism and magic.

The interwar years are one of the most creative artistic periods in human history. But there is a magical dark undertone which emanates from the mind of this Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity:

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“The art historian Dennis Crockett says there is no direct English translation, and breaks down the meaning in the original German:

Sachlichkeit should be understood by its root, Sache, meaning “thing”, “fact”, “subject”, or “object.” Sachlich could be best understood as “factual”, “matter-of-fact”, “impartial”, “practical”, or “precise”; Sachlichkeit is the noun form of the adjective/adverb and usually implies “matter-of-factness” …

The New Objectivity was composed of two tendencies which Hartlaub characterised in terms of a left and right wing: on the left were the verists, who “tear the objective form of the world of contemporary facts and represent current experience in its tempo and fevered temperature;” and on the right the classicists, who “search more for the object of timeless ability to embody the external laws of existence in the artistic sphere.”

The verists’ vehement form of realism emphasised the ugly and sordid. Their art was raw, provocative, and harshly satirical. George Grosz and Otto Dix are considered the most important of the verists. The verists developed Dada’s abandonment of any pictorial rules or artistic language into a “satirical hyperrealism”, as termed by Raoul Hausmann, and of which the best known examples are the graphical works and photo-montages of John Heartfield. Use of collage in these works became a compositional principle to blend reality and art, as if to suggest that to record the facts of reality was to go beyond the most simple appearances of things. This later developed into portraits and scenes by artists such as Grosz, Dix, and Rudolf Schlichter. Portraits would give emphasis to particular features or objects that were seen as distinctive aspects of the person depicted. Satirical scenes often depicted a madness behind what was happening, depicting the participants as cartoon-like.

Other verists, like Christian Schad, depicted reality with a clinical precision, which suggested both an empirical detachment and intimate knowledge of the subject. Schad’s paintings are characterised by “an artistic perception so sharp that it seems to cut beneath the skin”, according to the art critic Wieland Schmied. Often, psychological elements were introduced in his work, which suggested an underlying unconscious reality.

Compared to the verists, the classicists more clearly exemplify the “return to order” that arose in the arts throughout Europe. The classicists included Georg Schrimpf, Alexander Kanoldt, Carlo Mense, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, and Wilhelm Heise. The sources of their inspiration included 19th-century art, the Italian metaphysical painters, the artists of Novecento Italiano, and Henri Rousseau.

The classicists are best understood by Franz Roh’s term Magic Realism, though Roh originally intended “magical realism” to be synonymous with the Neue Sachlichkeit as a whole. For Roh, as a reaction to expressionism, the idea was to declare “[that] the autonomy of the objective world around us was once more to be enjoyed; the wonder of matter that could crystallise into objects was to be seen anew.” With the term, he was emphasising the “magic” of the normal world as it presents itself to us – how, when we really look at everyday objects, they can appear strange and fantastic.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

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It strikes me, with a slap of the hand across the face, that the one, realism, cannot live cannot breathe with/out the other, the Other, magic. One cannot coexist without the other, as in the body not living without oxygen to breathe: one occupies the other whilst itself being inhabited. The precondition to reality is in essence the unknown. As order relies on mutation to define itself, so reality calls forth that form of hyperrealism, a state of magic, that we can have knowledge of (the image of ourselves before birth, that last image, can we remember, before death) but cannot mediate.

Magic/realism is no duality but a fluid, observational, hybridity which exists on multiple planes of reality – from the downright mad and evil to the ecstatic and revelatory. The fiction of a stable reality is twisted; magic or the supernatural is supposedly presented in an otherwise real-world or mundane setting. Or is it the other way round? Or no way round at all?

It is the role of the artist to set up opposites, throwing one against the other, to throw… into the void.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

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Many thankx to the Tate Modern for allowing me to publish the art work in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

Tate Modern will explore German art from between the wars in a year-long, free exhibition, drawing upon the rich holdings of The George Economou Collection.

These loans offer a rare opportunity to view a range of artworks not ordinarily on public display, and to see a small selection of key Tate works returned to the context in which they were originally created and exhibited nearly one hundred years ago.

This presentation explores the diverse practices of a number of different artists, including Otto Dix, George Grosz, Albert Birkle and Jeanne Mammen. Although the term ‘magic realism’ is today commonly associated with the literature of Latin America, it was inherited from the artist and critic Franz Roh who invented it in 1925 to describe a shift from the art of the expressionist era, towards cold veracity and unsettling imagery. In the context of growing political extremism, the new realism reflected a fluid social experience as well as inner worlds of emotion and magic.

 

 

“Art is exorcism. I paint dreams and visions too; the dreams and visions of my time. Painting is the effort to produce order; order in yourself. There is much chaos in me, much chaos in our time.”

.
Otto Dix

 

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor) '1924

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor)
1924
© DACS 2017
Image: Otto Dix Stiftung

 

 

Otto Dix World War I service

When the First World War erupted, Dix enthusiastically volunteered for the German Army. He was assigned to a field artillery regiment in Dresden. In the autumn of 1915 he was assigned as a non-commissioned officer of a machine-gun unit on the Western front and took part in the Battle of the Somme. In November 1917, his unit was transferred to the Eastern front until the end of hostilities with Russia, and in February 1918 he was stationed in Flanders. Back on the western front, he fought in the German Spring Offensive. He earned the Iron Cross (second class) and reached the rank of vizefeldwebel. In August of that year he was wounded in the neck, and shortly after he took pilot training lessons.

He took part in a Fliegerabwehr-Kurs (“Defense Pilot Course”) in Tongern, was promoted to Vizefeldwebel and after passing the medical tests transferred to Aviation Replacement Unit Schneidemühl in Posen. He was discharged from service in 22 December 1918 and was home for Christmas.

Dix was profoundly affected by the sights of the war, and later described a recurring nightmare in which he crawled through destroyed houses. He represented his traumatic experiences in many subsequent works, including a portfolio of fifty etchings called Der Krieg, published in 1924. Subsequently, he referred again to the war in The War Triptych, painted from 1929-1932.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'International Riding Act' (Internationaler Reitakt) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
International Riding Act (Internationaler Reitakt)
1922
Etching, drypoint on paper
496 x 431 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'International Riding Scene' (Internationale Reiterszene) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
International Riding Scene (Internationale Reiterszene)
1922
Watercolour, pen and ink on paper
510 × 410 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Butcher Shop' (Fleischerladen) 1920

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Butcher Shop (Fleischerladen)
1920
Etching, drypoint on paper
495 x 338 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Lion-Tamer' (Dompteuse) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Lion-Tamer (Dompteuse)
1922
Etching, drypoint on paper
496 x 429 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Lust Murder' (Lustmord) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Lust Murder (Lustmord)
1922
Watercolour, ink and graphite on paper
485 x 365 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Lili, the Queen of the Air' (from 'Circus' portfolio) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Lili, the Queen of the Air (from Circus portfolio)
1922
Etching, drypoint on paper
The George Economou Collection
© The Estate of Otto Dix 2018

 

 

Otto Dix Post-war artwork

At the end of 1918 Dix returned to Gera, but the next year he moved to Dresden, where he studied at the Hochschule für Bildende Künste. He became a founder of the Dresden Secession group in 1919, during a period when his work was passing through an expressionist phase. In 1920, he met George Grosz and, influenced by Dada, began incorporating collage elements into his works, some of which he exhibited in the first Dada Fair in Berlin. He also participated in the German Expressionists exhibition in Darmstadt that year.

In 1924, he joined the Berlin Secession; by this time he was developing an increasingly realistic style of painting that used thin glazes of oil paint over a tempera underpainting, in the manner of the old masters. His 1923 painting The Trench, which depicted dismembered and decomposed bodies of soldiers after a battle, caused such a furore that the Wallraf-Richartz Museum hid the painting behind a curtain. In 1925 the then-mayor of Cologne, Konrad Adenauer, cancelled the purchase of the painting and forced the director of the museum to resign.

Dix was a contributor to the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Mannheim in 1925, which featured works by George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Karl Hubbuch, Rudolf Schlichter, Georg Scholz and many others. Dix’s work, like that of Grosz – his friend and fellow veteran – was extremely critical of contemporary German society and often dwelled on the act of Lustmord, or sexualised murder. He drew attention to the bleaker side of life, unsparingly depicting prostitution, violence, old age and death.

In one of his few statements, published in 1927, Dix declared, “The object is primary and the form is shaped by the object.”

Among his most famous paintings are Sailor and Girl (1925), used as the cover of Philip Roth’s 1995 novel Sabbath’s Theater, the triptych Metropolis (1928), a scornful portrayal of depraved actions of Germany’s Weimar Republic, where nonstop revelry was a way to deal with the wartime defeat and financial catastrophe, and the startling Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden (1926). His depictions of legless and disfigured veterans – a common sight on Berlin’s streets in the 1920s – unveil the ugly side of war and illustrate their forgotten status within contemporary German society, a concept also developed in Erich Maria Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969) 'Technical Personnel' (Technisches Personal) 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Technical Personnel (Technisches Personal)
1922
Etching, drypoint on paper
497 x 426 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

 

Magic Realism

The term magic realism was invented by German photographer, art historian and art critic Franz Roh in 1925 to describe modern realist paintings with fantasy or dream-like subjects.

The term was used by Franz Roh in his book Nach Expressionismus: Magischer Realismus (After Expressionism: Magic Realism).

In Central Europe magic realism was part of the reaction against modern or avant-garde art, known as the return to order, that took place generally after the First World War. Magic realist artists included Giorgio de Chirico, Alberto Savinio and others in Italy, and Alexander Kanoldt and Adolf Ziegler in Germany. Magic realism is closely related to the dreamlike depictions of surrealism and neo-romanticism in France. The term is also used of certain American painters in the 1940s and 1950s including Paul Cadmus, Philip Evergood and Ivan Albright.

In 1955 the critic Angel Flores used the term magic realism to describe the writing of Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel García Márquez, and it has since become a significant if disputed literary term.

Text from the Tate website [Online] Cited 23/06/2019

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959) 'Suicide' (Selbstmörder) 1916

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959)
Suicide (Selbstmörder)
1916
Oil paint on canvas
1000 x 775 mm
Tate
Purchased with assistance from the Art Fund 1976

 

 

The horrific picture of Suicide by Groz astonishes by its savage imagery, harsh colours and restless composition. Highlighting the misery of the middle class who has no means to live on today and no future tomorrow, the artist gets one man strung up on a lamp post and the other shot on a stage just near a prompter guy in his cabin. Is his death a real thing or is it a part of some performance? It seems to be quite real because everybody promptly abandons the scene except for the hungry dogs roaming the desolate streets of Berlin. And these murders are no worse than dubious pleasures given by an ugly, man-like prostitute to an aged bald client visiting her in a cheap apartment block – the only source of solace from the cold and desolation for the bourgeois at the time. The pervasive moral corruption in Berlin during the war years is underlined by the forsaken Kirche at the back.

Text from the Arthive website [Online] Cited 23/06/2019

 

Grosz was drafted into the German army in 1914, after the outbreak of the First World War. His experiences in the trenches deepened his intense loathing for German society. Discharged from the army for medical reasons, he produced savagely satirical paintings and drawings that ‘expressed my despair, hate and disillusionment’. This work shows dogs roaming past the abandoned bodies of suicides in red nocturnal streets. The inclusion of an aged client visiting a prostitute reflects the pervasive moral corruption in Berlin during the war years.

Gallery label, September 2004

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955) 'The Artist with Two Hanged Women' (Der Künstler mit zwei erhängten Frauen) 1924

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
The Artist with Two Hanged Women (Der Künstler mit zwei erhängten Frauen)
1924
Watercolour and graphite on paper
453 x 340 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

 

Sexualised murder was a recurrent theme within this period: the exhibition holding a number of other works similar to the piece by Dix. An example is Rudolf Schlichter’s The Artist with Two Hanged Women watercolour. Schlichter was known to have sexual fantasies revolved around hanging, as well as an obsession with women’s buttoned boots. Acting as a self-portrait, the image represents Schlichter’s private fantasies, whilst also drawing upon the public issues of suicide, which saw an unsettling rise during this period.

Text by Georgia Massie-Taylor from the G’s Spots blog

 

Albert Birkle (German, 1900-1986) 'Crucifixion' (Kreuzigung) 1921

 

Albert Birkle (German, 1900-1986)
Crucifixion (Kreuzigung)
1921
Oil paint on board
920 x 607 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Herbert Gurschner (Austrian, 1901-1975) 'Lazarus (The Workers)' (Lazarus (Die Arbeiter)) 1928

 

Herbert Gurschner (Austrian, 1901-1975)
Lazarus (The Workers) (Lazarus (Die Arbeiter))
1928
Oil paint on canvas
920 x 690 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

 

Herbert Gurschner

Herbert Gurschner was born on August 27, 1901 in Innsbruck. In 1917 he attended the art school in Innsbruck and had his first exhibition. Between 1918 and 1920 he studied at the Munich Art Academy. After that he had other exhibitions in Innsbruck.

In 1924 he married an English nobleman, through which he came to London artist and collector circles. In 1929 he had his first exhibition in the London Fine Art Society. Two years later, he showed another exhibition in the Fine Art Society and made the artistic breakthrough in England. Subsequently, he was able to open several exhibitions throughout the UK. Herbert Gurschner found access to aristocratic, diplomatic and business circles and was able to exhibit his works in New York City, among others .

At the time of World War II Gurschner obtained British citizenship and served in the British army. During this time, he met his future second wife, the actress Brenda Davidoff, with whom he lived in London. In the postwar years Gurschner exhibited only sporadically and instead focuses on the stage design (including for the Royal Opera House, Globe Theater and Hammersmith Apollo). On January 10, 1975 Gurschner died in London.

Text from the German Wikipedia website translated by Google Translate

 

Herbert Gurschner (Austrian, 1901-1975) 'The Annunciation' 1929-30 

 

Herbert Gurschner (Austrian, 1901-1975)
The Annunciation
1929-30
Oil on canvas
1617 x 1911 mm
Tate
Presented by Lord Duveen 1931

 

 

This summer, Tate Modern will explore the art of the Weimar Republic (1919-33) in a year-long, free display, drawing upon the rich holdings of The George Economou Collection. This presentation of around seventy paintings and works on paper will address the complex paradoxes of the Weimar era, in which liberalisation and anti-militarism flourished in tandem with political and economic uncertainty. These loans offer a rare opportunity to view a range of artworks not ordinarily on public display – some of which have never been seen in the United Kingdom before – and to see a selection of key Tate works returned to the context in which they were originally created and exhibited nearly one hundred years ago.

Although the term ‘magic realism’ is today commonly associated with the literature of Latin America, it was inherited from the artist and critic Franz Roh who invented it in 1925 to describe a shift from the anxious and emotional art of the expressionist era, towards the cold veracity and unsettling imagery of this inter-war period. In the context of growing political extremism, this new realism reflected a more liberal society as well as inner worlds of emotion and magic.

The profound social and political disarray after the First World War and the collapse of the Empire largely brought about this stylistic shift. Berlin in particular attracted a reputation for moral depravity and decadence in the context of the economic collapse. The reconfiguration of urban life was an important aspect of the Weimar moment. Alongside exploring how artists responded to social spaces and the studio, entertainment sites like the cabaret and the circus will be highlighted, including a display of Otto Dix’s enigmatic Zirkus (‘Circus’) print portfolio. Artists recognised the power in representing these realms of public fantasy and places where outsiders were welcomed.

Works by Otto Dix, George Grosz and Max Beckmann perhaps best known today for their unsettling depictions of Weimar life, will be presented alongside the works of under recognised artists such as Albert Birkle, Jeanne Mammen and Rudolf Schlichter, and many others whose careers were curtailed by the end of the Weimar period due to the rise of Nationalist Socialism and its agenda to promote art that celebrated its political ideologies.

The display comes at a pertinent time, in a year of commemoration of the anniversary of the end of the First World War, alongside Aftermath: Art in the Wake of World War One at Tate Britain and William Kentridge’s new performance for 14-18 Now at Tate Modern entitled The Head and the Load, running from 11-15 July 2018.

Magic Realism is curated by Matthew Gale, Head of Displays and Katy Wan, Assistant Curator, Tate Modern. The display is realised with thanks to loans from The George Economou Collection, with additional support from the Huo Family Foundation (UK) Limited.

Press release from the Tate website [Online] Cited 23/06/2019

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'Boring Dolls' (Langweilige Puppen) 1929

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Boring Dolls (Langweilige Puppen)
1929
Watercolour and graphite on paper mounted on cardboard
384 x 286 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'Free room' (Brüderstrasse (Zimmer frei)) 1930

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
Free room (Brüderstrasse (Zimmer frei))
1930
Watercolour, ink and graphite on vellum
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976) 'At the Shooting Gallery' 1929

 

Jeanne Mammen (German, 1890-1976)
At the Shooting Gallery
1929
Watercolour and graphite on vellum
445 x 360 mm
The George Economou Collection
© DACS, 2018

 

 

Jeanne Mammen

Jeanne Mammen (21 November 1890 – 22 April 1976) was a German painter and illustrator of the Weimar period. Her work is associated with the New Objectivity and Symbolism movements. She is best known for her depictions of strong, sensual women and Berlin city life.

In 1921, Mammen moved into an apartment with her sister in Berlin. This apartment was a former photographer’s studio which she lived in until her death. Aside from Art throughout her life Mammen also was interested in science. She was close friends with Max Delbrück who left Europe and took some of her artwork with him and exhibited them in California. In addition to bringing these art works to be exhibited he also sent Mammen care packages from the United States with art supplies.

In 1930 she had a major exhibition in the Fritz Gurlitt gallery. Over the next two years, at Gurlitt’s suggestion, she created one of her most important works: a series of eight lithographs illustrating Les Chansons de Bilitis, a collection of lesbian love poems by Pierre Louÿs.

In 1933, following her inclusion in an exhibition of female artists in Berlin, the Nazi authorities denounced her motifs and subjects as “Jewish”, and banned her lithographs for Les Chansons de Bilitis. The Nazis were also opposed to her blatant disregard for apparent ‘appropriate’ female submissiveness in her expressions of her subjects. Much of her work also includes imagery of lesbians. The Nazis shut down most of the journals she had worked for, and she refused to work for those that complied with their cultural policies. Until the end of the war she practiced a kind of “inner emigration”. She stopped exhibiting her work and focused on advertising. For a time she also peddled second-hand books from a handcart.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Otto Rudolf Schatz (Austrian, 1900-1961) 'Moon Women' (Mondfrauen) 1930

 

Otto Rudolf Schatz (Austrian, 1900-1961)
Moon Women (Mondfrauen)
1930
Oil paint on canvas
1915 x 1110 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

 

Otto Rudolf Schatz

Otto Rudolf Schatz was born on January 18, 1900, the son of a post office family in Vienna. From 1915 to 1918 Schatz studied at the Viennese Art Academy under Oskar Strnad and Anton von Kenner. In 1918 his studies were interrupted by military service in the Second World War although he graduated in 1919. During this time the artist’s chosen medium was wood.  From 1920 he worked with the painter Max Hevesi who exhibited Schatz’s paintings and woodcuts. Otto Rudolf Schatz also published books with the art critic Arthur Roessler including The Gothic Mood.

In 1923 Schatz became friends with the Viennese gallery owner Otto Kallir who became one of his most important patrons. Kallir continuously presented Schatz’s works in the Neue Galerie. In the same year the Austrian collector Fritz Karpfen published Austrian Art featuring Schatz’s art. The artist’s book of twelve woodcuts was published with a foreword by the art historian Erica Tietze-Conrat. The painter also traveled to Venice in 1923.

In 1924 he had his first collective exhibition in the Neue Galerie. In 1925 Schatz exhibited in the Neue Galerie together with Anton Faistauer, Franz Probst, and Marianne Seeland. In the same year he became a member of the Austrian artists’ association Kunstschau and he provided eight original woodcuts for the publication of a fairytale book Im Satansbruch by Ernst Preczang.

In 1927 Schatz contributed woodcuts to the volume The New Town by the Berlin Büchergilde Gutenberg. From 1928 to 1938 he was a valued member in the Hagenbund in Vienna. In 1929 he produced several illustrations for The Stromverlag among others and for Stefan Zweig’s Fantastic Night and H. G. Wells The Invisible. In 1936 he participated in a collective exhibition with Georg Ehrlich in the Neue Galerie. In 1936 to 1937 Schatz traveled through the United States as well as visited the World Exhibition in Paris. His paintings were seen in exhibition of his New York, in the Neue Galerie, and in the Hagenbund. The artists provided illustrations for the Büchergilde Gutenberg edition of Upton Sinclair’s Co-op.

When the National Socialists gained power in 1938 Schatz was forbidden to work. In 1938 he lived with his Jewish wife Valerie Wittal in Brno and in 1944 in Prague where he painted landscape miniatures. In 1944 Schatz was imprisoned in the Klettendorf labour camp and then transferred to the Graditz and Bistritz concentration camps. In 1946 Schatz returned to Vienna where he was promoted by the cultural politician, city counsellor, and writer Viktor Matejka. In 1946 he became a member of the Vienna Secession. In 1947 Schatz received the prize of the city of Vienna for graphics. In the same year eighteen woodcuts were created for Peter Rosegger’s Jakob der Letzte. In 1949 Scatz’s watercolour series Das war der Prater was published in book form. In 1951 Schatz won the competition for the design of the Vienna Westbahnhof. On April 26, 1961 Otto Rudolf Schatz died of lung cancer in Vienna.

As a graphic artist and painter Otto Rudolf Schatz occupies a leading position in the Austrian inter-war period. His multi-faceted work which moves between Expressionism and New Objectivity, was characterised by a social-critical attitude that gives his work historical significance. The artist’s works are now found in numerous collections including the Belvedere in Vienna, the Vienna Museum, and the Hans Schmid Private Foundation.

Text from the Otto Rudolf Schatz website [Online] Cited 23/06/2019

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955) 'Lady with Red Scarf (Speedy with the Moon)' (Frauenportrait (Speedy)) 1933

 

Rudolf Schlichter (German, 1890-1955)
Lady with Red Scarf (Speedy with the Moon) (Frauenportrait (Speedy))
1933
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

 

Rudolf Schlichter (or Rudolph Schlichter) (December 6, 1890 – May 3, 1955) was a German artist and one of the most important representatives of the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) movement.

Schlichter was born in Calw, Württemberg. After an apprenticeship as an enamel painter at a Pforzheim factory he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart. He subsequently studied under Hans Thoma and Wilhelm Trübner at the Academy in Karlsruhe. Called for military service in World War I, he carried out a hunger strike to secure early release, and in 1919 he moved to Berlin where he joined the Communist Party of Germany and the “November” group. He took part in a Dada fair in 1920 and also worked as an illustrator for several periodicals.

A major work from this period is his Dada Roof Studio, a watercolour showing an assortment of figures on an urban rooftop. Around a table sit a woman and two men in top hats. One of the men has a prosthetic hand and the other, also missing a hand, appears on closer scrutiny to be mannequin. Two other figures in gas masks may also be mannequins. A child holds a pail and a woman wearing high button shoes (for which Schlichter displayed a marked fetish) stands on a pedestal, gesturing inexplicably.

In 1925 Schlichter participated in the “Neue Sachlichkeit” exhibit at the Mannheim Kunsthalle. His work from this period is realistic, a good example being the Portrait of Margot (1924) now in the Berlin Märkisches Museum. It depicts a prostitute who often modelled for Schlichter, standing on a deserted street and holding a cigarette.

When Adolf Hitler took power, bringing to an end the Weimar period, his activities were greatly curtailed. In 1935 he returned to Stuttgart, and four years later to Munich. In 1937 his works were seized as degenerate art, and in 1939 the Nazi authorities banned him from exhibiting. His studio was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1942.

At the war’s end, Schlichter resumed exhibiting works. His works from this period were surrealistic in character. He died in Munich in 1955.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Sergius Pauser (Austrian, 1896-1970) 'Self-Portrait with Mask' 1926

 

Sergius Pauser (Austrian, 1896-1970)
Self-Portrait with Mask
1926
Oil paint on canvas
600 x 730 mm
The George Economou Collection
© Angela Pauser and Wolfgang Pauser

 

 

Sergius Pauser

Sergius Pauser, who was born in Vienna on 28 December 1896, represents the prototype of this generation of artists. As a painter, he enjoyed the recognition of his contemporaries and as a much sought-after artist who was able to earn his living with his paintings. He was never a revolutionary but rather a “gentleman of the Viennese order”, who sought to capture moods and atmosphere in his paintings. The writer Thomas Bernhard (1931-1989) wrote of Pauser: “Sergius Pauser uttered thoughts about people – Adalbert Stifter, for example – that I have never heard before or since; he succeeded in revealing the most concealed corners of poetic sensitivity; he was a tender and vigilant diviner on the landscape of world literature, a philosopher and an artist through and through.” And yet a painter like Sergius Pauser is barely known today; only a few of his works hang in Austrian galleries and many of his paintings cannot be traced due to the emigration of their owners.

Text from the Sergius Pauser website [Online] Cited 23/06/2019

 

Hans Grundig (German, 1901-1958) 'Girl with Pink Hat' 1925

 

Hans Grundig (German, 1901-1958)
Girl with Pink Hat
1925
Oil paint on cardboard
704 x 500 mm
The George Economou Collection
© DACS, 2018

 

 

Hans Grundig

Hans Grundig (February 19, 1901 – September 11, 1958) was a German painter and graphic artist associated with the New Objectivity movement.

He was born in Dresden and, after an apprenticeship as an interior decorator, studied in 1920–1921 at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts. He then studied at the Dresden Academy from 1922 to 1923. During the 1920s his paintings, primarily portraits of working-class subjects, were influenced by the work of Otto Dix. Like his friend Gert Heinrich Wollheim, he often depicted himself in a theatrical manner, as in his Self-Portrait during the Carnival Season (1930).

He had his first solo exhibition in 1930 at the Dresden gallery of Józef Sandel. He made his first etchings in 1933.

Politically anti-fascist, he joined the German Communist Party in 1926, and was a founding member of the arts organisation Assoziation revolutionärer bildender Künstler in Dresden in 1929.

Following the fall of the Weimar Republic, Grundig was declared a degenerate artist by the Nazis, who included his works in the defamatory Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich in 1937. He expressed his antagonism toward the regime in paintings such as The Thousand Year Reich (1936). Forbidden to practice his profession, he was arrested twice – briefly in 1936, and again in 1938, after which he was interned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp from 1940 to 1944.

In 1945 he went to Moscow, where he attended an anti-fascist school. Returning to Berlin in 1946, he became a professor of painting at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. In 1957 he published his autobiography, Zwischen Karneval und Aschermittwoch (“Between Shrovetide carnival and Ash Wednesday”). He was awarded the Heinrich Mann Prize in Berlin in 1958, the year of his death.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Josef Eberz (1880-1942) 'Dancer (Beatrice Mariagraete)' 1923

 

Josef Eberz (German, 1880-1942)
Dancer (Beatrice Mariagraete)
1923
Oil paint on canvas
1580 x 785 mm
The George Economou Collection

 

Josef Eberz died in utter loneliness on 27 August 1942, his apartment with his studio burned out in a bombing raid.

 

Conrad Felixmüller (German, 1897-1977) 'Portrait of Ernst Buchholz' 1921

 

Conrad Felixmüller (German, 1897-1977)
Portrait of Ernst Buchholz
1921
Oil paint on canvas
900 x 750 mm
The George Economou Collection
© DACS, 2018

 

 

Conrad Felixmüller

Conrad Felixmüller (21 May 1897 – 24 March 1977) was a German expressionist painter and printmaker. Born in Dresden as Conrad Felix Müller, he chose Felixmüller as his nom d’artiste.

He attended drawing classes at the Dresden School of Arts and Crafts in 1911-1912 before studying under Carl Bantzer at the Dresden Academy of Art. In 1917 he performed military service as a medical orderly, and became a founding member of the Dresden Expressionist group Expressionistische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Dresden. He achieved his earliest success as a printmaker. Felixmüller was a member of the Communist Party of Germany from 1918 to 1922. He published many woodcuts and drawings in left-wing magazines, and remained a prolific printmaker throughout his career. He was a close friend of the composer Clemens Braun of whom he produced a number of portraits and a woodcut depicting him on his deathbed.

He was one of the youngest members of the New Objectivity movement. His paintings often deal with the social realities of Germany’s Weimar Republic. He was mentor to the German Expressionist Otto Dix.

Felixmüller’s work became more objective and restrained after the mid-1920s. He wrote in 1929:

“It has become increasingly clear to me that the only necessary goal is to depict the direct, simple life which one has lived oneself, also involving the design of colour as painting – in the manner in which it was cultivated by the Old Masters for centuries, until Impressionism and Expressionism, infected by the technical and industrial delusions of grandeur, rejected every affinity for tradition, ability and results, committing harakiri.”

.
In the 1930s, many of his works were seized as degenerate art by the Nazis, and destroyed. In 1944, his studio in Berlin was bombed, resulting in more losses of his works. From 1949 to 1962 Felixmüller taught at the University of Halle. He died in the Berlin suburb of Zehlendorf.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

August Heitmüller (German, 1873-1935) 'Self-Portrait' 1926

 

August Heitmüller (German, 1873-1935)
Self-Portrait
1926
Oil paint on canvas
900 x 705 mm
The George Economou Collection

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959) 'A Married Couple' 1930

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959)
A Married Couple
1930
Watercolour, gouache, pen and ink on paper
505 x 440 mm
The George Economou Collection
© Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. 2018

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959) 'Self-Portrait with Model in the Studio' 1930-1937

 

George Grosz (German, 1893-1959)
Self-Portrait with Model in the Studio
1930-1937
Watercolour on paper
660 x 473 mm
Tate
© Estate of George Grosz, Princeton, N.J. 2018

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970) 'The Poet Däubler' (Der Dichter Däubler) 1917

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (German, 1894-1970)
The Poet Däubler (Der Dichter Däubler)
1917
Oil paint on canvas
1810 x 1603 mm
The George Economou Collection
On short term loan

 

 

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen

Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (21 October 1894 – 13 December 1970) was a German painter associated with the New Objectivity.

Davringhausen was born in Aachen. Mostly self-taught as a painter, he began as a sculptor, studying briefly at the Düsseldorf Academy of Arts before participating in a group exhibition at Alfred Flechtheim’s gallery in 1914. He also traveled to Ascona with his friend the painter Carlo Mense that year. At this early stage his paintings were influenced by the expressionists, especially August Macke.

Exempted from military service in World War I, he lived in Berlin from 1915 to 1918, forming friendships with George Grosz and John Heartfield. In 1919 he had a solo exhibition at Hans Goltz’ Galerie Neue Kunst in Munich, and exhibited in the first “Young Rhineland” exhibition in Düsseldorf. Davringhausen became a member of the “Novembergruppe” and gained some prominence among the artists representing a new tendency in German art of the postwar period. He was asked to take part in the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) exhibition in Mannheim which brought together many leading “post-expressionist” artists, including Grosz, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, Alexander Kanoldt and Georg Schrimpf.

Davringhausen went into exile with the fall of the Weimar republic in 1933, first going to Majorca, then to France. In Germany approximately 200 of his works were removed from public museums by the Nazis on the grounds that they were degenerate art. Prohibited from exhibiting, Davringhausen was interned in Cagnes-sur-Mer but fled to Côte D’Azur. In 1945 however he returned to Cagnes-sur-Mer, a suburb of Nice, where he remained for the rest of his life. He worked as an abstract painter under the name Henri Davring until his death in Nice in 1970.

Perhaps the best-known work from Davringhausen’s New Objectivity period is Der Schieber (The Black-Marketeer), a Magic realist painting of 1920-1921, which is in the Kunstmuseum Düsseldorf im Ehrenhof. Painted in acidulous colours, it depicts a glowering businessman seated at a desk in a modern office suite that foreshortens dramatically behind him. Although Davringhausen rarely presented social criticism in his work, in Der Schieber “the artist created the classic pictorial symbol of the period of inflation that was commencing”.

Much of Davringhausen’s work was deposited in 1989 in the Leopold Hoesch museum in Düren, which has subsequently organised several exhibitions of his pictures, above all those from the later period.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Albert Birkle (German, 1900-1986) 'The Acrobat Schulz V' 1921

 

Albert Birkle (German, 1900-1986)
The Acrobat Schulz V
1921
Oil paint on canvas
920 x 607 mm
The George Economou Collection
© DACS, London 2018

 

 

Albert Birkle

Albert Birkle was born in Charlottenburg, then an independent city and since 1920 part of Berlin. His grandfather on his mother’s side, Gustav Bregenzer, and his father, Carl Birkle, both were painters, originally from Swabia. Albert Birkle was trained as a decorative painter in his father’s firm. From 1918 to 1924, he studied at the Hochschule für die bildenden Künste / College of Fine Arts, a predecessor of today’s Universität der Künste Berlin. Birkle developed a unique style informed by expressionism and New Objectivity / Neue Sachlichkeit. His subjects were lonely, mystic landscapes, typical scenes of Berlin of the 20’s and 30’s, such as scenes from Tiergarten Park, bar scenes etc., character portraits, and religious scenes. In his style of portrait painting he was often compared to Otto Dix and George Grosz.

In 1927, Birkle had his first one man show in Berlin, which turned out to be very successful. He decided to turn down a professorship at the Koenigsberg Acadamy of Arts in order to continue to work independently as an artist and to dedicate himself to assignments in the field of church decoration, where he had become a specialist. As National Socialism was on its way to power, Birkle moved to Salzburg, Austria in 1932. Nevertheless, he represented Germany at the Venice Biennale as late as 1936. In 1937, his artwork was declared to be “entarted”, his works were removed from public collections, and a painting ban was imposed on him.

In 1946, Birkle received Austrian citizenship. In the post-war year, he made a living painting religious frescos for various churches and doing oil paintings. In his final year, he more and more returned back to his Berlin themes of the 20’s and 30’s.

Text from the Albert Birkle website [Online] Cited 23/06/2019

 

 

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01
Mar
19

Exhibition: ‘Berlin in the revolution 1918/19’ at the Museum für Fotografie, Berlin

Exhibition dates: 9th November 2018 – 3rd March 2019

 

Otto Haeckel (1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (1873-1942) 'Soldiers with weapons Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße' November 1918

 

Otto Haeckel (German, 1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (German, 1873-1942)
Soldiers with weapons Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße
November 1918
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Gebrüder Haeckel

 

 

Today, revolution is in the air around the world, just like it was in 1968 (a posting on this year to follow soon) and in 1918. I hope this wonderful posting of photographs, posters, films, murders, bombings, funerals, detailed close ups of the barricades and the people manning them gives you some of the flavour of the times. This was the order of the day in Berlin in 1918/19. Revolution.

What we must not forget is out of this revolution, out of this ferment of creativity, uncertainty, “liberal” democracy and militaristic society emerged the seeds of its downfall: the beginnings of the National Socialist Party (the Nazis).

“In July 1919 Hitler was appointed Verbindungsmann (intelligence agent) of an Aufklärungskommando (reconnaissance unit) of the Reichswehr, assigned to influence other soldiers and to infiltrate the German Workers’ Party (DAP). At a DAP meeting on 12 September 1919, Party Chairman Anton Drexler was impressed with Hitler’s oratorical skills. He gave him a copy of his pamphlet My Political Awakening, which contained anti-Semitic, nationalist, anti-capitalist, and anti-Marxist ideas. On the orders of his army superiors, Hitler applied to join the party, and within a week was accepted as party member 555 (the party began counting membership at 500 to give the impression they were a much larger party). …

At the DAP, Hitler met Dietrich Eckart, one of the party’s founders and a member of the occult Thule Society. Eckart became Hitler’s mentor, exchanging ideas with him and introducing him to a wide range of Munich society. To increase its appeal, the DAP changed its name to the Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei (National Socialist German Workers Party; NSDAP). Hitler designed the party’s banner of a swastika in a white circle on a red background.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Rising to prominence through his demagogic beer hall speeches on populist themes, Hitler would attempt a coup known as the “Beer Hall Putsch” in 1923, a stepping stone on his rise to becoming the dictator of Nazi Germany.

The flowering of German Expressionism (modern art labelled by Hitler Entartete Kunst or “Degenerate Art” in the 1920s) and a society which proposed the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights, were both positives of the interwar period. A prominent advocate for sexual minorities was the German sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld.

“In 1920, Hirschfeld was very badly beaten up by a group of völkisch activists who attacked him on the street; he was initially declared dead when the police arrived. In 1921, Hirschfeld organised the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. Congresses were held in Copenhagen (1928), London (1929), Vienna (1930), and Brno (1932)… Hirschfeld co-wrote and acted in the 1919 film Anders als die Andern (“Different From the Others”) [see below], in which Conrad Veidt played one of the first homosexual characters ever written for cinema. The film had a specific gay rights law reform agenda; after Veidt’s character is blackmailed by a male prostitute, he eventually comes out rather than continuing to make the blackmail payments. His career is destroyed and he is driven to suicide.” (Text from the Wikipedia website)

Of course these small, hard won freedoms, this cabaret of life, and the more liberal atmosphere of the newly founded Weimar Republic were all swept away by the Nazis in the 1930s.

How quickly it can turn. Today, as then, we must be ever vigilant to guard our freedom against the power of conservative forces that seek to do us harm. Brothers, never again!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to the Museum of Photography, Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All the photographs have been digitally cleaned. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

In November 1918, exactly 100 years ago, the old regime of Kaiser Wilhelm II was swept away by a revolution. It ended the First World War and led to the establishment of democracy in Germany. The Weimar Republic was born out of the struggle for a new social order and political system. The upheavals that occurred in 1918/19 were captured on camera, sometimes by renowned press photographers such as Willy Römer; their works are crucial for historians today. For the first time ever, this book investigates the role of film and entertainment in the Weimar Republic and includes it in the historical analysis. What do the street fights in the first months following the First World War have in common with the people’s recreational pleasures? How did photographers record the political turmoil, the demonstrations, strikes, shootings, and fights for control of the palace and the newspaper district? And, at the same time, what distractions were offered in Berlin’s cinemas and revue shows? How did the entertainment industry react to the revolution? Examining photos, films, and poster art, this book presents a dense and previously unseen portrait of German history.

Text from the catalogue

 

 

“So ends this first day of the revolution, which in just a few hours has witnessed the downfall of the House of Hohenzollern, the dissolution of the German army, and the demise of the old German social order. One of the most memorable and dreadful days in German history.”

.
Harry Graf Kessler, diary entry from November 9, 1918

 

“The Christmas fair carries on blithely throughout all of these bloody events. Hurdy-gurdies play on Friedrichstraße, street vendors peddle indoor fireworks, gingerbread, and silver tinsel, the jewellery shops on Unter den Linden remain unheedingly open, their brightly lit display windows glittering. On Leipziger Strasse, the usual Christmas crowds throng toward Wertheim, Kayser, and the other big stores. It is safe to say that in thousands of homes, Christmas trees are lit and children are playing around them with presents from Daddy, Mummy and dear Aunty. The dead lie in the royal stables, and on Holy Night, the wounds freshly inflicted on the palace and on Germany gape wide.”

.
Harry Graf Kessler, diary entry, December 24, 1918

 

“I cannot get out of head the execution of 24 sailors on Französische Strasse, where during all of these days, there has been no trouble. It is one of the most abominable civil war crimes I know of in history. This evening I tried to watch Reinhardt’s production of ‘As You Like It’, but was not in the mood. I cannot stop thinking about these murders and shootings, which are the order of the day in Berlin.”

.
Harry Graf Kessler: diary entry, March 14, 1919

 

Otto Haeckel (1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (1873-1942) 'Soldiers with weapons Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße' November 1918 (detail)

 

Otto Haeckel (German, 1872-1945) and Georg Haeckel (German, 1873-1942)
Soldiers with weapons, Unter den Linden, corner Charlottenstraße (detail)
November 1918
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Gebrüder Haeckel

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) '"The Guards Ranger Battalion marching past General Lequis"; on the left, next to the Brandenburg Gate, the photographer Walter Gircke with camera' 10/11 December 1918

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
“The Guards Ranger Battalion marching past General Lequis”; on the left, next to the Brandenburg Gate, the photographer Walter Gircke with camera
10/11 December 1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery' 24.12.1918

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery
24.12.1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery' 24.12.1918 (detail)

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery (detail)
24.12.1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery' 24.12.1918 (detail)

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles on Christmas Eve in Berlin. Naval ratings in front of the ruined Palace entrance after bombardment by artillery (detail)
24.12.1918, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

The revolution in winter and spring 1918/19 was decided in the streets of the imperial capital, Berlin. Berliners celebrated the abdication of the German Emperor with demonstrations in front of the Reichstag and the palace on November 9th, 1918, in the newspaper quarter in January 1919 rolls of printing paper were used by the Spartacists to erect barricades against approaching government troops, after fighting had ceased, a large funeral procession crossed Frankfurter Allee to the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde. Press photographers were omnipresent with their big plate cameras, taking shots of orators in the crowd, soldiers behind machine-guns, vehicles carrying party posters in the National Assembly election campaign, and destroyed buildings and ravaged squares. At the same time, everyday life in the city went on. People went to the numerous cinemas with their expanding repertoire of films, enjoyed themselves at revues and cabarets, and danced the two-step and the foxtrot. The exhibition in the Museum für Fotografie shows both a photographic visual history of the revolution in Berlin and a panorama of the entertainment culture of those months.

The brothers Otto and Georg Haeckel were the most important press photographers during the first days of the revolution. As experienced war reporters, they reacted quickly to cover the spontaneous rallies on Unter den Linden and in front of the palace. The photographers worked without assignment and offered their images to publishers like Mosse or Ullstein. There are few visual records of the fighting itself. Rather, photographers took advantage of breaks in the fighting to recreate scenes on the barricades or with soldiers with readied weapons. The largest group of photos of the revolution of which the original contact prints survive is by Willy Römer. One of his photographs was even taken immediately before his own arrest by a troop of Spartacists.

Weekly newsreels in cinemas across Germany reported on the rallies and demonstrations in Berlin, showed film portraits of the ministers of the new imperial government, and confirmed the restoration of order by showing scenes from everyday life in the streets of the capital. At the same time, they solicited votes for the National Assembly. Given lengthy production times, the feature films of winter 1918/19 do not yet reflect the revolution in any way. But the suspension of censorship enabled the production of new, more daring films, which, for example, opposed the criminal persecution of homosexuals.

As a reaction to the end of the war and without as yet reckoning with the dangers of the revolution and its fighting, an unprecedented desire for pleasure-seeking reigned in Berlin during the winter and spring of 1918/19. Besides opera houses and straight theatres, Berliners frequented the popular operetta and revue theatres, as well as cinemas; they also went to ballrooms and drinking holes to dance. Some revues reacted to current issues like the housing shortage and the strikes. The poverty of war invalids was also a subject of popular music. The song ‘Bein ist Trumpf’ from 1919 alludes to the fate of four men maimed in the war: the dance with a wooden leg or prosthesis amid the workings of a world-apparatus that turns and turns without end.

Anonymous text from the Museum of Photography, Berlin website [Online] Cited 08/02/2019

 

Josef Steiner. 'Senta Söneland in her sketch "Pst! Pst!"'

 

Josef Steiner (German, 1899-1977)
Senta Söneland in her sketch “Pst! Pst!”
Nd
Poster for the performance in the Metropolitan Cabaret
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Kunstbibliothek

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Demonstration of the soldiers for immediate demobilisation: Karl Liebknecht speaks in front of the Ministry of the Interior on Unter den Linden' 4.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Demonstration of the soldiers for immediate demobilisation: Karl Liebknecht speaks in front of the Ministry of the Interior on Unter den Linden
4.1.1919
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

Karl Liebknecht

Karl Paul August Friedrich Liebknecht (German 13 August 1871 – 15 January 1919) was a German socialist, originally in the Social Democrat (SPD) and later a co-founder with Rosa Luxemburg of the Spartacist League and the Communist Party of Germany which split way from the SPD. He is best known for his opposition to World War I in the Reichstag and his role in the Spartacist uprising of 1919. The uprising was crushed by the Social Democrat government and the Freikorps (paramilitary units formed of World War I veterans). Liebknecht and Luxemburg were executed.

After their deaths, Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg became martyrs for Socialists. According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, commemoration of Liebknecht and Luxemburg continues to play an important role among the German left, including Die Linke (The Left). …

 

Revolution and death

Liebknecht was released again in October 1918, when Prince Maximilian of Baden granted an amnesty to all political prisoners. Upon his return to Berlin on 23 October he was escorted to the Soviet embassy by a crowd of workers. Following the outbreak of the German Revolution, Liebknecht carried on his activities in the Spartacist League. He resumed leadership of the group together with Luxemburg and published its party organ, Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag).

On 9 November, Liebknecht declared the formation of a Freie Sozialistische Republik (Free Socialist Republic) from a balcony of the Berliner Stadtschloss, two hours after Philipp Scheidemann’s declaration of a German Republic from a balcony of the Reichstag. On 31 December 1918/1 January 1919, Liebknecht was involved in the founding of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD). Together with Luxemburg, Jogiches and Zetkin, Liebknecht was also instrumental in the January 1919 Spartacist uprising in Berlin. Initially he and Luxemburg opposed the revolt, but they joined it after it had begun. The uprising was brutally opposed by the new German government under Friedrich Ebert with the help of the remnants of the Imperial German Army and militias called the Freikorps. By 13 January, the uprising had been extinguished. Liebknecht and Luxemburg were captured by Freikorps troops on 15 January 1919 and brought to the Eden Hotel in Berlin, where they were tortured and interrogated for several hours. Following this, Luxemburg was beaten with rifle butts and afterwards shot, and her corpse thrown into the Landwehr Canal, while Liebknecht was forced to step out of the car in which he was being transported, and he was then shot in the back. Official declarations said he had been shot in an attempt to escape. Although the circumstances were disputed by the perpetrators at the time, the Freikorps commander, Captain Waldemar Pabst, later claimed, “I had them executed”.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Election propaganda with car, flags and posters "Vote List 4"' [Election propaganda automobile of the German National Party on the streets of Berlin] January 1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Election propaganda with car, flags [red] and posters “Vote List 4” [Election propaganda automobile of the German National Party on the streets of Berlin]
January 1919, later contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Paul Telemann. 'Mariposa. Fox-trot (Fuchs Dance)' 1919

 

Paul Telemann
Mariposa. Fox-trot (Fuchs Dance)
Music by Ernest Tompa
Berlin 1919
Sheet music, private collection
© Drei Masken-Verlag, Berlin-Munich

 

 

Fox Trot

“The new flu is here – and it is not Spanish, but English in origin, and it is known as “the new popular dance” […]. In Berlin, “Fox Trot steps” are applied to any old melody […]. Outside, they are banging away at the Palace […]. Machine-gun fire rattles around the advertising pillars, whose colourful posters bear invitations to Fox Trot teas.”

F.W. Koebner, in: Der Roland von Berlin, 1919

 

Film

In the years 1918 and 1919, the German film industry experienced pronounced growth tendencies. Among the most successful production firms of the era alongside Universum Film AG (Ufa), established in 1917 as a propaganda establishment by the Supreme Army Command, were the Projektions-AG Union (PAGU), the Decla-Film-Gesellschaft-Holz & Co. (later Decla-Bioskop), and the Deutsche Lichtspiel-Gesellschaft (Deulig, DLG). Alongside new, advantageous financing possibilities, it was the announcement of the abolition of film censorship in November of 1918 that inaugurated rising production figures. At the same time, lowered admission prices allowed cinema to become a leisure activity for broad social strata.

More than in any other German city, these developments were observable in Berlin: the greater part of the film industry was headquartered here, and accordingly, this continuously growing metropolis, with approximately 200 cinemas, became a centre of attraction for representatives of all cinematic branches.

Immediately after November 9, 1918, the revolution played virtually no role in the city’s multifarious cinematic program – primarily responsible for this was production scheduling for most films, which usually entailed intervals of many months. In the course of 1919, the film industry responded emphatically to current political events, releasing a series of feature films that either thematised the revolutionary goings-on explicitly or at least alluded to them.

 

Newsreel 1918/19

With their compilations of up-to-date documentary film footage, the Wochenschauen (weekly newsreels) were able to convey impressions of revolutionary events in Berlin to a contemporary public more quickly than other film genres. Launched during World War I, this format – which was screened in cinemas before main features – soon became the most important medium of information for large segments of the population.

Only a portion of the newsreel editions produced by German firms and pertaining to the revolutionary events of 1918-19 in Berlin have survived, and in many instances only as fragments. Among them are numbered editions of the Messter-Woche, named for their initiator, the film pioneer Oskar Messter. With the aid of these 5-15-minute short films, produced under time pressure and with minimal technical expenditures or design features, it becomes possible to reconstruct central stages of the revolution – and the perspectives of contemporary film journalists of these events.

 

Joe May

Among the most productive directors in Berlin at the time was the Austrian Joe May, who – like the majority of participants in Berlin’s film world – observed the revolutionary events in the city only from a distance. In his monumental films, his wife Mia May played the main role. Veritas vincit, premiered in April of 1919, is an elaborately outfitted historical film whose episodic plot revolves around the transmigration of souls. During 1919, Joe May intensified his cinematic approach, oriented toward spectacular entertainments, with the production of an eight-part adventure film entitled The Mistress of the World, outfitted with an exotic flair.

Wall texts

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Spartacists behind barricades made from rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building (Berliner Tageblatt) on Schützenstraße at the corner of Jerusalemerstraße' 11.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Spartacists behind barricades made from rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building (Berliner Tageblatt) on Schützenstraße at the corner of Jerusalemerstraße
11.1.1919, later contact print
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

The Spartacists

A member of a group of German radical socialists formed in 1916 and in 1919 becoming the German Communist Party, led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. In December 1918, some of the Spartacists – including Luxemburg and Liebknecht – founded the German Communist Party. Luxemburg had written numerous pamphlets about Lenin and how his leadership of theRussian Revolution would be of such great value to Russia.

While her political philosophy may well have merited such pamphlets, many Germans (and Europeans in general) were terrified of the ‘Red Plague’ in Russia and the adoption of the name ‘communist’ was fraught with danger. Many soldiers had returned from the war fronts massively disillusioned with the German government and hugely suspicious of anything that smacked of left-wing political beliefs. Many who had quit the German Army joined the right wing Free Corps (Freikorps). These would have been battle-hardened men who had been subjected to military discipline.

In January 1919, the Communists rose up in revolt in Berlin. In every sense it was a futile gesture against the government. Ebert withdrew his government to the safety of Weimar and allowed the Freikorps and what remained of the regular army to bring peace and stability back to Berlin once again. No mercy was shown to the Spartacists / Communists whose leaders were murdered after being arrested. The Freikorps was better organised and armed – they also had a military background. The majority of the Spartacists were civilians. No-one doubted who would win.

C. N. Trueman. “The Spartacists,” on The History Learning Site, 22 May 2015 [Online] Cited 09/02/2019

 

Spartacist uprising

The Spartacist uprising (German: Spartakusaufstand), also known as the January uprising (Januaraufstand), was a general strike (and the armed battles accompanying it) in Germany from 5 to 12 January 1919. Germany was in the middle of a post-war revolution, and two of the perceived paths forward were either social democracy or a council republic similar to the one which had been established by the Bolsheviks in Russia. The uprising was primarily a power struggle between the moderate Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD) led by Friedrich Ebert, and the radical communists of the Communist Party of Germany (KPD), led by Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, who had previously founded and led the Spartacist League (Spartakusbund). This power struggle was the result of the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II and the resignation of Chancellor Max von Baden, who had passed power to Ebert, as the leader of the largest party in the German parliament. Similar uprisings occurred and were suppressed in Bremen, the Ruhr, Rhineland, Saxony, Hamburg, Thuringia and Bavaria, and another round of even bloodier street battles occurred in Berlin in March, which led to popular disillusionment with the Weimar Government.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße' 11.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße
11.1.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
13 x 18cm
Ullstein picture
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße' 11.1.1919 (detail)

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Machine-gun post behind barricades consisting of rolled newspaper in front of the Mosse building on Schützenstraße (detail)
11.1.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
13 x 18cm
Ullstein picture
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Wolfgang Ortmann (1885-1967) 'Song from the Strike from Halloh! Halloh!' Berlin 1919

 

Wolfgang Ortmann (German, 1885-1967)
Song from the Strike from Halloh! Halloh!
Berlin 1919
Cabaret pieces by Fritz Grünbaum. Music by Rudolf Nelson
Sheet Music with Portrait of Käthe
Erlholz, Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin, Music Department
© Wolfgang Ortmann / Kollo-Verlag GmbH, Berlin

 

 

With more than 300 photographs, postcards, posters, sheet music, newspapers and magazines, film clips, newsreels and audio stations, the exhibition at the Museum of Photography shows a photographic picture of the 1918-19 revolution in Berlin as a panorama of the entertainment culture of these troubled months.

The revolution in the winter and spring of 1918-1919 and thus the struggle for the construction of the first German republic decided in the streets of the capital Berlin. Berliners celebrated the abdication of the Emperor on November 9, 2018 with demonstrations in front of the Reichstag and the castle. In January 1919, in the newspaper district, barricades of the Spartacists were erected from printing paper rolls against the advancing government troops. After the end of the fighting, the great funeral procession moved to the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde via Frankfurter Allee.

There were always press photographers recording the speakers in the crowd, the soldiers behind the machine guns, the parties’ party wagons for the National Assembly elections and the ruined houses and devastated squares. But at the same time, everyday life in the city continued, people visited the many cinemas with their expanding film offering, amused themselves in revues and cabarets, danced One-Step, Two-Step and Foxtrot.

The photographers did not provide an objective picture of the story. They could not work all focal points, so their cameras judged the events according to subjective criteria and they determined with the image what should be handed down. And yet their recordings bring the events back to life. For example, the photographs help with the reconstruction of dramatic episodes such as the Christmas battles for the castle and the stables between the Volksmarine Division and government troops.

They show the huge number of mourners around Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg and exemplify the involvement of actress Senta Söneland as election campaign speaker for the National Assembly. The press photos also allow critical inquiries into the history of the revolution: the clothes of the demonstrators and the fighters suggest that by no means only workers and soldiers, but also employees and commoners engaged politically.

In the first days of the revolution, the brothers Otto and Georg Haeckel were the most important press photographers. As experienced war reporters, they were quick to accompany the spontaneous rallies at Unter den Linden and in front of the castle. They worked without a commission and offered publishers such as Mosse or Ullstein their photographs as contact prints in the format 13 x 18 cm for the weekly picture supplements of the daily newspapers (eg for the “Zeitbilder” of the “Vossische Zeitung”) or magazines (eg the “Berliner Illustrirte Newspaper”).

There are few photographs as evidence of the fighting itself. Rather, the photographers used the breaks in fighting to recreate scenes of soldiers with shot-guns or at the barricades. From Willy Römer most of the images of the revolution in original contact prints are handed down. One of his photographs was even made immediately before his own arrest by a squad of Spartacists. Romans had a keen eye for the special situations of everyday life, when he photographed the unusual means of transportation of the Berliners during the general strike in January.

In the cinemas, the newsreels throughout Germany reported on the rallies and demonstrations in Berlin, produced film portraits of the ministers of the new Reich government and, as proof of the restored order, showed everyday scenes from the streets of the capital. At the same time, they campaigned for the National Assembly. The humorous short film “Anna Müller-Lincke kandidiert” (“Anna Müller-Lincke is a candidate”) presented the colourful range of candidates and challenged the population to make their own electoral decision. Due to the longer production processes, the feature films offered no reflection on the revolution in the winter of 1918-1919. However, the lifting of censorship enabled the production of new, daring films that were directed against the criminal prosecution of homosexuals. Immediately after the revolutionary event in Berlin, Richard Oswald‘s work “Anders als die Andern” (“Different from the Others”) began, the first film explicitly referring to Paragraph 175.

One of the most significant feature films on the revolution and at the same time a representative example of the socio-democratic values supported by the film industry is “Die entfesselte Menschheit” (“Unleashed humanity”) by Joseph Delmont, which was released in cinemas in 1920. Willy Römer was a press photographer during filming of barricades in Kreuzberg in autumn. His photographs are more dramatic than many photographs of the revolution the year before.

In response to the end of the war and without first taking into account the dangers of the revolutionary struggles, an unprecedented desire for pleasure prevailed in Berlin during the winter and spring of 1918-1919. In addition to opera houses and straight theatres, the Berliners frequented the more popular operetta and revue theatres, the cinemas, as well as ballrooms and Kaschemmen (bars) to dance there. Operettas like “Schwarzwaldmädel” (“Black forest girl”) in the Komische Oper (Comic Opera) were supposed to transport the audience into an ideal world and distract them from the everyday life of war and revolution.

But there were also revues that responded daily to topics such as the housing problem and the strikes like “Halloh! Halloh!” by Rudolf Nelson (music) and Fritz Grünbaum (text). The misery of war invalids was also a subject of popular music. In the song “Bein ist Trumpf” from the year 1919, the fate of many war-injured men is addressed: the dance with the wooden leg or the prosthesis in the transmission of an ever-rotating world structure. At the same time, the footage of the press photographers showed them with crutches and tied to wheelchairs and their protests against the insufficient supply.

The exhibition in the Museum of Photography is essentially based on the archive of Willy Römers, which is preserved in the Photography Collection of the Art Library – National Museums in Berlin. The comprehensive holdings of the bpk-Bildagentur and ullstein bild offer valuable additions. For the field of film and entertainment culture, exhibits from the graphic design collection of the Art Library have be used. Important loans come from the Music Department of the National Museums in Berlin, from the Deutsche Kinemathek Foundation, the Falkensee Museum and Gallery, and from private collections.

Press release from the Museum of Photography, Berlin translated from the German by Google Translate Cited 08/02/2019

 

With more than 300 photographs, postcards, posters, sheet music, newspapers and magazines, film clips, newsreels and audio stations, the exhibition at Museum für Fotografie shows both a photographic history of the 1918-19 revolution in Berlin as a panorama of the entertainment culture of these troubled months.

The revolution in winter and spring 1918/19 was decided in the streets of the imperial capital, Berlin. Berliners celebrated the abdication of the German Emperor with demonstrations in front of the Reichstag and the palace on November 9th, 1918, in the newspaper quarter in January 1919 rolls of printing paper were used by the Spartacists to erect barricades against approaching government troops, after fighting had ceased, a large funeral procession crossed Frankfurter Allee to the cemetery in Friedrichsfelde. Press photographers were omnipresent with their big plate cameras, taking shots of orators in the crowd, soldiers behind machine-guns, vehicles carrying party posters in the National Assembly election campaign, and destroyed buildings and ravaged squares. At the same time, everyday life in the city went on. People went to the numerous cinemas with their expanding repertoire of films, enjoyed themselves at revues and cabarets, and danced the two-step and the foxtrot. The exhibition in the Museum für Fotografie shows both a photographic visual history of the revolution in Berlin and a panorama of the entertainment culture of those months.

The brothers Otto and Georg Haeckel were the most important press photographers during the first days of the revolution. As experienced war reporters, they reacted quickly to cover the spontaneous rallies on Unter den Linden and in front of the palace. The photographers worked without assignment and offered their images to publishers like Mosse or Ullstein. There are few visual records of the fighting itself. Rather, photographers took advantage of breaks in the fighting to recreate scenes on the barricades or with soldiers with readied weapons. The largest group of photos of the revolution of which the original contact prints survive is by Willy Römer. One of his photographs was even taken immediately before his own arrest by a troop of Spartacists.

Weekly newsreels in cinemas across Germany reported on the rallies and demonstrations in Berlin, showed film portraits of the ministers of the new imperial government, and confirmed the restoration of order by showing scenes from everyday life in the streets of the capital. At the same time, they solicited votes for the National Assembly. Given lengthy production times, the feature films of winter 1918/19 do not yet reflect the revolution in any way. But the suspension of censorship enabled the production of new, more daring films, which, for example, opposed the criminal persecution of homosexuals.

As a reaction to the end of the war and without as yet reckoning with the dangers of the revolution and its fighting, an unprecedented desire for pleasure-seeking reigned in Berlin during the winter and spring of 1918/19. Besides opera houses and straight theatres, Berliners frequent-ed the popular operetta and revue theatres, as well as cinemas; they also went to ballrooms and drinking holes to dance. Some revues reacted to current issues like the housing shortage and the strikes. The poverty of war invalids was also a subject of popular music. The song ‘Bein ist Trumpf’ from 1919 alludes to the fate of four men maimed in the war: the dance with a wooden leg or prosthesis amid the workings of a world-apparatus that turns and turns without end.

Press release from the Museum of Photography, Berlin in English [Online] Cited 08/02/2019

 

Walter Gircke. 'Elections to the National Assembly in Berlin. Agitation by the actress Senta Söneland in front of the Zoologischer Garten station' [National Assembly in Berlin: agitation by the actress Senta Söneland] January 1919

 

Walter Gircke
Elections to the National Assembly in Berlin. Agitation by the actress Senta Söneland in front of the Zoologischer Garten station [National Assembly in Berlin: agitation by the actress Senta Söneland]
January 1919
Postcard
© bpk / Walter Gircke

 

 

Senta Söneland

Senta Söneland (née Werder) was born in 1882 the daughter of a Prussian officer. She attended a higher girls’ school and then a teacher seminar, but also took additional training courses at the Berlin Schiller Theater.

In 1910 she received her first engagement at the Hoftheater Meiningen. In 1912 she returned to Berlin and in the following years appeared on various stages such as the Komödienhaus, the Theater am Kurfürstendamm and the Metropol-Theater. As at the beginning of the war in 1914, when theatre life was severely impaired, she sought like many other actors of the time their chance in film.

Söneland was known primarily as a comedian in film comedies. After a long absence from the screen in the 1920s, she had many performances as a supporting actress at the beginning of the sound film era after 1930. She also participated in entertainment evenings on the radio. So she was heard in the program Kunterbunt with the Berlin Radio Chapel.

The artist was politically involved in women’s suffrage, and her fiery speech on 19 January 1919 at the Berlin Zoo Station on the occasion of the election to the National Assembly (see photograph above) is remembered above all.

After the sudden death of her husband, Söneland said goodbye in 1934 and took her own life a little later. She was buried in the cemetery Wilmersdorf in Berlin.

Text from the Wikipedia website translated from the German

 

Unknown photographer. 'Hoardings with SPD election posters' before 19.1.1919

 

Unknown photographer
Hoardings with SPD election posters
before 19.1.1919
Old contact print
Gelatin silver print
bpk

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others) 1919 Homosexuality Advocacy Film

Different from the Others (German: Anders als die Andern, literally ‘Other than the Others’) is a German film produced during the Weimar Republic. It was first released in 1919 and stars Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel. The story was co-written by Richard Oswald and Magnus Hirschfeld, who also had a small part in the film and partially funded the production through his Institute for Sexual Science. The film was intended as a polemic against the then-current laws under Germany’s Paragraph 175, which made homosexuality a criminal offence. It is believed to be the first pro-gay film in the world.

The cinematography was by Max Fassbender, who two years previously had worked on Das Bildnis des Dorian Gray, one of the earliest cinematic treatments of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. Director Richard Oswald later became a director of more mainstream films, as did his son Gerd. Veidt became a major film star the year after Anders was released, in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

Anders als die Andern is one of the first sympathetic portrayals of homosexuals in the cinema. The film’s basic plot was used again in the 1961 UK film, Victim, starring Dirk Bogarde. Censorship laws enacted in reaction to films like Anders als die Andern eventually restricted viewing of this movie to doctors and medical researchers, and prints of the film were among the many “decadent” works burned by the Nazis after they came to power in 1933.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 (known formally as §175 StGB; also known as Section 175 in English) was a provision of the German Criminal Code from 15 May 1871 to 10 March 1994. It made homosexual acts between males a crime, and in early revisions the provision also criminalised bestiality as well as forms of prostitution and underage sexual abuse. All in all, around 140,000 men were convicted under the law.

The statute drew legal influence from previous measures, including those undertaken by the Holy Roman Empire and Prussian states. It was amended several times. The Nazis broadened the law in 1935; in the prosecutions that followed, thousands died in concentration camps as a widespread social persecution of homosexuals took place.

Text from the Wikipedia website

 

Different from the Others

The director and producer Richard Oswald (1880-1863) is regarded as the founder of the so-called Sitten – or Aufklärungsfilm (i.e. a film concerned with public morals or sex education) – a genre that took up socially taboo themes such as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, drug consumption, or topics such as abortion and homosexuality, activities still subject to criminal prosecution at that time. The production of such films, propelled by an educational impetus, was intimately bound up with the abolition of censor-ship in Germany, announced in November of 1918. For Anders als die Andern (Different from the Others), the first film to take an explicit stand against Paragraph 175, which made homosexual acts between males a crime, Oswald called upon the expertise of the sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld as his advisor.

The film narrates the story of the violinist Paul Körner, who is blackmailed by a male prostitute who threatens to reveal his homosexuality, and is finally charged with violating Paragraph 175. In a central scene of the film, Magnus Hirschfeld – who plays himself – delivers a plea for tolerance of homosexuals. To be sure, the blackmailer is condemned, but so too is Körner, found guilty of infringing Paragraph 175. In despair over the social ruin brought about by the verdict, he commits suicide.

 

Folkets Ven, Die entfesselte Menschheit, and Irrwahn (Mania)

The Danish film Folkets Ven arrived in German cinemas in December of 1918 under the distribution title Söhne des Volkes (Sons of the People). In Berlin, the production of films about the political upheavals had just be-gun, necessitating a recourse to import films in order to entertain – and to influence – Berlin cinema-goers. In the magazine Der Kinematograph, the film was promoted as “a new film for a new time” with the message: “For the unification of the socialist groups, against Bolshevism.”

One of the most important feature films dating from around the time of the revolution, and at the same time a typical document of the (social) democratic values reinforced by the film industry, is Die entfesselte Menschheit (Humanity Unchained). Narrated in this “key work of anti-Bolshevist film” is the story of a group of German prisoners of war who return to a Berlin that has been convulsed by Spartacist battles, and are steered toward participation in a bloody civil war by the Bolshevist fanatic Karenow. Approximately 17,000 extras took part in this ambitious undertaking, part of it filmed on Am Tempelhofer Berg, a street in Kreuzberg.

Along with their anti-Bolshevist tendencies, the principal characteristic of the “political problem films” produced around 1919 and 1922, with their references to the revolution, was a deliberate renunciation of any explicit identification of the location of the events. In Irrwahn (Mania), filmed in Berlin in 1919 and heralded in the press as a “socialist-revolutionary drama,” the director Hans Werckmeister maintains a certain ambiguity about whether the events are taking place in Germany, Russia, or in some imaginary fantasy land.

 

Nerven (Nerves)

Robert Reinert’s influential silent film drama Nerven (Nerves) had only a brief reception among the contemporary cinema public: after its premiere in December of 1919, a number of spectators are said to have developed symptoms of madness. As a consequence, the censors resolved upon radical interventions which left the film in an utterly mutilated state. The story of Roloff, a wealthy factory owner who loses his faith in technological progress during the revolutionary turmoil occurring at the end of World War I, his sister Marja, who is committed to armed struggle against the ruling powers, and the teacher Johannes, who calls for social reforms at the people’s assembly, offers a multifaceted description of the traumatic impact of war and revolution on the psychological states of human individuals. Observable in Nerven are design elements that are immediately reminiscent of Expressionism: close-up shots of faces registering intense emotion, gloomy, oversized buildings, dissolves suggestive of menace, as well as striking effects of light and shadow. This fateful historic document has now been successfully reconstructed from fragments.

Wall texts

 

 

 

Nerves (Germany, 1919)

The films tells the political disputes of an ultraconservative factory owner Herr Roloff and Teacher John, who feels a compulsive but secret love for Roloff’s sister, a left-wing radical. They are all driven psychologically and morally to the borderline, tormented souls living their lives in a tormented country.

Duration: 110 Minutes
Director, Producer, Screenplay: Robert Reinert
Starring: Eduard von Winterstein, Lia Borré, Erna Morena, Paul Bender, Lili Dominici, Rio Ellbon, Margarete Tondeur, Paul Burgen Reconstruction
Producer: Stefan Drössler
Cinematography: Helmar Lerski

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Fighting in the Berlin newspaper district. The Vorwärts building after being bombarded by government troops' [The Spartacist had barricaded themselves inside the Vorwärts building. The photo shows the Vorwärts building after an artillery assault by government troops] 11.1.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Fighting in the Berlin newspaper district. The Vorwärts building after being bombarded by government troops [The Spartacist had barricaded themselves inside the Vorwärts building. The photo shows the Vorwärts building after an artillery assault by government troops]
11.1.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'General strike in Berlin. Moving van as barricade on Prenzlauer Straße' 7.3.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
General strike in Berlin. Moving van as barricade on Prenzlauer Straße
7.3.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Street battles in Berlin. Battleplace Alexanderplatz with the downed lines of the tram' 8.3.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Street battles in Berlin. Battleplace Alexanderplatz with the downed lines of the tram
8.3.1919, old contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'View of the funeral procession in the Frankfurter Allee on the occasion of the funeral of Rosa Luxemburg' [Funeral of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Funeral procession on Große Frankfurter Strasse] 13.6.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
View of the funeral procession in the Frankfurter Allee on the occasion of the funeral of Rosa Luxemburg [Funeral of Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. Funeral procession on Große Frankfurter Strasse]
13.6.1919
Gelatin silver print
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

 

Artistic Dance

During the revolutionary period of 1918-19, artistic or expressive dance – whose best-known exponent, Mary Wigman, was accorded considerable acclaim even before World War I – was characterised by heightened variety and intensity. The aim of the tendency was to generate a new conception of humanity through the unity of music, movement, costume, and stage design. Expressive rhythm and a natural approach to bodily experience harmonised well with the expressive forms of the artistic avant-gardes, in particular Expressionist painting. The search for modern expressive resources that were remote from classical balletic conventions was spearheaded by renowned dance reformers. Among them were Valeska Gert, with her grotesque caricature dances, Anita Berber, with her eccentric and erotic performances, and Gret Palucca, with her powerful leaps. But Hannelore Ziegler – no longer a familiar figure today – too numbered among the representatives of these new, contemporary dance forms.

 

Erna Offeney

Erna Offeney (1888-1977), one of the less-known erotic dancers and ballet mistresses, who is presented here in a larger context for the first time, headed her own touring ballet company, with up to 150 ensemble members, which made acclaimed guest performances throughout Germany and Switzerland, as well as Vienna. In a way that is characteristic of the pre-revolutionary era, she wrote in her diary: “It was 1918, the final year of the war, the theatre was full of soldiers on leave who wanted to forget the miseries of war during this brief intermezzo, and were delighted with every diversion and pleasure. Most were invalids, cripples who had been obliged to sacrifice arms or legs for the Fatherland. They were scattered throughout every town, and nearly every family lamented the presence of a member in such a state, and depending upon temperament, those affected – or those who were more foreseeing – were suffused with hate or gloomy resignation […] And then came the applause, which never seemed to end. In the orchestra area, I saw two soldiers, each one-armed, slapping their single hands together in order to applaud. Seeing this, I nearly wept.”

 

‘Nude’ and Erotic Dance

During the revolutionary period of 1918/1919, ‘nude’ dance, erotic ballet, and erotic dance enjoyed a decided popularity. At the same time, the war wounded and war cripples filled the streets of Berlin. “The sheer profusion of erotic dance performances – appearing in every cabaret, in every better dance club, in every bar that offered the public music and entertainment, were nude dancers or groups of dancers – this mass phenomenon only became possible after the war,” wrote Hans Ostwald in 1931. “Favouring the movement was a lust for life that sprang from sheer misery, and the greater general freedom.” But the abolition of censorship also promoted the proliferation of such offerings. Although the dancers were for the most part clad in gossamer fabrics, with breasts and privates veiled, they appeared to be naked. Performances by dancers such as Olga Desmond and Celly de Rheydt belonged in the context of the movement toward naturism and nudism.

 

Ballroom Dancing

The great dance wave, the dance frenzy, the dance craze – all referred to the mass phenomenon of dance as a form of participatory entertainment among the populace of Berlin after World War I. This form of enjoyment was ubiquitous, with each dancer dancing for a different reason: for one, dancing compensated for the general misery. Another enjoyed the license to dance when and where it pleased – a freedom that accompanied the demise of the Wilhelminian moral codex. Depending upon the financial resources available, people met in the elegant dance clubs in the city centre, or instead shook a leg in dives found in the northern and eastern districts of Berlin. The new popular dances – ragtime, jazz, the Boston waltz, the shimmy, but first and foremost the foxtrot – found their ways into dance clubs, dance halls and ballrooms, dance floors, and hotel lobbies, and were an essential component of the amusement and entertainment industry that expanded explosively after the war. The rapidly growing number of performances of operettas and revues meant that a public hungry for diversion was continuously exposed to new hit tunes. Thus primed, they spread out onto the dance floor, with dance bands providing the requisite atmosphere of exuberance.

 

Sheet Music Cover Pages

Originally, sheet music cover pages were little more than decorative ‘accessories’ accompanying printed music. At the same time, they mirror contemporary social and political life. Observable around 1918/19 are topical foci such as emancipation and the pleasures of dance, eroticism, fashion, beauty, and film. In some instances, sheet music cover pages were furnished with portraits of interpreters whose names were familiar through the advertisements that appeared in the daily press. Like the artist’s postcards so widely disseminated at the time, these images allowed the public to see the stars at least in picture form – not everyone could afford tickets to live operetta or revue appearances.

Domestic music-making, including light music, was widespread. Inseparable from such activities were the countless popular dance forms. And all of this required accessible sheet music. With the growing vogue for revues, operettas, film operettas, and burlesques after the end of World War I, the circulation figures of printed music rose quickly. After the recent horrors, there title motifs satisfied a yearning for togetherness, harmony, happiness, and a peaceful life.

 

Places of Entertainment and Amusement

In 1918/19, entertainment was of paramount importance. As much can be gathered from numerous travel guides intended for visitors to Berlin, such as those by Grieben. These supplied tips for performances of operettas, burlesques, revues, promoted information on which cabarets and coffee-houses provide live music, recommended dance halls, and offered general information on other entertainment options. Providing guidance is well were the advertising pages of daily newspapers such as the Vossische Zeitung, the Berliner Tageblatt, and the Berliner Volkszeitung. Found in particular on Friedrichstraße, Behrensstraße, and Jägerstraße alongside theatres and operetta stages were ballrooms, dance clubs, dance cafés, concert houses, cabarets, and coffeehouses. Advertised as well were summer theatre performances and garden concerts where military bands supplied the music. With seating for up to 3000 people, they were frequented by numerous visitors. In the working class district of Prenzlauer Berg, there was the Prater Summer Garden; in Treptow, the Zenner Beer Garden – every urban district had its entertainment establishments featuring concert and dance. And all promoted themselves through specially printed postcards, so that today, we have a detailed picture of the sheer variety that prevailed at the time.

Wall texts from the exhibition

 

Robert L. Leonard. '"Strindberg's intoxication" with Asta Nielsen' 1.8.1919

 

Robert L. Leonard
“Strindberg’s intoxication” with Asta Nielsen
1.8.1919
Alfred Abel, Carl Meinhard
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Poster for the premiere of the film in UT Kurfürstendamm
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979) 'Dismissed soldiers and unemployed. The gaming tables in front of the employment office in Gormannstraße' [Gambling den in front of the employment agency on Gormannstraße. For strengthening during the game, there is coffee and cake at the next table] 24.11.1919

 

Willy Römer (German, 1887-1979)
Dismissed soldiers and unemployed. The gaming tables in front of the employment office in Gormannstraße [Gambling den in front of the employment agency on Gormannstraße. For strengthening during the game, there is coffee and cake at the next table]
24.11.1919, later contact print
Gelatin silver print
Kunstbibliothek
© Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Art Library – Photothek Willy Römer / Willy Römer

 

'Berlin in the revolution 1918/19' catalogue cover

 

Berlin in the revolution 1918/19 catalogue cover

 

 

Museum für Fotografie
Jebensstraße 2, 10623 Berlin, Germany
Phone: +49 30 266424242

Opening hours:
Tues – Sunday 11am – 7pm

Museum für Fotografie website

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13
Oct
17

Exhibition: ‘Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933’ at Tate Liverpool

Exhibition dates: 23rd June – 15th October 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha' 1925-6, printed 1991

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha
1925-1926, printed 1991
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
205 x 241mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Hugo Erfurth with Dog' 1926

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Hugo Erfurth with Dog (Bildnis des Fotografen Hugo Erfurth mit Hund) 
1926
Tempera and oil paint on panel
800 x 1000mm
Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid
© DACS 2017. Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

 

 

Writing sociology: picturing an uncertain cultural landscape

There is something completely unexpected in the strange correlation and synergy between the work of these two artists.

While it is inadvisable to compare and contrast (why pick those particular images out of thousands!), I have paired several images from the exhibition together in this posting. Let’s look at the pairing above.

Technically, Sander’s photograph of The Painter Otto Dix and his Wife Martha (1925-6) evidences a slightly flattened perspective especially in the “face on” aspect of the androgynous woman – but the photograph also possesses a surreal air, the silhouette of the woman’s hair contrasting with the swept back slickness of the man and his jutting, three-quarter profile. The unusual space between them adds admirably to the overall frisson of the photograph, it’s non/objectivity and performativity. In Dix’s painting Hugo Erfurth with Dog (1926) a greater distortion of perspective is in evidence. The mythic dog is painted as if photographed using a telephoto lens, while the man’s face is all over the place… the jaw elongated as if by using a wide angle lens, the front of the face flattened in an earnest manner. This is what painting can do, and is allowed to do, that photography can never match. But it doesn’t have to. It does it in a different way.

Here we need to excavate – that’s a good word for this investigation – we need to excavate the ethos in the zeitgeist. We need to understand the attitudes and aspirations of the cultural era in which these artists lived in order to comprehend the defining spirit of the period, as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. These artists emerge out of the same society, they inhabit the spirit of the age – those interwar years of the avant-garde, speed, and change; of poverty, postwar realities and politics; of The Great Depression, disfiguration and disenfranchisement.

I look at the obscurity of faces in Dix’s Assault Troops Advance under Gas (1924) and then adjust to the pensiveness of hand, pose and gaze in Sander’s Working Students (1926) … and then mentally add in Avedon’s later portraiture. Interesting. I look at Sander’s National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture (c. 1938) and note the “exemplary mastery of illumination”, but just as distinctively the averted gaze, the line on head where the unnamed man (who is he? what was his name?) had just taken his cap off. Just below is Dix’s Self-Portrait with Easel (1926) with three-quarter profile, piercing stare, bent finger. Who is capturing reality here? No body.

In his own way, Sander plays with the reality of time and space just as much as Dix. In my mind, Sander’s “staged performativity and the artifice of construction [which] is paramount to the surreal effects created,” are no less un/real than the paintings of Dix. There are things that just don’t fit. The strangeness of the era, the creation of these non/objective environments, cause an alignment of the stars between both artists. This is inspired curating, to bring these two extra-ordinary talents together.

These artists walked the same streets, they breathed the same air. They excavated the spirit of the age. And in so doing, their art becomes impervious to time.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to Tate Liverpool for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“We want to see things completely naked, clear, almost without art. I invented the New Objectivity.”

.
Otto Dix, 1965

 

German artist Otto Dix was a committed painter of portraits. At a time when photography had diminished portraiture’s importance and the genre was seen as a deeply unfashionable pursuit for so-called serious artists, he was making a living – and cementing his reputation – out of exactly that. He commented:

“Painting portraits is regarded by modernist artists as a lower artistic occupation; and yet it is one of the most exciting and difficult tasks for a painter.”

 

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin' 1927

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Reclining Woman on a Leopard Skin (Liegende auf Leopardenfell) 
1927
Oil paint on panel
680 x 980mm
© DACS 2017. Collection of the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University. Gift of Samuel A. Berger

 

 

Dix was a key supporter of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit) movement, a name coined after an exhibition held in Mannheim, Germany in 1925. Described by art historian G.F. Hartlaub, as ‘new realism bearing a socialist flavour’, the movement sought to depict the social and political realities of the Weimar Republic.

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Bohemians [Willi Bongard, Gottfried Brockmann]' c. 1922-5, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Bohemians [Willi Bongard, Gottfried Brockmann]
c. 1922-1925, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
189 x 250mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Tate Liverpool presents the faces of Germany between the two World Wars seen through the eyes of painter Otto Dix (1891-1969) and photographer August Sander (1876-1964). Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 brings together two artists whose works document the glamour and misery of the Weimar Republic, a time of radical extremes and political and economic upheaval.

Portraying a Nation, which exhibits Dix and Sander as a pair for the first time, reflects a pivotal point in Germany’s history, as it introduced democratic rule in the aftermath of the First World War. The period was one of experimentation and innovation across the visual arts, during which both artists were concerned with representing the extremes of society, from the flourishing cabaret culture to intense poverty and civilian rebellions.

Featuring more than 300 paintings, drawings, prints and photographs, Portraying a Nation unites two complementary exhibitions. Otto Dix: The Evil Eye explores Dix’s harshly realistic depictions of German society and the brutality of war, while ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander presents photographs from Sander’s best known series People of the Twentieth Century, from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art.

The exhibition focusses on the evolution of Dix’s work during his years in Düsseldorf, from 1922 to 1925, when he became one of the foremost New Objectivity painters, a movement exploring a new style of artistic representation following the First World War. Dix’s paintings are vitriolic reflections on German society, commenting on the country’s stark divisions. His work represents the people who made up these contradictions in society with highlights including Portrait of the Photographer Hugo Erfurth with Dog 1923, Self-Portrait with Easel 1926, as well as a large group of lesser known watercolours. Dix’s The War 1924 will also form a key element of the exhibition, a series of 50 etchings made as a reaction to and representation of the profound effect of his personal experiences of fighting in the First World War.

Sander’s photographs also observe a cross-section of society to present a collective portrait of a nation. Sander commenced his major photographic project People of the Twentieth Century in 1910, an ambitious task that occupied him until the 1950s. The project resulted in more than 600 images in which people were categorised into what he described as ‘types’, including artists, musicians, circus workers, farmers and, in the late 1930s, images of Nazi officers. More than 140 photographs from the ARTIST ROOMS collection will be displayed to create a large-scale timeline of Weimar Germany, placing individual subjects against a backdrop of the era’s tumultuous cultural and political history.

Portraying a Nation: Germany 1919-1933 is made up of Otto Dix: The Evil Eye, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf and ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander, an exhibition of works from the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international modern and contemporary art.

The ARTIST ROOMS collection is jointly owned by National Galleries of Scotland and Tate on behalf of the public, and was established through The d’Offay donation in 2008 with the assistance of the Heritage Memorial Fund, Art Fund and the Scottish and British governments. It is shared with UK museums and galleries including Tate, National Galleries of Scotland and a network of Associate venues through ARTIST ROOMS On Tour, which is a partnership until 2019 with lead Associate Ferens Art Gallery, supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, Art Fund and the National Lottery through Creative Scotland.

Otto Dix: The Evil Eye is curated by Dr Susanne Meyer-Büser, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Francesco Manacorda, Artistic Director and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. ARTIST ROOMS: August Sander is curated by Francesco Manacorda, and Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, with the cooperation of ARTIST ROOMS and the German Historical Institute.

Press release from Tate Liverpool

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor) '1924

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Assault Troops Advance under Gas (Sturmtruppe geht unter Gas vor)
1924
© DACS 2017
Image: Otto Dix Stiftung

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Working Students' 1926, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Working Students
1926, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Seen together, Sander’s images form a pictorial mosaic of inter-war Germany. Rapid social change and newfound freedom were accompanied by financial insecurity and social and political unrest. By photographing the citizens of the Weimar Republic – from the artistic, bohemian elite to the Nazis and those they persecuted – Sander’s photographs tell of an uncertain cultural landscape. It is a world characterised by explosions of creativity, hyperinflation and political turmoil. The faces of those he photographed show traces of this collective historical experience. Alfred Döblin, author of the 1929 novel Berlin Alexanderplatz said:

“Sander has succeeded in writing sociology not by writing, but by producing photographs – photographs of faces and not mere costumes.”

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Argentinian Venomous Scorpion' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Argentinian Venomous Scorpion (Argentinischer Gift-Skorpion) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
134 x 217mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

 

Dix served in the First World War from 1915, fighting on the Western front in the Battle of the Somme. Although an enthusiastic soldier – his service earned him the Iron Cross (Second Class) – Dix’s experiences affected him deeply. He marked the war’s 10th anniversary with a group of etchings entitled Der Krieg (The War), leaving few of the horrors of the front line to the imagination. Commenting later, he said:

“For years, [I] constantly had these dreams in which I was forced to crawl through destroyed buildings, through corridors through which I couldn’t pass. The rubble was always there in my dreams.”

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Butterfly' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Butterfly (Schmetterling) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Giant Snake' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Giant Snake (Riesenschlange) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
135 x 217mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Mask Fish' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Mask Fish (Maskenfisch) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Tibetan Turkey Vulture' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Tibetan Turkey Vulture (Tibetanischer Truthahngeier) 
1922
Graphite on found paper
135 x 217mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Vulture Skull' 1922

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Vulture Skull (Totenkopfgeier)
1922
Graphite on found paper
217 x 135mm
Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf
© DACS 2017. Galerie Remmert und Barth, Düsseldorf

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture' c. 1938, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
National Socialist, Head of Department of Culture
c. 1938, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 192mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix (1891-1969) 'Self-Portrait with Easel' 1926

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Self-Portrait with Easel (Selbstbildnis mit Staffelei)
1926
800 x 550mm
Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum, Düren
© DACS 2017. Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren. Photo: Peter Hinschläger

 

 

From the early 1920s, he devoted himself to the study of old master painting techniques, using a layering effect, produced first with egg tempera and, later, finished with oils. This moved his contemporary George Grosz to jokingly call him ‘Otto Hans Baldung Dix’ (after the German old master Hans Baldung Grien). Later, Grosz would write:

“Dix did all the drawing in a thin tempera, then went over it with thin mastic glazes in various cold and warm tones. He was the only Old Master I ever watched using this technique.”

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Secretary at West German Radio in Cologne' 1931, printed 1992

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Secretary at West German Radio in Cologne
1931, printed 1992
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 149mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

Otto Dix. 'The Jeweller Karl Krall (Der Juwelier Karl Krall)' 1923

 

Otto Dix (German, 1891-1969)
Portrait of the Jeweller Karl Krall
1923
Kunst- und Museumsverein im Von der Heydt-Museum Wuppertal
Photo: Antje Zeis-Loi, Medienzentrum Wuppertal
© DACS 2017

 

 

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, Dix was dismissed from his professorship teaching art at the Dresden Academy, where he had worked since 1927. The reason given was that, through his painting, he had committed a ‘violation of the moral sensibilities and subversion of the militant spirit of the German people’.

In the years following, some 260 of his works were confiscated by the Nazi Propaganda Ministry. Several of these works, including The Jeweller Karl Krall 1923 (which features in the Tate Liverpool exhibition Portraying a Nation), appeared in the Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) exhibition of 1937-8. The exhibition was staged by the Nazis to destroy the careers of those artists they considered mentally ill, inappropriate or unpatriotic.

 

August Sander. 'Victim of Persecution' 1938, printed 1990 by August Sander 1876-1964

 

August Sander (August, 1876-1964)
Victim of Persecution
c. 1938, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

In the mid-1920s, Sander began his highly ambitious project People of the 20th Century. In it, Sander aimed to document Germany by taking portraits of people from all segments of society. The project adapted and evolved continuously, falling into seven distinct groups: ‘The Farmer’, ‘The Skilled Tradesman’, ‘The Woman’, ‘Classes and Professions’, ‘The Artists’, ‘The City’ and ‘The Last People’. Sander once said ‘The portrait is your mirror. It’s you’. He believed that, through photography, he could reveal the characteristic traits of people. He used these images to tell each person’s story; their profession, politics, social situation and background.

Sander did not use the newly invented Leica camera. Instead he remained devoted to an old-fashioned large-format camera, glass negatives and long exposure times. This allowed him to capture minute details of individual faces. Sander prized the daguerreotype, a photographic process introduced in the previous century, of which he said: ‘it cannot be surpassed in the delicacy of the delineation, it is objectivity in the best sense of the word’. Allied to this, his portraits were anonymous. Shot against neutral backgrounds and titled more often than not by profession alone, he let the images – and the faces in them – speak for themselves.

The ambition and reach of People of the 20th Century (both in terms of the quality of his photography and in his representation of a cross-section of society) made him a monumental figure of twentieth century photography. The likes of American social realist photographers such as Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange (whose works became iconic symbols of the depression), and later photographers such as Diane Arbus, each owe a debt to the trailblazing Sander. More recently, the work of conceptual artists such as Bernd and Hilla Becher (known for their typologies of industrial buildings and structures) and Rineke Dijkstra, whose photography is infused with psychological depth and social awareness, resonates with the influence of August Sander’s career-long project.

Text from the Tate Liverpool website

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Turkish Mousetrap Salesman' 1924-30, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Turkish Mousetrap Salesman
1924-1930, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
260 x 191mm
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

August Sander (1876-1964) 'Photographer [August Sander]' 1925, printed 1990

 

August Sander (German, 1876-1964)
Photographer [August Sander]
1925, printed 1990
Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper
ARTIST ROOMS Tate and National Galleries of Scotland. Lent by Anthony d’Offay 2010
© Die Photographische Sammlung/SK Stiftung Kultur – August Sander Archiv, Cologne; DACS, London, 2017

 

 

Tate Liverpool
Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront,
Liverpool L3 4BB

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday 10.00 – 17.50

Tate Liverpool website

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24
Jul
17

Exhibition: ‘Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’, Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017′ at William Mora Galleries, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 13th July – 27th July 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954) 'Children Playing' 2017 (detail)

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Children Playing (detail)
2017
Digital prints on metallic silver acrylic
39 x 163cm

 

 

Conquering orientalism

A beautiful, sensitive, sensual even, exhibition by the wonderful Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries. The artist forms a living relationship with early images of women and children from the Prefecture of Florina – mostly taken from that most vernacular form of photograph, the postcard – something that was sold as souvenir to the tourist trade, or posted to loved ones overseas.

Gertsakis identifies with their ethnicities and beliefs and physical appearances, transmuting their identities and narratives by printing these ephemeral objects on steel, that most durable of substances, which makes them shine under the gallery lights. The photographs both transcend time and transcend the physicality of the actual photograph… making their hidden histories a precious, and contemporary, thing. Like their protagonists, the steel makes the images and the people in them hardy enough to survive the vicissitudes thrust upon these communal people.

Gertsakis observes, “My voice is in placing myself between the present and the past as it has been generated by the cameras of others.” Beautifully enunciated. With her deep familial roots in the area – one that endured nearly five hundred years of Islamic rule and culture, as well as multiple ethnic communities and religions; Christian Greeks, Slavs, Bulgarians, Jews, Turkic and Albanian Moslems, Vlachs and Gypsies – Gertsakis creates witness and testament to her own communal familial past.

The rare and unique costumes come from the artists personal collection and when I was in the gallery space there seemed to be this electricity flowing between the images and the cloth. It was almost as though the people in the photographs were dancing again, were speaking to us today of their trials and tribulations, of their energy to survive the turmoil of the first decades of the 20th century.

Elizabeth is first generation… her father and grandfather and grandmothers… were those people…. exactly as they appear. They survived the yoke of the oppressor and conquered orientalism. These are their valuable, inspiring stories, beautifully told.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

.
Many thankx to William Mora Galleries and Elizabeth Gertsakis for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All installation photographs © Marcus Bunyan and Elizabeth Gertsakis

 

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of 'The Magnificent Empire' Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017' by Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries, Richmond

 

Installation view of the exhibition Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017 by Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries, Richmond
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954) 'Florina' 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Florina
2017
Digital prints on metallic silver acrylic
39 x 174cm

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954) 'Dancing Macedonian Girls' 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Dancing Macedonian Girls
2017
Digital prints on metallic silver acrylic
39 x 136cm

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of 'The Magnificent Empire' Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017' by Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries, Richmond

 

Installation view of the exhibition Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017 by Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries, Richmond
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

Installation view of the exhibition 'Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of 'The Magnificent Empire' Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017' by Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries, Richmond

 

Installation view of the exhibition Girls In Our Town: Women in the Shadow of ‘The Magnificent Empire’ Florina Prefecture & Region, Macedonia Greece 1900-1917, 2017 by Elizabeth Gertsakis at William Mora Galleries, Richmond
Photo: Marcus Bunyan

 

 

I was born in the town of Florina, Macedonia, Greece. This town is in the top north western part of Greece adjacent to Albania, FYROM and Bulgaria. My family migrated to Australia in 1954 and I was educated in Australia

Florina was an oriental (ανατολικό) town belonging to the Ottoman Empire which controlled Greece from 1453 to 1922; the people of Florina were a mesh of multiple ethnic communities and religions; Christian Greeks, Slavs, Bulgarians, Jews, Turkic and Albanian Moslems, Vlachs and Gypsies. These religious groups lived and worked together in close proximity. Florina was a typical Balkan town in the later stages of the decline of Ottoman rule in the Balkans.

From 1903-1918, and including World War One (1914) and the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 the entire northern territories of the Graeco-Balkan Peninsula (including Serbia) suffered great population losses through wars, cataclysmic population displacements (ethnic cleansing) and population exchanges. Refugee diaspora was moving in all directions, across from east to west in both directions. This vast political re-construction of Europe and the Balkans may have initially started from wars of revolutionary independence from the Ottomans, and subsequent internal Balkan expansionist claims to new territory, but it was the conflagration of the First World War that irreversibly rocked its cultural foundations for the future, beyond any political value in the creation of new national states in the Balkans and Asia Minor.

This history of diaspora and displacement laid down a new pattern for the twentieth century and into the twenty first century; a set of historical problems that had and continue to have irreversible impact on the function of community memory in relation to identity experienced by each succeeding wave of refugees and migrants who abandon everything in the simple need to escape and to survive.

I have chosen to highlight the consequences of cultural uprooting on memory and identity through the images of women from Florina, taken by various known and unknown photographers in the period from 1900-1918. These photographs were taken by people who may have had commercial or political intentions in the first instance but the resulting image does not always remain in the control of its original maker. Gender is important in this exhibition because it has been traditionally the female that carries the symbolic function of ritual and memory in relation to culture and identity, and ultimately, the idea and meaning of where belonging and home is. In other words the responsibility falls on the refugee and migrant woman if there is any question or ambivalence or sense of lack. This responsibility remains a constant memorial and cognitive challenge to the psyche of the female survivor, refugee and migrant.

I have used archival photographic images and reconfigured them to create a narrative representing difference. They have been extracted from their solitary sources from commercial photography, press photography and the archives of the Photographic Section of the French Army (Campaign d’Orient 1916-1918).

The installations invite entry into unknown individual histories and emphasis shared past communal lives even though there were multiple political differences and historical consequences. The original images were the result of various kinds of personal and spatial exploitation, both desired and undesired. Photography as a commercial technology played a profound role in the identification and changing of the global meaning of identity that resulted from death during war, disruption and the re-allocation of populations.

Today this usage of images of diaspora continues in the same way via 24/7 news and the internet. I feel it is important to examine female representation during times of crisis and trauma. My desire is that this exhibition encourages multiple narratives and a focus on recognition and justice for minorities internationally and in Australia, as well as the recognition and diversity of individual authenticity. Within the stereotype I look for authenticity, not for any kind of ethnic purity; and I know this is the case both within multicultural as well as the liberal concerns for justice and human rights issues in regard to minorities in contemporary art. As a woman it is the moment when, through my life in art, history and photography, that I accepted the bequest of my own historically difficult position as being the reality of my own identity.

Elizabeth Gertsakis, July 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954) 'Lerinki' 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Lerinki
2017
Digital prints on metallic silver acrylic
39 x 72cm

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954) 'Beautiful Macedonians' 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Beautiful Macedonians
2017
Digital prints on metallic silver acrylic
39 x 68cm

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954) 'Noli Me Tangere' (Don't Touch Me) 2017

 

Elizabeth Gertsakis (Australian, b. 1954)
Noli Me Tangere (Don’t Touch Me)
2017
Digital prints on metallic silver acrylic
60 x 91cm

 

 

William Mora Galleries
60 Tanner St, Richmond VIC 3121, Australia
Phone: +61 3 9429 1199

Opening hours:
Wednesday – Friday 10am – 4pm or by appointment

William Mora Galleries website

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18
Sep
16

Exhibition: ‘The Intimate World of Josef Sudek’ at Jeu de Paume, Paris

Exhibition dates: 7th June – 25th September 2016

 

Josef Sudek. 'St. Vitus cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic' c. 1926

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
St. Vitus cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
c. 1926
Silver gelatin print

 

 

A poetry of the everyday

Josef Sudek, a one-armed man lugging around a large format camera, is one of my top ten photographers of all time.

His photographs, sometimes surreal, always sensitive, have a profound sensibility that affect the soul. Melancholy and mysterious by turns, they investigate the inner life of objects which stand as metaphors for the inner life of the artist. A form of healing after his horrific injuries and the loss of his arm during the First World War, the photographs purportedly look outwards upon the world but are actually interior meditations on life, death and the nature of being. Light emerges from the darkness; understanding from tribulation; and Sudek, in Jungian terms, integrates his ego into his soul through the process of (photographic) individuation – whereby the personal and collective unconscious (his hurt and damage) are brought into consciousness (eg. by means of dreams, active imagination, or free association) to be assimilated into the whole personality. It is a completely natural process necessary for the integration of the psyche and, in Sudek’s life, was integral to his healing from the vicissitudes of war.

Using Pictorialism as the starting point for his exploration of the world, Sudek never abandons the creation of “atmosphere” in his photographs, even as the images become modernist, surrealist and offer a new way of seeing the world. Having myself photographed extensively at night, and from the interior of my flat, I can understand Sudek’s fascination with both locations: the quiet of night, the stillness, the clarity of vision and thought; the interior as exterior, the projection of interior thoughts onto an external surface reflected back into the camera lens. “Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.” Except the cloak of darkness is not impenetrable, as light cannot exist without darkness.

Pace, his photographs are breath / taking. They are exhalations of the spirit.

Sudek’s ability to transcend the literal, his ability to transform the objectal quality of photography ranks him as one of the top photographers of all time. He synthesises  a poetry of objects, a poetry of the everyday, and projects the folds of his mind onto the visual field (through “tears” of condensation on the window, through labyrinths of paper and glass, such as in Labyrinth on my table, 1967, below). As a form of self-actualisation – the desire to become everything that one is capable of becoming – Sudek’s photographs interrogate that chthonic darkness that lurks in the heart of everyone of us, our dark night of the soul. In that process of discovery (who am I, what kind of human being am I, how can I heal myself), he finds redemption.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

If you would like to read more about the life and work of Josef Sudek, please read the excellent article by Ashley Booth Klein, “Josef Sudek and The Life of Objects,” Obelisk Vol. 2 Issue 1, Winter 2015 [Online] Cited 18/09/2016

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Many thankx to Jeu de Paume for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

“… [Sudek] referred to photography as meteorology to describe the significance of the atmosphere, and how a photographer must predict the right conditions for photographing and enlarging prints. His work became sharper with richer tones, and his compositions became more illusive. The foregrounds and backgrounds of his photographs, particularly in his “Window” series began to oscillate. These achievements were perhaps made more attainable by his focus on inanimate objects over which he had more control than living things. Most of his cityscapes became deserted, as he directed his camera at statues or replaced what would have been a living subject with such emulative sculptures.

In effect, Sudek’s substitution of the inanimate for the animate brought the objects he photographed to life in his mind. He called the enormous decaying trees in the woods of Bohemia “sleeping giants” and would take portraits of masks and statuary heads, transforming them into frozen, worn grotesqueries. His personification of objects is even more vivid in his studio photography, particularly after 1939, the oncoming of World War II and the Nazi occupation of Prague. As the city was oppressed by German troops, the artist retreated into his studio and insulated himself sentimentally with still lifes. To an interviewer, he explained, “I love the life of objects. When the children go to bed, the objects come to life. I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects.” He devoted endless hours to arranging and photographing the everyday – apples, eggs, bread, and shells – and special objects given to him by friends, such as feathers, spectacles, and watches, which he called “remembrances” of that person. A photograph from his series “Remembrances of Architect Rothmayer, Mr. Magician,” for example, portrays objects respectfully placed in a row on a desk, as if artifacts from an archeological site, from which the history of a life or character of a man could be divined.

“Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” Sudek said, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.” This statement is perhaps telling of Sudek’s relationship to death and life, as a result of the loss of his arm and the manner in which he suffered the loss. In the 1963 film, “Zit Svuj Zivot” (Living Your Life), a documentary portrait of Sudek by Evald Strom, we see a sensitive man describing his efforts to photograph the reality of the objects around him, not as if he were bringing the objects to life, but as if it was his purpose to represent the lives of objects as they truly are. Of the image of a vase of wildflowers, he says “This is a photograph of wildflowers, my attempt to photograph wildflowers,” and of an old lamp, “This is a celebrated lamp; it holds a lot of memories.””

Ashley Booth Klein, “Josef Sudek and The Life of Objects,” Obelisk Vol. 2 Issue 1, Winter 2015 [Online] Cited 18/09/2016

 

 

“I like to tell stories about the life of inanimate objects, to relate something mysterious: the seventh side of a dice,” mused Josef Sudek. “Everything around us, dead or alive, in the eyes of a crazy photographer mysteriously takes on many variations,” he explained, “so that a seemingly dead object comes to life through light or by its surroundings.”

 

 

 

 

On display are works that are the result of Sudek’s photographic experiments carried out within the privacy of his own studio, images of the garden seen from his window, and photographs of adventures further afield. The artist enjoyed meandering through the streets of Prague and its surrounding suburbs, and made frequent excursions to the nearby countryside. Sudek’s enduring fascination with light, and its absence, is at the root of some of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century. Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.

As a photographer, Sudek was particularly concerned with the quality of the photographic print, an essential component in terms of the expressive potential of an image. His mastery of the pigment printing process enabled him to produce highly atmospheric and evocative images, thereby reaping all of the reflective and descriptive power of the gelatin silver print. The exhibition presents work from Sudek’s early career, but also features photographs from a pivotal period of experimentation and innovation, beginning in the 1940s. Focusing on the technical and formal aspects of the medium of photography, Sudek created pigment prints, halftone prints, puridlos (photographs between two windows) and veteše (photographs inserted into old frames), techniques which allowed him to transform the objectal quality of photography.

The loss of his right arm during the First World War and the difficulties he now encountered in transporting his view camera did not dampen his passion for photography. Sudek’s studio window became an object of abiding fascination – rather like the surface of a canvas – reflecting moments of exquisite tenderness and hope when a flowering branch brushed against its pane, or of poignant melancholy when he observed the world beyond his window transformed by the playful infinity of mist. His room with a view allowed him to capture, on film, his love of Prague. His photographs demonstrate both a precision and a depth of feeling, fitting odes to the rich history and architectural complexity of the Czech capital.

Like many artists of his generation marked by their experience of war, Sudek expresses a particularly acute awareness of the dark and tormented aspects of human existence – feelings that would inspire some of his most melancholy and most moving pictures. A photograph taken at night, through the glass pane of his window, shows a city plunged into darkness during the Occupation of the Second World War, and communicates a sentiment of unspeakable despair – a dramatic illustration of Sudek’s technical ability to transcend the literal.

The first part of the exhibition features images that herald the photographer’s later work, showing his early landscapes, portraits of fellow patients at Invalidovna, the Prague hospice for war invalids like Sudek, his hesitant foray into modernism, and his interior shots of St. Vitus Cathedral. Through images that recount the narrative of his life, the viewer gains access to Sudek’s inner world, and an insight into his immediate environment, the views and objects he loved, his studio and garden. His endless walks in Prague found expression in the views of the city and its surroundings, as well as in photographs of its more sordid “suburbs”, a subject explored by other Prague artists. The eastern and northern areas of Bohemia, the Beskid Mountains and the Mionší forest were other destinations close to the photographer’s heart. The exhibition “The Intimate World of Josef Sudek” provides a fascinating panorama of the work of this unique artist.

Text from the Jeu de Paume website

 

Beginnings

Sudek’s first photographic prints – small and largely assembled in albums – were mainly views of the countryside taken along the Elbe River when he travelled from Prague to Kolín to visit his mother between 1916 and 1922.

Using processes such as gelatin silver and bromoil he showed a talent for printing his pictures in a style that favoured soft edges and broad swathes of tone. Here Sudek was not so much studying the effects of light as he was observing the conventions of Pictorialism, a photography movement that straddled the last decade of the nineteenth century and the first decades of the twentieth century, and was based on a strong Romantic ethos. Pictorialist photographers enhanced atmospheric effects with such processes as carbon and gum bichromate. Sudek began using the carbon process regularly and in a personally expressive manner in the late 1940s.

His Invalidovna and St. Vitus Cathedral series in Prague, begun in the first half of the 1920s, show him exploring interior spaces where light emphasises both the profane and the sacred. The play of bands of sunlight and darkness is a central feature of the composition and, indeed, of the life of the photograph.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Dimanche après-midi à l’île Kolín' c. 1922–1926

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Dimanche après-midi à l’île Kolín [Sunday afternoon at Kolín island]
c. 1922-1926
Gelatin silver print
28.4 × 28.7cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Achat, 2000
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Rue de Prague' 1924

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Rue de Prague
1924
Gelatin silver print
8.3 × 8.2cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Portrait de mon ami Funke' 1924

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Portrait de mon ami Funke [Portrait of my friend Funke]
1924
Gelatin silver print
28.5 × 22.6cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Achat, 1985
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

“Josef Sudek: The World at My Window” is the first exhibition in France since 1988 to cover Sudek’s entire career and spotlight the different phases of his work. Coming in the wake of several exhibitions at the Jeu de Paume devoted to Eastern European photographers of the early twentieth century, among them André Kertész and Francois Kollar, this one comprises some 130 vintage prints by the Czech artist. Bringing to bear a vision at once subjective and timeless, Sudek captures the ongoing changes in Prague’s natural world and landscapes.

His early profession as a bookbinder came to an abrupt halt when he was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian army in Bohemia and sent to the Italian front. After the First World War he came back to Prague wounded; the loss of his right arm meant abandoning bookbinding, and he turned to photography. After revisiting the battlefield in Italy once more he returned, in despair, to Prague: “I found the place,” he recounted, “but my arm wasn’t there. Since then I’ve never gone anywhere. I didn’t find what I was looking for.”

A study grant enabled him to train at the state-run school of graphic arts in Prague, where he mixed with practitioners of Pictorialism, a photographic movement aiming at achieving colour and texture effects similar to those of painting. He started concentrating on architectural details, always waiting until the light was absolutely perfect. Little by little he gave up the Pictorialist ambiences of his views of St Vitus’s cathedral, opting for a pure, straightforward approach which the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz summed up as “maximum detail for maximum simplification”.

During the Second World War Sudek began photographing the window giving onto his garden, the result being the celebrated Window of My Studio series. He then shifted his focus to the accumulated jumble of objects in the studio, producing a further series titled Labyrinths. Light was an inexhaustible theme in his work, orchestrating the seasons, making the invisible visible and transporting us into another world. As if to escape the leaden context of the War and then of Communism, Sudek took refuge in music, especially that of his compatriot Leoš Janáček. A true music lover, he gradually built up a substantial collection of recordings which he played to his friends during improvised concerts in his studio.

The second half of his career saw Sudek abandon photography’s traditional subjects as he explored the outskirts of Prague with his black view camera on his shoulder. Known as “the poet of Prague”, he became an emblematic figure in the Czech capital. Discreet and solitary, he gradually withdrew from the city’s art scene, leaving his studio only to prowl the streets at night with his imagination as his guide.

Sudek’s photographs rarely include people; his focus was more on empty urban and rural spaces. Fascinated by the streets of Prague, the city’s deserted parks and public gardens, and the wooded Bohemian landscapes his mastery of light rendered sublime, he preferred the un-enlarged contact print as a means of preserving all the detail and authenticity of the places he roamed through.  His work moved towards experiments with light. In photographs shot through with simplicity and sensitivity, Sudek foregrounds a kind of poetry of the everyday, using the interplay of light and shade to achieve a kind of fluctuation between interior and exterior.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1948

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1948
Gelatin silver print
17 × 11.2cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek, 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1954

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1954
Gelatin silver print
22.9 × 16.8cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Fenêtre de mon atelier' c. 1940–1950

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
La Fenêtre de mon atelier [The window of my studio]
c. 1940-1950
Gelatin silver print
28.1 × 22.9cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

The world from my window

Sudek was not content with making single, unrelated images. He generally worked in projects or series, creating extended visual explorations of the phenomena and scenes he viewed – often from the closed window of his studio, which separated his private studio-home from the exterior world. In the series From My Window it was the endlessly varying states of transformation of droplets of water that he watched streaming down his windowpane. His images invite us to contemplate, with great fascination, the physical cycles of water and the phenomenon of rivulets coursing down a surface – like human tears. Reminding us even of [Paul] Verlaine’s “There is weeping in my heart like the rain upon the city…” Sometimes the melancholy mood of these images is leavened by a rose in a vase on the windowsill or tendrils of leaves announcing the arrival of spring.

 

There is weeping in my heart
like the rain falling on the town.
What is this languor
that pervades my heart?

Oh the patter of the rain
on the ground and the roofs!
For a heart growing weary
oh the song of the rain!

There is weeping without cause
in this disheartened heart.
What! No betrayal?
There’s no reason for this grief.

Truly the worst pain
is not knowing why,
without love or hatred,
my heart feels so much pain.

Paul Verlaine. “Il pleure dans mon coeur”

 

Josef Sudek. 'Quatre saisons: l’été' c. 1940-1954

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Quatre saisons: l’été [Four seasons: summer]
c. 1940-1954
From the series “La Fenêtre de mon atelier” [The window of my studio]
Gelatin silver print
22.6 × 17.1cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'La Dernière Rose' 1956

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
La Dernière Rose [The Last Rose]
1956
Gelatin silver print
28.2 x 23.2cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession Josef Sudek

 

 

Night walks

Sudek’s preoccupation with darkness dates to the Nazi Occupation of Prague from March 1939 until the end of the war. Experiencing his city plunged into nights of enforced darkness Sudek explored the absence of light in his pictures. We know that this was more than a technical exercise, for he wrote “Memories” and “Restless Night” on the verso of one nocturnal photograph dated 1943.

The curfews imposed on citizens at the time made it unlikely that Sudek ventured out into the city after dark during wartime. Neither agile nor inconspicuous with his large-format camera slung over his increasingly hunched back, Sudek would have risked his life had he done so. The small courtyard of his studio on Ujezd street was hidden from the road, however, and one or two lights in neighbouring apartments served as beacons. Well after sundown he would photograph the syncopated play of blurs of light against the wall of impenetrable blackness.

 

The spirit of place

Sudek visited and photographed places that held either personal or spiritual significance for him: the landscape along the Elbe River, Invalidovna, St. Vitus Cathedral, his studio, Prague’s complex streets and open squares, the majestic Prague Castle, the city’s surrounds, and Frenštát pod Radhoštĕm where he spent summers with friends. Hukvaldy, home of Leoš Janaček, the composer whose music he loved, was a particularly favoured haunt. This was true also of the ancient Mionší Forest where he navigated his way through dense brush and forests by way of shortcuts that he created and playfully named. The Beskid Mountains also served as spiritual retreat. Although he was an urbanite in many respects, Sudek’s love of nature and sense of despair for its desecration is strongly expressed in Sad Landscapes, his series of images made in the Most region where industrialisation ravaged the countryside in the 1950s.

 

The life of objects

Sudek collected everything. Today he would be known as a hoarder. But his obsession served him well, for out of the chaos of his small studio and living spaces he carefully selected a variety of these objects to photograph. From delicate feathers to crumpled paper and tinfoil, multi-faceted drinking glasses, flowers, fruit, seashells, envelopes, flasks, frames, prisms, candelabras, string and shoe moulds, the subjects ranged from the mundane to the exotic. Once chosen, the set-up was lovingly composed – often in subtly changed configurations with other objects – and carefully lit before being memorialised in either pigment or gelatin silver prints.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Le Jardin Royal' c. 1940–1946

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Le Jardin Royal [The Royal Garden]
c. 1940-1946
Procédé pigmentaire au papier charbon [Carbon pigment on paper]
16.1 × 11.7cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]' 1950

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
1950
Gelatin silver print
22.8 × 29cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit' c. 1950-1959

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
c. 1950-1959
Gelatin silver print
12 × 16.7cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Prague pendant la nuit' c. 1950-1959

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Prague pendant la nuit [Prague at night]
c. 1950-1959
Gelatin silver print
12.2 × 17.3cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Le Jardin de Rothmayer' 1954-1959

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Le Jardin de Rothmayer [The Rothmayer Garden]
1954-1959
Gelatin silver print
16.9 × 22.9cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

Entitled “The Intimate World of Josef Sudek”, this exhibition is the first of this scale to revisit the life and work of Josef Sudek (Kolín, 1896 – Prague, 1976) within its socio-geographical and historical context: Prague during the first half of the twentieth century, at a time when the Czech capital was a veritable hub of artistic activity. The exhibition features a selection of 130 works spanning the totality of Sudek’s career, from 1920 to 1976, and allows the public to examine the extent to which his photography was a reflection of his personal relationship to the surrounding world. On display are works that are the result of Sudek’s photographic experiments carried out within the privacy of his own studio, images of the garden seen from his window, and photographs of adventures further afield. The artist enjoyed meandering through the streets of Prague and its surrounding suburbs, and made frequent excursions to the nearby countryside. Sudek’s enduring fascination with light, and its absence, is at the root of some of the most haunting photographs of the twentieth century. Nature, architecture, streets and objects are magnified by his sensitivity and mastery of the effects of light, contrasting with the impenetrable cloak of darkness.

As a photographer, Sudek was particularly concerned with the quality of the photographic print, an essential component in terms of the expressive potential of an image. His mastery of the pigment printing process enabled him to produce highly atmospheric and evocative images, thereby reaping all of the reflective and descriptive power of the gelatin silver print.

The exhibition presents work from Sudek’s early career, but also features photographs from a pivotal period of experimentation and innovation, beginning in the 1940s. Focusing on the technical and formal aspects of the medium of photography, Sudek created pigment prints, halftone prints, puridlos (photographs between two windows) and veteše (photographs inserted into old frames), techniques which allowed him to transform the objectal quality of photography. The loss of his right arm during the First World War and the difficulties he now encountered in transporting his view camera did not dampen his passion for photography.

Sudek’s studio window became an object of abiding fascination – rather like the surface of a canvas – reflecting moments of exquisite tenderness and hope when a flowering branch brushed against its pane, or of poignant melancholy when he observed the world beyond his window transformed by the playful infinity of mist. His room with a view allowed him to capture, on film, his love of Prague. His photographs demonstrate both a precision and a depth of feeling, fitting odes to the rich history and architectural complexity of the Czech capital.

Like many artists of his generation marked by their experience of war, Sudek expresses a particularly acute awareness of the dark and tormented aspects of human existence – feelings that would inspire some of his most melancholy and most moving pictures. A photograph taken at night, through the glass pane of his window, shows a city plunged into darkness during the Occupation of the Second World War, and communicates a sentiment of unspeakable despair – a dramatic illustration of Sudek’s technical ability to transcend the literal.

Through images that recount the narrative of his life, the viewer gains access to Sudek’s inner world, and an insight into his immediate environment, the views and objects he loved, his studio and garden. His endless walks in Prague found expression in the views of the city and its surroundings, as well as in photographs of its more sordid “suburbs”, a subject explored by other Prague artists. The eastern and northern areas of Bohemia, the Beskid Mountains and the Mionší forest were other destinations close to the photographer’s heart.

Text from Jeu de Paume

 

New ways of seeing

Although more influenced by prevailing photographic conventions in the beginning, Sudek came to show an openness to experimenting with new ways of composing and printing his images. In the late 1920s, Sudek photographed objects designed by modernist Ladislav Sutnar, thus creating angled views of furniture with reflective surfaces and ceramics of pure form.

Sudek’s most successful foray into modernism is his experimentation with grotesque (surreal) subjects such as mannequins, decaying sculptures and the accoutrements of the architect Otto Rothmayer’s garden. There is little doubt that in the fragmented figurative sculptures Sudek was recalling some of the human devastation that he witnessed on the battlefields of the First World War.

 

Josef Sudek. 'Statue' c. 1948-1964

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Statue
c. 1948-1964
Gelatin silver print
9 × 14cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Dans le jardin' 1954-1959

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Dans le jardin [In the garden]
1954-1959
Gelatin silver print
17 × 23.3cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinthe sur ma table' 1967

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Labyrinthe sur ma table [Labyrinth on my table]
1967
Épreuve gélatino-argentique
39 × 22.9cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Labyrinthe de verre' c. 1968-1972

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Labyrinthe de verre [Glass Maze]
vers 1968-1972
Gelatin silver print
39 × 22.9cm
Musée des beaux-arts du Canada, Ottawa. Don anonyme, 2010
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

Josef Sudek. 'Sans titre (Nature morte sur le rebord de la fenêtre)' 1951

 

Josef Sudek (Czech, 1896-1976)
Sans titre (Nature morte sur le rebord de la fenêtre) [Untitled (Still life on the windowsill)]
1951
Montage par le photographe c. 1960.
Two silver gelatin prints, glass plate, lead
48.2 × 39.2cm
Musée des arts décoratifs, Prague.
© Succession de Josef Sudek

 

 

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75008 Paris
métro Concorde
Phone: 01 47 03 12 50

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Wednesday – Sunday: 11.00 – 19.00
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25
Oct
14

Exhibition: ‘The World c. 1914. Colour Photography Before the Great War’ at Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin

Exhibition dates: 1st August – 2nd November 2014

Albert Kahn, Sergej M. Prokudin-Gorskii, Adolf Miethe

 

 

Stephane Passet. 'Morocco, Benguerir' December 1912 / January 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Morocco, Benguerir
December 1912 / January 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

One of the most beautiful postings that I have ever done on the blog. The colours, the people, the faces, the places: magnificent.

This was Sarajevo two years before Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated there, catalyst that sparked the beginning of The Great War. Bread and dirty clothes, rough hands and mud-stained shoes.

I could find nothing about either of the two photographers (Stéphane Passet and Auguste Leon) online, which is a pity because I would have liked to have known more about them. Can you imagine the journey of Stéphane Passet in those days with plate cameras:

Turkey: September 1912
Morocco: December 1912 / January 1913
China: May 1913
Mongolia: July 1913
India: December 1913 – January 1914
France: June 1914

Marcus

.
Many thankx to Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

 

 

Stephane Passet. 'Turkey, Istanbul September' 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Turkey, Istanbul
September 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo' 15 October 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo
15 October 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo' (detail) 15 October 1912

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo' (detail) 15 October 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Sarajevo (details)
15 October 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Mongolia, near Ulaanbaatar' 17 July 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Mongolia, near Ulaanbaatar
17 July 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Egypt, Giza' 6 January 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Egypt, Giza
6 January 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'India, Uttar Pradesh' 19 - 21 January 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
India, Uttar Pradesh
19 – 21 January 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar' 29 April 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mostar
29 April 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

The Archives of the Planet (French: Les Archives de la Planète) was photographical endeavour to document buildings and cultures.

In 1909, Kahn travelled with his chauffeur and photographer, Alfred Dutertre to Japan on business and returned with many photographs of the journey. On his return to Europe, he decided to go back, this time with the professional photographer Augustus Leon, for a second two-month trip to South America in 1909 where he visited Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil. All materials became the first of the “Archives of the Planet” based in Paris: a collection of colour photographs (process autochrome plates, invented by the Lumiere brothers) and movies.

This prompted him to begin a project collecting a photographic record of the entire Earth. He appointed Jean Brunhes as the project director, and sent photographers to every continent to record images of the planet using the first colour photography, autochrome plates, and early cinematography.

Professional operators were recruited and sent around the world and in France to photograph (colour) and film (the movement) as evidence “aspects, practices and modes of human activity, including the fatal disappearance is only a matter of time.” Among them, the photographer Stéphane Passet conducted between 1912 and 1914, several trips to China, Mongolia and in the British Raj (India and Pakistan), yielding several thousand Autochromes and movies on the people and customs of these country. At the same time Kahn sent his operators, including Augustus Leon, to Scandinavia and more than twenty European countries on the eve of the Great War. Kahn’s photographers began documenting France in 1914, just days before the outbreak of World War I, and by liaising with the military managed to record both the devastation of war, and the struggle to continue everyday life and agricultural work. Other parts of France are not forgotten either, Kahn sending Brittany operators to take monochromes from 1909-1931. In 1926 and 1927, it was to Japan that he sends an operator, Roger Dumas.

Between 1909 and 1931 they collected 72,000 colour photographs and 183,000 meters of film. These form a unique historical record of 50 countries, known as The Archives of the Planet. Between 1909 and 1931, it is thus some 72,000 autochrome (first global fund of early colour photography), 4000 black-and-white, and a hundred hours of footage that will be reported from fifty country. These images are the iconographic side of a large documentation project that will take other forms (publications, documentation centres, etc.) and whose goal is a better understanding of other nations for a better deal in order to prevent conflicts. The images are also projected for this purpose to the guests, often prestigious people from around the world, as well as in higher education structures.

Translated from the French Wikipedia website

 

Stephane Passet. 'Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar' 25 July 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Mongolia, Ulaanbaatar
25 July 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'India, Bombay' 17 December 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
India, Bombay
17 December 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'France, Paris' 24 June 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
France, Paris (Family in the Rue du Pot-de-Fer)
24 June 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Serbia, Krusevac' 29 April 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Serbia, Krusevac
29 April 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Auguste Leon. 'Serbia, Krusevac' (detail) 29 April 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Serbia, Krusevac (detail)
29 April 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

In commemoration of the outbreak of the First World War, the Martin-Gropius-Bau is presenting an exhibition entitled The World c. 1914 – Colour Photography Before the Great War, which features nearly forgotten colour photographs and films commissioned by the French banker Albert Kahn (1860-1940) before the First World War. As the nations of Europe were already arming themselves for battle, Kahn, who was excited by the Lumière Brothers’ colour photography process, dispatched photographers out into the world to develop a unique photo archive. Over 70,000 colour photos have survived in this collection. They represent an immense ethnographic treasure and were also intended to perform a mission of peace: Bringing the outside world closer to home. Kahn’s activities were intended to help secure the fragile peace. The exhibition brings this treasure trove of images from a long forgotten world to light.

For Albert Kahn, knowledge of peoples, buildings, landscapes and lifestyles was directly related to his desire for global peace: People who know and respect one another, and who encounter one another face to face, do not need to wage war. In 1908/09, excited by the new autochrome process of the brothers August and Louis Lumière, Kahn commissioned his photographers to document the world with the goal of assembling an archive of colour photographs from Europe, Asia and Africa. They photographed local scenes and people in typical clothing as well as monuments of cultural history. From this global treasure trove, more than 160 images have been selected for this exhibition. The autochromes from the Kahn archive form the centrepiece. The exhibition also displays images and projections by Adolf Miethe (1862-1927) and Sergei M. Prokudin-Gorskii (1863-1944).

Adolf Miethe, the inventor of a panchromatic film-coating process and thus the creator of three-colour printing, played a significant role in the development of colour photography. His presentation before the Kaiser led to a commission to create a colour documentation of German landscapes for the St. Louis World’s Fair. His work also enjoyed great popularity as collectible pictures sold with chocolate bars. This resulted in the “Stollwerck Album” – Germany’s first coloured photographic album.

Moreover, the Miethe Process inspired the Russian photographer Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii. His work is present in the form of approximately twenty-five colour prints and fifty projected photos. A special item is on loan from the German Museum in Munich: The original projector with which Sergei Prokudin-Gorskii exhibited his work to Nicholas II, the last tsar. In 1909, as a result of this presentation, Prokudin-Gorskii received a commission to record the Russian Empire in 10,000 photos. Between 1909 and 1915, Gorskii made several thousand photographs of great brilliance. He documented the cultural diversity of the tsarist empire from the Crimean Peninsula to Siberia.

Text from the Martin-Gropius-Bau website

 

Auguste Leon. 'Egypt, Assuan' 20 January 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Auguste Leon
Egypt, Assuan
20 January 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Morocco, Fes' January 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Morocco, Fes
January 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'China, Beijing' 26 May 1913

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
China, Beijing
26 May 1913
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Turkey, Istanbul, Pera' (today: Beyoğlu) September 1912

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Turkey, Istanbul, Pera (today: Beyoğlu)
September 1912
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

Stephane Passet. 'Le Moulin Rouge, Boulevard de Clichy (18°) Paris' 24 June 1914

 

Albert Kahn, Les Archives de la planète

Stéphane Passet
Le Moulin Rouge, Boulevard de Clichy (18°), Paris
24th June 1914
Autochrome
© Musée Albert-Kahn, Departement des Hauts-de-Seine

 

 

Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin
Niederkirchnerstraße 7
Corner Stresemannstr. 110
10963 Berlin
Phone: +49 (0)30 254 86-0

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Wednesday to Monday 10 – 20 hrs
Tuesday closed

Martin-Gropius-Bau website

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20
Sep
14

Exhibition: ‘Christina Broom’ at the Museum of London