Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic 1919 – 1933
from May 1 to August 30, 2015
Venice, Museo Correr
New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933, the first comprehensive show in Italy and the United States to explore the themes that characterize the dominant artistic trends of the Weimar Republic, is organized by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in association with the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and with the support of 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24 ORE . This exhibition features approximately 140 paintings, photographs, drawings, and prints by more than 40 artists, many of whom are little known in the United States and Italy.
Key figures – Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, August Sander, and Max Beckmann – whose heterogeneous careers are essential to understanding 20th German modernism, are presented together with lesser known artists, including Hans Finsler, Georg Schrimpf, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Carl Grossberg, and Aenne Biermann, among others. Special attention is devoted to the juxtaposition of painting and photography, offering the rare opportunity to examine both the similarities and differences between the movement’s diverse media.
During the 14 years of the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), artists in Germany grappled with the devastating aftermath of World War I: the social, cultural, and economic effects of rapid modernization and urbanization; staggering unemployment and despair; shifting gender identities; and developments in technology and industry. Situated between the end of World War I and the Nazi assumption of power, Germany’s first democracy thrived as a laboratory for widespread cultural achievement, witnessing the end of Expressionism, the exuberant anti-art activities of the Dadaists, the establishment of the Bauhaus design school, and the emergence of a new realism.
This new turn to realism, best recognized by a 1925 exhibition in Mannheim, Neue Sachlichkeit (of which New Objectivity is the English translation), has at times been called Post-Expressionism, neo-naturalism, Verism, and Magic Realism. The diverse group of artists associated with this new realism was not unified by manifesto, political tendency, or geography, they shared a skepticism regarding the direction Germany society was taking in the years following World War I and an awareness of the human isolation these changes brought about.
Germany’s financial, sociopolitical, and emotional defeat in WWI took a profound toll on the nation. In contrast to their Expressionist predecessors—who had enthusiastically embraced the war before confronting its harrowing realities on the battlefield—practitioners of the New Objectivity movement were disillusioned with the complex realities of the new Germany. Digressing from Expressionism’s penchant for bold, abstract subjectivity, the Weimar Republic’s burgeoning group of artists favored realism, precision, objective sobriety, and the appropriation of Old Master painting techniques, including a nostalgic return to portraiture and heightened attention to the appearance of surface.
New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933 is organized into five thematic sections: Life in Democracy and the Aftermath of the War examines both the polar conditions dividing Germany’s rising bourgeoisie and those suffered most from the war’s aftereffects, including maimed war veterans, the unemployed, prostitutes, and victims of political corruption and violence; The City and the Nature of Landscape addresses the growing disparity between an increasingly industrialized urbanity and nostalgic longing for the pastoral; Still Life and Commodities highlights a new form of the traditional still life in which quotidian objects–often indicative of mass production–are staged to create object-portraits; Man and Machine looks to artists’ attempts to reconcile the transformative yet dehumanizing effects of rapid industrialization; and lastly, New Identities: Type and Portraiture showcases a new trend in portraiture in which subjects are rendered as social typecasts rather than individual subjects.
Stephanie Barron, Exhibition Curator and Senior Curator of Modern Art at LACMA, said, “Close examinations of this period still yield new insights into a complicated chapter in modern German art. With very different backgrounds, these artists—some among the most well-known artists of the century, while others are virtually unknown outside Germany—eschewed emotion, gesture, and ecstasy, and sought instead to record and unmask the world around them with a close, impersonal, restrained gaze. Together, they created a collective portrait of a society in uneasy transition, in images that are as striking today as they were in their own time.”
“There is no doubt that New Objectivity’s many approaches to realism—sometimes critical or satirical; sometimes chilly and unperturbed, or amazing and magical; other times devoted to rendering the world in minute detail, or observing it through the distortion produced by the photographic lens—provided vivid artistic solutions to the challenges of a tumultuous era,” said Gabriella Belli, Director of the Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia. “During this short period artists were free to create compelling representations of their longing for truth.”
New Objectivity: Modern German Art in the Weimar Republic, 1919–1933 debuts at Museo Correr (May 1–August 30, 2015), where it will be on view during the Venice Biennale before traveling to LACMA in an expanded format in Fall 2015. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated, scholarly catalogue available—co-edited by Barron and Sabine Eckmann—in both English and Italian editions.
Organised by LACMA – Los Angeles County Museum of Art
In collaboration with Fondazione Musei Civici di Venezia and 24 ORE Cultura – Gruppo 24
Supported by COIN
Curated by Stephanie Barron
with the collaboration of Gabriella Belli
Layout design by Daniela Ferretti
Thanks to Eleber Illiminotecnica.