Monday, May 31, 2010

Gert Wollheim

Wollheim was born in Dresden and studied at the College of Fine Arts in Weimar from 1911 to 1913. From 1914–1917 he was in military service in World War I.

 Gert Wollheim, The Wounded Man, 1919

Wollheim himself was shot in the stomach and nearly died from the serious wound - and it is certain this experience was the inspiration for this disturbing work. 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. 

 Gert Heinrich Wollheim, This is the bad uncle Dix, 1923
He also became part of the aggressively political Aktivistenbund 1919 (Activist League 1919), a group of artists and intellectuals dedicated to pacifism and working class politics. Wollheim was one of the artists associated with the art dealer Johanna Ey. In 1925 he moved to Berlin, and his work began a new phase of coolly objective representation.

Gert Wollheim, Farewell from  Düsseldorf, 1924

Immediately after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 his works were declared degenerate art and many were destroyed. He fled to France and became active in the Resistance. In 1937 he was one of the joint founders of the artist federation “L´union de l'artistes libres” in Paris, and he became the companion of the dancer Tatjana Barbakoff who was murdered 1944 in Auschwitz.

Wilhelm Schmurr, The Dancer Tatjana Barbakoff, c. 1925

In Munich, three of his pictures were displayed in the defamatory Nazi exhibition Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) in 1937. From Paris he fled to Saarbrücken and later to Switzerland. In 1939 he was arrested and held in a labor camp until his escape in 1942, after which he hid in the Pyrénées.

Gert Wollheim, Untitled, 1926

At war's end in 1945 he returned to France, and in 1947 moved to New York and became an American citizen. He died in New York in 1974.

Curt Querner

Curt Querner, Self-Portrait, 1938

Querner as born in 1904 near Dresden. He was a worker in a glass production factory before studying at the Dresden Art Academy. In 1930 he left the Academy to join the KPD (German Communist Party). Querner, a prolific painter, became well known for his portrait works. His art fell into the category of the Neue Sachlichkeit, or "New Objectivity" school. The term applied to all artworks that represented social and economic realities in a realistic and unsentimental manner.

Curt Querner, Demonstration, 1930

This painting titled, Demonstration, portrays a militant worker's march. The artwork is actually a self portrait - with Querner being the fellow wearing the dark blue shirt. He painted himself standing next to fellow painter, Wilhelm Dodel. In February, 1945, the allied air raids on Dresden destroyed Querner's studio and with it a large portion of his works. The artist died in 1976.

Sunday, May 30, 2010


Ludwig Meidner, The Burning City, 1912

"It is the first death which infects everyone with the feeling of being threatened. It is impossible to over assess the role played by the first dead man in the kindling of wars. Rulers who want to unleash war know very well that they must procure or invent a first victim. It need not be anyone of particular importance, and can even be someone unknown. Nothing matters except his death; and it must be believed that the enemy is responsible for this. Every possible cause of his death is suppressed except one: his membership in the group to which one belongs oneself." 

Elias Canetti, Masse und Macht, vol. 1, p. 152, 1960

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Georg Scholz

Georg Scholz, Self-Portrait, 1926

Scholz was born in Wolfenbüttel in 1890 and had his artistic training at the Karlsruhe Academy, together with Karl Hubbuch. His teachers included Hans Thoma and Wilhelm Trübner. Like Magnus Zeller  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.

 Georg Scholz, Badische Kleinstadt bei Tage, 1922

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 very controlled, crisp execution with corrosive sarcasm. 

Georg Scholz, Industrial Farm Family, 1920

Scholz quickly became one of the leaders of the New Objectivity group of artists. 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 (above) and the Seated Nude with Plaster Bust of 1927. 

 Georg Scholz, Seated Nude with Plaster Bust, 1927

Appointed a professor at the Baden State Academy of Art in Karlsruhe in 1925, the students he taught 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 Pierre Bonnard

 Georg Scholz, Things to Come, 1922

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.

You can see more of Scholz's works in my Weimar Set on Flickr.

Questions From a Worker Who Reads

Rudolf Schlichter, Portrait Bert Brecht, 1926

Questions From a Worker Who Reads  
by Bertolt Brecht (1928)

Who built Thebes of the seven gates?
In the books you will find the names of kings.
Did the kings haul up the lumps of rock?
And Babylon, many times demolished
Who raised it up so many times? In what houses
of gold-glittering Lima did the builders live?
Where, the evening that the Wall of China was finished
Did the masons go? Great Rome
Is full of triumphal arches. Who erected them? Over whom
Did the Caesars triumph? Had Byzantium, much praised in song
Only palaces for its inhabitants? Even in fabled Atlantis
The night the ocean engulfed it
The drowning still bawled for their slaves.

The young Alexander conquered India.
Was he alone?
Caesar beat the Gauls.
Did he not have even a cook with him?

Philip of Spain wept when his armada
Went down. Was he the only one to weep?
Frederick the Second won the Seven Year's War. Who
Else won it?

Every page a victory.
Who cooked the feast for the victors?
Every ten years a great man?
Who paid the bill?

So many reports.
So many questions. 

Heinrich Hoerle, The Worker, 1922

Friday, May 28, 2010

Otto Dix - Brothers-in-Law

Otto Dix, Dr. Hans Koch, 1921

Dix's paintings Salon I (below) and Salon II (lost) were acquired by Dix's good friend, sometime patron and one time sitter, Dr. Hans Koch (1881-1952). When the artist left Düsseldorf to return to Dresden in 1921, one of the items traveling with him was Koch's wife, Martha (1895–1985). Dix and Martha later married, while Dix and Koch, remained good friends. When the latter married his ex-wife's older sister, Maria, the two men indeed became brothers-in-law. How terribly, terribly civil.  

Otto Dix, The Saloon I, 1921

Otto Dix had another Doctor friend, Dr. Wilhelm Mayer-Hermann, whom he portrayed in 1926. Both, the Doctor and his portray wound up across the Atlantic Ocean in the same city. Six years after its completion Dr. Mayer-Hermann was donated to the Museum of Modern Art in 1932, where it has remained on permanent display. The good Dr. and his family emigrated from Berlin to Manhattan in 1934, and Mayer-Hermann established a wildly successful ear, nose and throat practice. It is said anecdotally that, until his death in 1945, he enjoyed visiting "himself" at MoMA and never failed to be privately amused by the unkind remarks his portrait elicited from other viewers.

Otto Dix, Dr. Mayer-Hermann, 1926

by Gottfried Benn (1912)

The lone molar of a whore
who had died unknown
had a gold filling.
As if by silent agreement
the others had all fallen out.
But this one the morgue attendant knocked out
and pawned to go dancing.
For, he said,
only earth should return to earth.

Conrad Felixmüller

 Conrad Felixmüller, Soldier in the Madhouse, 1918

Conrad Felixmüller (1897-1977) was born in Dresden as son of a factory worker. After attending drawing classes at the Dresden Kunstgewerbeschule for one year, (where he  became a close friend of Peter August Böckstiegel) Felixmüller first attended the private school of the artist Ferdinand Dorsch in 1912 and the same year he entered Professor Carl Bantzer's class at the Königliche Kunstakademie in Dresden, to start training as a painter.  In 1915 Felixmüller left the academy and studio of. He now worked as a freelance artist in Dresden, but often went to Berlin, where he painted in Ludwig Meidner's studio:

 Ludwig Meidner, Bildnis Konrad Felixmüller, 1915

 Felixmüller also contributed to the journal Der Sturm (The Storm), published by Herwarth Walden. In 1917 Felixmüller founded the art and literature journal MENSCHEN (Men) together with the book dealer Felix Stiemer, with Felixmüller being responsible for the graphic design like he was in Der Sturm. At the same time he had exhibitons at Hans Goltz's in Munich and at the Dresden Galerie Arnold together with Heckel, Kirchner and Schmidt-Rottluff. 

 Conrad Felixmüller, Workers Returning Home, 1920s

In 1918 Felixmüller moved to Dresden, where he became the founder and chairman of the Dresdner Sezession and joined the November-Gruppe as well as the revolutionary Genossenschaft für proletarische Kunst (Cooperative for Proletarian Art). At the same time Felixmüller worked for various newspapers (e.g. Die Sichel in Regensburg and Rote Erde in Hamburg) and published several literary texts such as his autobiography Mein Werden (Kunstblatt) or his thoughts on Künstlerische Gestaltung. Felixmüller's early creative work was strongly influenced by Expressionism, which he interpreted in a socio-critical way and soon transformed into his own form of expressive Realism. He was also a member of the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) since 1919. 

 Conrad Felixmüller, The Agitator, 1920

In 1933, 40 of  Felixmüller's paintings were shown at the Dresden exhibition of  Degenerate Art. In 1934 he moved to Berlin-Charlottenburg, hoping to be able to work more freely there. (see my related blog). In 1937, 151 of his works were confiscated from public collections. In 1941 his Berlin home was destroyed by bombs, and Felixmüller sought refuge in Damsdorf in the Mark. 

Conrad Felixmüller, Portrait of Raoul Hausmann, 1920s

In 1944 Felixmüller moved to Tautenhain. That same year he was called-up for military service. After a short time in Sovjet captivity, Felixmüller returned to Tautenhain in 1945. In 1949 he was appointed professor at the Martin-Luther-Universität in Halle, where he taught drawing and painting at the faculty of education. After his retirement in 1961 Felixmüller returned to Berlin. Before his death in 1977 numerous exhibitions took place in East and West Germany, Paris, Rome, Bologna and Florence.

Conrad Felixmüller, Self-Portrait, 1920 

You can see more works of Conrad Felixmüller here in my Flickr set.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Karl Hubbuch

Karl Hubbuch (1891 – 1979) was a painter, printmaker, and draftsman associated with the New Objectivity.

Hubbuch was born in Karlsruhe and studied art at the Karlsruhe Academy from 1908 to 1912, forming friendships with fellow students Georg Scholz and Rudolf Schlichter. He continued his studies with Emil Orlik at the Berlin Museum of Arts and Crafts School, followed by military service (from 1914 to 1918) in the First World War. Having contracted malaria, he spent the period after the war recuperating before resuming his studies in a master class at the Karlsruhe Academy. In 1924, he was given a position as an assistant lithography instructor at the Karlsruhe Academy, and he was appointed professor in 1928, becoming the head of the drawing department.

Karl Hubbuch, The Swimmer of Cologne, 1926

During this period, Hubbuch was much more active as a draftsman than as a painter. His drawings and prints of the early 1920s, sharply realistic in style, are highly critical of the social and economic order. A trip to Berlin in 1922—during which he met George Grosz—inspired the creation of several paintings in which Hubbuch depicted himself as an observer who reacts to the urban dynamism surrounding him. He exhibited several drawings and prints, as well as his oil painting, The Classroom, in the seminal "Neue Sachlichkeit' ("New Objectivity") exhibition at the Kunsthalle in Mannheim in 1925.

Karl Hubbuch, Triplets, 1927 

In 1927 he married Hilde (née Isai), who came from Trier, and who had studied photography at the Bauhaus. Her likeness is recognizable in many of Hubbuch's works, such as Zweimal Hilde ("Hilde Twice"), painted in 1923.

Karl Hubbuch, Zweimal Hilde, 1927

Hubbuch published collections of satirical drawings, and in 1930 he collaborated with Erwin Spuler and Anton Weber in publishing the critical and satirical magazine "Zakpo". As a known antifascist, Hubbuch was dismissed in 1933 from his teaching position and forbidden to paint by the Nazi authorities. Until 1945 he would support himself with commercial jobs which included decorating ceramics and painting clock faces.

Karl Hubbuch, Lissy im Cafe, 1930

After the war he was able to resume his post as a professor of painting at the Karlsruhe Academy of Fine Arts, where he would teach until 1957. He worked in relative obscurity during this later period, painting and drawing in a style close to expressionism. In the 1960s the revival of interest in figurative art brought new attention to his work, along with a reevaluation of the artists of the New Objectivity in general. Failing eyesight forced him to stop working after 1970. Karl Hubbuch died in 1979 in Karlsruhe, where approximately 100 of his works are now housed in Gochsheim Castle.

You can see more of Hubbuch's works here on my Flickr page.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Otto Dix - Flandern

Otto Dix, Flandern, 1934

Dix worked on this large-format (78 x 98") painting from 1934 to 1936. By that point, the National Socialists had already dismissed him from his professorial position at the Dresden Art Academy, and he was living in Randegg bei Singen. The painting shows a field in Flanders where three devastating battles were fought. In contrast to war-time propaganda images, Dix's canvas introduces war in the form of a battlefield where corpses and mud predominate, the one rotting and merging into the other. With this nightmarish tableau, Dix commemorated the victims of one World War in the hopes of preventing another.

Barthel Gilles

Barthel Gilles, Ruhr Battle, 1930

In Ruhrkampf, Barthel Gilles (1891-1977) portrayed a battle that took place ten years earlier in the Ruhr industrial area between radical workers and the regular army and police. The workers had been on strike and were suffering terrible repression - they eventually turned to arms for self defense. Fighting soon broke out with the authorities and escalated to civil war proportions. The workers were defeated by the army and police only after hundreds of workers had been killed. Gilles was a member of the German Communist Party (KPD) and during the Nazi era was prohibited from painting or exhibiting his work publicly.

 Barthel Gilles, Self-Portrait with Gas Mask, 1930

Monday, May 24, 2010

Rudolf Schlichter - Karola Neher

Rudolf Schlichter, Portrait of Karola Neher, 1929

Karola Neher was a well-known actress in Germany during the inter-war period and played Polly Peachum in the 1931 film adaptation of the theatrical hit The Threepenny Opera by Kurt Weill and Berthold Brecht. Neher was also Brecht’s mistress for a time. A Communist sympathiser, Neher fled to Moscow with her second husband Anatol Becker in 1934. There they became victims of the Stalinist purges, Becker being executed by firing squad in 1937 while Neher was sentenced to ten years in a labour camp. She died of typhoid in a camp in 1942 aged 41. This magnificent portrait was presumed lost until 2007.


Learn your History!

My young son asks me...
by Bertold Brecht  (1940)

My young son asks me: Must I learn mathematics?
What is the use, I feel like saying. That two pieces
Of bread are more than one's about all you'll end up with.
My young son asks me: Must I learn French?
What is the use, I feel like saying. This State's collapsing.
And if you just rub your belly with your hand and
Groan, you'll be understood with little trouble.
My young son asks me: Must I learn history?
What is the use, I feel like saying. Learn to stick
Your head in the earth, and maybe you'll still survive.

Yes, learn mathematics, I tell him.
Learn your French, learn your history!

Karl Hubbuch, Children in School, 1925

Magnus Zeller

Magnus Zeller, Loving Couple, 1919

Magnus Zeller (1888-1972) was an expressionistic painter and graphic artist. Between 1908 and 1911 he studied painting in Berlin under Lovis Corinth. During the First World War Zeller served in the German Army (1915-1918). In 1918 he participated in the revolutionary struggle of the Berlin Worker's and Soldier's Council.

Magnus Zeller, The Orator, 1920

Under the Nazi-Régime his works were banned as "entarted" (anti-arian) and he didn't get the necessary official permit to buy painting materials. Nevertheless, under risk of his life, Zeller secretly painted some anti-fascist works like this one:

Magnus Zeller, The Total State (Hitler's State), 1938

After the Second World War Zeller moved to East-Berlin where he participated in major exhibitions despite the fact that the communist authorities classified his work as "formalistic", i.e. not conforming to the official style of "Socialistic Realism". Magnus Zeller died 1972 in East-Berlin.

Anita Rée

Anita Rée, Nude (Self-Portrait), 1923

Anita Rée came from an old Jewish merchant family. She was born in Hamburg, in 1885. Problems with state and church officials, attacks in the NSDAP press, and finally personal disappointments led this psychically and physically fragile artist to flee to the island of Sylt. Lonely and suffering the fear of persecution she was deeply concerned by the disbanding of the Hamburg Secession and the political developments in Germany. At the age of forty-eight she did not feel able to emigrate. She who had been conversant with the idea of suicide since 1916 took her own life in December 1933 by taking barbitone.

Anita Rée, White Trees, 1925

Otto Dix - Transplantation

Otto Dix, Transplantation, 1924

We finally halted, after how many hours? Our exhausted flesh, drained of blood, shaken about in other people's arms. I had to comb my fingers over my face as sticky traces stiffened my skin as they dried. I'm going to be a fine sight by the time they get to me, those two slow-moving nurses walking along the foot of the stretchers and bending for a moment over each wounded man. A hand stuck my new Verdun képi on my head, my velvety blue 'flower pot'. How I looked like Pierrot, so pale and blood-smeared in my beautiful new képi! 

There is a nauseating smell, of coal-tar, bleach and the sickly smell of blood. "A lieutenant from the 106ths, doctor."

They touched me and another needle pricked me. I could see the dark tunic of the major between two white nurses. They were talking to me. I answered "Yes, yes...". And the doctor's voice said, "Can't be evacuated. Military hospital."

Maurice Genevoix, Ceux de 14

Sylvia von Harden

August Sander, Sylvia von Harden, Journaliste, 1920s

Nestor Gianaklis by Apollinaire

Je goûte ton haleine plus exquise que la fumée
Tendre et bleue de l'écorce du bouleau
Ou d'une cigarette de Nestor Gianaklis
Ou cette fumée sacrée si bleue
Et qu'on ne nomme pas.

I taste your breath more exquisite than the smoke
Tender and blue of a birch's bark
Or of a Nestor Gianaklis cigarette
Or this sacred smoke so blue
And which you don't name.

 Otto Dix, Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden, 1926

Sylvia von Harden (March 28, 1894 – June 4, 1963) was a journalist and poet. During her career as a journalist, she wrote for many newspapers in Germany and England.  Born Sylvia Lehr in Hamburg, von Harden (she chose the name as an aristocratic pseudonym) wrote a literary column for the monthly Das junge Deutschland from 1918 to 1920, and wrote for Die Rote Erde from 1919 to 1923. From 1915 to 1923, she lived with the writer Ferdinand Hartkopf, with whom she had a son. During the 1920s she lived in Berlin, and published two volumes of poetry in 1920 and 1927. In 1933, von Harden left Germany for self-exile in England, where she continued to write but with less success. She died in Coxley Green, England in 1963.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Otto Dix - Trenches

Otto Dix, Trenches, 1917

"At that moment, another whistling sound rang out up in the air; we all felt it, our hearts in our mouths, this one's for us. Then a huge, deafening din - the shell had landed right in the midst of us.

Half-dazed, I got to my feet. In the huge shell-hole, machine-gun cartridge belts set off by the explosion glowed with a crude pink light. They lit up the heavy smoke where a mass of twisted blackened bodies lay and the shadows of survivors were running away in every direction. At the same time many appalling screams of pain and appeals for help could be heard.

The dark mass of people turning around the bottom of this glowing, smoking cauldron opened out for a second almost like the vision of a hellish nightmare, the deepest abyss of horror."

Ernst Jünger, Storms of Steel

Franz Marc - Wolves

Franz Marc, The Wolves (Balkan War), 1913

By 1913, Marc sensed the impending disaster of world events. The Wolves (Balkan War) is a personal allegory of the 1912-13 war that ultimately led to World War I. He no longer used peaceful and gentle animals like horses and deer; instead, he presents a pack of wolves.

Marc himself was called to World War I and sent to the front. The great loss of life hurt him greatly, including the many animals that were killed in the war. He wrote to his wife from the battlefield about a painting similar to The Wolves: "it is artistically logical to paint such pictures before a war—but not as stupid reminiscences afterwards, for we must paint constructive pictures denoting the future." This reflects his orientation towards the future and gives The Wolves the function of a warning. Marc was killed at Verdun, France, in 1916.

Ernst Toller - Imprisonment

Ernst Toller during imprisonment in Niederschönenfeld, Germany, 27. August 1920.

Toller, a distinguished writer, was involved in the 1919 Bavarian Soviet Republic along with other leading revolutionaries such as B. Traven, Gustav Landauer, Erich Mühsam and  Rudolf Egelhofer. This republic was short-lived and was defeated by rightwing forces. He was imprisoned for his part in the revolution.

Erich Mühsam was murdered in Oranienburg concentration camp in 1934. Toller was also detained and tortured, but was later able to exile himself to London.

Suffering from deep depression (his sister and brother had also been arrested and sent to concentration camps) and financial woes (he had given all his money to Spanish civil war refugees), he committed suicide by hanging in his hotel room at the Mayflower Hotel in New York on May 22, 1939.

W. H. Auden's poem "In Memory of Ernst Toller" was published 1940. It contains these sentences:

We are lived by powers we pretend to understand: 
They arrange our loves; it is they who direct at the end
The enemy bullet, the sickness, or even our hand.