Saturday, July 31, 2010

Gerda Taro

 Gerda Taro, A woman in Barcelona training for the Republican militia, August 1936

Gerda Taro (1910-1937) was born Gerda Pohorylle, daughter of a liberal Jewish family in Stuttgart, Germany. The family moved to Leipzig when Gerda was nineteen, where the growing strength of the National Socialists and a new circle of friends drew her into involvement in local leftist organizations. In 1933, she was arrested for participating in an anti-Nazi protest campaign. Eventually, the entire Pohorylle family was forced to leave Nazi Germany toward different destinations. Taro, who left for Paris,  would not see her family again.

 Anom., Gerda Taro and Robert Capa in Paris, 1936

After a year in Paris spent struggling for work, Gerda met Hungarian photographer André Friedmann, who would later change his name to Robert Capa. A romance developed between Gerda and André, and Gerda increasingly managed the business side of André’s work, while beginning to experiment with taking her own photographs. In February of 1936, she obtained her first press card. Gerda and André, frustrated with their lack of success selling his stories, constructed a fictional American photographer named Robert Capa, under whose identity they might fare better than as one of many Eastern European Jewish émigrés in Paris. Gerda, in turn, changed her last name to Taro, taken from the Japanese artist Taro Okamoto

Gerda Taro, Onboard the Jaime I, "The Spanish Battleship Potemkin", Almería, 1937

When the Spanish Civil War broke out on July 17, 1936, Taro and Capa immediately arranged to go to Barcelona. They photographed side-by-side, often recording the same scenes. Their pictures from this period are easily distinguishable because they used cameras that produced negatives with different proportions; Taro the square-format Rollei, and Capa the rectangular Leica. From the outset, the photographic team of Taro and Capa published in magazines with established reputations like Vu in France or the Züricher Illustrierte in Switzerland. 

Gerda Taro, Boy in the uniform of the Iberian Anarchist Federation, 1936

Taro and Capa returned to Paris for the fall and early winter, and made a second trip to Spain in February of 1937. Capa remained in Spain only briefly, returning to Paris at the end of the month, while Taro stayed on. It appears that their romance had cooled by this point, and Taro was distinguishing herself with a successful independent career in the French leftist press. Some of Taro’s most arresting photographs were taken in the spring of 1937, in a hospital and morgue following the bombing of Valencia. Taro seems to have predated Capa’s famous assertion that “if your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough” with her unflinching images of the civilian casualties of the war.

Gerda Taro, Republican soldiers, Battle of Brunete, July 1937

In July 1937, Taro went to Brunete, outside of the capital, to cover fighting for Ce Soir. For two weeks, Taro photographed the battle for the city, and her images were widely reproduced, in part because they demonstrated that the Republicans were holding the Brunete, despite General Franco's troops claim to the contrary. On July 25, as the Republican position faltered, Taro found herself in the midst of a hasty retreat. She jumped on the running-board of a car transporting casualties. A tank sideswiped the car, knocking Taro to the ground. She died the next day. 

 Anom., Gerda Taro at Brunete, 1937

Due to her political commitment, Taro had become an anti-fascist figure. On August 1, on what would have been her 27th birthday, the French Communist Party gave her a grand funeral in Paris, which was attended by tens of thousands. She was buried her at Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Alberto Giacometti created a monument for her grave. You can see more photos of Gerda Taro in a slide show of the New York Times.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Italian Modernism

Bruschetti, Aereoveduta del Fiume, 1932

The following is a reproduction of the first two pages of Emily Braun's brilliant book Mario Sironi and Italian Modernism, which was published by Cambridge University in 2000. Her book explains why Mario Sironi (I have previously written about him here) and many other Italian artists could, on the one hand, openly support Mussolini's repressive regime and, at the same time, produce avant-garde art that still fascinates us today. I have illustrated Emily's text with some paintings of "not so widely known" Italian artists.

 Ferruccio Ferrazzi, Viaggio tragico, 1925

"On 26 March 1923, at the inauguration of the exhibition Sette Pittori del Novecento (Seven Painters of the Twentieth Century) in Milan, Benito Mussolini first declared his intentions about state interventions in the arts. Installed as prime minister only five months earlier, on a wave of Fascist violence and parliamentary paralysis, he was more attuned to pressing matters of political consolidation than to the fine points of aesthetic discourse. 

 Carlo Sbisà, Il palombaro, 1931

Nonetheless, Mussolini astutely acknowledged both the privileged position of creative autonomy and the artist's role in shaping a Fascist Italy. In a shrewd, opportunistic statement, the new leader offered an arrangement of benign mutual support in the interest of the "human spirit":

I declare that it is far from my idea to encourage anything like an art of the State. Art belongs to the domain of the individual. The State has only duty: not to undermine art, to provide human conditions for artists, and to encourage them from the artistic and national point of view.

Cesare Sofianopulo, Maschere, 1930

Over the course of twenty years, as the Fascist movement was transformed into a regime, as revolution gave way first to normalization, then to dictatorship, and finally to totalitarian rule, Mussolini's liberal attitude toward the fine arts changed little. The credo that "art belongs to the domain of the individual" became one of the most potent means of drawing intellectuals to the Fascist state while creating an impression of the regime as an enlightened patron. 

 Alberto Savinio, Self Portrait in the Form of an Owl, c. 1930

As dictator, Mussolini never sanctioned an official style, despite concerted efforts by both intellectuals and party bureaucrats to forge an art of the state. Instead, the regime instigated a cultural policy based on a series of administrative controls, which aimed to discourage opposition with an insidious combination of coercion and tolerance. As a result, the Fascist period was marked by pluralism in the visual arts, which permitted the avantgarde and the retrograde, abstraction and neoclassicism, to be deftly absorbed by the State's eclectic patronage. 

 Alberto Martini, Ritratto di Wally Toscanini, 1925

Questions of style were generally left to the artists and critics, often resulting in bitter polemics that diverted attention to matters of form rather than content. Intentionally or not, Mussolini's policy had the effect of dividing and conquering the intellectual community. This made organizing a cultural opposition a remote possibility: the strategy of allowing a margin of creative freedom while awarding capitulation led the majority of artists to coexist with, if not openly support, the regime. Fascist Italy's tolerance of diversity in the fine arts was very different from the attitude of Nazi Germany, where a monolithic and absolute cultural policy dictated both the overall model of volkish culture and a specific style of illustrative realism. 

 Ernesto Thayaht, Il grande nocchiero, 1939

Moreover, unlike the totalitarian regimes of Germany and the Soviet Union, the Italian Fascist government did not persecute or subjugate the avant-garde, despite attempts to do so by hardliners. (The exception, of course, is Jewish artists, who were persecuted as Jews rather than as artists after the Racial Laws of 1938.) Instead, the Italian situation presents a unique set of historical and moral problems that is tainted by a less than heroic story of accomodation, opportunism, and outright support, rather than rebellion, among the cultural elite."

Käthe Kollwitz

 Käthe Kollwitz, Self-Portrait, 1923

Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1942) was born in Königsberg (today Kaliningrad, Russia) into a relatively wealthy home. She was the fifth child of Karl and Katharina Schmidt. Karl Schmidt had first studied law but he then turned his back to the legal profession and became a master-mason. Kollwitz grew up in an atmosphere of religious teachings and radical thought. She was encouraged to draw as a child by her father. Her first painting Kollwitz created at sixteen. In 1884 she entered an academy established specially for women in Berlin. Kollwitz continued her art studies in Köningsberg, and in Munich's School for Women Artists, where she realized that she was not a painter at all - the graphic arts were her medium. In her early period Kollwitz took influences from Zola's approach to reality and Max Klinger's symbolist engravings. 

 Käthe Kollwitz, The Weavers' Revolt (1893-98), Sheet IV

In 1891 Kollwitz married Dr. Karl Kollwitz; they had two sons, Hans and Peter. Karl was a physician for a workers' health insurance fund, who oftentimes treated the working poor free of charge. For the next half century they lived in Prenzlauer Berg, a working class suburb of North Berlin. Kollwitz's studio was next to her husband's office. Kollwitz's first series of lithographs, The Weavers' Revolt (above), was loosely based on Gerhart Hauptmann's play. The Weavers set is considered a landmark in class-conscious art. It was shown at the annual Berlin art show in 1898. Due to its politically powerful content, Kaiser Wilhelm refused to award her the medal she had won. However, Kollwitz was appointed to teach graphics and nude studies at the Berlin Künstlerinnenschule (Berlin Art School for Women). 

 Käthe Kollwitz, Outbreak, 1921

Kollwitz's later print series include the woodcuts The Peasants' War (1903-08), in which the chief figure of "Outbreak" (above) was the furious Black Anna, portrayed from her back, and Proletariat (1925). Also Die Carmagnole (1901), about women dancing around a guillotine, was partly inspired by a literary source, Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities. Kollwitz's sturdy figures show the influence of her friend, Ernst Barlach, whose graphic technique also inspired her woodcut of Karl Liebknecht, a friend of the family. Kollwitz had made drawings of Liebknecht's corpse before his funeral. The widely distributed work created a symbolic connection with Christ's martyrdom and the murder of a Marxist revolutionary by Government troops: 

 Käthe Kollwitz, Memory Page for Karl Liebknecht: The Living and the Dead, 1921

Kollwitz's social consciousness, which could be characterized as "critical humanitarianism", separated her from such pioneering Expressionist groups as Die Brücke and the Blaue Reiter, led by Kandinsky, Marc, and Klee. Following Goya and Daumier, she fully accepted the social function of art. "I am content that my art should have purpose outside itself," Kollwitz wrote in her diary. In spite of her mission, Kollwitz's works convey a feeling of inwardness and privacy which is in strange contrast with their public nature. "A certain melancholy was about her," said Geroge Grosz who met her only once, "far from talkative, rather moody." 

 Käthe Kollwitz, Woman with a Dead Child, 1903

In 1907 the Villa Romana Prize by Max Klinger enabled Kollwitz to spend time in Italy, where she took a walking tour from Florence to Rome with an English woman equipped with a revolver. Italian Renaissance art, with the exception of Michelangelo's work, did not inspire her. "The enormous galleries are confusing, and they put you off because of the masses of inferior stuff in the pompous Italian vein," she wrote in a letter.  In 1913 Kollwitz co-founded the Women's Arts Union, Frauenkunstverband. From the beginning of Kollwitz's career, the theme of romantic love did not interest her, but in some drawings she depicted tender feelings between women. "As a matter of fact I believe that bisexuality is almost a necessary factor in artistic production," Kollwitz once confessed, "at any rate, the tinge of masculinity within me helped me in my work."

 Anom., Käthe Kollwitz, 1927

After the outbreak of WWI, Peter Kollwitz, just eighteen, volunteered for the German Army. He died on the Belgian front. Devastated by the loss of her son, Kollwitz worked for many years on a memorial to the fallen. The deeply personal sculpture of two kneeling figures, "The Parents", was eventually revealed in 1932 in the Vladslo Military Cemetery in Belgium:

 Käthe Kollwitz, The Parents, Vladslo German Soldiers’ Cemetery, Vladslo (Belgium), 1932

Kollwitz's fiftieth birthday was commemorated in the summer of 1917 with a retrospective exhibition in Paul Cassirer's Gallery in Berlin. At the age of 52, Kollwitz became the first woman elected to the prestigious Prussian Academy of Art. Kollwitz made several prints as propaganda against war, such as the woodcut Die Freiwilligen (The Volunteers), a version of the dance of death:

 Käthe Kollwitz, The Volunteers, 1922

The feverish mass hysteria, which had gripped the nations at the outbreak of WWI, is portrayed through a group of young men following blindly the figure of Death. Among Kollwitz's most copied anti-war pieces is Never Again War (below), in which a male figure raises one arm high and the other hand is on his heart. Kollwitz was internationally known for her etchings, woodcuts, and lithographs, but also her posters for leftist organizations and humanitarian leaflets contributed to her fame.

 Käthe Kollwitz, Never Again War, 1924

In 1927 Kollwitz visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of the Association of Artists of Revolutionary Russia (AKhRR). Although she was subsequently disillusioned, she did not denounce Stalinist culture and propaganda. In 1932 her works were shown in Leningrad and Moscow. In 1928 Kollwitz became the head of the master class in graphics at the Berlin Academy. After Hitler assumed power in 1933, most leftist artists went into exile or were forced to stop working. Kollwitz attempted to form with Heinrich Mann a front of artists against the Nazi administration, but soon she had to resign from the Academy, when the Nazis threatened to break it up. After Kollwitz gave an interview to a Russian reporter, she was interrogated by the Gestapo. In 1938 her husband's medical practice was banned. In 1934-35 Kollwitz made eight large lithographs called Death. The cycle culminated in her own self-portrait in Call of Death:

 Käthe Kollwitz, Call of Death, from the series "Death", 1934

Karl Kollwitz died in 1940. Two years later Kollwitz's grandson was killed in Russia. Her home and a number of her works were destroyed in 1943 in an air raid - only one portfolio survived. Because of the bombings, she was evacuated from Berlin. In 1944 she found a refuge in the Moritzburg estate of Prince Ernst Heinrich of Saxony. Kollwitz died on 22 April, 1945, in Moritzburg. She was cremated and buried in Berlin with her husband, brothers, and sisters. You can see more of her works in my Flickr set.

Manfred Hirzel

 Manfred Hirzel, Portrait of Georg Goedecker, 1929

Little is known about Manfred Hirzel (1905-1932). He was originally from Lodz in Poland, but moved to Berlin when he was five years old. He attended school in Berlin and went on to work as an apprentice for a bookseller. 

 Manfred Hirzel, Melitta, 1930
He studied painting from 1925, after having met Willy Jaeckel and Ludwig Meidner. Frenz Lenk, another Neue Sachlichkeit painter, taught Hirzel the techniques of the Old Masters. In 1928 Hirzel exhibited for the first time at the Wasservogel Gallery, and in 1929 he produced the very "weimaresque" portrait of Georg Goedecker shown above. Hinzel died at the age of only 27.

Manfred Hirzel, Portrait of Rosi Mein, 1928

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Hans and Lea Grundig

 Lea Grundig in 1951

Lea Grundig, née Langer, (1906-1977) was born in Dresden and raised as an Orthodox Jew. However, she found the Orthodox environment stifling, and in 1922 she began several years of art studies, first at the Academy of Arts and Crafts and then at the Academy of Art, both in Dresden. Together with Otto Griebel, Wilhelm Lachnit and Hans Grundig, her later husband, she was a master student with Otto Gussmann.

 Hans Grundig, Evening Song, 1938

Lea was impressed by the works of Ernst Barlach and Oskar Kokoschka, and the War cycle by Otto Dix (1924) reinforced her deep convictions as a pacifist. Around 1924 Lea met Hans Grundig (1901-1958). Hans, who came from a working-class background, was also born in Dresden and, after an apprenticeship as an interior decorator, studied at the Dresden Academy between 1920 and 1923. During the 1920s Hans' 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 his self-portraits in a theatrical manner.

 Hans Grundig, Vision, 1936

In 1926 both joined the Communist Party. Lea's father strongly objected to her political views and her association with Grundig. He sent her to a sanitarium in Heidelberg, and when Hans joined her there, Lea was shipped to Vienna. Again, Hans followed, and in 1928 the couple married. From that time on, they lived among their proletarian friends in one of Dresden’s poor housing units and eked out a meager living. In 1930, the couple and their friends joined the just-formed local branch of the Communist Asso (Association of German Revolutionary Artists).

 Lea Grundig, Hitler means War!, 1936

Lea Grundig preferred to create works on paper rather than on canvas, mostly in blacks, greys and whites, portraying her subjects in a social and psychological context that often reflected the misery and hardship of the working poor. The Grundigs were among the few artists who continued to produce anti-fascist art in Hitler's Germany. Hans had somehow acquired an etching press, which they used to create series of prints documenting conditions in Nazi Germany. Produced between 1933 and 1937, Grundig's etching cycles take a more and more polemical approach in their opposition to Hitler. Hans and Lea Grundig risked their life to circulate them. 

  Lea Grundig, Hunger in the Ghetto, 1946

Starting in 1936, both Grundigs were in and out of concentration camps as a result of their past Communist affiliations and ongoing anti-Nazi activities. In 1941, Lea managed to emigrate to Palestine, but Hans was interred in Sachsenhausen concentration camp from 1940–1944. In 1945 Hans, riddled with tuberculosis, went to Moscow, where he attended an anti-fascist school. Returning to Germany in 1946, he became a professor of painting at the Dresden Academy of Fine Arts. Lea Grundig could return from Tel Aviv in 1949, and the couple was finally reunited in Dresden where Lea, too, obtained a professorship.

Hans Grundig, To the Victims of Fascism (Second Version), Late 1940s

In 1957 Hans Grundig published his autobiography, Zwischen Karneval und Aschermittwoch (Between Shrovetide carnival and Ash Wednesday). He was awarded the Heinrich Mann Prize in 1958, the year of his death in Berlin. Lea Grundig became a member of the Central Commitee of the SED (the leading party of the German Democratic Republic) in 1964. She died during a voyage through the Mediterrean in 1977.

This is Jankel Adler

 Otto Dix, This is Jankel Adler, 1926

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon this rarely seen 1926 portrait of Jankel Adler. Compared with Dix' often brutal characterizations, this respectful portrait appears thoroughly restrained, even the title is unusual: This is Jankel Adler. Also remarkable is the sgraffito-like background with the ornate pattern of the wallpaper. Both of these reflect Adler’s own style of painting. 

August Sander, The Painter Jankel Adler, 1929

Moreover, the portrait echoes Picasso’s classical figurative style of the early twenties. In this way Dix deliberately invoked one of the artists who had especially inspired Adler. Otto Dix would later write of his portraits: The ‘exterior’ is the expression of the ‘interior’, that is to say that exterior and interior are one and the same. Three years later, in 1929, August Sander photographed Jankel Adler in a similar, pensative and sceptical mood.

Aimé Barraud

Aimé Barraud (1902-1954), The Watercolourist

I have previously pointed to Art Inconnu's post about Swiss painter François Barraud. François had a brother, Aimé, who also was an excellent New Objectivity artist. Thanks to Art Inconnu you can see some of Aimé's works for the first time on the net. 

Georg Tappert

 Georg Tappert, Geisha Revue, 1913

Georg Tappert (1880-1957) was born in Berlin as the son of a tailor. Growing up on Friedrichstraße - one of the main fashion and entertainment streets - Georg soon became familiar with the fashion world and the demi-monde. After an apprenticeship in his father's studio, he began his formal artistic training in 1901 at the Karlsruhe Academy. 

 Georg Tappert, Pink Chansonette, 1921

In 1905, Tappert moved back to Berlin (where he had his first solo exhibition at Paul Cassirer's gallery) and then to Worpswede where he participated in the creation of  the Worpswede Art School. In 1910, Tappert co-founded the Neue Sezession (with Max Pechstein and others) and was appointed its first executive officer. In 1912, he began teaching in Berlin's Royal Art School. During the First World War, Tappert was drafted into the Fliegerstaffel (Flying Corps), but could stay in Berlin and continue with his art work. 

 Georg Tappert, Girl with Flat Hat, c. 1925

After the war, Tappert was one of the founding members and organizers of the Novembergruppe, and a member of the Arbeitsrat für Kunst. Tappert exhibited with the Novembergruppe until 1929. In 1919, Tappert resumed his teaching positions in Berlin at the private Reimann School and the Staatliche Kunstschule. In 1933, while teaching at the Kunstschule, Tappert was dragged from his class by Nazi students who demanded his dismissal. He was temporarily ousted but reinstated the same year. 

 Georg Tappert, Nude, 1930
In 1937, Tappert was finally dismissed from his teaching position and included as an example of "artistic decay" in the pamphlet "The Cleansing of the Temple of Art". The same year, Tappert’s works were removed from all public collections in Germany. After the destruction of his Berlin studio by Allied bombs in 1944, Tappert decided to stop painting. More than hundred of his works were either destroyed by the Nazis or evaporated in the burning of his studio. In 1945, shortly after the war, Georg Tappert, together with Karl Hofer, was asked by the Allied Occupation Forces to help rebuilding the Berlin University of the Arts. He died 1957 in Berlin. You can see more works of Georg Tappert here in my Flickr set.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Erich Salomon - The King of the Indiscreet

Erich Salomon, Self-Portrait on Board of the Mauretania, 1929

Erich Salomon (1886-1944) was born into a prosperous German-Jewish family well assimilated into Berlin society. His father was a banker; his mother came from a line of prominent publishers. He first studied zoology, then switched to engineering before finally settling on law and taking his degree in 1913. With the outbreak of World War I, he was drafted into the Kaiser´s army and soon thereafter was captured during the first Battle of the Marne. He spent the next four years in prisoner-of-war camps, where he served as an interpreter and acquired the fluency in French that was later to prove invaluable in gaining entry to conferences.

Erich Salomom, Five Gentlemen Conversing around a Table, c. 1928 (This picture was taken in the Reichskanzlei in Berlin)

In the postwar years, the family fortune melted away in the inflationary storms that devastated the German economy, and Salomon was forced to live by his wits. He founded an electric car and motorcycle rental service. The enterprise failed, but an advertisement he ran offering to give free legal and financial advice to car-rental customers while chauffering them around attracted the attention of the Ullstein publishing house and, in 1925, they offered him a job in their promotion department. At Ullstein, Salomon immediately was fascinated by photography, and soon began shooting feature pictures for the Ullstein dailies. After experimenting with and mastering the technique of shooting indoors by existing light, Salomon had no trouble convincing Ullstein to let him cove the headline-making trial of a police killer for Berliner Illustrierte.

Erich Salomon, Krantz trial. Hilde Scheller in the witness box, Berlin, 1928. The Krantz trial was one of the most famous murder trials in the Weimar Republic. Hilde Scheller (at that time 16 years old), together with a group of boys deeply in love with her, started a so-called "Suicide Club" resulting in one killing on request and one suicide.

Any pictures taken in the courtroom, where photography was forbidden, would have been a major scoop for the paper, but the ones that Salomon returned with were extraordinary. Salomon had accomplished this by hiding his camera in a bowler hat, cutting a hole for the lens. On the last day, when a court attendant finally realized what he was doing and demanded his negatives, Salomon resorted to a trick he was to use time and time again. He handed over unexposed plates, acted repentant, and left with the exposed ones still in his pockets. In 1928, only one year after he had become interested in photography, Salomon´s career was launched.

Erich Salomon, Court trial against Ringverein Immertreu (Wrestling Association Always Loyal), 1929. At that time Berlin's criminals were organized in so-called wrestling clubs as a camouflage. One of these clubs played an important role in Fritz Lang's 1931 movie M - Eine Stadt sucht einen Mörder - some of the crooks were casted with real gangsters.

Salomon soon covered another sensational murder trial. This time, Salomon, a confirmed gadgeteer, concealed his Ermanox in an attaché case outfitted with an intricate set of levers to trigger the shutter. When these pictures were widely published throughout Europe, he left his staff position at Ullstein to become a full-time professional. That same year, he covered his first series of international conferences: the summit meeting in Lugano, a session of the League of Nations in Geneva, and the signing of the Kellogg-Briand disarmament pack in Paris, where he calmly walked in and took the seat of the absent Polish delegate. In his free time, he frequented diplomatic and social events in Berlin.

Erich Salomon, Albert Einstein engaging in animated conversation with British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, surrounded by a group of luminaries including the Nobel Prize-winner Max Planck, far right, and other German political and business leaders, smoking cigars and sipping cognac. The reception was given by Reich Chancellor Brüning in honour of the visiting British Prime Minister in August 1931. “You have no idea with what affection I am surrounded here, they are all out to catch the drops of oil my brain sweats out,” Einstein noted on this occasion.

Because of his dogged persistence, unobstrusive manner, and dramatic results, Salomon found fewer and fewer barriers to his presence in realms where all other photographers were excluded. Indeed, many statemen began to develop a good-humored acceptance of his ubiquity. At the opening of an international gathering, the French Foreign Minister, Aristide Briand, amused his fellow delegates by looking around and exclaiming, "Where is Dr. Salomon? We can´t start without him. The people won´t think this conference is important at all!"

 Erich Salomon, Aristide Briand points to Salomon and shouts: "Ah ! le voilà ! The king of the indiscreet !" (1930)

By 1931, Salomon had reached the apogee of his career. To celebrate his forty-fifth birthday and the publicacion of his book, Famous Contemporaries in Unguarded Moments, he hosted a party for four hundred leading members of Berlin society at the elegant Hotel Kaiserhof. But Salomon´s celebrity in his homeland was short-lived. Only a year later, he returned from a second trip to America to find Hitler headquartered in the Kaiserhof and the Weimar Republic in its death throes. Salomon, like many others, was soon making preparations to leave.

Erich Salomon, German Foreign Minister Gustav Stresemann en route to Paris for signature of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, 1928.

Salomon decided to settle in Holland, which was his wife´s native country. Based in the Hague, he still covered many key events. He also continued to travel. Britain especially fascinated him, and he made frequent visits to photograph government and opposition leaders and members of the royal family. In the late thirties he was invited to come to America by Life magazine that had just begun to take root and had picked up many of his photographs. He considered emigrating, but he kept putting it off. Soon it was too late to leave. In May 1940, the Nazi Blitzkrieg swallowed the Low Countries in four days. The candid photographer who had been the toast of Berlin society only a few years before was now forced to wear a yellow star. In 1943, Salomon and his family went into hiding. They were betrayed by a meter reader who noted an increase in gas consumption. According to Red Cross records, Erich Salomon, his wife and their younger son died at Auschwitz in July 1944, a month after the Allies landed in Normandy.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Rudolf Schlichter

 Wieland Herzfelde, Eva und George Grosz, Schlichter und John Heartfield in 1922

Rudolf Schlichter (1890-1955) - like Hermann Hesse - was born in Calw, a small town in Württemberg. He left the school early and started an apprenticeship as an enamel painter at a Pforzheim factory. Schlichter's later pretension that, as a twelve years old boy,  he started to work as a lift boy in a Grand Hotel building up an exciting collection of  stolen high heels, was probably invented.  From 1906 to 1909 he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart and subsequently studied under Hans Thoma and Wilhelm Trübner at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe. After his studies, Schlichter shared an appartment with Fanny Hablützel, a professional street girl, and made a living selling pornographic pictures under the pseudonym Udor Rédyl.

Rudolf Schlichter, Berlin Hausvogteiplatz, 1926

Called for military service in World War I, Schlichter carried out a hunger strike to secure early release, and in 1919 he moved to Berlin where he joined the KPD (Communist Party of Germany) and the November Group. Schlichter took part in the First Berlin Dada fair in 1920 where he displayed - together with John Heartfield - the Prussian Archangel assemblage, a pig-headed military officer that they suspended from the ceiling. He also worked as an illustrator for several periodicals, notably Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ), Die Rote Fahne and Eulenspiegel. Art became Schlichter's weapon in the political fight against the upper class and militarism. His favoured sujets were depictions of the city, street scenes, the sub-culture of the intellectual bohème and the underworld, portraits and erotic scenes. 

Rudolf Schlichter, Tingel-Tangel, 1919

In 1922, a group of artists - Otto Dix, Conrad Felixmüller, Rudolf Schlichter, Carlo Mense, Carl Hofer, Georg Schrimpf, and Heinrich Maria Davringhausen - mocked the Novembergruppe for having become depoliticized and subsequently established an art movement to be later named the Neue Sachlichkeit or New Objectivity. Their work, all of which was later condemned by the Nazis as "degenerate," was intense, angular, and nervous. In 1924, with John Heartfield and George Grosz,  Schlichter created the Rote Gruppe (the Red Group). 

 Rudolf Schlichter, Portrait Bert Brecht, 1926

Schlichter was at that time considered one of the most important members of the Neue Sachlichkeit; Bert Brecht, Alfred Döblin, Oskar Maria Graf, Erich Kästner, Carl Zuckmeier and Egon Erwin Kisch were among his friends. In 1925 Schlichter participated in the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibit at the Mannheim Kunsthalle (that's exactly where the notion of Neue Sachlichkeit was coined). Schlichter's work from this period was realistic, a good example being his portraits of Karola Neher, Bertold Brecht (above) and Margot, now in Berlin's Märkisches Museum. The latter depicts a prostitute who often modeled for Schlichter, standing on a deserted street and holding a cigarette:

Rudolf Schlichter, Margot, 1924

In 1927, Schlichter befriended Elfriede Elisabeth Koehler, called Speedy, a cocotte from Geneva, who shared Schlichter's interest in buttoned boots, bondage and masochistic games. Schlichter now abandoned the workers' movement and associated with conservative intellectuals such as Ernst Jünger and Karl Kraus ("There is no more unfortunate creature under the sun than a fetishist who yearns for a woman's shoe and has to settle for the whole woman"). Speedy and he even re-joined the Catholic church. A strange move, but Schlichter felt masochistic about his masochism and wanted to confess, while Speedy was content to somehow officialize her new life. 

 Rudolf Schlichter, Untitled, c. 1930

At the beginning of the 1930s Schlichter wrote his autobiography in two volumes: Das widerspenstige Fleisch (The Rebellious Flesh) and Tönerne Flüsse (Clay Rivers); the latter was immediately put on the index by the new Nazi-Government because of its "erotic-perverse tendencies". In 1932 the Schlichter couple left Berlin and setlled in Rottenburg (a small town near Stuttgart). Three years later, he was expelled from the Reich's Association of German Writers, and spent a couple of months in prison on procuration charges (Speedy had supplemented the family income receiving paying customers in their private flat). 

 Rudolf Schlichter, Blind Power, 1937

In 1937 many  of Schlichter's works were shown in the infamous Degenerate Art Exhibition, and in 1939 the Blind power of Nazi authorities banned him from exhibiting. His studio was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1942. One year after the war, in 1946, Schlichter participated in the 1. Deutsche Kunstausstellung in Dresden with some of his late surrealistic works. He explained his turn to Surrealism in his text "Das Abenteuer der Kunst" (The Adventure of Art), which was published by the Rowohlt Verlag in 1949. Rudolf Schlichter died in Munich on 3rd May, 1955. You can see more of Rudolf Schlichter`s work here in my Flickr set.