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  • gerard van weyenbergh

The New-Objectivity, a basic description

The current of New Objectivity, "Neue Sachlichkeit" in German, was born in Berlin after the First World War. In defeated Germany, won by the economic crisis, he brought together many artists and intellectuals opposed to the Weimar Republic, in particular Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, and George Grosz. These artists developed during the 1920s and 1930s a critical look at German society, which they presented as hypocritical and grappling with a greedy bourgeoisie. Their expressionism translates the brutality of reality, between the traces of war and the beginnings of Nazism. All will be considered degenerate artists by Hitlerian propaganda.

History of movement

The name "Neue Sachlichkeit" was born in 1925, on the occasion of an exhibition in Mannheim, but it reflected an artistic phenomenon which had appeared before in Berlin, on the ruins of the Great War. The thirty artists who belong to this expressionist current have the ambition to represent the tragedy within a bruised society, bereaved and undermined by the economic crisis, although peace has returned. Most (Otto Dix, George Grosz, Hans Richter, Oskar Schlemmer) suffered from the war in trenches themselves and were wounded as well. Some, including Otto Dix, exhibit at the Salon Dada, which is held in Berlin in 1920. Their works carry a protest message vis-à-vis the war and the society that generated it.

Influenced by Dadaism, the members of the New Objectivity draw up a chilling vision of the German interwar period. The theme of the war invalid is often treated, because it embodies the face of a people exploited by the richest, in the service of power issues that have not taken into account the cost of human life. Otto Dix, George Grosz, Gottfried Brockmann, Heinrich Hoerle. All of them, with ferocity, made the war cripple the symbol of their social protest in the context of the young Weimar Republic. Painters favor social themes, which allow them to denounce a society that has become unjust and dehumanized.

The German expressionist painter Max Beckmann, marked by the Great War which he waged as a nurse, believes that the highest mission of an artist is to serve history, to account for "great dramatic actions with content human. " However, Beckmann, close to the Dada spirit (like George Grosz, his contemporary), is not a historicist painter, but he reveals the importance of the word of the artist and the high mission which he assigns to the art: build.

George Grosz, openly pacifist, had no choice but to don the German uniform during the war. Being declared unfit after a sinus infection, he ultimately did not see the forehead. The artist publishes several satirical collections subject to scandal, in particular the Small Grosz portfolio comprising 20 lithographs. In 1917, the year of his reform, he finally irritated the government: he was banned from distributing his drawings and took a lawsuit. Grosz particularly attacks the figure of the bourgeoisie, the one who supports the war.

The theme of sexuality and eroticism is abundantly present in these painters, but from the angle of satire, even caricature. In their paintings and drawings, women - often prostitutes - show themselves to be venal, treacherous, rude, or indifferent. They do not seem to be worth more than their clients, greedy and paunchy wealthy bourgeois.

The scenes painted by the artists of the New Objectivity are often tinged with strangeness and concern. In an industrialized society, all capacity of men to express their ideas seems to have disappeared. The characters are often represented as puppets or abject beings, powerless to embody the modern world in the face of the brutality of the machine and the king money.


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