German art between the wars

Germany was defeated and exhausted in 1918 at the end of WWI. The equally exhausted victors imposed harsh terms on Germany. It was forced to forfeit its overseas colonial possessions, to cede land to its neighbors, and to pay reparations. As demobilized troops returned, German cities filled with unemployed, and often maimed, veterans. The Socialists briefly seized power and by the early 1920s hyperinflation further destabilized the nation. A new style called Neue Sachlichkeit (the New Objectivity) cast a cold sharp eye on Modern Germany’s hypocrisy, aggression, and destitution, even as extremists on the political right consolidated power. The National Socialists (Nazi) Party won the chancellorship in 1933 and quickly used art and architecture as a means build the myth of a pure German people shaped by the land and unsullied by modern industrial culture. This is a looks at the ways that competing political ideologies each used art for its own purposes.

George Grosz, Remembering, 1937, oil on canvas, 71.2 x 91.76 cm (Minneapolis Institute of Art, © Estate of George Grosz)
Nazi violence forced many artists and intellectuals to leave Germany in the 1930s, and like Grosz, many came to the United States.

George Grosz, Remembering

August Sander. Pastry cook, 1928 (Tate and National Galleries of Scotland)
Sander documented German people from all walks of life, but the goals of his project remain unclear.

August Sander, Portraits

Umbo, The Roving Reporter
A Czech journalist is depicted as a collage of modern technology. What would Umbo make of our 21st-century tech?

Umbo, The Roving Reporter

Adolf Hitler and Adolf Ziegler inspect the installation by Willrich and Hansen of the Degenerate Art exhibition in Munich, 1937
The Nazis organized two exhibitions in 1937: one glorified “Aryan” art, and the other condemned everything else.

Art in Nazi Germany