Thursday 4 April 2019

Magic Realism

Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany, at Tate Modern.

At a time of political and social upheaval, many German artists were turning away from the idealistic tendencies that prevailed in Germany before WWI, in favour of a new form of realism. There were two distinct approaches: there were 'classical' artists inclined towards recording everyday life through precise observation; the other group were the 'verists' who employed realism satirically to reveal the true nature of social inequalities. Some characteristics could be traced across both approaches, including an eye for the uncanny and grotesque. 

Paul Klee, Comedy 1921, (watercolour and oil on paper)

These mechanical characters relate to the student parties and theatrical performances at the Bauhaus where Klee was a teacher. The painting was made using his 'oil-transfer' method. Klee placed a finished drawing over a sheet of paper coated with black oil paint. He then traced over it with an etching needle, pressing the oil paint onto a black sheet of paper beneath. The resulting image provided the starting point for a new painting.

George Grosz, Self-Portrait with Model in the Studio, 1930-37

Conrad Felixmueller, Portrait of Ernst Buchholz, 1921, (oil on canvas)

This portrait captures the assured pose of a privileged bourgeois student. The sitter, Ernst Buchloz, later became a notable lawyer and art collector. He took on a number of cases defending freedom of expression. Here the angular form and heightened colouring of the face seem to echo the exaggerated forms of expressionism, a style more closely associated with the pre-war period.

Josef Mangold, Flower Still Life with Playing Card, (oil on canvas)

Otto Rudolf Schatz, Moon Women, 1930, (oil on canvas)

Sergius Pauser, Self-Portrait with Mask, 1926, (oil on canvas)

Hans Grundig, Girl with Pink Hat, 1925, (oil on canvas)

Marie-Louise von Motesidzky, Portrait of Russian Student, 1927, (oil on canvas)

Herbert Gurschner, Bean Ingram, 1928, (oil on canvas)

Max Beckmann, Anni (Girl with Fan), 1942, (oil on canvas)

Jeanne Mammen, Boring Dolls, 1929, (watercolour and graphite on paper mounted on cardboard)

Jeanne Mammen, At the Shooting Gallery, 1929, (watercolour and graphite on vellum)

Jeanne Mammen, Bruederstrasse (Free Room), 1930, (watercolour, ink and graphite on vellum)

Although born in Berlin, Mammen grew up in Paris. The outbreak of war forced her family to leave and eventually return to Germany. During the 1920s she regularly contributed to fashion magazines and satirical journals. Her observations of Berlin and its female inhabitants differ significantly from those of her male contemporaries. Her images give visual expression to female desire and to women's experiences of city life. When Hitler took power, the magazines that she worked for were either closed down or forced to comply with Nazi cultural politics. Mammen survived by selling second-hand books on the street, only resuming her artistic practice after WWII.

Josef Eberz, Dancer (Beatrice Mariagraete), 1923, (oil canvas)

Prosper de Troyer, Erik Satie (The Prelude), 1925, (oil on canvas)

Herbert Gurschner, Triumph of Death, 1927, (oil on canvas)

Albert Birkle, Crucifixion, 1921, (oil on canvas)

Albert Birkle, The Hermit, 1921, (oil on canvas)

Lovis Corinth, Magdalen with Pearls in her Hair, 1919, (oil on canvas)

This portrait depicts Mary Magdalene, a follower of Jesus who is often mistakenly represented as a prostitute. Corinth paints her as a powerful figure. Her bare torso fills the composition. The introduction of the skull is a reminder of passing beauty and mortality.

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