Schad was a German painter associated with
Dada and the
Objectivity movement. A man of elegant erotic melancholy, Christian
Schad made some of the most memorable portraits of his period. He fits
to perfection a certain idea about Weimar. He would be the aristocratic
man dressed in black tie at the cabaret in Berlin, wistfully, knowingly
smoking a cigarette as Marlene Dietrich took the stage in The Blue
Christian Schad was born in Miesbach, Upper Bavaria, on August 21, 1894. A passion for both art and music, Christian Schad played the violin, which was forced him while still a schoolboy. In 1912 Christian Schad left higher secondary school and opted for painting. At the Munich Art Academy he started out in Heinrich von Zügel's painting class but changed after a semester to Becker-Gundahl's class in drawing from the nude. At that time Christian Schad met Georg Schrimpf and Ernst Moritz Engert. Christian Schad managed to simulate a heart problem in order to avoid military service. Furnished with a medical certificate, Schad went to Zurich but not before he had shown his early work at the Munich Secession in spring 1915. He became part of the circle of experimental artists and writers in that city who were interested in Dada
Unlike some of the other Verists, Christian Schad had no need to delve into caricatures of humans. He was fully capable of making us squirm with excruciating realism alone, such as that found in Self Portrait (shown below). Now, you're left with no doubt as to why these two people are here, but it was very clearly a joyless act. Schad is unsparing of himself; he is troubled looking, neither naked nor clothed and, though in the foreground, most definitely not the dominant force in the scene. The woman, on the other hand, is so obviously in charge that she is defiantly nude and almost palpably bored.
In 1918 Christian Schad who was inspired by cubism, began experimenting in Europe by making cameraless photographic images. Talbot had originally called these images “photogenic drawings” which were prints made by placing objects onto photosensitive paper and then exposing the paper to sunlight. By 1919 Schad was creating photogenic drawings from random arrangements of discarded objects he had collected such as torn tickets, receipts and rags. Schad's new imagery was constructed by taking discarded unimportant objects and arranging them. The photograms created from these arrangements had taken on a new form and meaning not considered previously. These prints were published in 1920 in the magazine Dadaphone by Tristan Tzara. She referred to these as “Schadographs”. It was Tristan Tzara who called these images Schadographs to express a Dadist desire to create art from discarded objects. Christian Schad's descriptions of his techniques were eventually used by both Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy in their more extensive explorations.
From 1920 to 1925, Christian Schad spent some years in Rome and Naples, where he married and studied the Italian painters. Then the family emigrated to Vienna. During the twenties, as he struggled to find a way of painting that suited him, Schad began to paint portraits in a meticulous, intensely focused style related to Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, a movement associated with George Grosz, Otto Dix, and Max Beckmann. In the portraits, there’s something hard, etched, and crystalline about the sinuous line used to describe women. At the same time, they have big, soft, pooling eyes: They study the world with the intense but impassive stare of a cat.
In his best pictures, Schad works this edge between hard and soft, sensitive and tough, to fashion a lush atmosphere of the young and world-weary. Often, he will include a voluptuous flower in the image, a symbol, perhaps, of the inner life that cannot quite find expression in a degraded world. The most memorable women in Christian Schad’s paintings are hothouse stems—orchids with some dampness on the petals. In the late twenties, Christian Schad returned to Berlin and settled there. Christian Schad's portraits were painted during a period of less than ten years. As the Depression took hold and Fascism spread, Christian Schad could no longer count upon his father for financial help and retreated to the country and seemed to subside as an artist. He worked intermittently but never again made important pictures. In 1942 Schad moved to Aschaffenburg and married Bettina Mittelstädt. He worked as a cultural critic and for the theatre. From 1954 Schad returned to Expressionist painting but Schadography dominated his late work. In the early 1960s Christian Schad's New Objectivity work was rediscovered and he addressed himself to Magic Realism. Christian Schad died in Stuttgart on 25 February 1982.