Art Styles: Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity)

Otto Dix New Objectivity painting "The Skat Players" Die Neue Sachlichkeit (The New Objectivity) was a pseudo-Expressionist movement founded in Germany in the aftermath of World War I by Otto Dix  (his painting "The Skat Players" shown left) and George Grosz. It is characterized by a realistic style combined with a cynical, socially critical philosophical stance. Many of the artists were anti-war. In their paintings and drawings they vividly depicted and excoriated the corruption, frantic pleasure seeking and general demoralization of Germany following its defeat in the war and the ineffectual Weimar Republic which governed until the arrival in power of the Nazi Party in 1933. But their work also constitutes a more universal, savage satire on the human condition.

Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, who was the director of the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, coined the term in 1923 in a letter he sent to colleagues describing an exhibition he was planning. In his subsequent article, "Introduction to 'New Objectivity': German Painting since Expressionism," Hartlaub explained, "I am interested in bringing together representative works by those artists, who over the last ten years have neither been Impressionistically vague or Expressionistically abstract, neither sensuously superficial nor constructivistically introverted. I want to show those artists who remained- or have once more become- avowedly faithful to positive, tangible reality". The exhibition took longer than expected to be organized and eventually took place between June and September of 1925.

Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub identified two group sas the Verists and the Magical Realists, whom he called classicists in the article. The so-called Verists, including Otto Dix and George Grosz, aggressively attacked and satirized the evils of society and those in power and demonstrated in harsh terms the devastating effects of World War I and the economic climate upon individuals. Max Beckmann was connected with these artists. Although the distinction between Verists and Magic Realists is in fact rather fluid, the Verists can be thought of as the more revolutionary wing of the New Objectivity. Their vehement form of realism distorted appearances to emphasize the ugly, as ugliness was the reality these artists wished to expose. This art was raw, provocative, and harshly satirical.

Christian Shad New Objectivity painting " Count St. Genois d'Anneaucourt"A second term, Magic Realists, has been applied to diverse artists, including Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Alexander Kanoldt, Christian Schad, and Georg Schrimpf, whose works were said to counteract in a positive fashion the aggression and subjectivity of German Expressionist art. Christian Schad was a German painter associated with Dada and the New Objectivity movement. A man of elegant erotic melancholy, Christian Schad made some of the most memorable portraits of his period. The Magic Realists were a diverse group that encompassed the nearly photographic realism of Schad (his painting "Count St. Genois d'Anneaucourt" is shown here) and the gentle neo-primitivism of Schrimpf.

The Magic Realists more clearly exemplify the post-World War I "return to order" that arose in the arts throughout Europe, and that found expression in neoclassicism. Many of the works Anton Räderscheidt produced in the 1920s depict a stiffly posed, isolated couple that usually bear the features of Räderscheidt and his wife, the painter Martha Hegemann.The influence of metaphysical art is apparent in the way the mannequin-like figures stand detached from their environment and from each other. His works from this era are rare, because most of them were either seized by the Nazis as degenerate art and destroyed, or were destroyed in Allied bombing raids.

The paintings of Anton Räderscheidt show echoes of the metaphysical art of the Italians Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. In his book “Nachexpressionismus” (Post-Expressionism), Franz Roh was the first art critic to draw attention to Räderscheidt. Hartlaub invited him, as the only artist from Cologne, to the exhibition “Neue Sachlichkeit” (New Objectivity) in Mannheim.
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