post-war art in germany -- 5/26/23

Today's selection -- from The Cold Gaze: Germany in the 1920s by Laerke Rydal Jorgensen (editor) and Kirsten Degel (editor). The humiliation of the defeat in World War I led to profound changes in society and art in Germany:
"The first world war and the defeat led to a culture in Germany characterized by a general shame and embarrassment about pre-war utopias. The 1920s saw the emergence of what German literary historian Helmut Lethen (born 1939) calls the 'cold persona,' a new social type seeking to avoid the feeling of humiliation by adopting a mask of coldness and indifference.

"This new behaviour deeply changed the practice of portraiture. Where before it focused on the models' psychological expression, it now concentrated on their external markers. Photographer August Sander (1876-1964) chose 'classes and professions' as one of his groups, photographing not so much individual characters as occupations. The New Objectivity artists thus portrayed not so much personalities as social types, defined by their social class and profession.

August Sander

"In the manner of the artist Julius Sissier (1893-1965), who represents himself forging his own bust without emotion or affect, the portraits appear cold, emptied of all feeling, in resonance with their often neutral and deserted backgrounds. The subjects appear alone, with a detached expression and an absent, even empty gaze. They seem to be trying to disguise their feelings behind an impenetrable appearance." 



Laerke Rydal Jorgensen (editor) and Kirsten Degel (editor)


The Cold Gaze: Germany in the 1920s


Louisiana Museum of Modern Art


March 28, 2023


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