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Postwar Art in Germany Author(s): Bernard Myers Reviewed work(s): Source: College Art Journal, Vol. 10, No.

3 (Spring, 1951), pp. 251-256+260 Published by: College Art Association Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/772524 . Accessed: 30/11/2011 07:11
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POSTWARART IN GERMANY
By BernardMyers PERHAPS is its complete lack of direct responseto the conditionsof the Germany
time. We may assume that the preponderantinterest in various forms of abstraction,chiefly abstractsurrealismand abstractexpressionism,represents an attemptto escapefrom the unpleasantrealitiesof a bombedout world. At the same time, we mustcontendwith a considerable quantityof middle-of-theroad painting and sculpture,pleasantsubjectsdone in a pleasantmanner,that clutter the annual exhibitionsof KunstvereinethroughoutGermany.In their own way these also fall into the categoryof refusingto face reality. If we look back to the last postwar period, when different forms of emotive and stridentexpressioncame into their own, when New Objectivity cut through the sham of profiteeringand middle class complacency, when art was a direct and violent protest againstphysical, moral, and political conditions, we are surprisedat the apathyand indifferenceof today. Yet we must reckon with the fact that even today's art is a reactionto its milieu, a milieu differentfrom that of the earlytwenties. considerably In the previousperiod of defeat, therewas still a visible physicalenvironment, a more or less progressivegovernmentwith a few tatteredrevolutionary ideals remainingand a situation in which the Germanswere on their own, strugglingto emerge from the chaos of war and inflation.The situationtoday is vastly different.All of West Germanyis occupiedbut-what is more important-it is eating, and eating well. Although Germaneconomyis still in the process of re-establishingitself, the food problem is well taken care of, thanksto the Occupationpowers, so that a convulsiveand agonizing struggle has been avoided. Neither inflation nor its concomitant dislocation is in evidence. Yet one can hardly look about any of the larger cities without realizing that a great deal has happened.When I revisitedGermanyin the summerof 1947, it was an unforgettableexperience of desolation with city after city standing in absolute ruin. By 1950, during my second postwar trip, things were just beginning to be cleaned up and although in some areas strenuous efforts were being made to put things to rights physically,there were many places indeed where rebuilding seemed virtually impossible. This is the psychologicallandscapewhich the modernGermanartisthas for milieu.
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the most astonishingaspectof the postwar artisticsituationin

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Another and perhaps decisive factor operating on the outlook of the averageGermanat present is the convictionthat he is living in a temporary world which at any moment may be disintegratedonce and for all. Looking at things this way, there is very little incentiveto struggle,little hope in what he sees about him, and very little to expect from the future. It is scarcely to be wondered that Germanart is ecaping into various types of abstraction or into gentle lyricism. Consideringthe fact that for thirteenyearsmodern art in Germanywas under an interdict,the qualityof work now being done is exceptionally high. True, the kind of masterwho existed in the days of Die Briickeor Der Blaue Reiter has not yet emerged,but the youth is just beginningto be trainedagain and, to some extent, by the veteransof the twenties. Among these significantsurvivorswe find Karl Hofer, Karl SchmidtRottluff,GerhardMarcks,ErichHeckel, and Max Pechstein,who areteaching. Others include Otto Dix, Xaver Fuhr, Emil Nolde, Renee Sintenis, Willi Baumeister,Karl Caspar,Max Kaus, and Alfred Kubin. Both the teachers and the non-teacherscontinue to work and to that extent furnish a valuable link with the past. Although manyof them have changedtheir styles markedly since the old days, they are still men and women of high professionalcompetence and in that sense furnish an excellent foundation on which progress can be made. To those familiarwith the pre-HitlerGermandevelopment,it may be of interest to see what has happened to some of the survivorsof that epoch. is Among the Briickemembers,Schmidt-Rottluff todayperhapsthe most satisfactory painter, having developed a strong emotive fauve style during the thirties-during the period when he was officiallyforbiddento paint. Heckel and Pechstein have become more conventional in their approach,especially the latter, although a recent traveling retrospectiveof Heckel's work was quite impressive. Nolde, the ancient of this school now in his eighties, is still painting powerfully, playing interestingvariationson his earlier work. A 1950 show in Cologne of his works of the past ten yearsor so was very exciting. Willi Baumeisterand Xaver Fuhr, among abstractpainters, find themselves working in a mannerquite suitableto the times. Among the surviving sculptorsof the past generation,GerhardMarcks,Renee Sintenis,and Ewald Matar6are still working on a very effectivelevel. Dix, amongthe formerNew Objectivitypainters, has now turned toward a mystic religiosity quite different in its diffuse form. Alfred Kubin in Austriahas been quite ill for the past few yearsand is no longer active.

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Hofer, who sufferedmore than most artists due to the almost complete loss of his early work through bombardment, has been teaching, editing a magazine,and graduallyfinding his way towarda new style. No longer trying to reproducehis old paintings with rather unsatisfactory results, Hofer has evolved a new, more abstracttype of expression filled with overwhelming loneliness. has Among the exiles, Campendonk returnedto Germanyfrom Amsterdam where he had been teachingduring the Hitler period. Feiningerin New York, Kokoschkain London, and the recently deceased Max Beckmannin St. Louis and New York, have spread the message of expressionismto a younggenerationhere. Among those who have died since the end of the war are George Kolbe and Oskar Moll. Others who died during the Hitler period itself were Kirchner,Klee, Schlemmer,Rohlfs, Barlach,and Kandinsky. In painting today, a numberof names may be singled out as characteristic of what is happening. Ernst Geitlinger (b. 1895), who lived for many Winold Reiss, has been years in the U.S. working with the painter-designer a theatre artist since 1919. His most typical works are related in style and feeling to Chagall. Geitlinger's interest in the imaginative surrealism of of Chagall is characteristic a great many contemporary Germans,e.g. AlexanderCamaro(b. 1901). ErnstWilhelm Nay (b. 1902), who has workedwith Hofer and Munch, is one of the best known of the youngerGermansand may be classifiedas an abstractsurrealistin the Masson sense. Very strong in emotive quality and more than merely competent,Nay gives us the feeling of a unquestionably certain derivative quality stemming from the other side of the Rhine, as is often indeedthe casewith the youngerGermanartists. Other leading abstract surrealists include the extremely able Joseph Fassbender (b. 1903), the old master Willi Baumeister (b. 1889), Hans Thiemann (b. 1910), and the very effective Werner Gilles (b. 1894), a former expressionist. George Meistermann,anothercurrentcelebrity (b. 1911), who studied under Nauen and Matare gives forth a violent abstractexpressionism.His recentprize-winningThe New Adam, a featureof the 1948-1949 nation-wide German artists (generously sponsored by competition among contemporary Blevins Davis of Kansas City, Missouri), shows strong tracesof Guernica.In this picturewe feel quite clearlyan unusuallyenergeticdesireto createa new world from the ruinsof the old. Young Germansfollowing the abstractexpressionistpath of Kandinsky

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brilliantand original Fritz Winter (b. 1905), Louise include the coloristically and GerhardFietz (b. 1910). The best sculpturebeing produced is R6sler, and is seen on its highest level in the work of Karl Hartung primarilyabstract (1b.1908). Wire sculpturesby Hans Uhlmann (b. 1900) are exciting, even if not altogether original. The work of the veteran Ewald Matar6 is still outstanding. As to whether expressionism the Briickesense has continuedinto this in era, one can point to the work of the northernerKarl Kluth (b. 1898), the Berliner Werner Scholz (b. 1898), and the Mainz painter Paul Strecker (b. 1900), who representthe generationimmediatelyfollowing that of the Briickepeople themselvesand generallydeveloped during the twenties. More recent expressionistsof this type may be found principallyamong graphic artistsand includeEdwin Maier (b. 1911), Alfred Wais (b. 1905), and Hans Fiihnle (b. 1903). When I askedKarl Schmidt-Rottluff duringthe summerof 1950 whether in he felt that expressionism the old sense still continued,he answeredin the affirmative cited his experienceamong the presentcrop of students.This, and is true mainly for the Berlin area where he, Pechstein, and Hofer however, are teachingand where the sense of day-to-daystruggle is far greater than elsewhere in Germany.From what I was able to observe in a few months, it is not the case in the WesternZone. As for the objective conditionsfor the art student,there are the various revived academiessuch as Berlin, Hamburg,Karlsruhe,etc., where first-rate instructionis availablein painting and sculpture.Exhibitionsof variouskinds are increasinglyfrequent,both of the mastersof Germanmodernismand of the newer men as well. These are shown in the still small numberof private galleries and in the various museums,most of which are in the process of rebuilding. The situationof the Germanmuseumsis one of the most interestingphenomena of the postwarperiod. As is generallyknown, the art purge of 1937 divested the German museums of most, if not all their modern worksexcept a numberof graphicswhich could be hidden or pictures returnedto their original private donors for safekeeping. The private collector was (except when he was Jewish or otherwisenon-German) in a more favorable not position than the museum,for his things were presumably liable to confiscation.Moreover,he was able in manycases to extricatehimself from these difficulties morereadilythana publicmuseumofficial. It is of courseknown that the Nazis sold a good many importantpaintings and sculpturesat their infamous Lucerneauctionin 1938, but it is less

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known that private individuals in Germanycould approachthe appropriate Partyofficialand buy for dollarsor Swiss francsthings that were slated either for destructionor sale out of the country.We have, then, a paradoxical situation in Germanywhere many museumshave far fewer modern things than private collectorsand it is virtuallyimpossibleto get an all-overview of German developmentwithout visiting such collections as those of Frau Martha Rauertin Hamburg,Herr Sprengelin Hannover,and FrauLange in Krefeld. have benefitedfrom significant Some museums,like the one in Frankfurt, since the end of the war which change completelythe complexion bequests of their modern assets. The Hagemann Collection in that museum,like the HaubrichCollectionin the Wallraf-Richartz Museumin Cologne, have made all the differenceto those institutions.At the other extreme, the celebrated Folkwang Museum at Essen was not only strippedby the Nazis but bombed out as well, and is now locatedat SchlossHugenpoetat a considerable distance from the city with but a fraction of its former possessions. Some museums have been forced to buy back from privatepeople pictureswhich at one time belongedto the museums. These collectionsof modernGermanart, where they exist, are extremely important not only to the young painter and sculptor but to the general public and to the student of art history. The art-lovingpublic, once a considerablefactor in Germany,is coming to life again, if attendanceat exhibitions and lectures is any symptom.Pressuresfrom the right exist alreadyin art the form of middle-of-the-road fostered in various parts of the country and by various conservativegroups. The attitudeof the right wing political althoughnot yet on a significantscale. partiesis also anti-modern, The situationof art history in postwarGermanyis far from happy. Here the destructionof a generationof young men by the war, the suppressionof honest historicalintentionsunder the Hitler regime, have made for a serious lack of capable students. Similarly,the destructionof certain photographic archivesduring the Hitler period make the situationof the modern research student rather difficult.This is reflectedin the relatively small number of books on art historypublishedwithin the past five yearsand in the abysmally work that is bad quality of certainof these, as well as the poor reproduction still being done in manyplaces. The shortageof books and periodicalson art is so seriousthat museum and universitylibrariesare often far less equippedthan the averageAmerican universityteacher'sprivatelibrary.To some extent this situationis met by the variousAmericaHouses in Germancities, which subscribeto a good number of art and architecturemagazines and receive occasional copies of recent

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American books on art. But these institutionshave nothing to do with the universityor museum world and do not have anything remotelyresembling a working library. The America Houses perform the additional important function of exhibiting German and Americanpainting, scenic design, photography,etc. The chief emphasisis on exhibits dealing directlywith life in America; in the area of art the presentationof Americanaccomplishment leaves a great deal to be desired.Due to U.S. governmentalprejudiceagainstcontemporary art, it has not been possible to show the Germanpublic the scope and level of art in the U.S. A large scale exhibition of paintings by GrandmaMoses left the Munichpublic somewhatbemusedlast summer,while the very decentshow of Americanpaintings offered by the StedelijkMuseumin Amsterdamsomehow did not get to Germany. Although in general Europeansare still somewhat unwilling to accept American art as an independentexpression,there is a large segment of the Germanpublic that is very much interestedin everythingpertainingto this country. This can readily be seen from the way in which American magazines and books are devouredby the variousage levels. A tremendous hunger for culturalexperienceof all kinds: music, dance, cinema,and art-after the of long period of drought-makes this a naturaltime for the presentation the American cultural viewpoint. It is no longer a secret that America is the world's leading producerin the material sense; this would be the time to show the otherAmerica. CONTRIBUTORS:
Theo Bitter is a thirty-three year old Dutch painter, who is regarded as one of the foremost younger artists in the Netherlands. In 1949 he won the Jacob Maris Prize for the best painting done in The Hague during the last five years. He teaches at the Academy of Arts in The Hague. Lester Burbank Bridaham is Secretary of The Art Institute of Chicago, the author of Gargoyles, Chim&res,and the Grotesque in French Gothic Sculpture; assistant director of the annual Old Northwest Territory Art Exhibit at the Illinois State Fair, a painter himself and a national director of Artists Equity Association. Clarence Buckingham Mitchell, well known Chicago photographer, designed the new photographic department at The Art Institute of Chicago. While serving as Technical Adviser in Charge of Research he has been carrying on research in color photography as applied to art museum problems. Lamar Dodd is Regents' Professor and Head of the Department of Art, University of Georgia. As an artist he is represented in the major American museums and private collections, has won many national awards and served on the regional jury for the Metropolitan Museum's recent exhibition "American Painting Today." Winston Elting was born in Winnetka, Illinois and trained as an architect at Princeton (Continued on page 260)

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One can show themwithoutendorsingthem as greator beautiful, experiments. so as to help the public study and make up its mind about them. By exhibiting and helping to sell the artist'srecent work, the museum aids creativenessin the most practical of ways. Its educational work, in coursesand gallery talks for persons of all ages, is devoted less to rhapsodic praisethan in formeryears,and more to helping people recognizethe distinctive features,values, and limitationsof each example-especially of the difficult, unfamiliarones, exotic and contemporary. Students come to the museum to look, listen, sketch, and take notes; seldom now to make complete,exact copies. They consult exhibits and reference files there as an authoruses a library:for materialto be freely worked over elsewhere.No doubt the art museumcan be of more use to American artists,students,and art teachersin the future, by tryingmore activelyto meet their needs. But up to the presentthey have not begun to makefull use of the it resources now puts at their disposal. it resources nowputsat theirdisposal. CONTRIBUTORS: CONTRIBUTORS:
(Continuedfrom page 256) School at Fontainebleau. the Vcole des Beaux Arts, Paris;and the American University, since 1936 andthe designerof Maryville He has beenin privatepractice CollegeFine Arts Center. FrederickHard was for some years Professorof English and Dean of Newcomb College, Tulane University. He has been President of Scripps College, Claremont, is California,since 1944. He has held a Research Fellowshipat the HuntingtonLibrary, of on a memberof the Committee Qualifications the Phi Beta KappaSenate,and one of the editorsof the Pacific Spectator. of was ViennaAcademy Fine Arts,and served HenryKoerner bornin Vienna,attended with the ArmedForcesduringand after the war. He won first prize in the Museumof ModernArt's CancerPosterContest,and the TempleAwardof Pennsylvania's Academy of Fine Arts in 1949. of Professor Art andArchaeology, CharlesRufusMoreyis the distinguished Marquand at Emeritus, Princeton University,and was Attachefor CulturalRelationsat the United in StatesEmbassy Rome, 1945-1950. ThomasMunro is Curatorof Educationat the ClevelandMuseumof Art, Professor of Art at WesternReserveUniversity,and Editorof the Journalof Aestheticsand Art Criticism.He is authorof The Arts and Their Interrelations. BernardMyers, formerlyat New York Universityand recentlyGuest Professorof of Art Historyat the University Texas,is the authorof ModernArt in the Making.Under a Bollingen Foundationgrant he has recentlycompleteda history of GermanExpressionist painting. Mrs. ElizabethUssachevskyis Associate on the Arts Program,in the Institute of Division of SpecializedPersonnel.She is a graduateof the International Education's Universityof Washington,has done graduatework at AmericanUniversity.She has workedin the DisplacedPersonsDivision of the ChurchWorld Service,and has taught at the PutneySchoolin Vermont.

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