Die Neue Sachlichkeit
New Objectivity: German Expressionist Movement: Otto Dix, George Grosz.
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Pillars of Society (1926)
Staatliche Museum, Berlin.
One of George Grosz's most famous
20th century paintings, and an iconic
work of Die Neue Sachlichkeit.

Die Neue Sachlichkeit (c.1925-35)
German Expressionist Group, Berlin

Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) was a style of German expressionism which reflected the resignation and cynicism of the 1920s and early 1930s. Although its distorted forms make it a form of expressionism, its advocates saw it as a stern, detailed realism - precise to the point of unreality. Their disillusionment with 'official' values was often expressed in the form of grotesque satires to highlight the decadence and depravity in Weimar Germany of the time.

History & Members

Die Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) - occasionally called "Magic Realism" - took its name from the exhibition Neue Sachlichkeit, held at the Kunsthalle in Mannheim by the art historian and museum director Gustav Hartlaub, the only art show associated specifically with the movement.

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The most important expressionist painters who were associated with the group were Otto Dix (1891-1969) and George Grosz (1893-1959), known for their biting anti-war drawings, and their satirical portrayal of Berlin's citizens, especially the profiteers who lived off the First World War. Other members of Die Neue Sachlichkeit include the social commentator Christian Schad (1894-1982), the portraitists Max Beckmann (1884-1950) and Rudolf Schlichter (1890-1955), the eclectic painter and graphic artist Conrad Felixmuller (1897-1977), and the deeply pessimistic Magic Realist painter Albert Carel Willink (1900-83). Other 20th century painters associated with the group include Heinrich Davringhausen (1894-1970), Alexander Kanoldt (1881-1939), Anton Raderscheidt (1892-1970), and Georg Scholtz (1890-1945). The movement broke up not long after the Nazi takeover in 1933, and by 1937 many of its artists were banned as part of the Nazi campaign against Degenerate Art ("entartete kunst"). See also: History of Expressionist Painting (c.1880-1930).

Style, Genres and Sample Works

Part of the expressionist movement that survived the carnage of the Great War, the New Objectivity movement rejected the visionary idiom of Die Brucke (1905-13) and the symbolism of Der Blaue Reiter (1911-14), in favour of concrete portrayals of a society full of drug-dealers, prostitutes, war-profiteers, amputees and beggars. Expressionist portraits and self-portraits were the most common genres chosen, and while faces might be simplified or charicatured, objects were often painted in minute detail. Famous expressionist paintings by Neue Sachlichkeit artists include:

Otto Dix
The Match Seller (1920, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart)
Pimp with Prostitutes (1922, private collection)
Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden (1926, Pompidou Centre, Paris)

George Grosz
Suicide (1916, Tate Collection, London)
Pillars of Society (1926, Staatliche Museum, Berlin)

Max Beckmann
Self-Portrait in a Tuxedo (1927, Busch-Reisinger Museum)
The Beginning (triptych) (1949, Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Christian Schad
Self-Portrait With Model (1927, Tate Gallery, London)
Operation (1929, Lenbachhaus, Munich)

Rudolf Schlichter
Dead World (1926, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart)

Modern School of New Objectivity

Contemporary followers of Die Neue Sachlichkeit include the husband and wife team of art photographers from Germany - Bernd and Hilla Becher (1931-2007; b.1934) - who founded the Dusseldorf School.

Key Collections

Although works by Die Neue Sachlichkeit artists hang in many of the world's best art museums, good collections can be viewed at these institutions:

- Fine Arts Museums of san Francisco
- Kunsthaus, Zurich.
- Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minnesota
- Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf
- Palazzo Grassi, Venice

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