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New Objectivity in Dresden

Paintings of the 1920's from Dix to Querner

An exhibition from the Galerie Neue Meister
Oktober 1, 2011 to Januar 8, 2012, Kunsthalle im Lipsiusbau (Exhibiton hall of the Lipsiusbau)

In the 1920s Dresden, long established as a city of art, became an important centre of the artistic styles known as "Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) and Verism. For the first time, a special exhibition is being devoted to this phenomenon in Dresden, in which it will be possible to draw comparisons with other artistic centres in Germany. With cool distance and razor-sharp precision, painters depicted the world around them in paintings which leave an impression of extreme realism.

A selection of works by more than 70 artists will enable visitors to gain new perspectives on familiar paintings by viewing them in their contemporary artistic context and at the same time to discover hitherto little-known artists whose works are of exceptional quality. The point of departure for the research accompanying the exhibition was the collection held in the Galerie Neue Meister. Important works on loan from other renowned museums will provide a broader view of this artistic current reflecting the period of the Weimar Republic, with its problems of inflation, short-term stabilisation and political unrest. 

Fastidious training in drawing at the Dresden Kunstakademie and Kunstgewerbeschule moulded an entire generation of artists, including Otto Dix, George Grosz, Otto Griebel, Hans Grundig, Wilhelm Lachnit and Bernhard Kretzschmar. They produced disillusioned images of unemployed people, war invalids and prostitutes as well as portraits of working women and children, expressing the artists’ desire for social change. At the end of the 1920s, against the backdrop of the Wall Street Crash and the subsequent Great Depression, the students of Otto Dix’s paint shop – among them Curt Querner, Rudolf Bergander and Willy Wolff – again turned their attention to sociocritical themes.

"Neue Sachlichkeit" (New Objectivity) combined biting irony and social criticism with old-masterly elegance and Neo-Romantic ideas. The spectrum of the artists’ personal styles ranges from powerfully naive painting to rigid construction to tranquil traditionalism. Franz Radziwill, for example, produced unconventional landscapes in Dresden, while Richard Oelze and Franz Lenk painted strangely alienated still-lifes. The main interest of nearly all the artists was, however, portraiture: whimsical and ordinary, touching and sometimes also sophisticated faces painted with a fine brush, often using the technique of layer painting employed by the Old Masters.

The exhibition will encompass around 140 paintings and about 40 drawings and prints. These will be complemented by selected sculptures and photographs from the holdings of the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden as well as explanations about painting techniques along with photographs and films documenting events in Dresden in the 1920s. An accompanying series of talks will also investigate additional themes from the fields of architecture, literature and history.