New Objectivity 1920 – 1933

The New Objectivity is a term used to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American: “The Neue Sachlichkeit is Americanism, cult of the objective, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness”

The New Objectivity was a movement in German art that arose during the 1920s as a reaction against expressionism The term was coined by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, who used it as the title of an art exhibition staged in 1925 to showcase artists who were working in a post-expressionist spirit As these artists—who included Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, and George Grosz—rejected the self-involvement and romantic longings of the expressionists, Weimar intellectuals in general made a call to arms for public collaboration, engagement, and rejection of romantic idealism

[pt_view id=”310ec3eibx”]

Although principally describing a tendency in German painting, the term took a life of its own, and came to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American

The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis to power

The New Objectivity comprised two tendencies which Hartlaub characterized in terms of a left and right wing: on the left were the verists, who “tear the objective form of the world of contemporary facts and represent current experience in its tempo and fevered temperature;” and on the right the classicists, who “search more for the object of timeless ability to embody the external laws of existence in the artistic sphere”

The verists’ vehement form of realism emphasized the ugly and sordid Their art was raw, provocative, and harshly satirical George Grosz and Otto Dix are considered the most important of the verists The verists developed Dada’s abandonment of any pictoral rules or artistic language into a “satirical hyperrealism”, as termed by Raoul Hausmann, and of which the best known examples are the graphical works and photo-montages of John Heartfield Use of collage in these works became a compositional principle to blend reality and art, as if to suggest that to record the facts of reality was to go beyond the most simple appearances of things This later developed into portraits and scenes by artists such as Grosz, Dix, and Rudolf Schlichter Portraits would give emphasis to particular features or objects that were seen as distinctive aspects of the person depicted Satirical scenes often depicted a madness behind what was happening, depicting the participants as cartoon-like

The New Objectivity movement is usually considered to have ended at the fall of the Weimar Republic when the National Socialists under Adolf Hitler seized power in January 1933 The Nazi authorities condemned much of the work of the New Objectivity as “degenerate art”, so that works were seized and destroyed and many artists were forbidden to exhibit A few, including Karl Hubbuch, Adolf Uzarski, and Otto Nagel, were among the artists entirely forbidden to paint While some of the major figures of the movement went into exile, they did not carry on painting in the same manner George Grosz emigrated to America and adopted a romantic style, and Max Beckmann’s work by the time he left Germany in 1937 was, by Franz Roh’s definitions, expressionism

The influence of New Objectivity outside of Germany can be seen in the work of artists like Balthus, Salvador Dalí (in such early works as his Portrait of Luis Buñuel of 1924), Auguste Herbin, Maruja Mallo, Cagnaccio di San Pietro, Grant Wood, Adamson-Eric, and Juhan Muks