Review of the last lecture

As the German speaking countries tried to recover from the ravages of the first World War a new concept of art, architecture and music began to take hold.  Gavin Plumley took us on a fascinating tour of these artistic developments in the Weimar republic.

The new German government established itself in Weimar, to contrast with pre-war Berlin; Weimar was associated with Schiller, Goethe, Nietsch and Bach and new ideas flourished.

Immediately after the end of the hostilities Otto Dix represented the turmoil in harsh but impressionistic ways, with his Matchseller of 1920 illustrating the nightmarish world people were living in.  George Grosz, released from the army after a nervous breakdown, painted Metropolis expressing despair, hate and disillusionment.

Slowly a new movement emerged, 'New Objectivity' embracing practical engagement with the world and artists embraced its ethos.  Not only Dix and Grosz, but painter Christian Schade, photographer August Sander, architects Gropius and van der Rohe came to the fore.  Schade's 'Operating Theatre' is not only clinical, but cold and distanced.  Sander set out to photograph 'the people of the 20th century', embracing every walk of society. His pictures frequently had undertones of ironic comment, such as the wheelchair bound old soldier at the bottom of a flight of steps.  He photographed women, a new awareness of women's roles in society was emerging - German women were given the vote in 1919.

New attitudes included the night life, made famous in modern times by the film Cabaret, based on the play "I am a Camera', itself based on Isherwood's 'Goodbye to Berlin'. Homosexuality was illegal, but tolerated in these nightclubs, as evidenced by the works of Auden and Isherwood.  Other famous music from the era of course is Kurt Weill's Threepenny Opera, written with Bertolt Brecht, again based on John Gay's 1728 Beggar's Opera.  Lotte Lenya, Weill's wife, was a well known voice; even better known was Marlene Dietrich whose career began in 1910.

German cinema led the way with blockbusters.  Metropolis, made by Fritz Lang in 1927was one of the first.  Such advances were aided by the speed with which technology was developing. Marlene Dietrich started filming silent movies, but the 1930 film "The Blue Angel' was the first German talkie, in which Dietrich sang 'Falling in Love Again' and her name was made.

In this fractured world the Bauhaus emerged.  Founded by Walter Gropius in 1919 in Weimar, it was an Art School for every form of artistic expression. Gropius maintained artists were crafts-persons, and crafts-persons were artists, much in the manner of the British Arts and Crafts movement. Architects such as Gropius himself, painters, and importantly, typographers created works imbued with modernism.  One lasting effect started by the Bauhaus school was the Foundation Course, adopted by every art school in modern Europe so that every student discovered something about all the disciplines, not just the one they thought they wanted to pursue.  Women were encouraged, although initially steered towards textiles.  However Marianne Brandt decided on metalwork,. She produced an iconic tea and coffee set, and eventually took over running the metalwork department of the school.   All this came to an end in 1933.

The main building of the Bauhaus University in Weimar.  Built between 1904 and 1911, designed by Henry van de Velde.

Otto Dix:Sy von Harden

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