This Study Day looks at the extraordinary range and inventiveness of German art during this tumultuous time in its history. There were artist groups with manifestos and there were the individualists.

The Blaue Reiter artists in Munich reacted against academic art regarding it as shallow and materialistic and chose instead to paint a spiritual attitude to nature and humanity. Their art was considered an affront to good taste, or at best the work of madmen.

Kirchner - Street in Berlin - part of an art history lecture on early 20th century German art by Alexandra Drysdale

The German Expressionists in Dresden and Berlin reacted against industrialization and chose to paint utopian visions of the Good Life: men and women living freely in nature. Their art was considered ugly and technically bad.

The New Objectivity artists, George Grosz and Otto Dix, having experienced the national humiliation of World War 1, reacted against the Self-Expressionists, painting technically good pictures but with ugly subject matter: corrupt capitalists and bankers in brothels.

Skat players by Otto Dix - German artist of the early 20th century

The Dadaists rejected the pleasure of beauty in art, and instead celebrated “bad” art, an anti-aesthetic that confounded the middle classes.

Then Hitler damned the lot of them, classifying them all as Degenerates and instead promoted bad Neo-Classical kitsch.


Knealing Mother and child, Modersohn-Becker, German art in the early 20th century

Lecture 1

  • Blaue Reiter (Blue Rider) in Munich: Franz Marc, Kandinsky, Macke, Klee, Munter, Jawlensky
  • Paula Modersohn-Becker

Lecture 2

  • German Expressionism
  • Dei Brucke (The Bridge) in Dresden: Kirchner, Schmidt-Rottluff, Bleyl, Heckel,
  • Berlin: Beckmann, Meidner, Radziwill, Nolde, Kollwitz, Barlach

Lecture 3

  • Neue Sachlikeit (New Objectivity): George Grosz, Otto Dix, Christian Schad
  • Dada: Schwitters, Hoch, Hausman, Arp