The Artists of Neue Sachlichkeit

       One of the important factors that led to much of the diversity seen in the art of Neue Sachlichkeit was demographics. Berlin at the time was the fourth largest city in the world. But Germany was a country with a number of large cities and thriving cultural centers. Art was able to develop and flourish regionally. And as the 1920's progressed, the movement became broad-based. It included many individual styles and well as local groups. At the same time, the lack of any single dominant cultural center, in contrast with Paris for France, at least initially may have contributed to a lack of attention and recognition by the art community outside Germany.
        Expressionist art returned within Marcella 1926 by Christian SchadGermany in the early Postwar period like an unmanaged garden after a long winter. Initially a new generation of artists began to pour out work, benefiting from a recovery in the market. As Expressionism was supposed to  emphasize spiritual values, many of its supporters became critical of this commercialism . Soon there was a call for a "new naturalism", and by 1919 the  pressures against Expressionism began to build. The result was the abandonment of the Expressionist and Modernist styles by groups of artists in various parts of the country. In contrast with Italy, where there were strong classical traditions for artists to fall back on, Germany had fewer indigenous art traditions to build on, once Expressionism  was set aside. Most notable the Germans admired the Nazarenes and several artists of the German Romantic movement (i.e., Caspar David Friedrich, Arnold Boecklin). At the same time, many German artists of this time also followed developments in Italy, especially through the journal Valori Plastici, which covered artists in Il Novecento Italiano and Pittura Metafiscia (Giorgio de Chirico, Carlo Carra & Giorgio Morandi). It is important to note that there was a strong affinity between German artists and Italian art, both classical and contemporary. A chart showing some influences on various Post-Expressionist artists is available here.

       The years 1920-1925 saw the concurrent development of the core groups of Neue Sachlichkeit art, in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Cologne and Hannover. These were years of economic and political instability. The counter-movement to Expressionism was fostered by a considerable attention in art periodicals, variously referred to as Post-Expressionism, or "Neo Realism", or "Neo Naturalism",  or "Magic Realism" or "Magic Naturalism" . Ultimately, with the opening of Gustav Hartlaub's exhibition in Hannover during  June 1925, under the banner "Die Neue Sachlichkeit", the movement obtained broad recognition and the name that would be applied to the movement thereafter.

       Art critic Emilio Bertonati characterized the art of the Neue Sachlichkeit by breaking it down into four groups. Works by individual artists may seem to fall into different groups, but this chart provides basic categorization.

Protest (socially critical): Georg Grosz, Rudolf Schlichter, Otto Dix, Otto Griebel, Barthel Gilles, Karl Hubbuch, Adolf Uzarski
Geometry (Simplified or constructive): Heinrich Hoerle, Anton Raderscheidt, Carl Grossberg
Poetic (or rustic): Georg Schrimpf, Alexander Kanoldt, Carlo Mense, Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Reinhold Nagale
Magic (naturalistic or detailed): Christian Schad, Georg Scholz, Franz Radziwill, Rudolf Dischinger, Wilhelm Schnarrenberger, Gert Wollheim, Grethe Juergens, Franz Lenk

In these groupings the more typical works of Magic Realism Dr Mayer-Hermann 1926 by Otto Dixgenerally occurred within the last two groups. Paintings by Christian Shad and Franz Radziwill are most often cited by writers, yet Radziwill was slow in moving from Expressionism and eventually drifted toward Surrealism . Some pieces by Georg Scholz, Alexander Kanoldt and Carlo Mense are  representative. The somewhat cynical work of Rudolf Schlichter and of Otto Dix in many cases display some  characteristics of Magic Realism .Dix, through his intense study of the old masters, was able to achieve varied and stunning results as the decade progressed. It was Dix's intense passion for life as expressed in his art that has left us one of the strongest artistic legacies during this period.

       Two important types of Magic Realism developed during this period, and both types were later adapted by artists in other countries. One type was a dreamlike, even toy-like, miniature style, with its roots in Rousseau or in early de Chirico, filled with mystery or strangeness. Often this approach uses unusual viewpoints and juxtapositions, or a skewed or restricted palette. Varying degrees of stylization may be introduced. The second type was a more naturalistic style which selectively used highly defined details, which has multiple points of interest throughout the work. This type was rooted in the art of the Flemish and German masters, as well as in contemporary currents in Italy. In addition to style, the artist's choices of pictorial elements and subject matter contribute to give a work of Magic Realism the power to mesmerize. 

       Our discussion continues as Magic Realism is brought to other countries. The topics include its development in other European countries and subsequently its importation in the Americas.    

Neue Sachlichkeit Gallery
European Magic Realism Gallery
American Magic Realism Gallery

Chapter 1 Magic Realism Introduction
Chapter 2 - Roots of Magic Realism
Chapter 4 - Surrealism vs Magic Realism
Chapter 5 - Magic Realism in other European countries
Chapter 6 - Magic Realism in the Americas (1)
Chapter 7 - Magic Realism in the Americas (2)
Chapter 8 - Contemporary Magic Realism
Chapter 9 - The Future of Magic Realism