gse_menu_A1

Past Exhibitions

Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 15, 2014 - September 26, 2014


Ilija/Mangelos

Father & Son, Inside & Out

April 24, 2014 - July 3, 2014


Modern Furies

The Lessons and Legacy of World War I

January 21, 2014 - April 12, 2014


Käthe Kollwitz

The Complete Print Cycles

October 8, 2013 - December 28, 2013


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

July 9, 2013 - September 27, 2013


Story Lines

Tracing the Narrative of "Outsider" Art

January 15, 2013 - March 30, 2013


Egon Schiele's Women

October 23, 2012 - December 28, 2012


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 17, 2012 - October 13, 2012


Mad As Hell!

New Work (and Some Classics) by Sue Coe

April 17, 2012 - July 3, 2012


The Ins and Outs of Self-Taught Art

Reflections on a Shifting Field

January 10, 2012 - April 7, 2012


The Lady and the Tramp

Images of Women in Austrian and German Art

October 11, 2011 - December 30, 2011


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 5, 2011 - September 30, 2011


Decadence & Decay

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011


Self-Taught Painters in American 1800-1950

Revisiting the Tradition

January 11, 2011 - April 2, 2011


Marie-Louise Motesiczky

Paradise Lost & Found

October 12, 2010 - December 30, 2010


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

July 13, 2010 - October 1, 2010


Käthe Kollwitz

A Portrait of the Artist

April 13, 2010 - June 25, 2010


Seventy Years Grandma Moses

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Artist's "Discovery"

February 3, 2010 - April 3, 2010


Egon Schiele as Printmaker

A Loan Exhibition Celebrating the 70th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 3, 2009 - January 23, 2010


From Brücke To Bauhaus

The Meanings of Modernity in Germany, 1905-1933

March 31, 2009 - June 26, 2009


They Taught Themselves

American Self-Taught Painters Between the World Wars

January 9, 2009 - March 14, 2009


Elephants We Must Never Forget

New Paintings Drawings and Prints by Sue Coe

October 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2008 - September 26, 2008


Hope or Menace?

Communism in Germany Between the World Wars

March 25, 2008 - June 13, 2008


Transforming Reality

Pattern and Design in Modern and Self-Taught Art

January 15, 2008 - March 8, 2008


Leonard Baskin

Proofs and Process

October 9, 2007 - January 5, 2008


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 5, 2007 - September 28, 2007


Who Paid the Piper?

The Art of Patronage in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna

March 8, 2007 - May 26, 2007


Fairy Tale, Myth and Fantasy

Approaches to Spirituality in Art

December 7, 2006 - February 3, 2007


More Than Coffee was Served

Café Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Vienna and Weimar Germany

September 19, 2006 - November 25, 2006


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 6, 2006 - September 8, 2006


Parallel Visions II

"Outsider" and "Insider" Art Today

April 5, 2006 - May 26, 2006


Ilija!

His First American Exhibtion

January 17, 2006 - March 18, 2006


Coming of Age

Egon Schiele and the Modernist Culture of Youth

November 15, 2005 - January 7, 2006


Sue Coe:

Sheep of Fools

September 20, 2005 - November 5, 2005


Recent Acquisitions

And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market

June 7, 2005 - September 9, 2005


Every Picture Tells a Story

The Narrative Impulse in Modern and Contemporary Art

April 5, 2005 - May 27, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part II

Self-Taught Artists

January 18, 2005 - March 26, 2005


65th Anniversary Exhibition, Part I

Austrian and German Expressionism

October 28, 2004 - January 8, 2005


Sue Coe: Bully: Master of the Global Merry-Go-Round and Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 8, 2004 - October 16, 2004


Animals & Us

The Animal in Contemporary Art

April 1, 2004 - May 22, 2004


Henry Darger

Art and Myth

January 15, 2004 - March 20, 2004


Body and Soul

Expressionism and the Human Figure

October 7, 2003 - January 3, 2004


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 24, 2003 - September 12, 2003


In Search of the "Total Artwork"

Viennese Art and Design 1897–1932

April 8, 2003 - June 14, 2003


Russia's Self-Taught Artists

A New Perspective on the "Outsider"

January 14, 2003 - March 29, 2003


Käthe Kollwitz:

Master Printmaker

October 1, 2002 - January 4, 2003


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 25, 2002 - September 20, 2002


Workers of the World

Modern Images of Labor

April 2, 2002 - June 15, 2002


Grandma Moses

Reflections of America

January 15, 2002 - March 16, 2002


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoscha

From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

November 23, 2001 - January 5, 2002


The "Black-and-White" Show

Expressionist Graphics in Austria & Germany

September 20, 2001 - November 10, 2001


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 26, 2001 - September 7, 2001


Art with an Agenda

Politics, Persuasion, Illustration and Decoration

April 10, 2001 - June 16, 2001


"Our Beautiful and Tormented Austria!": Art Brut in the Land of Freud

January 18, 2001 - March 17, 2001


The Tragedy of War

November 16, 2000 - January 6, 2001


The Expressionist City

September 19, 2000 - November 4, 2000


Recent Acquisitions (And Some Thoughts on the Current Art Market)

June 20, 2000 - September 8, 2000


From Façade to Psyche

Turn-of-the-Century Portraiture in Austria & Germany

March 28, 2000 - June 10, 2000


European Self-Taught Art

Brut or Naive?

January 18, 2000 - March 11, 2000


Saved From Europe

In Commemoration of the 60th Anniversary of the Galerie St. Etienne

November 6, 1999 - January 8, 2000


The Modern Child

(Images of Children in Twentieth-Century Art)

September 14, 1999 - November 6, 1999


Recent Acquisitions

(And a Look at Sixty Years of Art Dealing)

June 15, 1999 - September 3, 1999


Sue Coe: The Pit

The Tragical Tale of the Rise and Fall of a Vivisector

March 30, 1999 - June 5, 1999


Henry Darger and His Realms

January 14, 1999 - March 13, 1999


Becoming Käthe Kollwitz

An Artist and Her Influences

November 17, 1998 - December 31, 1998


George Grosz - Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler

Art & Gender in Weimar Germany

September 23, 1998 - November 11, 1998


Recent Acquisitions

(And Some Thoughts About Looted Art)

June 9, 1998 - September 11, 1998


Taboo

Repression and Revolt in Modern Art

March 26, 1998 - May 30, 1998


Sacred & Profane

Michel Nedjar and Expressionist Primitivism

January 13, 1998 - March 14, 1998


Egon Schiele (1890-1918)

Master Draughtsman

November 18, 1997 - January 3, 1998


The New Objectivity

Realism in Weimar-Era Germany

September 16, 1997 - November 8, 1997


Recent Acquisitions

A Question of Quality

June 10, 1997 - September 5, 1997


Käthe Kollwitz - Lea Grundig

Two German Women & The Art of Protest

March 25, 1997 - May 31, 1997


That Way Madness Lies

Expressionism and the Art of Gugging

January 14, 1997 - March 15, 1997


The Viennese Line

Art and Design Circa 1900

November 18, 1996 - January 4, 1997


Emil Nolde - Christian Rohlfs

Two German Expressionist Masters

September 24, 1996 - November 9, 1996


Breaking All The Rules

Art in Transition

June 11, 1996 - September 6, 1996


Sue Coe's Ship of Fools

March 26, 1996 - May 24, 1996


New York Folk

Lawrence Lebduska, Abraham Levin, Isreal Litwak

January 16, 1996 - March 16, 1996


The Fractured Form

Expressionism and the Human Body

November 15, 1995 - January 6, 1996


From Left to Right

Social Realism in Germany and Russia, Circa 1919-1933

September 19, 1995 - November 4, 1995


Recent Acquisitions

June 20, 1995 - September 8, 1995


On the Brink 1900-2000

The Turning of Two Centuries

March 28, 1995 - May 26, 1995


Earl Cummingham - Grandma Moses

Visions of America

January 17, 1995 - March 18, 1995


Three Berlin Artists of the Weimar Era: Hannah Höch, Käthe Kollwitz, Jeanne Mam

September 13, 1994 - November 5, 1994


55th Anniversary Exhibition in Memory of Otto Kallir

June 7, 1994 - September 2, 1994


Drawn to Text: Comix Artists as Book Illustrators

May 15, 1994 - January 7, 1995


Sue Coe: We All Fall Down

March 29, 1994 - May 27, 1994


The Forgotten Folk Art of the 1940's

January 18, 1994 - March 19, 1994


Symbolism and the Austrian Avant Garde

Klimt, Schiele and their Contemporaries

November 16, 1993 - January 8, 1994


Art and Politics in Weimar Germany

September 14, 1993 - November 6, 1993


Recent Acquisitions

June 8, 1993 - September 3, 1993


The "Outsider" Question

Non-Academic Art from 1900 to the Present

March 23, 1993 - May 28, 1993


The Dance of Death

Images of Mortality in German Art

January 19, 1993 - March 13, 1993


Art Spiegelman

The Road to Maus

November 17, 1992 - January 9, 1993


Käthe Kollwitz

In Celebration of the 125th Anniversary of the Artist's Birth

September 15, 1992 - November 7, 1992


Naive Visions/Art Nouveau and Expressionism/Sue Coe: The Road to the White House

May 19, 1992 - September 4, 1992


Richard Gerstl/Oskar Kokoschka

March 17, 1992 - May 9, 1992


Scandal, Outrage, Censorship

Controversy in Modern Art

January 21, 1992 - March 7, 1992


Viennese Graphic Design

From Secession to Expressionism

November 19, 1991 - January 11, 1992


The Expressionist Figure

September 10, 1991 - November 9, 1991


Recent Acquisitions

Themes and Variations

May 14, 1991 - August 16, 1991


Sue Coe Retrospective

Political Document of a Decade

March 12, 1991 - May 5, 1991


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, drawings and prints

January 22, 1991 - March 2, 1991


Egon Schiele

November 13, 1990 - January 12, 1991


Lovis Corinth

A Retrospective

September 11, 1990 - November 3, 1990


Recent Acquisitions

June 12, 1990 - August 31, 1990


Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, Alfred Kubin

A Study in Influences

March 27, 1990 - June 2, 1990


The Narrative in Art

January 23, 1990 - March 17, 1990


Grandma Moses

November 14, 1989 - January 13, 1990


Sue Coe

Porkopolis--Animals and Industry

September 19, 1989 - November 4, 1989


Galerie St. Etienne

A History in Documents and Pictures

June 20, 1989 - September 8, 1989


Gustav Klimt

Paintings and Drawings

April 11, 1989 - June 10, 1989


Fifty Years Galerie St. Etienne: An Overview

February 14, 1989 - April 1, 1989


Folk Artists at Work

Morris Hirshfield, John Kane and Grandma Moses

November 15, 1988 - January 14, 1989


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

June 14, 1988 - September 16, 1988


From Art Nouveau to Expressionism

April 12, 1988 - May 27, 1988


Three Pre-Expressionists

Lovis Corinth Käthe Kollwitz Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 26, 1988 - March 12, 1988


Käthe Kollwitz

The Power of the Print

November 17, 1987 - January 16, 1988


Recent Acquisitions and Works From the Collection

April 7, 1987 - October 31, 1987


Folk Art of This Century

February 10, 1987 - March 28, 1987


Oskar Kokoschka and His Time

November 25, 1986 - January 31, 1987


Viennese Design and Wiener Werkstätte

September 23, 1986 - November 8, 1986


Gustav Klimt/Egon Schiele/Oskar Kokoschka

Watercolors, Drawings and Prints

May 27, 1986 - September 13, 1986


Expressionist Painters

March 25, 1986 - May 10, 1986


Käthe Kollwitz/Paula Modersohn-Becker

January 28, 1986 - March 15, 1986


The Art of Giving

December 3, 1985 - January 18, 1986


Expressionists on Paper

October 8, 1985 - November 23, 1985


European and American Landscapes

June 4, 1985 - September 13, 1985


Expressionist Printmaking

Aspects of its Genesis and Development

April 1, 1985 - May 24, 1985


Expressionist Masters

January 18, 1985 - March 23, 1985


Arnold Schoenberg's Vienna

November 13, 1984 - January 5, 1985


Grandma Moses and Selected Folk Paintings

September 25, 1984 - November 3, 1984


American Folk Art

People, Places and Things

June 12, 1984 - September 14, 1984


John Kane

Modern America's First Folk Painter

April 17, 1984 - May 25, 1984


Eugène Mihaesco

The Illustrator as Artist

February 28, 1984 - April 7, 1984


Early Expressionist Masters

January 17, 1984 - February 18, 1984


Paula Modersohn-Becker

Germany's Pioneer Modernist

November 15, 1983 - January 7, 1984


Gustav Klimt

Drawings and Selected Paintings

September 20, 1983 - November 5, 1983


Early and Late

Drawings, Paintings & Prints from Academicism to Expressionism

June 1, 1983 - September 2, 1983


Alfred Kubin

Visions From The Other Side

March 22, 1983 - May 7, 1983


20th Century Folk

The First Generation

January 18, 1983 - March 12, 1983


Grandma Moses

The Artist Behind the Myth

November 15, 1982 - January 8, 1983


Kollwitz

The Artist as Printmaker

September 28, 1982 - November 6, 1982


Aspects of Modernism

June 1, 1982 - September 3, 1982


The Human Perspective

Recent Acquisitions

March 16, 1982 - May 15, 1982


19th and 20th Century European and American Folk Art

January 19, 1982 - March 6, 1982


The Folk Art Tradition

Naïve Painting in Europe and the United States

November 17, 1981 - January 9, 1982


Austria's Expressionism

April 21, 1981 - May 30, 1981


Eugène Mihaesco

His First American One-Man Show

March 3, 1981 - April 11, 1981


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele

November 12, 1980 - December 27, 1980


Summer Exhibition

June 17, 1980 - October 31, 1980


Kollwitz: The Drawing and The Print

May 1, 1980 - June 10, 1980


40th Anniversary Exhibition

November 13, 1979 - December 28, 1979


American Primitive Art

November 22, 1977


Käthe Kollwitz

December 1, 1976


Neue Galerie-Galerie St. Etienne

A Documentary Exhibition

May 1, 1976


Martin Pajeck

January 27, 1976


Georges Rouault and Frans Masereel

April 29, 1972


Branko Paradis

December 1, 1971


Käthe Kollwitz

February 3, 1971


Egon Schiele

The Graphic Work

October 19, 1970


Gustav Klimt

March 20, 1970


Friedrich Hundertwasser

May 6, 1969


Austrian Art of the 20th Century

March 21, 1969


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

October 31, 1968


Yugoslav Primitive Art

April 30, 1968


Alfred Kubin

January 30, 1968


Käthe Kollwitz

In the Cause of Humanity

October 23, 1967


Abraham Levin

September 26, 1967


Karl Stark

April 5, 1967


Gustav Klimt

February 4, 1967


The Wiener Werkstätte

November 16, 1966


Oskar Laske

October 25, 1965


Käthe Kollwitz

May 1, 1965


Egon Schiele

Watercolors and Drawings from American Collections

March 1, 1965


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

November 21, 1964


25th Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

October 17, 1964


Mary Urban

June 9, 1964


Werner Berg, Jane Muus and Mura Dehn

May 5, 1964


Eugen Spiro

April 4, 1964


B. F. Dolbin

Drawings of an Epoch

March 3, 1964


Austrian Expressionists

January 6, 1964


Joseph Rifesser

December 3, 1963


Panorama of Yugoslav Primitive Art

October 21, 1963


Joe Henry

Watercolors of Vermont

May 1, 1963


French Impressionists

March 8, 1963


Grandma Moses

Memorial Exhibition

November 26, 1962


Group Show

October 15, 1962


Ernst Barlach

March 23, 1962


Martin Pajeck

February 24, 1962


Paintings by Expressionists

January 27, 1962


Käthe Kollwitz

November 11, 1961


Grandma Moses

September 7, 1961


My Friends

Fourth Biennial of Pictures by American School Children

May 27, 1961


Raimonds Staprans

April 17, 1961


Gustav Klimt, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka and Alfred Kubin

March 14, 1961


Marvin Meisels

January 23, 1961


Egon Schiele

November 15, 1960


My Life's History

Paintings by Grandma Moses

September 12, 1960


Watercolors and Drawings by Austrian Artists from the Dial Collection

May 2, 1960


Martin Pajeck

February 29, 1960


Eugen Spiro

February 6, 1960


Käthe Kollwitz

December 14, 1959


Josef Scharl

Last Paintings and Drawings

November 11, 1959


European and American Expressionists

September 22, 1959


Our Town

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 23, 1959


Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

May 1, 1959


Gustav Klimt

April 1, 1959


Käthe Kollwitz

January 12, 1959


Oskar Kokoschka

October 28, 1958


Village Life in Guatemala

Paintings by Andres Curuchich

June 3, 1958


Two Unknown American Expressionists

Paintings by Marvin Meisels and Martin Pajeck

April 28, 1958


Paula Modersohn-Becker

March 15, 1958


The Great Tradition in American Painting

American Primitive Art

January 20, 1958


Jules Lefranc and Dominique Lagru

Two French Primitives

November 18, 1957


Margret Bilger

October 22, 1957


The Four Seasons

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

June 11, 1957


Grandma Moses

May 6, 1957


Alfred Kubin

April 3, 1957


Franz Lerch

March 2, 1957


Egon Schiele

January 21, 1957


Josef Scharl

Memorial Exhibition

November 17, 1956


Irma Rothstein

May 19, 1956


Käthe Kollwitz

April 16, 1956


A Tribute to Grandma Moses

November 28, 1955


As I See Myself

One Hundred Paintings by American School Children

May 20, 1955


Juan De'Prey

April 19, 1955


Erich Heckel

March 29, 1955


Freddy Homburger

March 2, 1955


Masters of the 19th Century

January 18, 1955


Oskar Kokoschka

November 29, 1954


Isabel Case Borgatta and Josef Scharl

October 12, 1954


James N. Rosenberg and Eugen Spiro

April 30, 1954


Per Krogh

April 2, 1954


Cuno Amiet

February 16, 1954


Eniar Jolin

January 14, 1954


Irma Rothstein

December 8, 1953


Josef Scharl

November 11, 1953


Grandma Moses

October 21, 1953 - October 24, 1953


Wilhelm Kaufmann

September 30, 1953


Lovis Corinth, Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele

May 27, 1953


A Grandma Moses Album

Recent Paintings, 1950-1953

April 15, 1953


Streeter Blair

American Primitive

February 26, 1953


Paintings on Glass

Austrian Religious Folk Art of the 17th to 19th Centuries

December 4, 1952


Hasan Kaptan

Paintings of a Ten-Year-Old Turkish Painter

October 29, 1952


Margret Bilger

May 10, 1952


American Natural Painters

March 31, 1952


Ten Years of New York Concert Impressions by Eugen Spiro; Four New Paintings by

January 26, 1952


I-Fa-Wei

Watercolors of New York by a Chinese Artist

December 1, 1951


Käthe Kollwitz

October 25, 1951


Drawings and Watercolors by Austrian Children

May 21, 1951


Grandma Moses

Twenty-Five Masterpieces of Primitive Art

March 17, 1951


Roswitha Bitterlich

January 18, 1951


Oskar Laske

Watercolors of Vienna and the Salzkammergut

October 14, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part II

May 11, 1950


Austrian Art of the 19th Century

From Wadlmüller to Klimt

April 1, 1950


Chiao Ssu-Tu

February 18, 1950


Anton Faistauer

January 1, 1950


Tenth Anniversary Exhibition

Part I

November 30, 1949


Autograph Exhibition

October 26, 1949


Gladys Wertheim Bachrach

May 24, 1949


Oskar Kokoschka

March 30, 1949


Eugen Spiro

February 19, 1949


Frans Masereel

January 13, 1949


Ten Years Grandma Moses

November 22, 1948


Käthe Kollwitz

Masterworks

October 18, 1948


American Primitives

June 3, 1948


Egon Schiele

Memorial Exhibition

April 5, 1948


Miriam Richman

February 7, 1948


Vally Wieselthier

Memorial Exhibition

January 10, 1948


Christmas Exhibition

December 4, 1947


Fritz von Unruh

November 10, 1947


Käthe Kollwitz

October 4, 1947


Grandma Moses

May 17, 1947


Lovis Corinth

April 16, 1947


Hugo Steiner-Prag

March 15, 1947


Mark Baum

January 11, 1947


Eugen Spiro

November 25, 1946


Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec

May 17, 1946


Ladis W. Sabo

Paintings by a New Primitive Artist

April 8, 1946


Georges Rouault

The Graphic Work

February 26, 1946


Käthe Kollwitz

Memorial Exhibition

November 21, 1945


Fred E. Robertson

Paintings by an American Primitive

June 13, 1945


Max Liebermann

The Graphic Work

April 18, 1945


Vienna through Four Centuries

March 1, 1945


Eugen Spiro

January 20, 1945


Grandma Moses

New Paintings

December 5, 1944


Käthe Kollwitz

Part II

October 26, 1944


A Century of French Graphic Art

From Géricault to Picasso

September 28, 1944


Max Liebermann

Memorial Exhibition

June 9, 1944


Juan De'Prey

Paintings by a Self-Taught Artist from Puerto Rico

May 6, 1944


Abraham Levin

April 15, 1944


Lesser Ury

Memorial Exhibition

March 21, 1944


Grandma Moses

Paintings by the Senior of the American Primitives

February 9, 1944


Betty Lane

January 11, 1944


WaIt Disney Cavalcade

December 9, 1943


Käthe Kollwitz

Part I

November 3, 1943


Will Barnet

September 29, 1943


Lovis Corinth

May 26, 1943


Josephine Joy

Paintings by an American Primitive

May 3, 1943


Oskar Kokoschka

Aspects of His Art

March 31, 1943


Eugen Spiro

February 13, 1943


Seymour Lipton

January 18, 1943


Illuminated Gothic Woodcuts

Printed and Painted, 1477-1493

December 5, 1942


Abraham Levin

November 4, 1942


Walt Disney Originals

September 23, 1942


Documents which Relate History

Documents of Historical Importance and Landmarks of Human Development

June 10, 1942


Honoré Daumier

April 29, 1942


Bertha Trabich

Memorial Exhibition of a Russian-American Primitive

March 25, 1942


Alfred Kubin

Master of Drawing

December 4, 1941


Egon Schiele

November 7, 1941


Betty Lane

June 3, 1941


Flowers from Old Vienna

18th and Early 19th Century Flower Painting

May 7, 1941


Weavings by Navaho and Hopi Indians and Photos of Indians by Helen M. Post

January 29, 1941


Georg Merkel

November 7, 1940


What a Farm Wife Painted

Works by Mrs. Anna Mary Moses

October 9, 1940


Saved from Europe

Masterpieces of European Art

July 1, 1940


American Abstract Art

May 22, 1940


Franz Lerch

May 1, 1940


Wilhelm Thöny

April 3, 1940


French Masters of the 19th and 20th Centuries

February 29, 1940


H. W. Hannau

Metropolis, Photographic Studies of New York

February 2, 1940


Oskar Kokoschka

January 9, 1940


Austrian Masters

November 13, 1939


DECADENCE & DECAY

Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz

April 12, 2011 - June 24, 2011

ARTISTS

Beckmann, Max

Dix, Otto

Grosz, George

ESSAY

Weimar Germany has long fascinated contemporary

audiences, inspiring popular interpretations like the

hit musical Cabaret and the Metropolitan Museum’s

acclaimed 2006 exhibition “Glitter and Doom.” The

combination of unchecked libertinism and present-day

awareness of the impending Holocaust holds the dramatic

appeal of a well-crafted horror movie. The most compelling

images of Weimar decadence are invariably tinged

with presentiments of decay and destruction. Weimar-era

artists appear to share with their future public knowledge

of a fate they are powerless to forestall. Max Beckmann,

Otto Dix and George Grosz had different ideas about

art and its proper function within society, but together

these three men captured the spirit of their time with

exceptional force and cogency.

Unlike the earlier Expressionists, Weimar-era artists

did not congregate in aesthetically oriented collectives

such as the Blauer Reiter or Brücke. They drifted in and

out of loose association with one another or, like Grosz,

made alliances that were more political than artistic.

Pinning a label on this disparate group of creators is

not easy, and the museum director Gustav Hartlaub,

who coined the term Neue Sachlichkeit, knew from

the outset that his formulation was imperfect. Hartlaub

divided Neue Sachlichkeit artists into two camps. The

“Verists,” based largely in the urban north, were interested

in documenting contemporary social phenomena.

The “Magic Realists,” oriented both geographically and

stylistically toward the south, favored a revival of Italian

classicism. The two groups were aligned, respectively,

with the political left and the right; the Magic Realists

would easily accommodate Nazi tastes.

Neue Sachlichkeit is a more elastic concept than its

common English translation, New Objectivity, suggests.

Sachlich means “realistic,” but also “matter-of-fact,” “tothe-

point,” “fundamental.” The “objectivity” in question

might best be characterized as the object-ness of a subject:

not only its palpable substance, but its essential being.

Verists such as Beckmann, Dix and Grosz strove to see

beyond visible realities, into the inherent nature of things.

The artist was an interpretive vehicle, communicating

between the depths and the surface. But inasmuch as

the artist was also a subjective human being, there was

no true objectivity involved.

Military service during World War I was the singular

formative experience for Beckmann, Dix and Grosz,

as it was for many Weimar-era artists. Initially, war

had an elemental grandeur that attracted young men

steeped in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. “Just as

I consciously pursue the terror of sickness and lust, love

and hate to their fullest extent,” Beckmann wrote home

from the Front, “so I’m trying to do now with this war.”

After about six months working as a medical orderly

in Belgium, Beckmann suffered a nervous breakdown

and was mustered out of service. Grosz, too, lasted only

a few months before succumbing to a combination of

emotional and physical illness; he managed to sit out

the rest of the war on medical leave. Only Dix seemed

impervious to the strains of total war, volunteering for

combat duty and eventually training as a fighter pilot.

“War… must be regarded as a natural event,” he wrote.

“You have to see human beings in this unbridled state

to know something about them.”

 

World War I was a visceral expression of modernity’s

destructive force, with implications that far transcended

the boundaries of the battlefield. The war made a mockery

of traditional Judeo-Christian morality and rent asunder

long-established aristocratic regimes in Russia, Germany

and Austria. Grosz, who had a deeply ingrained antiauthoritarian

streak, viewed the war and its aftermath

as a scathing indictment of what he called the “pillars

of society”: the Church, the military and the capitalist

bourgeoisie. He pinned his hopes on Communism, joining

the Party in December 1918. Beckmann believed

that the moral authority once vested in religion had

been ceded to art and that if he could create honest

depictions of the human predicament, people would be

inspired to change. Dix had no such faith in the possibility

of political or spiritual redemption. The world

was brutalized and brutal; he called it as he saw it and

enjoyed provoking outrage for its own sake.

 

Artists faced the challenge of giving visual coherence

to a world that no longer made sense. Of the various

prewar styles, Cubism seemed to correlate best with the

fragmented nature of modern existence. Cubist elements

animate Dix’s battlefield drawings and can be detected

as well in the jagged planes and skewed perspectives of

Beckmann’s and Grosz’s work from the late ‘teens and

early 1920s. However, even before World War I the

relationship between what the art historian Wilhelm

Worringer identified as “abstraction and empathy” had

posed an aesthetic conundrum. The Blauer Reiter artists

laid claim to abstraction as a bridge to the spiritual, but

Beckmann saw both German and French abstraction

as an arid cul-de-sac. To evoke empathy, he believed,

an artist needed to retain ties to recognizable reality.

Beckmann rejected the predominant thrust of modernism

and instead looked backward, to artists such as

Brueghel and Matthias Grünewald. Dix, too, admired

Northern Renaissance painting, both for its smooth,

licked surfaces and its expressive, sometimes tormented,

realism. Dix and Grosz revived the largely discredited

practice of history painting, injecting the genre with a

venom that subverted its former celebratory function.

This trolling through old styles and genres was not a

return to the past, but rather an acknowledgement that

no one style could meet the demands of the present.

Indeed, much Weimar-era art involves a pastiche of

styles, often juxtaposed to dramatic effect. The childlike

primitivism of Grosz’s caricatures underscores the scathing

seriousness of their content. Dix painted horrific,

hideous subjects with the refined delicacy of an Old

Master. Both he and Grosz employed a kind of pseudocollage,

in which some elements of a composition are

limned with photographic precision, while others retain

an abstract crudeness. Beckmann navigated a similar

path between three-dimensional verisimilitude and the

flatness of the picture plane, cramming his surfaces with

realistic detail to block out the existential void beneath.

The socio-political upheavals of the early Weimar

years called into question the very viability of art.

Dada, an anti-art movement that originated in neutral

Switzerland during World War I, came to Berlin in 1917

and culminated in the 1920 Dada Fair. Disdaining the

bourgeois preciousness of traditional artworks (paintings

in particular), Dadaists advocated techniques, like

collage and photo-montage, that concealed the artist’s

touch. They favored the ugly over the beautiful, the

ephemeral over the permanent, the mass-produced

over the unique. In keeping with this philosophy, Grosz

developed an uninflected, linear style of caricature

and worked with the publisher Wieland Herzfelde to

disseminate provocative broadsheets and prints. Large

editions and photo-lithography were used to circumvent

the art trade and reach an ostensibly proletarian public.

Inflation further encouraged the publication of

prints in the early 1920s, prompting people to invest

in tangible objects and at the same time curbing the

market for more expensive items like paintings. Prints

and print portfolios enabled Grosz, Beckmann and Dix

to deliver visual treatises on specific aspects of Weimar

society. All three artists were attracted to popular entertainments

such as circuses, cabarets and carnivals, both

as alternatives to high culture and as metaphors for the

farcical nature of contemporary life. Beckmann created

a broad catalogue of human foibles in his 1921 drypoint

cycle The Annual Fair. Grosz’s repeated attacks on the

military culminated in the 1928 Background portfolio, a

suite of reproductions based on stage designs for Erwin

Piscator’s dramatization of the antiwar novel The Good

Soldier Schwejk. One of the greatest bodies of work to

come out of World War I was undoubtedly Dix’s War

cycle: a series of fifty etchings published in 1924. Though

not intended as an antiwar statement, the War series is

all the more powerful for its lack of proselytizing. The

prints simply record the enormity of the conflict as Dix

himself experienced it.

The adversarial approach that some Weimar artists

took toward the ruling establishment was not without

risks. Grosz was almost constantly being hauled into

court; first, at the time of the Dada Fair, for insulting the

military; then for obscenity; and finally, in connection

with the Background portfolio, for blasphemy. Dix walked

a fine line between scandal and outright lawlessness. Only

once did he find himself in legal trouble, for depicting

an allegedly “obscene” prostitute with sagging breasts.

Both Grosz and Dix came from relatively lower-class

backgrounds, and they relished the stance of dandyprovocateur.

Beckmann, however, maintained ongoing

ties to the aristocracy and harbored a more elitist view

of his artistic mission. Cultural renewal, he believed,

could only come from above, through what he termed

“aristocratic bolshevism.”

At the time of the Weimar revolution, many artists

had allied themselves with the proletariat, but it turned

out that the two groups were not especially compatible.

Workers did not like or even understand avant-garde art,

and before long the Communist Party was calling Grosz

to task for the negativity of his imagery. Beyond this, the

artistic passion in Grosz’s and Dix’s work—the complex

interplay between fascination and revulsion—made it

unsuitable for propaganda purposes. Artists could not

easily subordinate their personal creative goals to those of

a commanding authority. Nonetheless, the idea that the

public needed guidance from a higher power—whether

from the Communists or the defunct aristocracy—seemed

unshakable, and doomed Germany’s attempt to establish

a viable democracy.

In the mid-1920s, the Weimar Republic momentarily

stabilized. Inflation had been brought under control,

and the ravages of World War I were beginning to fade

into memory. Beckmann was teaching at the Städel Art

School in Frankfurt, Dix at the Academy of Fine Arts

in Dresden. Even Grosz had settled down professionally

and personally, having become disenchanted with

Communism after a visit to the USSR. All three artists

excelled at portraiture during this period, reflecting

more conventional aspirations as well as the growth of

an appreciative clientele for their work. Beckmann’s

approach to the human condition became increasingly

idiosyncratic, as he began to develop a personal symbolism

that would remain with him for the rest of his life.

Of the three artists, only Grosz, because of his

repeated legal imbroglios and Communist affiliation,

was an immediate target for the Nazis. Already engaged

as a teacher at the Art Students League in New York,

he brought his family to America shortly before Hitler

became Chancellor in 1933. For Dix and Beckmann, the

years between 1933 and 1937 (when both were included

in the infamous “Degenerate Art” exhibition) were a time

of ambiguous unease. On the one hand, they were each

immediately removed from their teaching posts; on the

other, they were still to some extent able to exhibit and

sell their work. Beckmann and his wife fled to Amsterdam

immediately after the opening of “Degenerate Art.” Dix

remained behind, painting landscapes and Christian

allegories that would not offend the Nazis.

Hitler’s notion of “degeneracy” had sweeping implications,

eventually leading to the wholesale extermination

of people he considered unfit to live. Beckmann, Dix

and Grosz were judged “degenerate” because their work

was not classically realistic, and because it highlighted

the moral vacuity of contemporary Germany. These

artists chronicled a society that had sent its young men

to war and then left them, crippled or maimed, to beg

in the streets. This was a society in which everything

had become commoditized and where prostitution was

the emblematic profession. Coming from different

vantage points, Beckmann, Dix and Grosz warned that

unrestrained capitalism would create dangerous disparities

of wealth, rampant corruption and a toxic sense of

injustice. There is good reason that their warnings still

resonate with audiences today.