Weimar 1919 in Amerika 2018

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“In view of the current political and social situation,” writes Dr. Helmut Müller, Managing Director of the Bemeinnützige Kulturfonds in Frankfurt RheinMain, Germany, in the unforgettable, sadly retro-prophetic art history titled “Splendor and Misery in the Weimar Republic” (Hirmer), “in which the world seems to have lost its bearings, we should be particularly grateful to the Schirn Kunsthalle for focusing our attention on an era during the early twentieth century which–despite its ambivalence–seems to offer many parallels to the present day.”

More than ever before, similarities between the Weimar Republic and its short post-World War I democracy (1918–33), is relatable to those of us in today’s Amerika as we watch our own democracy incrementally dismantled by Trump and his reactionary allies, thugs and racist, anti-republican, Amerika-first ideologues.

The book in which Müller’s words appear is an incredible collection of images by artists of the “movement” known as the New Objectivity. These painters, cartoonists and posterists reflected the a period of social decadence, political crises, ruinous economy, mass unemployment and battles royal between the Communist left and the NAZI right. It was a period of deep seeded social tensions, expressed through paintings and graphics produced with mordant wit and scabrous satire as a prelude to the darkness to follow.

These few images from this richly illustrated book show the style of art that defined this per-Hitlerian age and how its leading artists used realism to express the bohemianism, militarism and moral despair that emerged during this state of transition from the promise of freedom to the state of evil that destroyed obliterated those freedoms.

George Scholz, Veteran’s Association, 1922.

Rudolf Schlichter, Hausvogteiplatz, c. 1926.

Oskar Nerlinger, The Last Exist, c. 1930/31.

Rudolf Schlichter, Attack at the Brothel, 1919.

Karl Hubbuch, They Live in the Same House, 1928.

Elfrede Thurner, Women In Distress issue of Eulengspiegel No. 10, 1931, on the anti-abortion laws in Weimar.

Kurt Günther, The Radioist, 1927.

Political posters of the Left and Right, pre-1933.


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About Steven Heller

Steven Heller is the co-chair of the SVA MFA Designer /Designer as Author + Entrepreneur program, writes frequently for Wired and Design Observer. He is also the author of over 170 books on design and visual culture. He received the 1999 AIGA Medal and is the 2011 recipient of the Smithsonian National Design Award.View all posts by Steven Heller →