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German Art 1907-1937

Modernism and Modernisation


Martin Gaughan

This book examines the responses of visual artists, including architects, designers and photographers, to the technological and social modernisation of Germany during the first three decades of the twentieth century. It investigates how these aspects of the modernising process inform both the subject matter and formal innovations of their work. The study analyses how these visual practices were not just the concerns of isolated and enclosed art worlds but had wider social resonances, ranging from the debates concerning the reformist objectives of the Deutscher Werkbund (1907) to the National Socialist ideological onslaught on modernist culture culminating in the Entartete Kunst (Degenerate Art) exhibitions of 1937. Many of the artists encountered here were radicalised by the First World War, the Russian Revolution and the November 1918 Revolution in Germany, experiences which effected change in their conceptualising of cultural production and its social function: their modes of working, however, would also set challenging markers for what forms art might take for the twentieth century. The book is, therefore, both a study of art in complex political and sociocultural contexts and a reflection on how engagement with a social imagination can challenge a tradition based on the assumptions of individual imaginings.
Contents: Designing the Object, Representing the Subject, 1907-1918 – Crisis and the Arts; Cultural Politics and the November Revolution, 1918-1922 – Modernisation and Objectivity – Mass Culture – Revolutionary Objectivity: Art for the Working Class – ‘Conservative’ Revolution and National Socialism.