HAVC 135B : German Art 1905-1945

How is “authenticity” (as well as “realism”) defined and redefined across these artistic practices...?

Authenticity and realism are defined and depicted quite differently from Romanticism to Neue Sachlichkeit in Germany. The authenticity of decidedly apolitical movements, such as Expressionism, is derived from true emotion, spontaneity, and spirituality of human nature–like Kirchner’s use of color, perspective, and brush stroke, or Kandinsky’s musically influenced lines and shapes. Primitivism defines authenticity as coming from non-western cultures, such as Africa or the South Pacific, depicting truth as more rooted in “original human” expression, which stood in opposition to “civilized human” in their eyes. Decidedly political movements, such as Dada, derived authenticity from ambiguity and randomness, which aimed to destroy traditional values in art, and create a shock to revitalize society. The revitalization was politically based, of course, and their political motivation–especially in Berlin Dada–led them to derive authenticity from political awareness and social critique in newly developed forms (like Hannah Höch's photomontages). Neue Sachlichkeit, or New Objectivity, redefined authenticity, yet again, to a new form of Realism, which was to depict reality without distortion and called for a return to natural order. This newly depicted reality, though, was cold, cynical– often described as unheimlich, or discomforting, yet familiar. Depictions of this dark, uncanny post-war reality was where the post-expressionist derived their authenticity.

- Summer 2016

Contents of this reply: