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Modern abstract art evolution Germany, the land of great artists

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The “Golden Twenties” as the twenties were also called because of the dazzling and flourishing modern abstract art and culture scene. However, a relatively small group of people were able to enjoy the “golden” years and for a short span. Social criticism to the sheer lust for pleasure shadowed the good times of painting, literature, architecture, theater, cinema, sports and music creating a tension.

The avant-garde art movements of Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism were Particularly influential. With the seizure of power of the National Socialists ended the cultural diversity, In the last years of the Republic, modern abstract art and culture became increasingly political, because the struggle between the two political camps was also fought in this area.

As oppressive and gray as the political culture of the twenties was, the modern abstract art and culture of this time presented themselves in a glamorous and experimental way. Not for nothing have these years remained alive as the “Golden Twenties”. Many but the few had to live in the poor condition and had to struggle a lot to about their livelihood. Which sometimes were insufficient. They witnessed the World Economy Crisis in 1929, and thereafter, the people having the gala time had to end up their mood abruptly, and the art and culture were also subject to the influence of politics and social misery of the population.

Architecture and design

The “new objectivity” also found expression in architecture and design and was expressed in simple straight forms that combined beauty and functionality. Stylistically the school of design founded by WALTER GROPIUS in Weimar in 1919, the so-called “Bauhaus”, where painters and designers such as WASSILY KANDINSKY, PAUL KLEE, MARCEL BREUER, MARIANNE BRANDT and later LUDWIG MIES VAN DER ROHE taught and worked. The composer PAUL HINDEMITH also gave guest lectures here. In the Bauhaus, architecture, painting, design, and modern abstract art were to be brought together. In 1925 the Bauhaus had to go to Dessau, the capital of the state of Anhalt because the bourgeois government in Thuringia had withdrawn the state support from the project.

Modern Abstract Art

The people who had respect for modern abstract art, shaped this time post-war, with the help of Expressionism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. MAX ERNST or PAUL KLEE, were few of those representatives, who were admired and accepted by the public because they happened to appear as the people who stood against the self-alienization and loss of humanity. OTTO DIX, MAX BECKMANN or GEORG GROSZ are some of the names of the other painters who also lived in the era and had an impact on the growing technology on them. The growing technologies such as radio or films. They were then happy with the work that explained coping with everyday life by their sober painting. 


The radio began to assert itself since the mid-twenties as a mass medium. On October 29, 1923, the first public radio broadcast in Germany was broadcast from the Berlin Vox House at 8 pm. Already in 1924, there were numerous broadcasters, which were summarized in 1925 in an umbrella organization, the Reich Broadcasting Corporation. The number of radio receivers increased rapidly from 1924 to 1932, from about 10,000 to about 4 million devices. The radio was mainly to listen to entertainment music, such as the hits of the Comedian Harmonists or the chansons of actress and singer CLAIRE WALDOFF. However, one-third of the broadcasting time was accounted for by contributions to the words, i.e., news broadcasts, reports, lectures, radio plays and poetry readings.

modern abstract art, abstract art

Singer Claire Waldoff, Source: Wikipedia


Theatre and Movies

With the establishment of the democratic Weimar Republic, the censorship and art dictates of the empire also came to an end. Many theatrical directors and dramaturges put their work at the service of a political idea. ERNST TOLLER, ERWIN PISCATOR, and BERTOLT BRECHT, for example, became enthusiastic about socialist ideals and packed them into socially critical plays, especially BRECHTS (text) and KURT WEILL (music). “Threepenny Opera” was celebrated throughout the Republic. The Berlin theaters and directors such as MAX REINHARDT and LEOPOLD JESSNER, who worked very experimentally and with high use of expressions, were the main factors that shaped the diverse and lively theater scene of the republic and brought elements into the performances. From the mid-twenties, the new-style also came into the theater, for example, with the anti-militaristic tragi-comedy “The Captain von Köpenick” by CARL ZUCKMAYER.

modern abstract art, abstract art

ThreePenny Opera, Source: Wikipedia

The new artistic expressions also found their way into the contemporary cinema film. The silent films by WILHELM MURNAU (Nosferatu – Symphony of horror, 1922) and FRITZ LANG (Dr. Mabuse, 1922, Metropolis, 1926) were the trendsetters. They created new pictorial worlds in a film by adopting the formal language of Expressionism. Scenes, for example, were distorted in perspective to create an unreal and oppressive atmosphere in the audience. The costume, revue and comedy films of the time reached a mass audience, for in 1930 there were about 5,000 cinemas in Germany and already in 1925 nearly 2 million cinema tickets were sold every day. After the studios in Hollywood, Universum Film AG (Ufa) became the second largest film production company in the world. The first major German sound film “The Blue Angel” helped MARLENE DIETRICH to achieve world fame. All genres of the movie that is still in use today like horror, adventure, science fiction or spy films, originated in the twenties.

Read More About Modern Abstract ArtThe Realms of Contemporary Art

Literature & the Press

The German literature of the twenties also reached world level. THOMAS MAN made a sensation in 1924 with the “Magic Mountain” and in 1929 received the Nobel Prize for Literature. Even the “Steppenwolf” by HERMANN HESSE and ERICH MARIA REMARQUES “Nothing New in the West” were read worldwide. The list of important authors of this era is long, including FRANZ KAFKA, ARNOLD BRANCH, ANNA SEGHERS, JOSEPH ROTH and ERICH KÄ Stner, as well as HANS FALLADA, ÖDÖN VON HORVÁTH, LION FEUCHTWANGER, ALFRED DÖBLIN and HEINRICH and KLAUS MANN. ERNST JÜNGER (“In Steel Thunderstorms”) and OSWALD SPENGLER (“The Fall of the West”) also wrote their pessimistic and anti-democratic writings during this time, which received a lot of attention from the National Socialists. 

The journalists EGON ERWIN KISCH (“The Racing Reporter”), KURT TUCHOLSKY (newspaper “Die Weltbühne”) and CARL VON OSSIETZKY (“Die Weltbühne”) wrote gripping and demanding reports on social and political topics. The press took a leading position among the media. In 1928 over 3,350 different daily newspapers appeared; today there are “only” about 360 daily newspapers in Germany.

Music and Dance

Dance events were also extremely Popular apart from the radio. Above all the American fashion dances “Shimmy” and “Charleston” were seen dancing to the jazz sounds of DUKE ELLINGTON’S “Chocolate Kiddies” or JOSEPHINE BAKERS “Charleston Bigband” and numerous other bands in the numerous dance halls. 

For the Charleston, the gentlemen wore suits and the women’s dresses, which reached down to the knee and were decorated with glittering sequins and colored glass beads. The French dancer and singer JOSEPHINE BAKER made a guest appearance in Berlin in 1927 and called forth great excitement with her “wild” dances and her “light” clothing. In the serious music, new paths were taken. The composers PAUL HINDEMITH and ARNOLD SCHÖNBERG experimented with new tonal languages. In HINDEMITH, the anti-romantic and sober “new objectivity” was introduced, SCHÖNBERG also developed the so-called twelve-tone technique, which goes beyond the limits of tonality and is therefore difficult for someone not so well versed to hear. The music of RICHARD STRAUSS, on the other hand, still moved in the classical-romantic tradition and brought it to a conclusion.


From a sporting point of view, a lot was happening in this period. Car racing was among the most popular sporting events, the races on 1921 completed in Berlin automobile transport and trainer street (Avus) attracted a huge number of visitors. In 1926 the first Grand Prix of Germany was held there. The drivers set with the up to 240 km / h fast racing cars of the companies like Mercedes-Benz, Bugatti, Alfa Romeo on speed records and were acclaimed stars. Football was no longer the game adored as the popular amusement of the working class but lured a number of people into the stadiums on the weekends. The other sports like Cycling races and boxing matches were also the center of attraction and spectators visited in huge numbers. The boxing matches of MAX SCHMELING witnessed a million of followers who viewed it on the radio.

Lifestyle of the Workers

In the twenties, the traditional working-class culture was still alive, but the classic way of life of a socialist worker who cared for social democracy from cradle to grave was no longer the norm. Workers’ songs, workers’ theaters, workers’ literature and newspapers now no longer served only for educational and propaganda purposes but were used primarily in the final phase of the Weimar Republic to combat the right-wing Nationalist camp, which acted with the same means.

We can conclude by saying that the changes in the era of the twenties, marked the era of change in the art forms as well. The world got to witness some of the greatest resources of art. After this, the way art is perceived has changed and now it’s pursued worldwide with no limits.


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March 2019
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