“Weimar culture was the
creation of outsiders,
propelled by history into the
inside, for a short, dizzying
-Peter Gay, Weimar Culture
Though Germany was still delicately balanced politically and economically, the Stresemann years of the 1920s included a
major flowering of the arts and
science in the republic, leading to
Berlin becoming the cultural center of
Europe at the time.
- The establishment of the Bauhaus school of design by Walter Gropius
- Became leading center for art and design but was closed by the Nazis in 1933 because of its radical approaches to teaching and research
- Major figures left Germany to live in the USA and the current state of Israel, where many buildings follow the Bauhaus style.
• The growth of the modernist movement, particularly expressionism and abstract expressionism
Major figures were Paul Klee, Otto Dix, Wassily Kandinsky, Max Beckmann
- Left: Inneres Kochen (Inner Simmering), 1925 by W. Kandinsky (www.distributed- objects.com/book/cover.html)
- “THERE are some marriages, and not even an imagination fed up on novels can explain how they came about. They must simply be accepted, the way we accept a juxtaposition of opposing qualities on the stage, such as old-and-stupid over against beautiful-and-full-of- life — which are presupposed, taken for granted as the basis for erecting a farce with the proper mathematics.”
- Translated excerpt from Loulou by Thomas Mann
- Source: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/
Writers such as Thomas Mann, Hermann Hesse and Erich Remarque became world famous
Bertolt Brecht won the Nobel prize for literature
Theatre and cinema
- Provocative and socialist theatre and cabaret flourished, creating a strong entertainment industry
- Berlin became a world leader in cinema, with directors such as fritz Lang and Ernst Lubitsch making more films as a single country that the rest of Europe combined.
- Right: Promotional poster for the1922 film Nosferatu, directed by Murnau
- Germany had the most educated population in Europe, and this was reflected in the several Nobel prizes won by Germans in the period by several prominent international scientists including Albert Einstein
- The motor industry flourished, also the development of the zeppelin and advancements in communication occurred
- Right: the Graf zeppelin, the first airship to fly around the world (Source:images.encarta.msn.com)
- Popular Music becomes an extension of what is performed in the cabarets and public houses of Berlin.
- Composer/performers such as Willy Rosen, Erich Ziegler, Paul O’Montis, Max Ehrlich and Kurt Schwabach become household names and producer/performers of the “Deutsche Schläger”
- “Art Music” becomes a reflection of the Imperial Age; old fashioned and out of style
- Jazz music represents fascination with all things “American”
The Weimar Republic, however ailing in economic and political terms,was one of the most fertile grounds for the modern arts and sciences. Berlin,in particular, became a thriving center of many new art movements such as Dadaism and expressionism,whilst the Bauhaus school near Weimar revolutionized architecture.
The sense of loss,breakdown, chaos and meaninglessness which
characterized German society after World War One was reflected
in artistic movements which stressed such things as
• Making art practical
• The rejection of tradition
• A stress on individual freedom of expression
Effects and Influences of Modernism
a) United States of America
Much of Weimar culture showed great interest in the “American” form of life: the assembly line technique (developed in the American auto industry), the skyscraper, mass consumption and advertisement seemed the epitome of modernity to Weimar artists. They adapted some American forms but often used them critically and creatively.
In addition to the importance of American patterns, one can discern a strong influence of Russian modernism on Weimar culture. The posters, graphics, and architecture of the young Soviet Union to many Weimar artists seemed to represent the manifestations of a new and more humane world.
The Age of Decadence?
- Many Germans saw the new trends in culture and thought as a threat to the present state of German values and civilization as a whole
- This was supported by the fact that many artists and “free thinkers” were also associated with the “en vogue” Communist Party, which ran rampant throughout Europe among the intellectual elite
- Most Germans blamed the lax moral pressures on the Weimar Government, viewing the intellectual and Jewish influence of the original writers of the Constitution as encouraging such “amoral thought, action and impression.”
- This “Judaized Republic” fed into the already present strong nationalistic underpinning of antisemitism, laying the groundwork for the rise of the National Socialists who vowed to “clean up” the Republic, especially the “Sodom and Gomorrah on the Spree”…
Arts & Ideas in Weimar Berlin
“Look at me!” blared the capital of the Reich. “I am Babel, the monster among cities! We had a formidable army; now we command the most riotously wicked night life. Don’t miss our matchless show, ladies and gentlemen! It’s Sodom and Gomorrah in a Prussian tempo. Don’t miss the circus of perversities! Our department store of assorted vices! It’s phe-nom-e-nal! An all-out sale of brand new kinds of debauchery!
-Klaus Mann, The Turning Point