Wednesday, March 31, 2010

(Social) Realism: Germany

Hans Thoma (1839 – 1924)

Hans Thoma (October 2, 1839 – November 7, 1924) was a German painter. He was born in Bernau in the Black Forest, Germany. Having started life as a painter of clock-faces, he entered in 1859 the Karlsruhe academy, where he studied under Schirmer and Des Coudres. He subsequently studied and worked, with but indifferent success, in Düsseldorf, Paris, Italy, Munich and Frankfurt, until his reputation became firmly established as the result of an exhibition of some thirty of his paintings in Munich. He died in Karlsruhe in 1924 at the age of 85.

Wilhelm Maria Hubertus Leibl (1844 – 1900)
Wilhelm Maria Hubertus Leibl (October 23, 1844 – December 4, 1900) was a German realist painter of portraits and scenes of peasant life.
Leibl was born in Cologne and in 1861 began his first training with Hermann Becker, a local painter. He entered the Munich Academy in 1864, subsequently studying with several artists including Carl Theodor von Piloty. He set up a group studio in 1869, with Johann Sperl, Theodor Alt, and Rudolf Hirth du Frênes. At about the same time, Gustave Courbet visited Munich to exhibit his work, making a considerable impression on many of the local artists by his demonstrations of alla prima painting directly from nature. Leibl's paintings, which already reflected his admiration for the Dutch old masters, became looser in style, their subjects rendered with thickly brushed paint against dark backgrounds. Later in 1869, Leibl went to Paris for a nine month stay during which he met Édouard Manet.
Upon his return to Germany, Leibl lived in Munich until 1873, when he moved to the isolated Bavarian countryside. Living among peasants, he depicted his neighbors in everyday scenes devoid of sentimentality or anecdote. The sketchlike quality of his painting was replaced by greater precision and attention to drawing. Living from 1878 to 1882 in Berbling, he painted perhaps his best-known work, the Three Women in Church (Kunsthalle, Hamburg). Its intensely realistic style recalls Hans Holbein in its clarity of definition. During the following years he moved to the town of Aibling and, in 1892, to Kutterling, as his paintings united the disciplined drawing he had adopted in the 1880s with a new delicacy and luminosity.
Leibl painted with no preliminary drawing, setting to work directly with color, an approach that has parallels to Impressionism. His commitment to the representation of reality as the eye sees it earned him recognition in his lifetime as the preeminent artist of a group known as the Leibl-Kreis (Leibl Circle) that included, among others, Carl Schuch, Wilhelm Trübner, Otto Scholderer, and Hans Thoma.

Robert Koehler (1850 - 1917)
Robert Koehler (November 28, 1850 - April 23, 1917) was a German-born painter and art teacher who spent most of his career in the United States of America. Koehler was born in Hamburg; his family spelled their name Köhler until they moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1854. There he attended the historic German-English Academy. He graduated from the academy in 1865, but continued his lessons with the school's drawing master, Henry Vianden, who had graduated from Munich's Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He apprenticed himself to a lithography firm.

In 1871, he went to New York City for eye surgery, and stayed to work as a lithographer. After studying drawing in the night classes of the National Academy of Design, Koehler went to Munich to study fine art at the Royal Academy in 1873, studying with Karl von Piloty and Ludwig Thiersch. He returned to New York after two years because of depleted funds. In 1879, he was able to return to Munich with means furnished by George Ehret, of New York, whose attention had been drawn to the young artists's ambition and capabilities. On his second trip, he studied under Ludwig Löfftz and Franz Defregger. His friendships with William Merritt Chase and Frank Duveneck date from this time.

Koehler's work while in Munich won him silver and bronze awards from the Academy, and Bavaria's Cross of the Order of St. Michael. Koehler then set himself up as head of a private art school; pupils included Alfons Mucha.

He began to exhibit in the National Academy, New York, in 1877. In 1885 he took charge of a private school of art in that city. He organized the American department of the international art exhibition at Munich in 1883, and was appointed by the Bavarian authorities to act in the same capacity in the exhibition of 1888.

In 1892 Robert Koehler returned to New York City to work as a portrait artist. The following year he moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, accepting an offer to be the director of the Minneapolis School of Fine Arts (now the Minneapolis College of Art and Design). Koehler was also involved with the establishment of Minneapolis' Museum of Fine Art, now the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. He was a pioneer of art instruction and appreciation in the region.

Koehler was president of the Minnesota State Art Commission from 1903 to 1910, member of the Artists' League of Minneapolis, honorary member of the Minnesota State Art Society, honorary member of the Alumni Association of the Minneapolis School of Art, member of the Society of Western Artists, and member of the Institute des Beaux Arts et des Lettres of Paris, France. He received bronze and silver medals at the Munich Academy, honorable mention at the Paris World's Fair, 1889, bronze medal at the International Art Exhibition at Buenos Aires in 1910, and the cross of the Order of Saint Michael of Bavaria in 1888.

Koehler continued working in Minneapolis, painting portraits and landscapes, teaching painting, and arranging exhibitions. He retired as director in 1914. He died suddenly in Minneapolis from a heart attack at age 66.

Wilhelm Trübner (1851 – 1917)
Wilhelm Trübner (February 3, 1851 – December 21, 1917) was a German realist painter of the circle of Wilhelm Leibl.
Trübner was born in Heidelberg and had early training as a goldsmith. In 1867 he met classicist painter Anselm Feuerbach who encouraged him to study painting, and he began studies in Karlsruhe under Fedor Dietz. The next year saw him studying at the Kunstacademie in Munich, where he was to be greatly impressed by an international exhibition of paintings by Leibl and Gustave Courbet. Courbet visited Munich in 1869, not only exhibiting his work but demonstrating his alla prima method of working quickly from nature in public performances. This had an immediate impact on many of the city's young artists, who found Courbet's approach an invigorating alternative to the shopworn academic tradition.
The early 1870s were a period of discovery for Trübner. He travelled to Italy, Holland and Belgium, and in Paris encountered the art of Manet, whose influence can be seen in the spontaneous yet restrained style of Trübner's portraits and landscapes. During this period he also made the acquaintance of Carl Schuch, Albert Lang and Hans Thoma, German painters who, like Trübner, greatly admired the unsentimental realism of Wilhelm Leibl. This group of artists came to be known as the "Leibl circle".
He published writings on art theory in 1892 and 1898, which express above all the idea that "beauty must lie in the painting itself, not in the subject". By urging the viewer to discover beauty in a painting's formal values, its colors, proportions, and surface, Trübner advanced a philosophy of "art for art's sake". In 1901 he joined the recently formed Berlin Secession, at the time Germany's most important forum for the exhibition of avant-garde art. From 1903 until his death in 1917 he was a professor at the Academy of Arts in Karlsruhe, also serving as director from 1904 to 1910.

Käthe Schmidt Kollwitz (1867 – 1945)
Käthe Schmidt Kollwitz (July 8, 1867 – April 22, 1945) was a German painter, printmaker, and sculptor whose work offered an eloquent and often searing account of the human condition in the first half of the 20th century. Her empathy for the less fortunate, expressed most famously through the graphic means of drawing, etching, lithography, and woodcut, embraced the victims of poverty, hunger, and war. Initially her work was grounded in Naturalism, and later took on Expressionistic qualities.

The New Objectivity (in German, Neue Sachlichkeit)
The New Objectivity (in German, Neue Sachlichkeit), was an art movement that arose in Germany in the early 1920s as an outgrowth of, and in opposition to, expressionism. The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the Nazis to power. The term is applied to works of pictorial art, literature, music, and architecture.

Max Beckmann (1884 – 1950)
Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 – December 28, 1950) was a German painter, draftsman, printmaker, sculptor, and writer. Although he is classified as an Expressionist artist, he rejected both the term and the movement.[1] In the 1920s, he was associated with the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlichkeit), an outgrowth of Expressionism that opposed its introverted emotionalism.

Max Beckmann Self Portrait

Max Beckmann Unemployed

Max Beckmann The Night

Max Beckmann Dance in Baden Baden

Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix (1891 – 1969)
Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix (German pronunciation: [ˈvɪlhɛlm ˈhaɪnʀiç ˈɔto ˈdɪks]) (2 December 1891 – 25 July 1969) was a German painter and printmaker. Noted for his ruthless and harshly realistic depictions of Weimar society and of the brutality of war, he, along with George Grosz, is widely considered one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit.

Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix Metropolis

George Grosz (1893 – 1959)
George Grosz (July 26, 1893 – July 6, 1959) was a German artist known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s. He was a prominent member of the Berlin Dada and New Objectivity group during the Weimar Republic before he emigrated to the United States in 1933.

George Grosz Pillars of Society

George Grosz The City

George Grosz Berlin

George Grosz Female Nude from Behind

Conrad Felixmüller (1897 - 1977)
Conrad Felixmüller (b. 21 May,1897 in Dresden - d. 24 March, 1977 in Berlin) was a German Expressionist painter. Born in as Conrad Felix Müller, he chose Felixmüller as his nom d'artiste.
One of the youngest members of the New Objectivity movement, Felixmüller was also a member of the Communist Party of Germany. His paintings often deal with the social realities of Germany's Weimar Republic. He was mentor to German expressionist, Otto Dix. From 1949 to 1962 he taught at the University of Halle. He died in the Berlin suburb of Zehlendorf.

Willi Sitte (1921)
Willi Sitte (* 28. Februar 1921 in Kratzau, Tschechoslowakei) ist ein bildender Künstler (vor allem Maler) und war lange Zeit Präsident des Verbandes Bildender Künstler (VBK) der DDR.
Willi Sitte wuchs als drittjüngstes Kind als Sohn eines deutschstämmigen Bauern, Gründungsmitglied der KPTsch, und einer tschechischen Mutter mit vier Brüdern und zwei Schwestern auf. Sein Bruder Rudolf Sitte war ebenfalls ein in der DDR tätiger Künstler im Bereich der baubezogenen Kunst. Sittes Zeichentalent wurde früh vom Zeichenlehrer gefördert. Nach der Schule studierte er ab 1936 an der Kunstschule des nordböhmischen Gewerbemuseums in Reichenberg Textilmusterzeichner und wurde 1940 an die Hermann-Göring-Meisterschule für Malerei in Kronenburg (Eifel) empfohlen. Seine Kritik an den dortigen Aufgaben führte 1941 zur Einberufung in die Wehrmacht an die Ostfront. Dort erkrankte er an Gelbsucht und wurde nach einem Heimaturlaub nach Italien versetzt. Dort desertierte er 1944 und schloss sich italienischen Partisanen an.

Walter Womacka (1925 – 2010)
Walter Womacka (22 December 1925 – 18 September 2010) was a German Socialist Realist artist. Womacka was born in Obergeorgenthal, Czechoslovakia. He lived in East Berlin for most of his life, and was the head of the School of Art and Design Berlin-Weissensee from 1968 until 1988. In the post-war rebuilding of Berlin, he designed many large public artworks including stained glass windows using the gemmail technique and large external murals in mosaic. These artworks showing the socialist ideal of "ordinary people" contributing to society are found decorating the buildings of government departments and factories.

Werner Tübke (1929 - 2004)
Werner Tübke (b. 30 July 1929 in Schönebeck, Germany, d. 27 May 2004 in Leipzig, Germany) was a German painter, best known for his monumental Peasants' War Panorama located in Bad Frankenhausen. Tübke's opus magnum, Early Burgeois Revolution in Germany, has a size of 14 by 123 meters. It depicts a scene from the German Peasants' War, which took place from 1524 to 1525.,archiveCtx=2154200.html

Volker Stelzmann (1940)
Volker Stelzmann was born in Dresden in 1940. He grew up in Leipzig and started his career as a precision mechanic in 1957, a profession he practised until 1963. He then studied at the Hochschule für Graphik in Leipzig under Gerhard Kurt Müller, as well as Harry Blume and Hans Mayer-Foreyt. In the mid seventies he began teaching as a professor at the Hochschule für Graphik in Leipzig; he was also active as a member of the board of the "Berufsverband Bildender Künstler der DDR". In 1986 he decided to emigrate to the Federal Republic of Germany. Two years later he was appointed professor at the Hochschule der Künste in West-Berlin. In a century of "isms" and avant-garde it was difficult for Stelzmann to succeed in a more conservative style. But Stelzmann was highly successful. His works are related to great examples of factual-realist and at the same time atmospheric and important painting with a socio-political background like, for example, by Otto Dix, Christian Schad and George Grosz. His "Leitmotiv" are works with groups of people, emphasising the solitude and loneliness of the individual in society.

World (Social) Realist Art (Index of Countries)
This blog page is part of an ongoing project by artist and part-time lecturer Caoimhghin Ó Croidheáin ( to explore Realist / Social Realist art from around the world. The term Realism is used in its broadest sense to include 19th century Realism and Naturalism as well as 20th century Impressionism (which after all was following in the path of Courbet and Millet). Social Realism covers art that seeks to examine the living and working conditions of ordinary people (examples include German Expressionism, American Ashcan School and the Mexican Muralists).

Click here for (Social) Realist Art Definitions, World (Social) Realism and Global Solidarity, Art and Politics, Social Realism in history and Country Index.

Suggestions for appropriate artists from around the world welcome to

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