What was Berlin like in the 1920s? In the 1920s, Berlin was a thriving center of the arts, rivaling New York and Paris in its innovation. It was notable especially for the libertine atmosphere of its cafés and cabarets, the deep political commitment of its artists. What characterizes the other side of Berlin life, as evidenced in the writing of Franz Kafka, the theaterof Bertolt Brecht, and the Expressionist prints of Käthe Kollwitz?
Map: Weimar Germany, 1919-33.
Georg Grosz. Stuetzen der Gesellschaft (The Pillars of Society) . 1926. 78-3/4" × 42-1/2’.
Käthe Kollwitz. Never Again War . 1924. 37" × 27-1/2”.
What is fascism? European conservatives were horrified at the Berlin lifestyle and yearned for a return to a lost past that they idealized as orderly and harmonious. In Germany, Adolf Hitler harnessed this interest. Who did he blame for the country’s economic and social problems? How did Leni Riefenstahl’s filmmaking support Hitler’s cause? Hitler’s Nazi party forced the Bauhaus, the leading exponent of modernist art and architecture in Germany inspired by the Dutch De Stijl movement, to close down. What characterizes De Stijl? How are its values reflected in the work of the Bauhaus? In Russia, Stalin likewise attacked modernist art, which he proposed to replace with social realism, an art designed to be totally intelligible to the masses. And in Italy, Benito Mussolini’s Fascist government came to power. What characterizes the Fascist architecture he promoted? Finally, in Spain, with Hitler’s aid, Francisco Franco instigated a civil war. The blitzkrieg attack of the German air force on the Basque city of Guernica would be memorialized by Pablo Picasso in his painting Guernica .
John Heartfield. Der Sinn des Hitlergrusses: Kleiner Mann bittet um große Gaben. Motto: Millonen Stehen Hinter Mir! (The Meaning of the Hitler Salute: Little Man Asks for Big Gifts. Motto: Millions Stand Behind Me!) . 1932.
Piet Mondrian. Composition with Blue, Yellow, Red and Black . 1922. 16-1/2" × 19-1/4”.
Gerrit Rietveld. Schroeder House, Utrecht, The Netherlands: Exterior. 1924.
Gerrit Rietveld. 1924.
Le Corbusier. Domino House. 1914.
Le Corbusier. Villa Savoye, Poissy-sur-Seine, France. 1928-30.
Walter Gropius. Bauhaus Building, Dessau, Germany. 1925-26.
Leni Riefenstahl. Scene from Leni Riefenstahl's Olympia . 1936.
Gustav Klucis. The Development of Transportation, The Five-Year Plan . 1929. 28-7/8" × 19-7/8”.
Marcello Piacentini. Palazzo degli Uffici. Expositione Universale Europa (EUR). 1937-39.
Map: The Spanish Civil War on March 30, 1937.
What is the Mexican mural movement? In 1910, guerrilla groups in Mexico had initiated a civil war to overthrow the government and restore to the peasants land that had been confiscated and turned over to foreign companies. The war inspired the nationalist feelings of many artists, including a number of painters, chief among them Diego Rivera. What characterizes Rivera’s art? Rivera’s wife, Frida Kahlo, long crippled by a debilitating childhood accident, developed an intensely personal and autobiographic painting style.
Diego Rivera. Sugar Cane . One of eight portable murals made for a special exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1931. 1931. 57-1/8" × 94-1/8”.
Diego Rivera. Man, Controller of the Universe . 1934. Main panel: 15’ 11" × 37’ 6”.
Closer Look: Picasso's Guernica. Ruins of Guernica, Spain, April 1937. 1937, April.
Frida Kahlo. The Broken Column . 1944. 15-11/16" × 12”.
What was the WPA? The collapse of the stock market in 1929 led to severe economic depression in the United States which President Franklin D. Roosevelt sought to remedy, in part, by the Work Projects Administration. The WPA funded painting projects (especially murals in public buildings, a project inspired by the example of muralist Thomas Hart Benton) and performances by musicians and theater companies, and employed writers to create a series of state and regional guidebooks. The effects of the Depression were heightened by drought in the Great Plains. In what ways can the creative works produced under the WPA and other New Deal agencies be viewed as propaganda? How does it differ from Hitler’s propaganda?
Thomas Hart Benton. Missouri Mural , Missouri State Capitol, Jefferson City, Missouri. Detail. 1936.
Walker Evans. Washroom and Dining Area of Floyd Burroughs’s Home, Hale County, Alabama . 1936.
Margaret Bourke-White. At the Time of the Louisville Flood . For Life magazine. 1937. 9-3/4" × 13-1/2”.
How did sound and color change the motion-picture industry? In the 1930s, the motion picture changed dramatically and became the most popular American art medium. Al Jolson’s 1927 The Jazz Singer introduced sound into feature films. Producers were forced to perfect sound technology on the set and in theaters. Walt Disney introduced color film, but in 1939, perhaps the greatest year in the history of cinema, color became a real force. The Wizard of Oz led the way, soon followed by Gone with the Wind . To what ends did The Wizard of Oz use color? To what can we attribute the great success of Gone with the Wind ? The most technically innovative film of the era was Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane of 1940.
Opening night crowd gathering to see Al Jolson in The Jazz Singer , Warner’s Theatre, Times Square, New York, October 6, 1927. 1927, October 6.
Josef von Sternberg. Marlene Dietrich in Der blaue Engel/The Blue Angel . 1930.
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM). Judy Garland, as Dorothy, sees the Yellow Brick Road in The Wizard of Oz . 1939.
David O. Selznick and William Cameron Menzies. The burning of Atlanta scene from Gone with the Wind . 1939.
William Cameron Menzies. The burning of Atlanta scene from Gone with the Wind : Storyboard. 1939.
Orson Welles. Orson Welles as Kane campaigning for governor in Citizen Kane . 1941.
What was the Holocaust? No event underscores the growing globalization of twentieth-century culture more than World War II. The fighting occurred across the Pacific region, in Southeast Asia, in North Africa and the Middle East, and in Europe, from France to Russia. As colonial powers withdrew their troops from occupied territories to fight in the war, nationalist movements arose in India, Palestine, Algeria, Indonesia, and across Africa, making the war’s impact truly global. The human destruction was staggering—some 40 million dead—but even more devastating was the human capacity for genocide and murder revealed by the Holocaust in Germany and the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. How did Elie Wiesel and Alain Resnais respond to the Holocaust? How did photographer Shomei Tomatsu respond to the atomic bomb? How do the Godzilla films of director Ishiro Honda reflect Japan’s reaction to the bomb?
Map: European and Mediterranean theaters in World War II, 1939–45.
Philippe Giraud. Entrance, Auschwitz-Birkenau Death Camp. Photographed 2003. 2003.
Lee Miller. Buchenwald, Germany. April 30, 1945. 1945, April 30.
Map: German concentration camps in Europe. 1942–45.
Map: Asian and Pacific theaters in World War II, 1941–45.
Margaret Bourke-White. Ghandi . For Life magazine. 1946. 14" × 11”.
Shomei Tomatsu. Man with Keloidal Scars. 1962. From the series 11:02—Nagasaki . 1966. 1962. 16-1/8" × 10-7/8”.
Ishiro Honda. Godzilla destroys Tokyo, in Ishiro Honda’s Gojira (Godzilla) . 1954.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Philip Johnson. Continuity & Change: The Bauhaus in America: Seagram Building, New York City. 1954-58.
The Glitter and Angst of BerlinWhat was Berlin like in the 1920s?• Kafka’s Nightmare Worlds — Kafka was a tortured soul, and thecharacters in his works of fiction typically find themselves caught ininexplicable circumstances that bear all the markings of their ownneuroses. Berliners identified with these characters immediately.• Brecht and the Berlin Stage — The leadership of Friedrich Ebertinspired Brecht to turn to Marxism. The Threepenny Opera was a workof musical theater focusing on the working class of Victorian London.This work is a social critique of capitalism and embodies a revolutionaryapproach to theater based on alienation.
• Kollwitz and the Expressionist Print — One of the most powerfulvoices of protest in Berlin during the 1920s was the artist KatheKollwitz. Her work before the war consisted of highly naturalistportrayals of the German poor. Her art permanently changed after thedeath of her son and she turned to the Expressionist media ofwoodblock and lithograph.• Discussion Question: Describe Kafka’s imaginative world as evidencedby the selection from his Metamorphosis.
The Rise of FascismWhat is fascism?• Hitler in Germany — While in jail, Hitler wrote Mein Kampf where heargued for the superiority of the German race. He felt that the forces ofmodernity, specifically under the leadership of Jewish intellectuals,were determined to exterminate the Aryan race. Hitler’s rise to powerled to the closing of the Bauhus art school created by the architectGropius. The school advocated the International Style of architectureand their “decadently modern” building. Virtually all avant-garde artistsin Germany were removed from teaching positions and their worksconfiscated. Hitler organized an exhibition of Degenerate Art and usedradio and film as important propaganda tools.• Stalin in Russia — The rivalry between Trotsky and Stalin took theform of a debate over the speed of industrialization of the Russianeconomy. Stalin collectivized agriculture, consolidating individual landholdings
• Stalin in Russia (Continued) — into cooperative farms under thecontrol of the government. Stalin’s economic plans were supported bya series of propaganda posters by Gustav Klucis and others. TheSoviet authorities brought all musical activities under their control bydecree in 1932.• Mussolini in Italy — Mussolini exploited the climate of fear createdby the Communist Party in Russia. Of all the Fascist leaders ofEurope, Mussolini was the most supportive of modernist architecture.• Franco in Spain — General Francisco Franco led his army intoSpain from Morocco in a coup d’etat against the Popular Frontgovernment which led to civil war. Germany and Italy supportedFranco’s right-wing Nationals, while the Soviet Union and Mexicosupported the leftist Republicans.• Discussion Question: What factors contributed to the rise of Fascism?
Architectural Panorama: Villa Savoye (firstfloor) Architectural Panorama: Villa Savoye(second floor) Architectural Panorama: Villa Savoye (thirdfloor [roof]) External Video: La Villa SavoyeMyArtsLabChapter 37 – Fascism and Depression, Holocaust and Bomb
Revolution in MexicoWhat is the Mexican mural movement?• The Mexican Mural Movement — The Mexican Revolution, fueledby guerrilla groups led by Zapata and Pancho Villa, fueled a wave ofintense nationalism to which artists responded. A new school ofmuralists, led by Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros, and Jose ClementeOrozco, arose to decorate the building schemes initiated by thegovernment. Rivera transformed his style by using a much more realistand accessible imagery focused on Mexican political and social life.• The Private World of Frida Kahlo — Although Kahlo was political,her paintings document her personal tragedy. Kahlo’s paintings—mostly self-portraits—bear witness to the trials of her health andmarriage to Diego Rivera.
The Great Depression in AmericaWhat was the WPA?• The Road to Recovery: The New Deal — Upon his election in1932, Roosevelt quickly implemented a host of measures that came tobe known as the New Deal. He created the Federal Deposit InsuranceCorporation, the National Recovery Act, the Social Security Act, theHome Owner’s Loan Corporation, the Civil Works Administration, andthe Work Projects Administration. The WPA instituted a mural projectled by Thomas Hart Benton. This group also created special programsfocused on three centuries of African-American culturalaccomplishments. The WPA’s Federal Music Project addressed theunemployment of musicians. Aaron Copland was one of thebeneficiaries. Distinctly American themes emerged in film and literaturesuch as The Plow That Broke the Plains and Steinbeck’s The Grapes ofWrath. One of the important cultural contributions of the new Deal wasthe photographic documentation of the plight of poor famers andmigrant workers during the Dust Bowl and Great Depression. TheFarm Security Administration instituted a photographic project using thetalents of Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans. Margaret Bourke-whitedocumented the living conditions of poor tenant famers.
• Discussion Question: What is the impact of the Great Depression andthe New Deal on the arts in America?
Cinema: The Talkies and ColorHow did sound and color change the motion-picture industry?• Sound and Language — The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, wasthe first feature-length motion mixture to utilize sound. The Blue Angelwas an early experiment with sound in a two-language production.• Disney’s Color Animation — Disney’s animation gave rise to theart of postsynchronization, in which sound is added as a separate stepafter the creation of the visual film. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfswas the studio’s first feature-length Technicolor animation film.• 1939: The Great Year — More film classics than at any time beforeor since were created in 1939: Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes toWashington, Drums Along the Mohawk, Wuthering Heights, Of Miceand Men, Gone with the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz. Many believethat The Rules of the Game, made in France and directed by JeanRenoir, is the greatest film of 1939.
• Orson Welles and Citizen Kane — Directed by Orson Welles, oneof the most cinematographically inventive films of the postwar era wasCitizen Kane. Working as writer, director, producer, and actorsimultaneously, Welles produced a film unprecedented in its fresh look.
World War IIWhat was the Holocaust?• The Holocaust — Hitler instigated a plan to rid Europe of what heconsidered its undesirable populations, particularly Jews. To this end,he constructed a series of concentration and extermination camps,most notably Auschwitz-Birkenau and Buchenwald.• The War in the Pacific — The surprise attack by the Japanese onPearl Harbor led to the US declaration of war on Japan. Germany andItaly, with whom Japan had joined in an alliance known as the Axis,declared war on the US.• The Allied Victory — Russian forces pushed westward driving backthe Germans. Hitler was turned by the Allies at the Battle of the Bulge.The Americans dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945 leadingto the surrender of Japan.
• Decolonization and Liberation — The war had drawn the militaryforces of the colonial powers back to Europe, and in their absence,indigenous nationalist movements arose in Africa, Asia, and the MiddleEast. Algeria became independent following violence between Frenchand European settlers. Mohandas Gandhi began a long campaignagainst the British government using passive resistance.• Bearing Witness: Reactions to the War — One of the mostimportant memoirs to come out of the Holocaust is Night by Elie Wiesel.Resnais’ documentary, Night and Fog, poses the question of who isresponsible for the Holocaust. One of the most powerful responses tothe atomic bomb is a series of photographs entitled 11:02—Nagasakiby Shomei Tomatsu. In 1954 the movie monster film Godzilla wasproduced as a vehicle through which the Japanese could confront theunspeakable significance of the atomic bomb.• Discussion Question: What was the impact of the Holocaust on postwarart and culture?