New Objectivity
The New Objectivity is a term used to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it. Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American: "The Neue Sachlichkeit is Americanism, cult of the objective, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness."

The term was originally the title of an art exhibition staged by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the in Mannheim
Mannheim is a city in southwestern Germany. With about 315,000 inhabitants, Mannheim is the second-largest city in the Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg, following the capital city of Stuttgart....

, to showcase artists who were working in a post-expressionist
Post-expressionism is a term coined by the German art critic Franz Roh to describe a variety of movements in the post-war art world which were influenced by expressionism but defined themselves through rejecting its aesthetic...

 spirit, but it took a life of its own, going beyond Hartlaub's intentions. As these artists rejected the self-involvement and romantic longings of the expressionists, Weimar intellectuals in general made a call to arms for public collaboration, engagement, and rejection of romantic idealism.

The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 and the rise of the Nazis to power.


Although 'New Objectivity' has been the most common translation of 'Neue Sachlichkeit', other translations have included 'New Matter-of-factness', 'New Resignation', 'New Sobriety,' and 'New Dispassion'. An introductory note by author Dennis Crockett in German post-expressionism explains that there is no direct English translation, and breaks down the meaning in the original German:

In particular, Crockett tries to argue against the view implied by the translation of 'New Resignation', which he says is a popular misunderstanding of the attitude it describes. The idea that it conveys 'resignation' comes from the notion that the age of great socialist revolutions was over and that the left-leaning intellectuals who were living in Germany at the time wanted to adapt themselves to the social order represented in the Weimar Republic. Crockett tries to ground the word to its original meaning as intended by Hartlaub, and points out that the art of the Neue Sachlichkeit was meant to be more forward in political action than the modes of Expressionism it was turning against.


Leading up to World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, much of the art world was under the influence of Futurism
Futurism was an artistic and social movement that originated in Italy in the early 20th century.Futurism or futurist may refer to:* Afrofuturism, an African-American and African diaspora subculture* Cubo-Futurism* Ego-Futurism...

 and Expressionism
Expressionism was a modernist movement, initially in poetry and painting, originating in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century. Its typical trait is to present the world solely from a subjective perspective, distorting it radically for emotional effect in order to evoke moods or ideas...

, both of which abandoned any sense of order or commitment to objectivity or tradition. Expressionism was in particular the dominant form of art in Germany, and it was represented in many different facets of public life—in theater, in painting, in architecture, in poetry, and in literature.

Expressionists abandoned nature and sought to express emotional experience, often centering their art around angst — inner turmoil; whether in reaction to the modern world, to alienation from society, or in the creation of personal identity. In concert with this evocation of angst and unease with bourgeois life, expressionists also echoed some of the same feelings of revolution as did Futurists. This is evidenced by a 1919 anthology of expressionist poetry titled Menschheitsdämmerung, which translates to “Dawn of Humanity”—meant to suggest that humanity was in a 'twilight'; that there was an imminent demise of some old way of being and beneath it the urgings of a new dawning.

Critics of expressionism came from many circles. From the left, a strong critique began with Dadaism. The early exponents of Dada had been drawn together in Switzerland, a neutral country in the war, and seeing their common cause, wanted to use their art as a form of moral and cultural protest—they saw shaking off the constraints of artistic language in the same way they saw their refusal of national boundaries. They wanted to use their art in order to express political outrage and encourage political action. Expressionism, to Dadaists, expressed all of the angst and anxieties of society, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Bertold Brecht, a German dramatist, launched another early critique of expressionism, referring to it as constrained and superficial. Just like in politics Germany had a new parliament but lacked parliamentarians, he argued, in literature there was an expression of delight in ideas, but no new ideas, and in theater a 'will to drama', but no real drama. His early plays, Baal and Trommeln in der Nacht (Drums in the Night) express repudations of fashionable interest in Expressionism.

After the destruction of the war, more conservative critics gained force particularly in their critique of the style of expressionism. This was exhibited particularly in Italy in a call for a return to order
Return to order
The return to order was a European art movement that followed the First World War, rejecting the extreme avant-garde art of the years up to 1918 and taking its inspiration from traditional art instead. The movement was a reaction to the War...

, but also had influence within Germany.

Pictorial art

Hartlaub first used the term in 1923 in a letter he sent to colleagues describing an exhibition he was planning. In his subsequent article, "Introduction to 'New Objectivity': German Painting since Expressionism," Hartlaub explained,
He identified two groups: the verists
Verism is the artistic preference of contemporary everyday subject matter instead of the heroic or legendary in art and literature; a form of realism. The word comes from Latin verus .-In Roman art:...

, who "tear the objective form of the world of contemporary facts and represent current experience in its tempo and fevered temperature;" and the classicists, who "search more for the object of timeless ability to embody the external laws of existence in the artistic sphere."

Although the distinction between verists and classicists is in fact rather fluid, the verists can be thought of as the more revolutionary wing of the Neue Sachlichkeit. Their vehement form of realism
Realism (arts)
Realism in the visual arts and literature refers to the general attempt to depict subjects "in accordance with secular, empirical rules", as they are considered to exist in third person objective reality, without embellishment or interpretation...

 distorted appearances to emphasize the ugly, as they wanted to expose what they considered the ugliness of reality. This art was raw, provocative, and harshly satirical, and were strongly influenced by Dada. Out of Dada's abandonment of any pictoral rules or artistic language was born a “satirical hyperrealism”, as termed by Raoul Hausmann
Raoul Hausmann
Raoul Hausmann was an Austrian artist and writer. One of the key figures in Berlin Dada, his experimental photographic collages, sound poetry and institutional critiques would have a profound influence on the European Avant-Garde in the aftermath of World War I.-Early biography:Raoul Hausmann was...

, and of which the best known examples are the graphical works and photo-montages of John Heartfield
John Heartfield
John Heartfield is the anglicized name of the German photomontage artist Helmut Herzfeld...

. Use of collage in these works became a compositional principle to blend reality and art, as if to suggest that to record the facts of reality was to go beyond the most simple appearances of things. This later developed into portraits and scenes by artists such as George Grosz
George Grosz
Georg Ehrenfried Groß was a German artist known especially for his savagely caricatural drawings of Berlin life in the 1920s...

, Otto Dix
Otto Dix
Wilhelm Heinrich Otto Dix was a German painter and printmaker, noted for his ruthless and harshly realistic depictions of Weimar society and the brutality of war. Along with George Grosz, he is widely considered one of the most important artists of the Neue Sachlichkeit.-Early life and...

, and Rudolf Schlichter
Rudolf Schlichter
Rudolf Schlichter was a German artist and one of the most important representatives of the Neue Sachlichkeit movement....

. Portraits would give emphasis to particular features or objects that were seen as distinctive aspects of the person depicted. Satirical scenes often depicted a madness behind what was happening, depicting the participants as cartoon-like.

Other verist artists, like Christian Schad
Christian Schad
Christian Schad was a German painter associated with Dada and the New Objectivity movement. Considered as a group, Schad's portraits form an extraordinary record of life in Vienna and Berlin in the years following World War I.- Life :Schad was born in Miesbach, Upper Bavaria, to a prosperous...

, depicted reality with a clinical precision, which suggested both an empirical detachment and intimate knowledge of the subject. Schad's paintings are characterized "an artistic perception so sharp that it seems to cut beneath the skin", according to the art critic Wieland Schmied. Often, psychological elements were introduced in his work, which suggested an underlying unconscious reality to life.

Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann
Max Beckmann 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...

, who never considered himself part of any movement, is a giant among the verists even though he is sometimes called an expressionist.

Compared to the verists, the classicists more clearly exemplify the "return to order
Return to order
The return to order was a European art movement that followed the First World War, rejecting the extreme avant-garde art of the years up to 1918 and taking its inspiration from traditional art instead. The movement was a reaction to the War...

" that arose in the arts throughout Europe. The classicists included Anton Räderscheidt
Anton Räderscheidt
Anton Räderscheidt was a German painter who was a leading figure of the New Objectivity.Räderscheidt was born in Cologne. His father was a schoolmaster who also wrote poetry. From 1910–1914, Räderscheidt studied at the Academy of Düsseldorf. He was severely wounded in the First World War, during...

, Georg Schrimpf
Georg Schrimpf
Georg Schrimpf , was a German painter and graphic artist. Along with Otto Dix, George Grosz and Christian Schad, Schrimpf is broadly acknowledged as a main representative of the art trend Neue Sachlichkeit , which developed in the 1920s as a counter-movement to Expressionism and Abstraction...

, Alexander Kanoldt
Alexander Kanoldt
Alexander Kanoldt was a German magic realist painter and one of the artists of the New Objectivity.Kanoldt was born in Karlsruhe. His father was the painter Edmond Kanoldt, a late practitioner of the Nazarene style...

, and Carl Grossberg
Carl Grossberg
Carl Grossberg was a German painter associated with the New Objectivity movement.Grossberg was born in Elberfeld and studied architecture in Aachen and Darmstadt prior to his military service in World War I. He later studied at the Weimar Academy of Art and at the Bauhaus...

. They were a diverse group, encompassing the clinical realism of Grossberg and the gentle neo-primitivism
Neo-primitivism was a Russian art movement which took its name from the book Neo-primitivizm , by Aleksandr Shevchenko. In the book Shevchenko proposes a new style of modern painting which fuses elements of Cézanne, Cubism and Futurism with traditional Russian 'folk art' conventions and motifs,...

 of Schrimpf. The paintings of Räderscheidt were influenced by Antonio Donghi
Antonio Donghi
Antonio Donghi was an Italian painter of scenes of popular life, landscapes, and still life.-Biography:Born in Rome, he studied at the Instituto di Belle Arti...

 and the metaphysical art
Metaphysical art
Metaphysical art , style of painting that flourished mainly between 1911 and 1920 in the works of the Italian artists Giorgio de Chirico and Carlo Carrà. The movement began with Chirico, whose dreamlike works with sharp contrasts of light and shadow often had a vaguely threatening, mysterious quality...

 of the Italians.

The classicists are best understood by Franz Roh
Franz Roh
Franz Roh , was a German historian, photographer, and art critic.Roh was born in Apolda , Germany. He studied at universities in Leipzig, Berlin, and Basel. In 1920, he received his Ph. D...

's term Magic Realism
Magic realism
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of...

, though Roh originally intended 'magical realism' to be synonymous with the Neue Sachlichkeit as a whole. For Roh, as a reaction to expressionism, the idea was declare “[that] the autonomy of the objective world around us was once more to be enjoyed; the wonder of matter that could crystallize into objects was to be seen anew.” With the term, he was emphasizing the “magic” of the normal world as it presents itself to us—how, when we really look at everyday objects, they can appear strange and fantastic.

Albert Renger-Patzsch
Albert Renger-Patzsch
Albert Renger-Patzsch was a German photographer associated with the New Objectivity.Renger-Patzsch was born in Würzburg and began making photographs by age twelve. After military service in the First World War he studied chemistry at Dresden Technical College...

 and August Sander
August Sander
August Sander was a German portrait and documentary photographer. Sander's first book Face of our Time was published in 1929...

 are leading representatives of the "New Photography
Photography is the art, science and practice of creating durable images by recording light or other electromagnetic radiation, either electronically by means of an image sensor or chemically by means of a light-sensitive material such as photographic film...

" movement, which brought a sharply focused, documentary quality to the photographic art where previously the self-consciously poetic had held sway.


New Objectivity in architecture, as in painting and literature, describes German work of the transitional years of the early 1920s in the Weimar culture
Weimar culture
Weimar culture was a flourishing of the arts and sciences that happened during the Weimar Republic...

, as a direct reaction to the stylistic excesses of Expressionist architecture
Expressionist architecture
Expressionist architecture was an architectural movement that developed in Europe during the first decades of the 20th century in parallel with the expressionist visual and performing arts....

 and the change in the national mood. Architects such as Bruno Taut
Bruno Taut
Bruno Julius Florian Taut , was a prolific German architect, urban planner and author active during the Weimar period....

, Erich Mendelsohn
Erich Mendelsohn
Erich Mendelsohn was a Jewish German architect, known for his expressionist architecture in the 1920s, as well as for developing a dynamic functionalism in his projects for department stores and cinemas.-Early life:...

 and Hans Poelzig
Hans Poelzig
Hans Poelzig was a German architect, painter and set designer.-Life:Poelzig was born in Berlin in 1869 to the countess Clara Henrietta Maria Poelzig while she was married to George Acland Ames, an Englishman...

 turned to New Objectivity's straightforward, functionally-minded, matter-of-fact approach to construction, which became known in Germany as ("New Building"). The movement, flourishing in the brief period between the adoption of the Dawes plan
Dawes Plan
The Dawes Plan was an attempt in 1924, following World War I for the Triple Entente to collect war reparations debt from Germany...

 and the rise of the Nazis, encompassed public exhibitions like the Weissenhof Estate
Weissenhof Estate
The Weissenhof Estate is a housing estate built for exhibition in Stuttgart in 1927...

, the massive urban planning and public housing projects of Taut and Ernst May
Ernst May
Ernst May was a German architect and city planner.May successfully applied urban design techniques to the city of Frankfurt am Main during Germany's Weimar period, and in 1930 less successfully exported those ideas to Soviet Union cities, newly created under Stalinist rule...

, and the influential experiments at the Bauhaus
', commonly known simply as Bauhaus, was a school in Germany that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. It operated from 1919 to 1933. At that time the German term stood for "School of Building".The Bauhaus school was founded by...



Bertold Brecht, from his opposition to the focus on the individual in expressionist art, began a collaborative method to play production, starting with his Man Equals Man project. This approach to theater-craft began to be known as 'Brechtian', and the collective of writers and actors who he worked with are known as the 'Brechtian collective'.


New Objectivity in music, as in the visual arts, rejected the sentimentality of late Romanticism
Romantic music
Romantic music or music in the Romantic Period is a musicological and artistic term referring to a particular period, theory, compositional practice, and canon in Western music history, from 1810 to 1900....

 and the emotional agitation of expressionism. Composer Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith
Paul Hindemith was a German composer, violist, violinist, teacher, music theorist and conductor.- Biography :Born in Hanau, near Frankfurt, Hindemith was taught the violin as a child...

 may be considered both a New Objectivist and an expressionist, depending on the composition, throughout the 1920s; for example, his wind quintet
Wind quintet
A wind quintet, also sometimes known as a woodwind quintet, is a group of five wind players . The term also applies to a composition for such a group....

  Op. 24 No. 2 (1922) designed as , or one may compare his operas Sancta Susanna
Sancta Susanna
Sancta Susanna is an early opera by Paul Hindemith in one act, with a German libretto by August Stramm. Composed over a two week period in January/February 1921, its premiere was on 26 March 1922, at Opernhaus, Frankfurt....

(part of a fairly expressionist trilogy) and (a parody of modern life). His music typically harkens back to baroque
Baroque music
Baroque music describes a style of Western Classical music approximately extending from 1600 to 1760. This era follows the Renaissance and was followed in turn by the Classical era...

 models and makes use of traditional forms and stable polyphonic
In music, polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords ....

 structures, together with modern dissonance and jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

-inflected rhythms. Ernst Toch
Ernst Toch
Ernst Toch was a composer of classical music and film scores.- Biography :Toch, born in Leopoldstadt, Vienna, into the family of a humble Jewish leather dealer when the city was at its 19th-century cultural zenith, sought throughout his life to introduce new approaches to music...

 and Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill
Kurt Julian Weill was a German-Jewish composer, active from the 1920s, and in his later years in the United States. He was a leading composer for the stage who was best known for his fruitful collaborations with Bertolt Brecht...

 also composed New Objectivist music during the 1920s. Though known late in life for his austere interpretations of the classics, in earlier years, conductor Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer
Otto Klemperer was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century.-Biography:Otto Klemperer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, then in Germany...

 was the most prominent to ally himself with this movement.


The New Objectivity movement is usually considered to have ended at the fall of the Weimar Republic
Weimar Republic
The Weimar Republic is the name given by historians to the parliamentary republic established in 1919 in Germany to replace the imperial form of government...

 when the National Socialists
National Socialist German Workers Party
The National Socialist German Workers' Party , commonly known in English as the Nazi Party, was a political party in Germany between 1920 and 1945. Its predecessor, the German Workers' Party , existed from 1919 to 1920...

 under Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 seized power in January 1933. The Nazi authorities condemned much of the work of the New Objectivity as "degenerate art
Degenerate art
Degenerate art is the English translation of the German entartete Kunst, a term adopted by the Nazi regime in Germany to describe virtually all modern art. Such art was banned on the grounds that it was un-German or Jewish Bolshevist in nature, and those identified as degenerate artists were...

", so that works were seized and destroyed and many artists were forbidden to exhibit. A few, including Karl Hubbuch
Karl Hubbuch
Karl Hubbuch was a German painter, printmaker, and draftsman associated with the New Objectivity.Hubbuch was born in Karlsruhe. From 1908 to 1912, he studied art at the Karlsruhe Academy, where he formed friendships with fellow students Georg Scholz and Rudolf Schlichter...

, Adolf Uzarski
Adolf Uzarski
Adolf Uzarski was a German writer, artist, and illustrator associated with the New Objectivity movement.He was born in Ruhrort bei Duisburg and studied at the Cologne School of Architecture before enrolling in 1906 at the Düsseldorf School of Arts and Crafts...

, and Otto Nagel, were among the artists entirely forbidden to paint. While some of the major figures of the movement went into exile
Exile means to be away from one's home , while either being explicitly refused permission to return and/or being threatened with imprisonment or death upon return...

, they did not carry on painting in the same manner. George Grosz emigrated to America and adopted a romantic
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

 style, and Max Beckmann's work by the time he left Germany in 1937 was, by Franz Roh
Franz Roh
Franz Roh , was a German historian, photographer, and art critic.Roh was born in Apolda , Germany. He studied at universities in Leipzig, Berlin, and Basel. In 1920, he received his Ph. D...

's definitions, expressionism.

The influence of New Objectivity outside of Germany can be seen in the work of artists like Balthus
Balthasar Klossowski de Rola , best known as Balthus, was an esteemed but controversial Polish-French modern artist....

, Salvador Dalí
Salvador Dalí
Salvador Domènec Felip Jacint Dalí i Domènech, Marquis de Púbol , commonly known as Salvador Dalí , was a prominent Spanish Catalan surrealist painter born in Figueres,Spain....

 (in such early works as his Portrait of Luis Buñuel
Luis Buñuel
Luis Buñuel Portolés was a Spanish-born filmmaker — later a naturalized citizen of Mexico — who worked in Spain, Mexico, France and the US..-Early years:...

of 1924), Auguste Herbin
Auguste Herbin
Auguste Herbin was a French painter.-Biography:Born in Quiévy, Nord, he studied drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts de Lille, from 1898 to 1901, when he settled in Paris....

, Maruja Mallo
Maruja Mallo
Maruja Mallo was a Spanish painter.She was born in Vivero, Lugo, and studied arts in Madrid between 1922 and 1926, where she met many important artists, as she also did subsequently in Paris: Salvador Dalí, Federico García Lorca, Luis Buñuel, Magritte, Max Ernst, Miró, De Chirico, André Breton,...

, Cagnaccio di San Pietro
Cagnaccio di San Pietro
Cagnaccio di San Pietro , born Natale Bentivoglio Scarpa, was an Italian magic realist painter.He was born in Desenzano del Garda. His artistic training was at the Academy of Fine Art in Venice, where he studied under Ettore Tito...

, Grant Wood
Grant Wood
Grant DeVolson Wood was an American painter, born four miles east of Anamosa, Iowa. He is best known for his paintings depicting the rural American Midwest, particularly the painting American Gothic, an iconic image of the 20th century.- Life and career :His family moved to Cedar Rapids after his...

, Adamson-Eric
Adamson-Eric was an Estonian artist who worked mainly within the medium of painting in applied art.Born Erich Carl Hugo Adamson in Tartu, he was the fourth child of Jaan and Anna Adamson. Adamson attended schools in his native Estonia before relocating to Berlin to study at the Charlottenburg Art...

, and Juhan Muks
Juhan Muks
Juhan Jaagu Muks was an Estonian artist and painter.Juhan Muks was born in Tuhalaane, Viljandi County, Estonia. He acquired a higher education abroad before returning to his native Estonia and following his fellow countrymen Adamson-Eric, Shmuel Rosenblatt, Eduard Wiiralt, Lydia Mei, Kristjan...


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