Australian Fine Artist

Art Gallery of Victoria February 22, 2012

Modernity in German Art 1910-1937

Q.1 i
What did the art that you liked confirm in your sensibility ?
(what you believe is OK)

I found a lot of the subject matter very confronting which I think was the point of the exhibition due to the historical context. I found it hard to find work that I really connected with on an emotional level. The works that I liked more than others used a wider colour palette. They looked like they had more than one message or idea, so that I had to look more intently into the work, to journey through the various stories and “hidden” messages within them. These works allowed for more interpretation by me as the viewer which I found more inviting.

Q.1 ii
How did the work that you didn’t  enjoy inform your own personal artistic philosophy? (when you see what you don’t like how does it clarify your views)

I found that my dislike of harsh edges and violent themes was reinforced the more I looked at the exhibits. Although intellectually I know that art is a good medium for social comment, when it is so violent and negative I turn off after a short amount of time. To be able to glean out the artistic heritage of works and influences used, I had to pull away emotionally from what I was looking at. It solidified my view that the styles of the impressionists, post impressionists and the like – using light, colour and atmosphere as well as their application of paint and pastel are definitely more to my liking.
I noticed, then looked for the influence of different artists in small ways.

Layout of the Mad Square Exhibition

Q.2  i

Did you find the provision of information user-friendly?
– too much?
– not enough?
– what did you read?

I thought that the information next to each work was just enough to read in a larger exhibition like this one. Too much to read means that people linger too long in front of works and other people may not get a good view. The timing of how long you want people to stop in front of a work I would think is important. I read all the information on the works that I was attracted to investigate and kept notes.

Q.2 ii
What style of lighting was there?

The lighting was unnoticeable, so I think it was working really well.

I was there to look at paintings etc not at the lighting so I admit to not taking a lot of notice of it, however, if it had not been working to show off the artworks to the best advantage or making them difficult to see, I think I would have noticed it.

Q.2 iii
What height were the 2D artworks hung at?

It was easy to see most of the area of all the works. They were hung so that I could see most of the piece at my at eye level. It looked like they had an idea of the average height of people and hung pieces accordingly.


Below are the notes I took about some of the artworks at the exhibition.

The Sex Murderer
Heinrich Davringhausen

I could see something go Goya in this painting especially in the eyes of the figure under the bed. It looks like a painting done for impact rather that realism or following rules of perspective or classical composition for example.

George Grosz

The use of vivid greens and reds seem to be used to create emotional conflict and impact. The figures are nearly caricatures and the artist has not represented the scene in a realist manner.

Woman in a Hat
Ernst Kirchner

The artist has used a limited palette and the style reminded me a little of Cezanne. It felt a bit more positive than the artworks so far. There was no attention to detail and it was not of a realist style. There was colour, movement and the “idea” of a person rather than a realistic representation.

Wolf in the River of Blood
Johannes Safis
The Danger of Bolshevism
Rudi Feld
To the Lantern
Max Pechstein
Grave Digger (poster – I have shortened the name on this one)
César Klein

I have put these works together as they had a lot in common. For one thing – lots of red and black. Colours of the Nazis, colours of death and blood to western cultures. They looked like images done to bring fear and show the darkness in the human psyche. I wondered at the time if Siimon Reynolds had called on these images for his ad campaign for the grim reaper years ago. The Grave Digger I found to be especially depressing.

The Dream
Max Beckmann

The softening of edges and the use of more colour made this painting more appealing. I was reminded a bit of Lewis Carrol as I was invited to investigate the painting further rather than just stand back and be immediately shocked. His topic may not have been cheery but at least it had a lot going on in it and I was interested in the composition.

 The Felix Müller Family
Otto Dix

This painting looked very Picasso-like. It appeared to pull apart the layers of people to reveal their inner demons. It was like it was representing society pulling apart families, peoples and cultures. Bold colours emphasised the strength of emotion and violent undertones.

Black and White Etchings and Prints

These were very much like modern cartoons you can see today in most newspapers or on the web. Very political and lots of social commentary.


Although capturing the social and political upheaval and changes prior to WWII, with dramatic and effective story telling, my overall reaction is of a negative experience as a person and artist. Being confronted with so much of the violent side of human nature tends to make me retreat from making any sort of emotional connection with something whether it be a painting, a film, a book or a person’s behaviour in real life. I can intellectualise it to a certain degree, and in the case of art, can analyse the methods, reason and styles but I can’t enjoy them or connect to them.


Many styles we use today come from the Bauhaus. We take a lot of them for granted I think as they around us in minimalist interior decoration and architecture all over the place. I like the idea of taking something, like a simple shape and using it in a new and creative manner, to see if it can be representative of something else. If it can convey a new feeling, story or form.


As these paintings were more tonal and had a wider palette in most cases I found them more appealing, even though I am not usually too interested in portraits. The expressions were sometimes confronting but I found myself looking for influences from earlier periods in art and more inclined to stay and explore each work. The techniques looked a little more realist and I could see styles like those used in the early Renaissance in some of the faces, especially in the way the eyes were painted.

Metropolis Posters

I have seen the movie Metropolis. It is an epic movie with not only social impact but also a very emotional story. It is clever and the story holds up today. I found it to be a roller coaster of an experience and a beautifully filmed masterpiece. The poster brought back all my memories of the experience of the movie. I love this style of poster, I find it elegant and very “sic-fi” for those of us who very much enjoy reading and watching science fiction and science fantasy.

The Mad Square
Felix Nussbaum

I was confused as to why this painting was the last thing I saw in this exhibition rather than the first. I would have thought as it was named the Mad Square, this work would have been used as an introduction to the theme. It looked like it was plonked in at the end as an afterthought.

I liked this piece, it had a lot going on and the application of perspective was very helpful in giving depth and also guiding my eye through and around the painting. Parts were done with detailed realism and others were quite loosely represented. This helped me keep moving around and exploring rather than getting bogged down in one area. There also seemed to be a lot of story to be told. There is a lot of energy and the painting doesn’t feel depressing or intimidating. I looked at this work a lot longer than many others in this exhibition.


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