Germany Arts and Architecture in the First Half of the 20th Century
At the turn of the 19th century. an intense elaboration of problems made urgent by population growth and urbanism and connected to the debate on art, crafts and industry solicited by mainly English experiences (mediator of the Arts and craftsmovement and garden cities is H. Muthesius), gives rise to a wealth of fundamental experiences: from the artists’ colony of the Mathildenhöhe in Darmstadt (1901, JM Olbrich, P. Behrens) to the foundation of the Deutsche Gartenstadtgesellschaft (1902) and the construction of the first garden city in Hellerau, Dresden (1908, among the architects, T. Fischer, Muthesius, R. Rimerschmidt, F. Schumacher, H. Tessenow), the design of the first Siedlungen (➔ Siedlung) with the collaboration of architects and public clients; from the relationship between architects and industrialists (exemplary that of Behrens and the AEG) to the creation of the Deutscher Werkbund (1907); from the attention to the schools of architecture and applied arts (H. van de Velde in Weimar; H. Poelzig, in Breslau) to the dissemination of the issues through publications (Der Städtebau, 1904, the first urban planning magazine) and exhibitions, including very important is that of the Werkbund in Cologne (1914) where, alongside the creations of J. Hoffmann and H. van de Velde, there are significant works by Behrens, W. Gropius and B. Taut, which offers the first evidence of research of expressionist forms.
The secessions of Munich (1892), with the magazine Die Jugend (1896), and of Berlin (1898), with the magazine Pan, are an expression of the Jugendstil (H. Obrist, F. Erler, E. Orlik); still with a secessionist imprint, in Munich, is Die Phalanx(1910-04), founded by VV Kandinskij and A. von Jawlensky, while the knowledge of P. Cézanne, P. Gauguin, V. van Gogh spread. In Dresden, from 1905 with Die Brücke, EL Kirchner, E. Heckel, K. Schmidt-Rottluff, HM Pechstein, O. Müllergained experience of great innovative value. In Munich, the Neue Künstlervereinigung (1909) welcomes different trends: in addition to Kandinskij and Jawlensky, Germany Münter, A. Kubin, K. Hofer. In 1912, an expression of the vivacity of the artistic scene in Germany are, in Cologne, the international art exhibition of the Sonderbund ; in Munich, Der Blaue Reiter with Kandinskij, F. Marc, A. Macke etc., and, in Berlin, the gallery Der Sturm by H. Walden which, with the magazine of the same name founded in 1910, is the support of the German avant-garde movements and through for the knowledge of the European ones. Also important, in Stuttgart, the didactic activity of A. Hölzel with which O. Schlemmer, W. Baumeister, J. Itten etc. are formed. The research of the artists of the Brücke and Blaue Reiter is inserted, albeit with different characteristics, in the fundamental expressive current of German art, which can also be traced back to the apocalyptic landscapes of L. Meidner, the sculptures of E. Barlach or W Lehmbruck, the graphic and sculptural work of K. Kollwitz and the painting of M. Beckmann.
From the first post-war period, alongside the expressionist trend with the Novembergruppe, the Dada experiences in Cologne (M. Ernst), in Berlin (H. Höch, R. Hausmann), in Hannover (K. Schwitters), those of the Neue Sachlichkeit with O. Dix, Germany Grosz, C. Schad etc., and of the Bauhaus, in Weimar and then in Dessau, under the direction of Gropius, H. Meyer and L. Mies van der Rohe, protagonists of the modern movement in architecture, which in Germany with the first experiences of Taut, E. Mendelsohn, Hans and Wassili Luckhardt, Poelzig, H. Sharoun, had assumed utopian-expressionist connotations. The exhibition of the Deutscher Werkbund in Stuttgart, in 1927, with the construction of the model district of Weissenhof, under the guidance of Mies van der Rohe and with the participation of the most significant German architects, becomes a central experience of the debate that ranges from minimal housing alle Siedlungen as a nucleus of urban solutions and which has as protagonists, in addition to the aforementioned, personalities such as M. Wagner, L. Hilberseimer, E. May, H. Häring, F. Schumacher, O. Häsler.
Racial and political reasons lead, with the advent of Nazism, to the exodus of the main exponents of the Modern Movement in architecture and the artistic avant-garde: the persecution of the avant-gardes culminates with the Entartete Kunstexhibition in 1937. The regime only supports paintings and sculptures inspired by a forbidden academicism (I. Saliger, A. Breker, J. Thorak) and a modernized neoclassicism in architecture (A. Speer); for the exponents of the other currents the condition is one of total isolation (E. Barlach, K. Kollwitz, W. Baumeister).