Important, provocative and extremely meaningful for our time, a stunning new exhibition, “Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s,” has opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (November 14, 2006 – February 19, 2007).
There are 40 paintings and 60 works on paper by a total of ten artists, including the great Otto Dix, George Grosz and Max Beckman. They and others represented through their different kinds of portraiture looked at their society in the Weimer Republic of the twenties and found an age of excess, disillusionment and the residue of the horrors of World War II. Their art, often stylistically over the top, reflected an effort to show the outrageousness of the period in many respects and their own outrage at what they saw in society, through a combination of realism and social comment.
I had seen some of the works elsewhere, but as I felt the cumulative effect of this exhibition, it made me wonder which artists of today would express the horrors of our contemporary war in Iraq. In seeing paintings emphasizing the wounded of those in World War I measured against leaders and profiteers, I not only appreciated what the artists of the 1920s did to illuminate their time, but could see some of today’s leaders—Bush and his retinue—who might be substituted and juxtaposed with the thousands of mutilated soldiers as a result of the folly of Iraq.
That, of course, is a personal reaction. There are many other responses to be engendered by this striking show that includes remarkable portraits of notables from the era that preceded the rise of Nazism. The exhibit has both the impact of supreme artistry and gutsy social comment evident in the best works. See them for yourself.
Other artists represented include Heinrich Maria Davringhausen, Karl Hubbuch, Ludwig Meidner, Christian Schad, Rudolf Schlichter, George Scholtz and Gert H. Wollheim. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue (at 82md Street). Phone: 212-535-7710.