Crisis, Melancholy, German Expressionism

On the artist in the 'post-catastrophic era'
Georg Scholz. 'Self-Portrait in front of an Advertising Column' (1926)
George Hunka of Superfluities Redux has noted his observations on crisis, melancholy, and the German Expressionists:
The melancholy that attends the work of the late Expressionists, and especially those of the New Objectivity, is inherent in the work. In Scholz’ self-portrait above, the individual is surrounded by advertising slogans and commercial businesses on a concrete street, and as in many portraits of the era, the subject himself seems set in amber. It is as if the Dionysian qualities of the German Expressionists, with their dynamic action and bright colors, had exhausted themselves, leaving only an Apollonian contemplation of the cities that were left in their wake. The New Objectivists also abandoned the explicit nature-mysticism of the Expressionists — when nature is absent, as through the asphalt alleys of the city, one can’t see the spirit that inheres in it.


During his sojourn in Germany in 1936-1937, Samuel Beckett acquired a familiarity with (if not an expertise in) both Expressionist and New Objectivist art. In 1949, he may have had in mind the German movement when he defined the project of the postwar artist in the Three Dialogues: “The expression that there is nothing to express, no power to express, no desire to express, together with the obligation to express.” It remains a project of the artist who recognizes that he or she lives, writes, and paints in a post-catastrophic era. [Read More]

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