Ongoing political uncertainty and the destabilization of German culture after World War I (1914–18) led many artists to question their role in society, the viability of art as an agent of social change, and the relevance of traditional artistic media. During the frequently volatile period between the wars, Germany became one of the most dynamic, innovative cultural centers in Europe.
The interwar period in Germany was marked by tendencies either originating in or polemically opposed to expressionism, examples of which are on view in the adjacent gallery. Formed in 1919, the Bauhaus, the German school of art and design, began as a manifestation of the expressionist, utopian spirit of the immediate postwar period. It was organized into workshops and sought to bring together artists, designers, and craftspeople as equal partners in creating art, architecture, and objects of daily use. Around 1923, however, Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius called for a “new unity” of art and technology, and the school’s emphasis shifted from craft toward industrial design. Extending beyond its walls to include like-minded members of the international avant-garde, the Bauhaus network sparked a radical rethinking of art’s role in a technological age.
The artists represented in this gallery sought not only to redefine the relationship between art and politics, but also to revolutionize human perception — an aim referred to in photography circles as the “new vision.” They did so within traditional forms like painting and sculpture, and by embracing new media such as photography, film, and collage. The period became one of extraordinary artistic production, with the goal of creating a more equitable society.