Review

Faces of the 1920s

From the Berlinische Galerie’s collection

Portraits and self-portraits by the painter Lotte Laserstein put a face on modern society in the Weimar Republic. Alongside her exhibition here at the Berlinische Galerie, we have chosen some other (self-)portraits by artists who were living and working in Berlin at the same time as Laserstein.

Otto Herbig, Mädchen vor der Vase mit Blütenzweigen, 1946
© Fridolin Frenzel, Repro: Kai-Annett Becker

Few of the people portrayed here actually commissioned these works. The artists are depicting their children, their colleagues, their lovers or themselves in private settings. So these paintings are not just about the person we can see. Often the nature of the relationship between the artist and the sitter trickles through too, and in some cases it is the main theme. Besides, in a private (self-)portrait the artist enjoys greater freedom to explore personal interests than in a commissioned work. To facilitate comparison with the paintings and drawings by Laserstein, the focus in this selection is on styles reflecting Realism, Naturalism, New Objectivity and – here and there – Expressionism. Taken in their entirety, they convey some impression of the vibrant art scene during the Weimar Republic. This diversity came to an end when the Nazis took power in 1933 and unleashed their brutal repression against (among others) people of Jewish origin, holders of different views and the cultural avant-garde.

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