New York

“Three Berlin Artists of the Weimar Era”

Galerie St. Etienne

All artists of the Weimar era, Hannah Höch, Käthe Kollwitz, and Jeanne Mammen would seem, on the surface, to have little in common. Kollwitz, a pacifist, posits women as inherently more caring and sensitive to suffering than men; Mammen, a popular illustrator, represents woman as powerful, autonomous, and glamorous; while Höch, the most avant-garde of the three (she was the coinventor of photomontage) suggests that gender, indeed identity, is a social construction.

Though each artist successfully avoids slipping into stereotypes, a uniform vision of German-ness does inform their work: Kollwitz’s proletariat, Mammen’s bourgeoisie, and Höch’s composite figures in particular continue the German medieval tradition of grotesque realism. According to both Vasari and Henry James, everything German is “more ugly than beautiful,” since it is “inordinately gothic.” This return to the grotesque is

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