Berlin in the Golden Twenties


Mathias Schreiber in Spiegel:

The expression “infernally haunting reality” neatly sums up the cultural environment in the German capital in the 1920s. One of Grosz's drawings depicts a disillusioned soldier in a steel helmet who wants to relax by the riverside in a large city, only to find a bloated corpse there, apparently a former comrade who had lost his desire to live.

The sarcastic title “Feierabend” or, quitting time, is a reference to both the death of the drowned suicide victim and the end-of-day feeling of the man looking at the corpse. The title — perverted into a negative take on the original meaning of the expression, which actually refers to the pleasant feeling of reaching the end of the workday — is sharp-edged, shocking and direct, exhibiting a keen view of real contradictions.

From this time on, this cold view of what writer Bertolt Brecht called the “asphalt city,” and its sinister agents, became established in the most important branches of art and hastened by the new mediums of photography, radio, poster advertising, records, the daily press, cabaret and film. Raw truth replaced expressively blissful beauty. “Art is boring; one wants facts,” author Alfred Döblin (1878-1957) wrote in defining this wave of reality-based art.