Art in any shape or form can be beautiful, cheering, soothing – or simply exist without any ulterior motive. Just as important a function of art, however, is to stir people up, call their attention to adverse circumstances, remind them of human nature’s pitfalls – and thus to intervene in society’s processes.
The exhibition “Wartime” brings together works from within the Staatsgalerie Stuttgart’s collection – immediate artistic reactions to the two devastating world wars and society in the first half of the twentieth century. Series and portfolios rarely shown in their entirety are on view alongside self-portraits and other imposing individual works on paper.
First and foremost, the Staatsgalerie’s holdings of Käthe Kollwitz’s (1867–1945) complete graphic works are on display, among them all four of her print series. Her oeuvre offers above all investigations – as forceful as they are distressing – of the themes of “war”, “death” and “family”.
Max Beckmann (1884–1950) is represented with works executed during and after World War I, for example the recently purchased drawing Nurse and Male Figure Tending to Sick Patient of 1915.
In the etching series The War, published in Berlin in 1924, Otto Dix (1891–1969) visualizes the events and consequences of the battles in France and Belgium with relentless harshness.
George Grosz (1893–1959) documents in this show primarily the period between the world wars. Characterized by poverty, hunger, hardship and insurgency, it was an era of a still very “warlike” nature, as seen in Grosz’s 1922 series The Robbers: Nine Lithographs on sentences from Schiller’s Robbers.
Works by Ernst Barlach (1870–1938) and Ludwig Meidner (1884–1966) are also on view, as are two further series presenting war in all its absurdity and destructive frenzy: The Damned by Otto Herrmann (1899–1995) of Stuttgart, executed in the years 1947–50 after Theodor Plievier’s novel Stalingrad, and DRESDEN 1945 by Wilhelm Rudolph (1889–1982).