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The exhibition “Day & Dream in Modern Germany” presents the Saint Louis Art Museum’s extensive collection of modern German prints, drawings, and pictures to demonstrate how different artists responded to their changing environment. The free exhibition will begin on August 26. The title of the show alludes to Max Beckmann’s 1946 lithography portfolio “Day & Dream,” which will be exhibited in its entirety.
The 15 prints of “Day & Dream,” which were created at the end of Beckmann’s wartime exile in Amsterdam only a year before he came to St. Louis to teach at Washington University, take viewers on a surrealistic tour of Beckmann’s dream world of kings and lovers, soldiers and athletes, who blend seamlessly with scenes from his life in exile. The show will look at how German art evolved in the first half of the twentieth century, from Expressionism’s boisterous abstraction to New Objectivity’s clinical hyperrealism.
The historic events that affected the lives of artists contributed to this diversity. Two world wars, political revolutions, debilitating unemployment, and unprecedented hyperinflation engulfed ordinary Germans in a never-ending cycle of adversity. Artists had to decide whether they should use their art to address the world around them or to envisage new and better worlds. The exhibition “Day & Dream” will look at how the opposite responses—activist realism and utopian idealism—were the extreme poles of a debate that shaped German art.
More than half of the paintings in the exhibition will be on display for the first time at the museum. Renée Sintenis, the first female sculptor admitted to the Berlin art university and known for her sympathetic representations of animals, created four beautiful drypoints of foals. Karl Blossfeldt’s groundbreaking photo book “Art Forms in Nature” has fascinating images of magnified plants that reveal their hidden beauty. The drawings for a 1925 publication of Georg Büchner’s novella “Lenz,” which were part of a recent huge donation from the artist’s estate, set the benchmark for psychological portraiture.
These and other works on display complement paintings and sculpture in the museum’s permanent collection galleries of modern European art, providing a comprehensive picture of German modernism. To help bring history to life, the exhibition labels will include words from the artists and their contemporaries in a novel method.
Melissa Venator, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow for Modern Art and author of the upcoming catalogue of the Museum’s collection of German Expressionist paintings, is the curator of the show. On Friday, Nov. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m., Venator will host a record-listening session in the galleries to acquaint visitors to the popular music of the time.
source st louis art museum