Just a glimpse of the 1920s Berlin to come

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September, 2023

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We had always associated Secession with Vienna, so were suprised but also glad to there was an exhibition at the Alte Galerie on Museum Island. As ever, Klimt was the attraction, but within the exhibition we found other familier names not usually associated with this early twentieth century art movement.

First, and outstanding, was Kathe Kollwitz, the most significant artists of the period. Two sombre charcoal drawings seemed to run counter the smart design image of Secession. A few other artists had hinted at the sort of image Kollwitz produced; none, however, had the presence to arrest a viewer as her self-portrait did.

More in the style of the movement was the graohic rendition of the alphabet, brightly coloured and smart in design. The Klimt portraits of society women suggested the kind of figures who would dominate, at least in appearance, jazz-age Berlin. There were also sensitive pencil drawings and smart domestic-ware. Munch made an appearance in a self-portrait of dandy potential: not at all in “Scream” mode. Nearest to the hysterical was a “Circe”, menacing offering the poisoned drink, more wicked stepmother than potential lover.

In utter contrast there were pared-back interiors and pointilliste landscapes, some by Klimt. It is not a large exhibition but well worth seeing by anyone who will be in Berlin before the end of October. The art and design displayed is as lively as befits a city like Berlin. Lines of development reach out to Mondriaan and Rennie Mackintosh. Art-Deco is just around the corner, with all the excitement and decadence of the Twenties to come. A style and way of life that would be obliterated by the end of the Thirties.


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