Cultural changes: developments in architecture, art and the cinema

Despite the trauma of its early years, during its so-called 'Golden Age' Weimar experienced a flourishing of culture, in Berlin especially, that saw developments in architecture, art and the cinema. This expression of culture was greatly helped by the ending of censorship in the new republic.

Architecture and art

The most influential visual arts movement in Weimar was the Bauhaus School, founded by Walter Gropius in the town of Weimar in 1919.

Walter Gropius, 1883-1969:

  • Regarded as a pioneer in modern architecture and founder of the Bauhaus movement.
  • Bauhaus theory was that all architecture and design was an opportunity to introduce beauty and quality to all, through well-designed and industrially produced items.
  • He became famous for iconic door handles, and several public buildings across Weimar.

Bauhaus’ impact on German architecture was limited. This was because the movement only focused on architecture after 1927 and it was then suppressed by the Nazis in 1933. After this most of its followers fled abroad, where they developed their work further. However, Gropius did design several apartment blocks that are still in use today.

In fine art, there were two main movements that influenced German art:

  • Dada. The Dada movement started in Zurich during World War One. It was a protest against the traditional conventions of art and western culture, in which the war had begun. Its output included photography, sculpture, poetry, painting and collage. Artists included Marcel Duchamp and Hans Arp.
  • New Objectivity. The New Objectivity movement started in Germany in the aftermath of World War One. It challenged its predecessor, Expressionism, which was a more idealistic and romantic movement. Artists returned to a more realistic way of painting, reflecting the harsh reality of war. Artists included Otto Dix and George Grosz.

Experimentation in German art came to an end when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Hitler rejected modern art as morally corrupt and many of the best German artists such as Max Beckmann, Max Ernst and Paul Klee fled abroad.

Cinema

The German film and cinema industry boomed during the 1920s.

  • An ‘expressionist’ style became common in films. They often had unrealistic sets and exaggerated acting techniques.
  • Economic instability meant less money for the arts. The shortage of funding gave rise to the Kammerspielfilm movement, with atmospheric films made on small sets with low budgets.
  • Expressionist film-makers favoured darker storylines and themes, including horror and crime.
  • The most prominent film directors of the time were Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau.
  • The most famous films of the period were The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (1920), Nosferatu (1922 – based on the Dracula story), Phantom (1922), The Last Laugh (1924) and Metropolis (1927).
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