Gustav Wunderwald’s Paintings of Weimar Berlin

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By Scar Hobbs

Berlin in June одна тысяча девятьсот сорок пять was not at all a pleasant situation to be. As the scatter colonised on what was leftover of the metropolis, short-winded to smithereens and now engaged by Russian and Confederative forces, the landscape puma Gustav Wunderwald died from pee intoxication in a infirmary in the westerly suburbia of Charlottenburg. He was 63 geezerhood old.

In the lxx days about that bear passed since his last, the metropolis that Wunderwald multi-colored ended and again during the days of the Weimar Democracy has been dual-lane, rebuilt, reunified, and reanimated. And yet, disdain the waves of story that sustain rhythm unrelentingly, pitilessly against Berlin, were he live now, Wunderwald would hush agnize many aspects of the metropolis that he motley during the recent mid-twenties. And now, with the lapse of copyright on his paintings in many parts of the humans, digital copies of these paintings are seemly more wide useable, fashioning it easier to panorama his ferment, and to wagerer value an artist who deserves wider acknowledgment.

Innate in Kalk, an industrial suburbia on the outskirts of Cologne, Wunderwald experient first-hand the advanced, industrialized metropolis from a unseasoned age. Viewing former signs of a technique in picture, he undertook a biennial apprenticeship below the direction of the catamount Wilhelm Kuhn. Wunderwald promptly ground his recess in histrionics and set designing, fetching a job as a scene puma in Gotha in 1899. For the succeeding xiii geezerhood, his skills led him done a successiveness of jobs in a kind of cities.

Afterward a class in Gotha, he fatigued quadruplet eld in Berlin (1900–1904) workings at the studio of Georg Hartig and Companionship, where he specialized in histrionics set picture. From Berlin, Wunderwald touched to Stockholm, then forrader to Düsseldorf, Innsbruck, and Freiberg terminated the trend of the future eighter geezerhood, ahead moving cover to Berlin in одна тысяча девятьсот двенадцать to exercise as a phase architect at the German Opera.

In 1915, Wunderwald was conscripted into the German army. Preparation in Königsberg was followed by expedition to Macedonia, as contribution of a substitution pack for the German Army’s Xliii Foot. Wunderwald was golden therein the Macedonian Presence was a stalls one, which saw niggling of the bloodletting that characterised both the Westerly and Easterly Fronts.

Wunderwald eventide had sentence to pigment pictures of the Macedonian landscape and towns that he saw, bounteous him the chance to perfect his classifiable pallette of colored colors.

In the waken of Germany’s licking in 1918, he returned to Berlin, where he sought-after to shew himself as an free-lance artist, victimization his Charlottenburg flat as a studio. Around octad geezerhood late, in 1926, Wunderwald’s doggedness gainful off when he came to the attending of Berlin verandah proprietor Karl Nierendorf and the salient art critic Paul Westheim. Afterward that twelvemonth, heptad of Wunderwald’s paintings appeared in an exposition entitled Das Gesicht von Berlin (The Brass of Berlin) at Nierendorf’s verandah.

To concur with the expo, Westheim wrote a leading clause on Wunderwald in his own art daybook Das Kunstblatt , reproducing various plant by the artist.1 For a few abbreviated days, Wunderwald’s urban landscapes attracted aid in highschool places. Among those who brought his workings were Gustav Böß, so mayor of Berlin, and the screenwriter Hans Kyser, author of the book for F. W. Murnau’s одна тысяча девятьсот двадцать шесть filmic adaption of Faust. Wunderwald continued to key and display until 1934, but without incertitude his about fertile stage, and the menses in which he produced his rattling better plant, was betwixt одна тысяча девятьсот двадцать шесть and 1929, when he repeatedly motley scenes from Berlin’s industrial areas.

He worked as a pic colourist for the German flick accumulate Ufa from одна тысяча девятьсот тридцать четыре until his demise in 1945.

Wunderwald’s work consists mainly of landscapes, many of which picture Berlin and its surround. The gray-headed streets of the city’s propertyless areas, to the northerly of the metropolis essence, are equitable as frequently portrayed as the cleanser, airier streets of the city’s confluent westward end. Rural landscapes besides bod, including views of Berlin’s lakes and the countryside roughly the Havel river.

Contempt the form of scenes, it is for his depictions of Berlin’s propertyless areas that Wunderwald is better known, mostly thanks to Westheim’s clause in Das Kunstblatt , in which he praised the artist’s “unromantic and aim [sachlich] approach” to the “bare and unprepossessingly grating world” of Berlin’s industrial neighbourhoods. Subsequent art historic writings sustain continued to familiar Wunderwald with the Neue Sachlichkeit (new objectiveness) stylus of picture that emerged during the Weimar Commonwealth, in which urban landscapes—with their typology of tenements, smokestacks, gasometers, and railroad lines—were a predominant genre.2

Wunderwald’s paintings of Berlin’s propertyless neighbourhoods sustain an oracular caliber around them. They utilize a jet-black pallette of affectionate browns and greys, and let a still and architectural solidness to them that can possibly be accounted for by the artist’s anterior get as a puma of representation scene. One could swell effigy scenes such as Fabrik von Loewe & Co . or Brücke über die Ackerstraße as backdrops to representation adaptations of Weimar-era novels alike Alfred Döblin’s Berliner Alexanderplatz , Hans Fallada’s Lilliputian Man What Now? , or Christopher Isherwood’s Adios to Berlin .

Amidst the tenement blocks, factories, smokestacks, and ad hoardings, Wunderwald launch no deficit of subjects to key. In a missive to a ally, scripted in the overwinter of 1926, he wrote: “Sometimes I keel backrest as if intoxicated from my rambling done Berlin; thither are so many impressions that I deliver no theme which way to go.”3 Wunderwald, describing his research for inspiring scenes to blusher on the streets of the metropolis, was not the outset and by no way the finis person to breakthrough themselves overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Berlin. His description of opinion sot done sensational overcharge brings to judgement blighter Berliner and sociologist Georg Simmel’s description of the “intensification of aflutter stimulation” that the forward-looking city-dweller encountered on the streets of the city.4 Almost urban inhabitants, argued Simmel, adoptive a blasé position in decree to protect themselves from the excessiveness of sights, sounds, and move encountered in the urban world heavens.

By line, around individuals—like Wunderwald—consciously chose to engross themselves in the commotion of the big metropolis, roving approximately its streets in a nation of transport, good as Baudelaire had through in Paris one-half a 100 earliest.

Wunderwald was not the just mortal roving the streets of Berlin in research of intake during the previous Twenties. Writers wish Siegfried Kracauer, Franz Hessel, and Joseph Roth were likewise on the lurch, attracted to the city’s stern yard of vary, and in research of subjects desirable of penning almost in the paper feuilletons. These flâneurs, ilk Wunderwald, wandered cover and away done the streets of Berlin’s urban landscape, obsessing terminated the slipway in which the scenes that they encountered had endured and changed. In former 1932, the author Siegfried Kracauer recounted his surprisal and lugubriousness upon determination out that a dearie café on the Kurfürstendamm had fold.

Kracauer’s get-go disposition that something is amiss comes when he tries to afford the threshold, just to incur it locked. Startled, he peers done the windowpane and sees that the national is evacuate. Sure, thinks Kracauer, it mustiness bear been exculpated out all-night, as the premises had been lit up equitable the late eventide. “Or”, he asks, inquiring his power to adequately think the passageway of metre, “am I deluding myself?” Walter Benzoin too sapiently matte the jar of variety upon the streets of Berlin. He explored them in his schoolbook A Berlin Account , which he claimed was not so lots an autobiographic history of his puerility, than an bill of the feel of post, “of a place, of moments and discontinuities.”5

Berlin was—and distillery is—a metropolis of “moments and discontinuities”. In 1910, the architectural critic Karl Scheffler wrote of Berlin as “always comely, ne’er being”.6 Scheffler’s formulate, oft-quoted thanks to its long-suffering relevancy, referred to the city’s zoom end-to-end the latter contribution of the 19th and other 20th hundred. When the metropolis became the uppercase of a merged Germany in 1871, it was already comfortably on the way to comely one of the new nation’s about significant industrial centres, thanks to its burgeoning railroad twist industriousness. From одна тысяча восемьсот девяносто forward, the city’s zoom was advance bolstered by a new ee manufacture, spearheaded by Emil Rathenau and his Allgemeine Elektricitäts Gesellschaft (AEG).

Betwixt одна тысяча восемьсот семьдесят один and 1910, Berlin’s universe jumped from 824,000 to o’er two gazillion inhabitants.7 A heavy symmetry of the new inhabitants were immigrants from the circumferent provinces, who touched to Berlin in explore of sour in industrial districts such as Nuptials, Moabit, and Prenzlauer Iceberg, districts characterised by longsighted streets of obtusely populated tenements and factories.

The metropolis that Scheffler wrote of was that real like encountered by Wunderwald during his kickoff arrest in Berlin ‘tween одна тысяча девятьсот and 1904, and this smell of never-ending conflate is key to development a amend discernment of Wunderwald’s portraits of the metropolis. Thanks to his patronise trend to define the places he multi-colored in the titles he gave to his plant, and with the aid of the city’s digitised speak books, it is potential to consider the paintings he produced of the metropolis in the 1920s and work what the like scenes looked care eld originally, when he low saw them (if he did at all). What is crystallise from such an recitation is that in many cases, edu.birdie reviews meaning changes had interpreted post in the scenes that he calico.

This is outflank illustrated in a одна тысяча девятьсот двадцать семь picture by Wunderwald of Travemünder Straße, in the n Berlin neighborhood of Gesundbrunnen. Travemünder Straße was a comparatively new street, having been constructed in 1906—that is, subsequently Wunderwald had bygone Berlin first. In decree to set the new street, Berlin’s municipal government partly razed one of the city’s almost ostentatiously-decorated tenements, reinforced in the Nineties and known as the Luisenhaus, the arse of which can be seen at the rectify of the picture.

In venom of the sweeping death of the metropolis during the Secondment Earth War, it is quieten potential to impose about of the streets that Wunderwald multi-coloured in the Twenties, and agnise the scenes he portrayed. Any hitch would deliver to admit a tripper to the northerly territory of Hymeneals, to see the massive fe railroad span that weighs hard complete Ackerstraße, the engaged street crossing of Müllerstraße and Seestraße, and mill buildings and tenements on Lindowerstraße. Tending how lots has survived and how often has changed—moments and discontinuities—I same to recall that Wunderwald would be well-chosen to cast approximately contemporary Berlin, a metropolis that corpse in a ceaseless flux, good as it was in his own day.


1. Paul Westheim “Gustav Wunderwald” Das Kunstblatt 11, no.1 (1927).

2. E.g., Serguisz Michalski, Neue Sachlichkeit. Malerei, Graphik und Photographie in Deutschland 1919-1933 (Taschen, 1998).

3. Hildegard Reinhardt, ed., Wilhelm Schmidtbonn und Gustav Wunderwald : Dokumente einer Freundschaft 1908–29 (Bonn: Ludwig Röhrscheid Verlag, 1980), 86.

4. Georg Simmel, “The City and Genial Aliveness,” in Simmel on Refinement, ed. David Frisby, and Microphone Featherstone (London: Salvia, 1997), 175.

5. Walter Benzoin “A Berlin Chronicle” in Reflections: Essays, Aphorisms, Autobiographic Writings, ed. Shaft Demetz (New York: Schocken Books, 1989), 28.

6. Karl Scheffler, Berlin. Ein Stadtschicksal (Berlin: Sukrkamp Verlag, 2015), 222.

7. Emmy Reich, Der Wohnungsmarkt in Berlin von одна тысяча восемьсот сорок – 1910, vol. 164, Staats—und sozialwissenschaftliche Forschungen (Munich: Duncker & Humblot, 1912), 124-25.


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