Germany Arts and Architecture in the Second Half of the 20th Century

The architecture

The most pressing problems of the post-war Germany were the rehabilitation of the cities and the planning of new urban districts. In the eastern Germany, urban planning policy, linked to the development of the national economy, began with the reconstruction law (1950) which provided for interventions in 53 cities destroyed by war. The urban centers of the most important cities were reorganized, the new residential districts of Rostock were established and the new cities of Hoyeswerde (R. Paulick), Schwedt (Paulick) and Halle-Neustadt (Paulick and others) were built which, despite the reintegration of rationalist tradition and the use of prefabrication do not offer original solutions. Since the 1970s, greater attention has been given to the protection of the cultural and environmental heritage.

Also in the western part of the city, the rehabilitation of historic centers and the design of new neighborhoods and satellite cities (with linear development such as the Neue-Vahr in Bremen, or vertical such as the Gropiusstadt in Berlin) are the first responses to the needs of reconstruction, which, like the office districts of Hamburg, Frankfurt, etc., are part of the tradition of the International style, of which E. Eiermann, W. Kraemer, H. Hentrich and H. Petschnigg, W. Düttmann are the main representatives. This trend is contrasted by the strong personality of H. Scharoun, who since 1946 has been responsible for the reconstruction of West Berlin, and the work of H. Fehling and D. Gogel. Important personalities emerge in the seventies, such as F. Otto, Germany Behnisch and most importantly, OM Ungers. Still to be mentioned are R. Gutbrod, H. Deilmann, K. Ackermann, Germany Böhn, JP Kleihues, J. Sawade. A particular mention should be made of the presence on the German architectural scene of the main exponents of the modern movement, already emigrants, such as Gropius and Mies van der Rohe, and of significant foreign personalities (from A. Aalto to Germany Candilis, J. Stirling, Germany Peichl), thanks also to the institution of international competitions and to the Internationale Bauaustellung, of 1957 and 1987 in Berlin, important occasions for verification and debate of contemporary architecture that continued into the 1990s and into the 21st century. with works such as the Jewish Museum (D. Libeskind, Berlin, 1997) etc. or with emblematic works on an urban and monumental scale such as the Memorial to the Holocaust (P. Eisenman, Berlin, 2005).

The figurative arts

After the Second World War and the consequent division of the country, Germany followed different paths until its reunification. In the Eastern Germany, the figurative arts show full adherence to socialist realism and with great difficulty they mature the recovery of past experiences and openness to international experiences. In the 1960s and especially the 1970s, a new realism, elaborated with gestural impetuosity or resorting to surreal and fantastic figurations, emerged with W. Sitte, B. Heisig, W. Mattheuer, W. Tubke. In sculpture work F. Cremer, J. Jostram. Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig are the main centers of elaboration of non-traditional artistic experiences officially received with great difficulty: the first Herbstsalon in Leipzig in 1984, where, alongside neo-expressionist paintings, actions and installations are presented.

In Western Germany, non-figurative research with its connotation of internationality makes its way together with the recovery of the first avant-gardes: Baumeister, F. Winter, J. Bissier, T. Werner, E. Schumacher, EW Nay are the protagonists of informal; alongside, the isolated research of W. Heldt and R. Ölze, who had formed in contact with the French surrealist group, and again the sculptors H. Uhlmann and E. Mataré. Knowledge of international experiences and interest in historical avant-gardes contribute to a reaction to abstractionism, which finds expression in the new objectivity of K. Klapheck’s estranged world of machines, in the research focused on the light of the Zero Group (H. Mack, O. Piene, Germany Ücker) or on the qualitative values ​​of color by Germany Graubner and R. Girke, in the new figuration of H. Antes, by Germany Richter, of the Zebra group (D. Asmus) etc. A radical experimentation of new visual languages ​​is pursued by J. Beuys, the leading exponent of conceptualism in Germany; W. Vostell is linked to the Nouveaux réalistes and, like Beuys, to Fluxus. In the conceptual sphere, characterized by a strong political commitment, also K. Stäck and H. Haacke work ; A. and B. Blume, who mainly use photography; W. Kahlen etc. In the seventies the “wild” painting of M. Lupertz, Germany Baselitz, E. Schönebeck, S. Polke, AR Penk and again of J. Immendorf and A. Kiefer became popular. In the 1980s a figurative trend emerged with specific individual researches: in Berlin with R. Fetting, Salome (W. Cilarz), R. Trockel and H. Middendorf; in Cologne the group of Mühlheimer Freiheit, and in particular W. Dahn and GJ Dokoupil, is linked to conceptual art. In sculpture, the return to figuration has a parallel in the use of raw materials and polychromy in the work of A. Höckelmann, Germany Kleinlein; K. Fritsch experiences the tension between everyday event and art, between mass production and the uniqueness of the artistic work. Germany Merz and A. Klein use photographic and television images, also comparing them with images of the Nazi era; R. Mucha and S. Huber present objects and installations with elements removed from everyday use; the sculptors H. Kiecol and T. Schütte focus on architectural themes. Historical and anthropological interests inspire the works of N. Lang or M. Buthe. The ideologically committed production of O. Metzel refers to a more complex language, between action and object, while U. Rosenbach and R. Horn are located between performance, video and photography; Germany Förg and T. Ruff mainly use photography. Among the different expressions of video art the conceptual production of W. Kahlen, the autobiographical work of K. von Bruch and M. Oldenbach, the installations aimed at investigating the social condition of women by U. Damm. Baselitz, Lüpertz, Polke and Kiefer continue to establish themselves on the art scene at the beginning of the 21st century.

Germany Arts and Architecture in the Second Half of the 20th Century