The Trench by Otto Dix (1923)

Art History: The New Objectivity (c. 1918s - 1933s)

The period spanning the late 1910s to the early 1930s witnessed a fascinating artistic movement known as the New Objectivity. Emerging in response to the chaos and aftermath of World War I, this movement sought to capture the harsh realities of the post-war world with a sharp focus on objective representation. Artists of this era employed a range of art styles to convey their messages, resulting in an intriguing blend of realism, precision, and often a touch of satirical commentary.

Main Art Styles of the New Objectivity

The New Objectivity movement comprised several distinct art styles that shared a common goal of presenting a clear and unfiltered view of the world. Some of the prominent styles within this movement include:


Verism, a style rooted in realism, was characterized by its meticulous attention to detail. Artists in this style aimed to depict their subjects with almost photographic accuracy, showcasing the imperfections of the human form and the environment in stark contrast to earlier idealized representations.


Precisionism, also known as Cubist Realism, emphasized geometric forms, clean lines, and a sense of order. This style often depicted urban landscapes and industrial subjects with a keen focus on proportion and composition.

Social Critique

Many artists of the New Objectivity movement used their work to provide social commentary on the issues of their time. This often involved a critical examination of societal norms, economic disparities, and political upheaval.

Five Famous Painters of the New Objectivity Movement

Let's explore the lives and works of five renowned painters who made significant contributions to the New Objectivity movement:

1. Otto Dix (1891 - 1969)

Otto Dix, a German painter and printmaker, is perhaps one of the most notable figures of the New Objectivity movement. His work often delved into the horrors of war, reflecting his own experiences as a soldier during World War I. Two of his iconic paintings include:

  • "The Trench" (1923): This powerful artwork portrays the grim reality of trench warfare, capturing the agony and despair of soldiers trapped in the brutal conditions of the battlefield.
  • "Portrait of the Journalist Sylvia von Harden" (1926): In this satirical portrait, Dix critiques the decadence and superficiality of Weimar-era Berlin society, depicting the subject with exaggerated features and a sense of detachment.

2. George Grosz (1893 - 1959)

George Grosz, another German artist, was known for his caustic and satirical take on the societal ills of the time. His works often contained biting commentary on political corruption and human folly.

  • "The Funeral" (1918): Created in the aftermath of World War I, this painting starkly conveys the destruction and chaos wrought by the conflict, depicting a funeral procession in a desolate landscape.
  • "Eclipse of the Sun" (1926): This work is a scathing critique of the political and economic elites of the Weimar Republic. Grosz portrays them as grotesque figures, highlighting their disconnect from the struggles of the common people.

3. Christian Schad (1894 - 1982)

Christian Schad, an Austrian-born artist, was associated with the New Objectivity movement due to his exploration of realism and the human form. He was known for his involvement in the Dada movement as well.

  • "Agosta the Winged Man and Rasha the Black Dove" (1920): This painting combines elements of fantasy and reality, featuring a male figure with wings and a female figure with a dove. The surreal composition challenges traditional representations of the human body.
  • "Self-Portrait with Model" (1927): In this intriguing self-portrait, Schad depicts himself alongside a model, blurring the lines between reality and artifice. The painting raises questions about identity and representation.

4. Max Beckmann (1884 - 1950)

Max Beckmann, a German artist, created works that often conveyed a sense of unease and existential introspection. His art captured the psychological aftermath of the war and the tumultuous interwar period.

  • "The Night" (1918 - 1919): This painting reflects the trauma of war and its impact on the human psyche. Beckmann's use of distorted figures and dissonant colors creates a sense of disquiet and instability.
  • "Departure" (1932 - 1935): Beckmann's triptych painting explores themes of life, death, and rebirth. The artwork's composition and symbolism invite contemplation on the human experience and its cyclical nature.

5. Karl Hubbuch (1891 - 1979)

Karl Hubbuch, a German artist, contributed to the New Objectivity movement with his focus on everyday life and urban environments. His works often featured a blend of precision and a subtle critique of societal norms.

  • "The Man with the Glass Eye" (1929): This painting exemplifies Hubbuch's meticulous attention to detail and his interest in capturing the uniqueness of individual subjects. The title character's glass eye becomes a metaphor for personal experiences.
  • "Dancer and Gymnast" (1932): In this artwork, Hubbuch portrays the physicality and discipline of dancers and athletes. The composition's emphasis on the human body reflects the artist's exploration of realism and form.


The New Objectivity movement marked a crucial period in art history, capturing the essence of a world grappling with the aftermath of war and the complexities of modernity. Through the diverse styles and works of artists like Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christian Schad, Max Beckmann, and Karl Hubbuch, we gain insights into the social, political, and psychological landscapes of the time. Their paintings remain powerful reminders of the role art plays in reflecting and challenging the realities of the human experience.


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