New Objectivity

Period: 1920s

In the early twentieth century, Russian avant-garde art was exclusively correlated to the art of France. Even when Kazimir Malevich suggested not linking oneself to any one country or any art at all, his Suprematism was still a radical criticism of French Cubism and its failure to proceed to complete annihilation of the object.

Even after the revolution, French art was regarded as the norm in the USSR. All manifestos and critical writings, wherever there was any mention of “painterly culture” or “quality,” contained a hidden reference to the Cézanne-Matisse-Picasso tradition. Artists closely follow the evolution of this tradition, particularly as, in its movement from Impressionism to Cubism, which took Russian artists onto non-objectivity, it was understood, first and foremost, as evolution, as more or less history itself. Walking in step with this tradition meant keeping in step with time.

Information reached the USSR that, after the First World War, French art had taken a turn in the direction of greater “clarity” -- post-Cubist Purism, Neoclassicism and rappel a l’ordre (an appeal for order issuing from the former Cubist camp in the late 1910s and early 1920s). The influence and charm of bourgeoisie Paris, however, had weakened. In the early 1920s, both aesthetic and political conjecture drew Soviet artists to the capital of the Weimar Republic, where Neo-Realist painting was more political and social, orientated less on aestheticising Cubism and more on the all-destructive Dada.

This “new realism” left a trail in the art of several European countries. Besides Germany, Italy and France, it also drew Russia into its orbit. There was a distinct weariness with the various movements breaking down and even negating form, leading a series of Russian artists to a new, realistic vision. Proponents of the new movement called Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) in Russia were Nikolaus Sagrekow (who moved to Berlin in 1922) and Israel Lizak.

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