23 March 2023, 08:45 Uhr | Museum Gunzenhauser

Symposium : European Realities. Realism movements in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s

Otto Dix, Rothaarige Frau (Damenporträt), 1931, Mischtechnik auf Leinwand auf Tischlerplatte, 60,8 x 36,6 cm, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser, Eigentum der Stiftung Gunzenhauser, Chemnitz, Foto:  Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz/PUNCTUM/Bertram Kober ©  © VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2020

European Realities. Realism Movements in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s
Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser
22 – 23 March 2023


With a focus on painting, the European Realities project is dedicated to the many different European Realism movements throughout nearly all of Europe in the 1920s and 1930s. The project addresses the issues of poverty, starvation and misery, and about the modernisation of industry. It reports on the economic upswing and cultural boom, on scientific and technical progress, on the big city and nightlife, on emancipation and diversity. This period in European art has never been presented on such a scale: the project not only includes the well-known movements in Italy, France, Germany and the USA that characterise this period, it also features artists from northern, eastern and southeastern European countries who captured the spirit of the 1920s and 1930s impressively in their works. The project also pays special attention to the means by which the Realism movements spread throughout Europe: the circulation of ideas and artist networks within Europe.

The upheavals of the First World War were key to the shift towards Realist art. For Europe, the »Great War« marked an epochal turning point. The War traumatised Europe and destroyed great empires. In art, reality was captured in images reflecting the present and emphasising the object. Realist movements emerged and lasted until the 1930s, as the political situation deteriorated with the establishment of totalitarian regimes. The European Realism movements, however, were not superficial reactions to contemporary taste; rather they arose from a world out of kilter that found artistic expression in reality-oriented art. The political and social antagonisms of the era were also reflected in artistic attitudes. In general, Realism at that time consisted of two different tendencies, the so-called left- and right-wing, the Verists and the Classicists. The left wing turned to critically realist art. Verists employed objective sobriety to draw attention to social grievances and, like seismographs of current conditions, they registered not only the splendour of the era but also its dark sides. The right wing, on the other hand, adhered to a conservative style of painting, oscillating between melancholy and idyll, between a fatigue with civilisation and a pathos of progress. Characterised by grandiose classicism, these artists expressed a rather sceptical and distanced relationship to the modern world. Common to all Realists was the search for a new art that was appropriate to the times. What the European movements had in common was a desire to return to an art that, behind the depiction of reality, rendered the existential fears and endangered ideals of the 20th century visible.

The city of Chemnitz will be European Capital of Culture in 2025. In this context, we focus on European Realities – the European Realism movements. From 22 to 23 March 2023, we will organise an international symposium to bring together European research on the respective nationalRealism movements in fine arts.

The symposium will be held in German and English. Participation to the conference is free of charge.
The conference registration is requested until 17th March 2023 by email: gunzenhauser@stadt-chemnitz.de.

Concept and Contact European Realities
Anja Richter


23 March 2023
Case Studies Realism Movements in Europe

8.45 am
Arrival and Registration

Anja Richter, Kunstsammlungen Chemnitz – Museum Gunzenhauser

Dr. Przemysław Strożek, Archiv der Avantgarden – Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden (DE)
Towards Sporting Realism in Painting. The Case of Olympic Art Competition in Amsterdam 1928

Julia Dijkstra, Museum MORE, Gorssel (NL)
The Life and Work of Dutch ›Magic Realist‹ Carel Willink

Coffee Break

Dr. Anna Habánová, University of Liberec (CZ)
Erwin Müller and Paul Gebauer. Two Examples of New Objectivity from Czechoslovakia

Christian Drobe, Masaryk University, Brno (CZ)
Ernst Neuschul and the Prospects of Proletarian Art in Central and Eastern Europe

Ivana Hanaček, University of Zadar (HR)
Spuren der Arbeit im Kroatien der Zwischenkriegszeit: Die Darstellung des arbeitenden Körpers im kritischen Realismus der Künstlervereinigung »Zemlja«
Lines of Labour in Interwar Croatia: Representing the Labouring Body in Critical Realism of the Artists’ Association »Zemlja«

1.00 pm
Lunch Break

Elena Voronovich, Moscow (RU)
Neorealism of the Society of Easel Painters (OST) and European Realism Movements in the 1920s and 1930s

Prof. Dr. Martina Pachmanová, Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague (CZ)
Dark Fantasies of (Some) Women Realists: From Lustmord to Female Rage

Coffee Break

Dr. Michal Goldschmidt, Tate, London (UK)
»In England’s Green and Pleasant Land«? The Politics of David Bomberg’s Paintings of Jerusalem

Dr. Anna Manicka, National Gallery Warsaw (PL)
Berliner Luft and Bronisław Wojciech Linke, the Apostate



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