Die ARD - Aufgaben, Struktur, Organe (German Edition)
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The images are innocuous and illusionistic, albeit showing slight traces of postimpressionist brushwork and a Gauguin-like reduction of details. There are portraits, still lifes, and landscapes, but history paintings are notably lacking. The focus is instead on the everyday, which perhaps explains why this exhibition was deemed a disappointment even by Ulbricht, who was looking for a new Socialist art for East Germany.
No one could say what the new Socialist art should look like since it had not yet been created, although politicians and conservative cultural functionaries claimed to know what it was not: anything related to modern art. Instead of giving artists the freedom to experiment with modern styles in their search for something uniquely Socialist, and thus to assume the responsibility to society the government proclaimed they had, officials fell back instead on the Soviet model. And yet the results—as with the Fourth German Art Exhibition—were increasingly unsatisfactory for artists and politicians alike.
The Bitterfeld Way called for artists—as well as writers—to work in factories to better understand the workers they portrayed, and for workers to try their hand at creating art and serving on selection committees for exhibitions. Although implemented from above, many of the ideas behind the Bitterfeld Way originally came from below. In particular, he noted, it had led to the alienation of the artist from society. According to Heisig, the snobbish art press in the West mystifies artists and their work, setting them up as loners whose art can only truly be understood in the future.
From this idea, he continued, the thought developed that the artist is working for the future rather than the present, and, from this, it was not long before one started to believe that any art that is approachable—let alone liked by the masses—is to be mistrusted. The societal component was, because of the emphasis on intellectual individuality, an abstraction. From here the way led logically and carefully through many exciting shades and interesting varieties to 44 CHAPTER ONE artistic suicide, where, after the masterful and artistically prescribed demolition of appearances, the artist is left horribly alone without a societal purpose, and forced by the iron logic of his role, is no longer able to portray the human being.
It was nonetheless difficult, since many artists in the GDR had grown up with these so-called laws, which continued to hold sway over many of them.
The surface. It is not there for itself, but rather is a kind of analogy to reality for the artist. Having only one or the other is not enough. It did so in two ways. First, it educated the masses about art, creating a larger and more discerning audience, which enabled painters like Heisig to shift from a simple, easy-to-understand realism to more artistically and intellectually challenging works. A Controversial Director, In May , just a few months before his term as chair of the VBK-L ended, Heisig was given a diploma in graphics from the Leipzig Academy, the result of a new regulation that required university teachers to have a higher degree.
In addition to a course in free graphics, he teaches a foundations course. It is thanks to his untiring work that drawing is a particular strength of the Leipzig Academy. Archival files suggest that initially the school leadership wanted to nominate Hans Mayer-Foreyt —81 , who was a teacher and head of the foundations course, but in a meeting held in April , Mayer-Foreyt essentially declined the nomination.
In May, the party leadership approved this decision, and, in August, Heisig received official confirmation from the Ministry for Culture in Berlin. There may have also been some question about his political reliability. In the letter, dated September 20, Heisig defended an applied arts student from the Leipzig Academy who had gotten into trouble with the law for ripping down an election poster.
Nonetheless, he continued, he did not understand why this was an issue now, six weeks after the fact, especially since he had shown the letter to Thielemann shortly after it was sent. Thielemann responded that he had only glanced at the letter, an inattention that he regretted in retrospect.
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He saw the destruction of the poster as a singular event resulting from student drinking and pointed out that their reputation as a result was no worse than those of the other art academies in Berlin, Dresden, and Halle. It also illustrates an important aspect of his position: as director, Heisig regularly had to deal with 48 CHAPTER ONE student issues like this one and the various organizations and personalities involved. He also dealt with the daily operations of the school.
These included writing official reports and letters, as well as promoting, disciplining, and paying teaching staff. He did all of this while also teaching and creating his own art.
In recognition of his hard work, Heisig was awarded a Medal for Outstanding Achievement on May 1, ; it was the fourth time he had received this award since At thirty-six, he was the youngest person to hold this position. He had also been the first of a younger generation to chair the local branch of the Union of Visual Artists a few years earlier. Yet Heisig was not universally liked.
He was a vocal figure who was forthright in his criticisms—as evidenced in his articles in Bildende Kunst—and stood up for his beliefs.
Views of him at the time were divided largely between those of artists on the one side, who tended to see him positively, and those of conservative cultural functionaries and politicians on the other, many of whom did not. This is a division that continued throughout the Ulbricht era: some praised Heisig as a great artist, others criticized him for being a troublemaker.
The next chapter looks at the first of four major conflicts Heisig had in the s. It also marked a shift in the East German art scene to a younger generation of artists and, ultimately, to a more modern style. Many artists, even some from the older generation, believed that the wall, by eliminating the immediate threat of the West, would enable them to take more chances with their work.
And some began advocating for an art based on German rather than Soviet precedents. Just two weeks after construction on the wall began, Heisig became director of the Leipzig Academy, a position he held until It was also at this time that he began to clash with politicians and cultural functionaries in a number of high-profile conflicts. Before the s were over, he would be at the center of at least four major controversies, the first of which took place in the spring of , just shortly after he resigned as the director of the Leipzig Academy.
It was also an important moment in the development of painting in Leipzig. In the wake of this exhibition, many of the younger artists in Leipzig, including Heisig, turned away from the conservative realism displayed there and began to develop a modern style that would first become visible at the Seventh District Art Exhibition four years later.
The second half of this chapter shows how Heisig successfully negotiated the fluctuating cultural politics of the era as the debates that had marked cultural policy in the late s and s intensified in the wake of the building of the wall, dividing artists and art historians on the one side from politicians and conservative cultural functionaries on the other in the struggle to define and create a uniquely East German art. The SED assigned each of these academies a pedagogical focus based on the historical strength of the area.
Berlin and Dresden became centers for painting. Leipzig, known for publishing and its annual book fair, emphasized graphics and book arts. Halle, as a former home to the Bauhaus in Dessau , focused on the applied arts and industrial design. Similarly, Alfred Kurella, who had worked in Leipzig for several years before becoming head of the Cultural Commission in the Politburo, was personally invested in its art and in a realism based on Soviet models.
The result was that even in the cultural thaw of the mids, there was relatively little artistic experimentation among artists in Leipzig: illusionism continued to dominate the paintings produced there.
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Oil on fiberboard, A IV He also suggested the Italian realists as a model for East German artists and emphasized the importance of contemporary themes. In , he and others in Halle were castigated for the modernist works they exhibited at the District Art Exhibition in Halle and Magdeburg that December. They do not honestly engage with realistic art of the past and present. Like them, he wrote, the Leipzig exhibition emphasized the importance of a close relationship between artists and workers, and the need to overcome the distance between art and life—and between artist and viewer—that had developed in capitalist society.
Witz was not working alone when he wrote this introduction. Heisig, in a yellow jacket and dark shirt, crosses his arms just to the left of center. Witz, with his left hand in his pocket, looks over his shoulder at us, while Blume stands in the background, holding a cigarette up to his mouth. A table with fruit and a vase of flowers separates these men from us, while the canvas separates them from the only other figure in the room, a nude woman. We must take cultural policies into our own hands.
Finished in a conservative socialist realist style, the work depicts two brigade leaders in suits shaking hands over a table at a festive social gathering. It is an image that stresses the fruits of collaboration and collegiality, Figure 2. Oil painting, 90 x Reprinted with permission of Julia Blume. Figure 2. Oil, 95 x cm. Highly praised by politicians, Witz received several prizes in for this work, including the Kunstpreis der Stadt Leipzig Art Prize of the City of Leipzig.
Before this, he had been primarily a graphic artist, having exhibited only two paintings at the district exhibitions—a color study Farbstudie in and a portrait of a female model Modellpause in —and none at the prestigious German Art Exhibitions in Dresden.
At the Sixth, by contrast, he exhibited three oil paintings in addition to an assortment of prints and drawings. All three of the paintings depict an important moment in Communist history and employ a realistic style to depict a group of well-dressed men, women, and children gathered together in an urban environment. In Die Geraer Arbeiter am They stand and watch as a group of approximately ten figures, most wearing helmets, are carted off to jail.
The prisoners were part of the Kapp Putsch, which took place in cities throughout Germany in , an attempt by right-wing militants to overthrow the fledgling democracy of the Weimar Republic. With hands raised, the captured revolutionaries step down from a military vehicle at the right side of the painting and walk toward the left through the crowd of which we, the viewer, are a part.
- Our Royal Baby;
Some of the figures sneer or heckle; one turns to look at us as if we have just arrived on the scene. And yet the downward perspective of our gaze suggests that we ourselves might be stepping out of a vehicle. This perspective complicates our relationship to the scene depicted, since we cannot be certain of our own moral position within it: Are we among the militant or the figures who push them forward? Subsequently destroyed through overpainting.
That led him [Heisig] to the question: Why do people become revolutionaries? Why was the superintendent a true servant, and why had Massloff tried to overthrow the system? This psychological problem interested him.