Tate Modern: Magic Realism in Weimar Germany makes you feel a whirlwind of emotions!

“A man paints with his brains and not with his hands” Michelangelo

Magic Realism exhibition in ‘Tate Modern’. Taken by Georgina Blackwell.

I have never been much of an artist myself, but I have learned to appreciate it. My uncle whom also lives in London, is a big fan of art and has a Tate Modern membership that allows him to bring an extra person. We have started to visit different exhibitions together, which is great for me as he is able to explain things about the art as well as I can ask questions. We recently went to what I thought was an incredible exhibition.

Tate Modern currently has an exhibition on magic realism which focuses on art in Weimar Germany from 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles was signed. Done up until 1933, the year that Adolf Hitler was appointed as chancellor of Germany.

Magic realism was invented by German photographer, art historian and critic Franz Roh in 1925 and is used to describe modern realist painting with fantasy or dream-like qualities and subjects.[1]

Having lived in the Netherlands, I studied Weimar Germany and Hitler Germany rather intently, so this exhibition fascinated me. Not only was the art beautiful, giving the sense of ‘un-quiet’, meaning a deliberately unsettling nature of some pictures and themes in Magic Realism’ such as those on suicide, but the entire exhibition was very educational.

A timeline of Germany’s history from 1919-1933. Taken by Georgina Blackwell.

The first room has a timeline from 1919 until 1933, showing the steps that changed Germany. Shown in the photo above.

You see a range of art, from massive, colourful canvases to small cartoon-like drawings. Each and every piece throws so much emotion at you.

We saw pieces that were very brutal and upsetting, with the celebration of the murder of women; ‘lust-murders’ and about suicide. Shown in some of the photos above, one where multiple people have committed suicide and the canvas is mainly red, and another which shows people being pulled into a black hole (representing the holocaust).

This theme of utter sadness and darkness was evident out throughout the whole exhibition. With paintings that were mainly done with dark colours and portraits of people with faces that would make you tear up just looking at them. As well as many paintings had skulls and people painted very skeleton-like.

Powerful women. Taken by Georgina Blackwell.

On the other hand, the photos above display positive images of powerful women. They are standing upright and have strong facial expressions.

There were a few paintings that gave a more positive vibe, trying to put a bit of humour in the paintings. Shown in the paintings above of a man making himself have a double-chin and in the paintings where a bird has come in and broken a statue, the man is searching for the bird however its right behind him.

My uncle and I noticed a theme that was an undercurrent throughout the exhibition, which was androgyny, noticed in a painting of a young man posing with makeup on, a painting of a women in a suit and in pictures of cross-dressers. This would have been viewed with much greater disapproval in the 1920s and 30s All shown above.

The exhibition has a range of themes that are noticeable which seemed to underpin these powerful emotions, namely darkness.

Another theme that we noticed was the use of straight and parallel lines, shown a painting above of Amsterdam and of a women’s silhouette without a head.

As an overall, I would definitely recommend this exhibition. The development of Art in The Weimar Republic is a very significant to Germanys art and culture.

Georgie xx


[1] https://www.tate.org.uk/art/art-terms/m/magic-realism