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Berlin Dada and Wish-Images of Popular Culture}
Hans Reimann, a writer and editor of satire during the Weimar Republic, published an essay in 1923 that, although unmentioned in recent scholarship, remains one of the most cogent and evocative sketches of George Grosz's character and artistic interests. Reimann placed particular stress on the role played in Grosz's development by serialized adventure stories, illustrated magazines, cheap oleographs, and cinema. This mass-produced popular culture became a major economic and social force before World War I, finding its audience among the lower classes. Reimann, noting that Grosz grew up within that audience, wrote, "Rudolf Zimmermann, The Fearless Bandit or Wenzel Kummer, The Secrets of the Kottbus Fortress formed the reading of George, who was always keen on the true people's literature." This enthusiasm for popular culture continued into the early 1920s, emblematized for Reimann by the decor of Grosz's studio where "Chaplin smiles on the wall, George Grosz's Mona Lisa.,,2
Berlin Dada's interests in such entertainments have been noted in recent scholarship, but have not been sufficiently connected to the considerable contemporaneous discussion about popular culture's history
1. I thank Kathrin Hoffmann-Curtius, Robert Jensen, Beth Irwin Lewis, Victor Margolin, and Barbara McCloskey for their comments on an earlier version and James Van Dyke for questions after I read a paper at the 1998 GSA conference in Salt Lake City. 2. Hans Reimann, "Monumenta Germaniae 4. George Grosz," Das Tagebuch 4.31 (4 Aug. 1923): 1116.
4 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
and its implications for traditional fine art.3 Through his books and the magazines he edited, Hans Reimann was an essential observer of its impact during and after the war.4 His Buch vom Kitsch [Book of Kitsch], published in 1936, provided a partial history of mass-produced popular culturer' Equally important are Ernst Bloch's writings about colportage and kitsch, which emphasized popular culture's roles within modem life. Both men collaborated with the dadaists and adopted montage as a literary structure, while Bloch's theory about "wish-images"?
3. Dada's interests in popular culture are addressed in the following: Hanne Bergius, "'Lederstrumpf zwischen Provinz und Metropole," Rudolf Schlichter 1890-1955 (Berlin:
Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1984) 33a-46a; Hanne Bergius, "Berlin: A City Drawn. From the Linear Network to the Contour," German Realist Drawing a/the 1920s, eel. Peter Nisbet (Cambridge: Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1986) 15-30; Beth Irwin Lewis, "'Lustmord': Inside the Windows of the Metropolis," Berlin: Culture and Metropolis, ed. Charles W. Haxthausen & Heidrun Suhr (Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990) 111-40; Beeke Sell Tower, "Asphaltcowboys and Stadtindianer: Imagining the Far West," and "Utopia/Dystopia: Dada-Merika and Dollarica," Envisioning America: Prints. Drawings. and Photographs by George Grosz and his Contemporaries 1915-1933, ed. Beeke Sell Tower (Cambridge: Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard U, 1990) 17-35 and 62-85; Helen Adkins, "George Grosz and the American Dream," The 1920s: Age of the Metroplis, ed. Jean Clair (Montreal: Museum of Fine Arts, 1991) 284-98; and Peter-Klaus Schuster, '''Alle sind angeklagt' - George Grosz, der amerikanische Traum und die deutsche HOlle," George Grosz: Berlin-New York, ed. PeterKlaus Schuster (Berlin: Neue Nationalgalerie, 1994) 27-33.
4. Reimann's books, which treat issues of popular culture, are the following: Die
schwarze Liste, ein heikeles Bilderbuch (Leipzig: Wolff, 1916); Die Damen mit den schonen Beinen und andere Grotesken (Munich: Muller, 1916); Das Paukerbuch: Sizzen vom Gymnasium (Munich: Muller, 1918); Die Kloake, ein heikles Lesebuch (Leipzig:
Wolff, 1920); Kaktusse, ausgewiihte Grotesken (Munich: Muller, 1920); Ewers. ein garantiert verwahrloster Schundroman (Hannover: Steegemann, 1921); Das verbotene Buch: Grotesken und Schnurren (Hannover: Steegemann, 1922); Hedwig CourthsMahler, schlichte Geschichten fiirs traute Heim (Hannover: Steegemann, 1922); and Von Karl May bis Max Pallenberg in 60 Minuten (Leipzig: Wolff, 1923). He edited the satire magazines Der Drache in Leipzig and Das Stachelschwein in Berlin. No major study of Reimann's work has appeared, although he did write an autobiography: Mein blaues Wunder: Lebensmosaik eines Humoristen (Munich: List, 1959).
5. Reimann,Das Buch vom Kitscb (Munich: Piper, 1936).
6. Reimann's Die Kloake is an important early example of literary montage.
Reimann met the Berlin dadaists in February 1920 during their visit in Leipzig and Grosz provided illustrations for Sdchsische Miniaturen (1921), Das Paukerbuch (1922), and Hedwig Courths-Mahler (1922). Later in the 1920s Reimann published articles on Walter Mehring, John Heartfield, and Grosz in Das Stachelschwein. Bloch's initial contact with dada came in 1917 through his collaboration with Hugo Ball on Die freie Zeitung, an antiGerman newspaper published in Bern. See Martin Korol's introduction to Ernst Bloch, Kampf, nicht Krieg: Politische Schriften 1917-1919 (FrankfurtlMain: Suhrkamp, 1985). The relevant texts on colportage and kitsch are Erbschaft dieser Zeit (Zurich: Oprecht & Helbling, 1935) and Das Prinzip Hoffnung (East Berlin: Autbau, 1954) and they, along with Spuren (Berlin: Cassirer, 1930), are literary montages.
Sherwin Simmons 5
[Wunschbilder] residing within popular culture helps conceptualize its attraction for the dadaists. The art critic Adolf Behne was another important contributor to the discourse about popular culture in 1919-20, believing that the dadaists problematized a bourgeois conception of art by questioning the division of art and kitsch. In an article that responded to a debate about the use of kitsch in poster designs Behne wrote, "There is no art - there is no kitsch. There is only a simple, firsthand, direct experience. . . . I don't know which insult would be worse for a dadaist, if I were to call him an artist or a practitioner of kitsch? I suppose the first. Because the withdrawn, the noble, the pure and high and holy art - that is the worst kitsch!,,7
Behne's comments were made in July 1920, the same month that he reviewed the "First International Dada Trade-Fair" held at Dr. Otto Burchard's gallery in Berlin.8 That exhibition confused art and kitsch by satirizing reproductions of old master paintings and exhibiting original art inspired by the so-called "trivial arts" of popular culture. Georg Scholz, who participated in the exhibition, later wrote about this conscious questioning of aesthetic categories:
It will be the task of the most recent generation [of artists] to drop "art for art's sake" and bridge the opposition between "art" on one side and "kitsch" on the other. Artists must move outside of professional circles and seek out the people, the present, the facts oflife and events ... . All means of pictorial representation, which stand available to refined Middle Europeans such as ourselves who are fully conscious of the history of art of all periods and countries, must be tested and examined, including the means of kitsch in the sense of picture postcards and photographic paintings.l'
A photograph of the exhibition (fig. 1) shows Wieland Herzfelde examining a work by Otto Dix that used such means. Entitled Moveable Figure Picture, the female nude, clothed male, and bull pivoted on
7. Adolf Behne, "Kitschkunst oder Kunstkitsch?" Das Plakat 11.7 (July 1920): 305-12. I have discussed this debate at length in "Grimaces on the Wall: Anti-Bolshevist Posters and the Debate about Kitsch," Design Issues 14.2 (June 1998): 16-40.
8. Adolf Behne, "Dada," Die Freiheit, 9 Jul., 1920. For the exhibition, see Helen Adkins, "Erste Intemationale Dada-Messe," Stationen der Moderne (Berlin: Berlinische Galerie, 1988) 156-83.
9. Georg Scholz, "Die wahre Phantasie ist der laudemde Spiegel der Gegenwart," Die Pyramide 11.14 (2 Apr. 1922): 97-98. Reprinted in Kunst in Karlsruhe 1900-1950, exh. cat., (Karlsruhe: Staatliche Kunsthalle, 1981) 75 and 80. I thank Dennis Crockett for this reference.
6 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Figure 1. Wieland Herzfelde examining Otto Dix's Moveable Figure Picture at the First International Dada Fair, Berlin 1920. Reproduced from Marc Dachy, The Dada Movement, 1915-1923 (New York: Rizzoli, 1990).
tacks that attached their thin supports to the wall. Their rotation materialized the centrifugal movement suggested in other works of 1919-20.10 Carl Einstein identified well the sources and preoccupations of such pictures when he linked them to "the shooting gallery and sex murder."ll However, the movable figures also suggest the cinema, another "trivial art" which contemporary discourse figured as female.12 It, like the naked female body, was said to provoke Schaulust, pleasure taken
10. Conrad Felixmuller portrayed Dix "attacking" a canvas with this subject in a 1920 portrait of Dix that is now in Berlin's National Gallery. See cat. no. 14 in Christian Rathke, Conrad Felixmiiller (SchloB Gottorf Schleswig: Schleswig-Holsteinisches Landesmuseum, 1990) 82 and 261. Another relevant work is Mieze II, 1920, a lithograph reproduced in the exhibition catalogue, Otto Dix zum hundertsten Geburtstag (Berlin:
Galerie Nierendorf, 1991) 37.
11. Carl Einstein, "Otto Dix," Das Kunstblatt 7.4 (1923): 100.
12. Sabine Hake, The Cinema's Third Machine: Writing on Film in Germany, 1907- 1933 (Lincoln: U ofNebraskaP, 1993) 43-53.
Sherwin Simmons 7
in a modem spectacle of continually shifting images.I3 Naked body, clothed viewer and film rotate in an eternal circle, bound together by what Andreas Huyssen has called the male artist's problematic identification with mass culture's imaginary femininity.i'' Multiple images circulate in a woodcut (fig. 2) by Dix, moved by sprockets around an eye centered within his profile. The eye is not a passive receptor in the darkness, but a desirous gaze that blazes like a projector. Because of a phrase - "I, Dix, am the A and the 0" - written in stars about the head, its brightness also recalls the Lord's countenance at the opening and close of the Book of Revelation. The hyperbole of the claim betrays the artist's fear of feminized popular culture and need to master it.IS
Another work in the Dada-Messe, which hung to the right of Dix's Moveable Figure Picture, also referred to cinema and confounded the categories of art and kitsch.I6 It was a copy, altered by Otto Schmalhausen, of the famous mask that Franz Klein cast from Ludwig van Beethoven's face in 1812P This mask had become a prop in artists' studios at the tum of the century and had inspired numerous reworkings.lS Following the penchant of such artists for colored sculpture, SchmalhausenI9 added blue pupils within its heavily lined eyes, as well
13. See, for instance, an essay by a participant in ZUrich Dada, Walter Semer, "Kino
und Schaulust," Die Schaubiihne 9 (1913): 807-11. Walter Hasenclever, in an essay known to the dadaists, wrote appreciatively about cinema's kitschy popularity and its similarity to the adventure novels of Karl May and Nick Carter. See Hasenclever, "Der Kintopp als Erzieher: Eine Apologie," Revolution 1.4 (l Dec. 1913): 3-4.
14. Andreas Huyssen, "Mass Culture as Woman," Studies in Entertainment: Critical Approaches to Mass Culture, ed. TaniaModleski (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1986) 188-207.
IS. Robert Jensen has mentioned this aspect of Dix's work in his review of Maria Tatar's book Lustmord: Sexual Murder in Weimar Germany (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1995). See Jensen, "Review of Lustmord," Art Bulletin 78.1 (Mar. 1996): 171.
16. It was listed as no. 98 Beethoven (Plastik) in the catalogue and was reproduced on the cover of Richard Huelsenbeck, Dada-Almanach (Berlin: Erich Reiss, 1920).
17. Beethovens Gesicht," Vorwdrts (10 Dec. 1920). For discussion of the "original" mask, which is housed in the Beethovenhaus in Bonn, and the thousands of "copies" made from it, see Alessandra Comini, The Changing Image of Beethoven: A Study of 'Mythmaking (New York: Rizzoli, 1987) 33-34.
18. See, for instance, Franz von Stuck, Beethoven Mask, 1900-02, painted plaster,
48 x 36 em. Private collection.
19. Tower made this observation in "Utopia/Dystopia," 68. Two other works listed
in the Dada-Messe catalogue refered to Chaplin: no. 132 George Grosz, Der Schmerz des Kronprinzen iiber die Fahnenflucht seines Vaters. Charlie Chaplin gewidmet; and no. 153 Ehrenportriit von Charlie Chaplin. For a photograph of Chaplin that was easily available to the Berlin dadaists, see the still from A Dog's Life that was reproduced in Hans Siemsen, Charlie Chaplin (Leipzig: Feuer, 1924) 8.
8 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Figure 2. Otto Dix, I, Dix, am the A and 0, 1919, woodcut, 18 x 15.8 cm. Nr. 5 in the portfolio Werden (Dresden: Rudolf Kammerer, 1919-20). © Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York / VO Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
as a small, squarish mustache and unruly forelock of real hair, which made it resemble Charlie Chaplin. Wieland Herzfelde's discussion of the work in the catalogue did not mention the resemblance, but stressed the way these additions rescued Beethoven from the bourgeois respectability of white plaster and suggested the difficult role of a living artist
Sherwin Simmons 9
in society. It is apparent that the Berlin dadaists, having as yet no access to Chaplin's films, knew him through the reports of the Parisian avant-garde, which proclaimed him the greatest artist of the age. Louis Delluc, for instance, compared Chaplin's work to past art by writing, "To the creative artist of the cinema, the mask of Charlie Chaplin has just the same importance as the traditional mask of Beethoven has to the musician or composer.,,20 However, for Delluc such comparisons missed the essence of Chaplin's modernity, which cinema made possible, the ability "to pattern and model and sculpt one's own body, one's own features, to make a transposition of art .... And that is why, in this art of the living picture, this man is the first full-fledged creator.,,21
This view of Chaplin as an artist who had constructed a new identity through the mass media which took control of popular culture rather than submitting to its authority fascinated the dadaists and even provoked comparisons of Chaplin with tbem.22 Hans Siemsen in an essay for Die Weltbilhne, which was only the second article about Chaplin published in Germany, described a train trip to Bremen during which he thought about two picture postcards of Chaplin purchased in Paris and Gefongnis [Prison], a recent book by Emmy Hennings, a founder of Dada in ZUrich.23 He interpreted the book as a comment about the imprisonment imposed by a bourgeois life of calm and order against which, he implied, the publicity still of Chaplin in A Dog's Life protested. In a manner similar to Picasso's vagabonds, Siemsen said that Chaplin's bittersweet actions in the face of poverty produced alternations of laughter and tears.
Certainly the Berlin dadaists saw Chaplin as a figure who confused perceptions of art and kitsch, but Schmalhausen's metamorphosis of
20. Louis Delluc, Charlie Chaplin (Paris: de Brunoff, 1921) 5. In 1921 Femand Leger developed a scenario for Charlot-Cubiste, an animated film in which Chaplin interacted with the Mona Lisa. This as well as Chaplin's significance for other European intellectuals such as Walter Benjamin, Bertolt Brecht, Viktor Shklovsky, Lev Kuleshov, Sergei Eisenstein, Karel Teige, Louis Aragon, and Philippe Soupault will be treated in another article: "The Montage Man: Charlie Chaplin's Reception by the European Avant-Garde."
21. Delluc, Charlie Chaplin 8.
22. Louis Deluc encouraged the Paris dadaists to write on the cinema See the following writings about Chaplin: Louis Aragon, "Charlot sentimental, Le Film 115 (18 Mar. 1918):
II; Philippe Soupault, "Une Vie de chien," Litterature 4 (Jul. 1919): 24; "Charlot voyage," Litterature 6 (Aug. 1919): 22; and "Une Idylle auxchamps," Litterature 12 (Feb. 1920): 29.
23. Hans Siemsen, "Zwei Postkarten und ein Buch," Die Weltbuhne 16.11 (II Mar. 1920). Other early writings on Chaplin in German were by Ivan Goll who had been associated with Dada in ZUrich and Bem. Ivan Goll, "Apologie des Charlot," Die neue Schaubiihne 2.2 (Feb. 1920): 31-33; and Die Chaplinade: Eine Kinodichtung (Dresden:
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Beethoven into Chaplin deepened that confusion by calling to mind a recent news event: Max Klinger's death on 4 July 1920, the outcome of a severe stroke suffered the previous year.24 Klinger had played a highly publicized role in shaping public perception of Beethoven through the exhibition of his Beethoven Monument (fig. 3) at the Vienna Secession's fourteenth exhibition in 1902. That elaborate monument prompted the critic Ladjos Hevesi to compare it to Phidias's statue of Zeus at Olympus and to describe it as "a true 'Agalma', the simulacrum of a modem god.,,25 It quickly became the subject of numerous articles and books, which made it the most well known contemporary work of art in Europe. In one study, an art historian attributed Klinger's inspiration to Klein's life mask, on which Klinger based the marble face, and described the mask as "one of the very rare cases that a work of nature, recorded mechanically, has the value and impact of a consummate work of art. ,,26
Although Klinger remained the foremost representative of German art for the broad public at the time of his death in 1920, the life mask realism and Gesamtkunstwerk [total work of art] spectacle of his Beethoven Monument had become kitsch for supporters of modernist art. Adolf Behne wrote that "as long as Max Klinger remains in all histories of art, I prefer the history of kitsch. ,,27 In an article following the artist's death, Julius Meier-Graefe, who had led criticism of Klinger during the century's first decade, called him a "virtuoso of the trivial" and wondered why Klinger did not hide a mechanism in the monument's base that would make Beethoven's eyes roll and the eagle's wings flap. Commenting on its status in 1920, he advised, "Put the bird away, end it. It belongs to the military things that are demanded by the Allies. Otherwise don't be surprised if young Bolshevists smash the last vestige of your middle-class way of life to bits. ,,28
24. Klinger's illness and death were widely reported in the press with conflicting claims about his place in German art. Many continued to celebrate him as the greatest modern German artist, while Gertrud Alexander called him the last artist of 'German Idealism' which was "the curse of the German bourgeoisie which continually compelled a flight from reality, from prevailing political and economic relationships." G. G. L., "Max Klinger," Die Rote Fahne 8 Jul. 1920.
25. Lajos Hevesi, "Max Klingers Beethoven (April 17, 1902)," Acht Jahre Sezession (Vienna, C. Konegen, 1906) 385.
26. Heinrich Bulle, Klingers Beethoven und die farbige Plastik der Griechen (Munich: Bruckmann, 1903).
27. Behne, "Kitschkunst oder Kunstkitsch?" 310.
28. Julius Meier-Graefe, "Max Klinger," Ganymed 2 (1920): 134-35.
Sherwin Simmons 11
Figure 3. Max Klinger, Beethoven, 1902, various marbles, bronze, ivory, and mosaic. Leipzig, Museum der bildenden Kiinste.
Schmalhausen's iconoclasm was not a physical act, but a profane visual joke whose relevant terms are suggested in an anecdote recounted by Hans Reimann who, having lived in Leipzig where Klinger's Beethoven was on display in the art museum, would have been well aware of its status. Reimann reported that a "wild female acquaintance," upon learning that Greek sculptures were originally colored,
12 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
attacked a plaster mask with paint, an action, he said, that could be termed "kitsch on the one hand or abuse on the other.,,29 The debasement of classical authority was linked with female excess, a sensuality associated with kitsch. Such an action satirized a concept of artistic genius such as that offered in Romain Rolland's immensely popular biography of Beethoven. In contrast to Rolland's claim that the musician's greatness lay in his ability to sublimate sexual desire into the spiritual creation of high art, Schmalhausen transformed masculine genius into a feminized image of popular culture.30 This was a topos within contemporary discourse about Chaplin where his use of heavy makeup and anxious, indecisive body language were seen as atypical of male appearance and behavior. To suffer love's rejections, to fitfully move in circles rather than directly toward a goal, seemed to indicate, as a film historian has recently put it, a condition of male hysteria.'!
Reimann had taken a strong interest in the im~act of mass culture on art institutions and practices during the 191Os.3 In February 1920 he met the dadaists when their tour visited Leipzig and in July alluded to the Dada-Messe in his satire magazine Der Drache [The Dragon].33 Over the next two years, Grosz illustrated three of his books and Reimann remained close to Grosz, Heartfield, and Mehring throughout the decade. His anecdote about the plaster mask appeared in a humorous book he wrote in 1936 about kitsch in which he claimed that the term was originally used as an expression of artists' disdain for paintings produced in Munich during the 1870s for the English and American tourist trade. By the 1890s the studio term evolved into a slogan for Jugendstil's [Art Nouveau's] attack on the art of the Griinderzeit [rapid industrial expansion starting in 1871] and then was widely popularized through an exhibition entitled Errors of Taste in Applied Art that Gustav Pazaurek organized at the Museum of Applied Art in Stuttgart
29. Reimann, Das Buch vomKitsch 40.
30. See Romain Rolland, Beethoven the Creator (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1929) 3-6, as cited in Comini, The Changing Image of Beethoven 339-40. For the impact of Rolland's interpretation of Beethhoven in Germany, see "Romain Rolland iiber Beethoves Kampferweg," Volk und Zeit 7 Sep. 1919.
31. See the emphasis on Chaplin's makeup in Siemsen, "Zwei Postkarten und ein Buch"; and Hake, "Chaplin Reception in Weimar Germany," New German Critique 51 (Fall 1990): 105.
32. He explored the new role of advertising art in Die Schwarze Liste.
33. Dr. Drache, "Dada," Der Drache 1.42 (1920). See Karl Riha, ed., DADA in Leipziger 'Drachen' (Siegen: Universitat-Gesamthochschule, 1988).
Sherwin Simmons 13
Figure 4. Photograph of a living-dining room exhibited at the Third German Applied Art Exhibition in Dresden, 1906. Machine-made furniture designed by Richard Riemerschmid and manufactured in painted pine by the Dresdner Werkstatten in 1905.
in 1909.34 Reimann stressed that kitsch was a constantly changing value judgment related to issues of the art market.35 In the 1820s and 1830s the art unions and romanticism had forged new links between art and the bourgeoisie which then expanded to the petty bourgeoisie and workers in the 1860s with the development of new means of mechanical reproduction. Reimann believed that Griinderzeit artists like Rudolf Henneberg, Eduard Griitzner, and Franz von Defregger made their fortunes more from oleo graphs of their paintings than from the paintings themselves. The German printing industry was famous
34. Gustav Pazaurek, Geschmacksverirrungen im Kunstgewerbe (Stuttgart: Konigliches Kunstgewerbemuseum, 1909). For the importance of Pazaurek's exhibition and a bibliography of the numerous responses to it, see Hermann Schilling, Zur Geschichte der iisthetischen Wertung: Bibliographie der Abhandlungen iiber den Kitsch (Giessen: Universitatsbibliothek, 1971). I discuss this history more fully in "Grimaces on the Walls."
35. For a recent summary of the broad literature on kitsch, see Claudia Putz, Phdnomenologie eines dynamischen Ku/turprinzips (Bochum: Brockmeyer, 1994).
14 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
for these prints which ranged from full size reproductions, which were glued to stretched canvas, embossed with brushmark textures, varnished, and framed, to simpler reproductions on calendars.i'' Oleographs after old master as well as contemporary paintings decorated apartment walls as is seen in a photograph of a room (fig. 4) furnished with Richard Riemerschmid's Maschinenmiibel [machine furniture] at the Third German Applied Art Exhibition held in Dresden in 1906. Amid furniture made of painted pine and priced for a worker's budget, hung framed oleographs of the Mona Lisa and a mountain landscape, applied art, and fine art made cheaply available through technology and standardization. Manufacturers also produced sentimental genre scenes specifically for the print market, provoking Ernst Collin to speculate about whether the term "art print" really suited the works that he saw exhibited at the Leipzig Trade Fair in 1920 and to make the following observation:
Just an enumeration of the motifs that we find in most of the decorative pictures of our period would prove how inadequate the artistic nourishment is that is offered here to the people. But it is really not the "people" alone, not only the broad lower and middle class of consumers who acquire such pictures. The high price of such products, prices which are due in part to the frame and glass-frame and glass are also the most valuable parts of it-indicate that here the upper ten thousand or, to express this better in a time of profiteering and graft due to the war and revolution, the top two hundred thousand are thought to be the customers. Kitsch rises from the many sweet maidens' heads.37
Such issues and images were taken up by the Berlin dadaists and oleographs of two old master paintings - Sandro Botticelli's Spring and Peter Paul Rubens's Bacchanal - were exhibited as "disdained masterpieces" in the Dada-Messe, the contempt signaled by tape applied to the
36. Oleographs were frequently offered as premiums for subscribing to colporteur
novels. Ronald A. Fullerton, "Creating a Mass Book Market in Germany: The Story of the 'Colporteur Novel' 1870-1890," Journal of Social History 10 (Mar. 1977): 274. For discussion of the use of art in the oleograph and picture postcard, see Christa Pieske, Bilder for Jedermann: Wandbilddrucke, 1840-1940 (Munich: Keyser, 1988) and Gerhard Wietek, Kunst und Postkarte (Hamburg: Altonaer Museum, 1970).
37. Ernst Collin, "Das lctinstlerische Niveau der 'Kunst'-Drucke der 'Kunst'Anstalten auf der Leipziger Messe," Archiv for Buchgewerbe und Graphik 57.9-10 (Sep.Oct. 1920): 199. For the notice taken at the Leipzig Trade Fair of the impact of mass culture on literature, see Wilhelm Eule, "Buchfabrikanten," Archiv for Buchgewerbe und Graphik 57.9-10 (Sep.-Oct. 1920): 205-08.
Sherwin Simmons 15
glass cover of Spring as a type of cancellation mark.38
Berlin Dada shared Reimann's understanding of kitsch's history and his narrative provides a context for interpreting the altered reproductions and collages [Klebebilder] in the Dada-Messe. Hannah Hoch later wrote that the dadaists' use of collage and photomontage arose from their interest in steel engravings of military units "in which photographic portrait heads of local men away at war had been collaged atop generic, uniformed torsos.,,39 Pazaurek had identified these military mementos as a type of "hurrah-kitsch" and likened their bad taste to the crude humor of combination photographs found in picture postcards sold to tourists.40 Pazaurek also ridiculed the "inappropriate" combination of materials found in hobby art such as a picture of a woman created from a mosaic of stamps and the "topical kitsch" that created an urban myth such as the Hauptmann von Kopenick among a public hungry for sensational news.41 Dadaist collages and photomontages drew on such traditions and Reimann, like Behne, viewed such works as a critical engagement with kitsch, similar to that found in certain paintings by Otto Dix about which Reimann wrote: "This flirtation with a seriously parodistic Vertiko style extended all the way to
38. Miflachtung eines Meistenverkes von Botticelli (Primavera) was listed as no. 51 in the catalogue and attributed to George Grosz. No. 33 Ein altes Meisterwerk (Rubens, Bacchanal) was attributed to Raoul Hausmann. Korrigierte Meisterbilder were listed as no. 73 and 74 and attributed to Grosz and Heartfield. They were reproductions of paintings by Henri Rousseau and Pablo Picasso which had been altered by application of collage and photographic elements. Verbesserte Bildwerke der Antike were numbered 116-21 in the catalogue and attributed to Rudolf Schlichter.
39. Maria Makela, "By Design: The Early Work of Hannah Hoch in Context," The Photomontages of Hannah Hiich; eds. Maria Makela & Peter Boswell (Minneapolis:
Walker Art Center, 1996) 59.
40. Gustav E. Pazaurek, Guter und schlechter Geschmack im Kunstgewerbe (Stuttgart: Deutsche, 1912) 351-52.
41. Pazaurek 353. Wilhelm Voigt, a shoemaker and former convict, became famous as the Hauptmann von Kopenick in 1906 when he entered the Kopenick town hall in military uniform and convinced the mayor to give him the town's cash box. After his pardon by the Kaiser following a brief prison term, Voigt toured German cities selling autographed picture postcards of himself in uniform. He was engaged to appear at the PassagePanopticon and his head was reproduced in wax for exhibition at Castans Panoptikum in Berlin. In addition, several films were based on his sensational ruse. See Berlin, Berlin:
Die Ausstellung zur Geschichte der Stadt, eds. Gottfried Korff & Reinhard Riirup (Berlin:
Nicolai, 1987), cat. nos. 26/18 and 19. He became a popular metaphor of Pruss ian respect for authority, one exploited to great effect in Carl Zuckmayer's 1931 play Der Hauptmann von Kdpenick and his public relation strategies share much with those of Johannes Baader, the Oberdada of Berlin.
16 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Otto Dix.'.42 An illustration by Hans Kossatz (fig. 5) indicates that Reimann considered Suleika, the Tattooed Wonder (fig. 6) of 1920 such a work. Reimann's comment links Dix's figure to porcelain figurines displayed on the Vertiko, a type of cabinet that appeared in German parlors in the late nineteenth century.43 Porcelain, which had changed from a luxurious decorative art produced under royal patronage in the eighteenth century to a cheap knick-knack sold in arcades in the early twentieth century, was a medium that, for Pazaurek, embodied the transformation of art into kitsch wrought by technology and an expanding market.
It's not accidental that the French word Nippes doesn't only mean decorative objects, but also a judgment and a profit. ... Galanterie also had a pleasing meaning earlier as chivalrous attentiveness and the delightful "objects of gallantry" of the French rococo period, all the charming little gold, silver, enameled or porcelain objects belonged to the most expensive objet d'art of the eighteenth century. That has completely changed. The "gallant" women have become disreputable and the objects of gallantry are - Kitsch.44
Standing on a socle similar to thousands of poor quality, porcelain reproductions of classical sculptures, Dix's figure metaphorically exposes an embodiment of art to the gaze of a mass public, since curtains, painted coulisse, and the figure's tattoos bring to mind a variety theater or a side-show in a traveling fair.45 Painting and illustration share many of the same tattoos, but Kossatz added two - images of Hauptmann von Kopenick and Andreas Hofer - which refer to historical characters who had become part of popular culture.46 Hofer's leadership of Tyrolean resistance to Napoleon had been the subject of plays and historical novels as well as a motif painted on humidors, ashtrays,
42. Reimann, Das Buch vom Kitsch 65. Paul Westheim addressed the growing interest of contemporary artists in oleographs during the early 1920s. Paul Westheim, "Der 'arrivierte Oldruck'," Das Kunstblatt 6.8 (1922): 344-48.
43. For discussion of the production and consumption ofVertiko porcelain, as well as numerous visual examples, see Georg Briihl, Porzellanjiguren: Zierde des biirgerlichen Salons (Munich: Callweg, 1989).
44. Pazaurek, Guter und schlechter Geschmack 350.
45. The best discussions of this work are found in Eva Karcher, Eros und Tad im Werk von Otto Dix: Studien zur Geschichte des Korpers in den zwanziger Jahren (Munster: Lit, 1984) 21-28; and Andreas Strobl, Otto Dix: Eine Malerkarriere der zwanziger Jahre (Berlin: Reimer, 1996) 168-80.
46. Both had been the subjects of films during the 1910s.
Sherwin Simmons 17
Figure 5. Illustration by Hans Kossatz in Hans Reimann, Das Buch vom Kitsch (Munich: Piper, 1936) 52.
18 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Figure 6. Otto Dix, Suleika, the Tattooed Wonder, 1920, oil on canvas, 162 x 100 em. Private collection. Photograph: Deutsche Fotothek. © Artists Rights Society (ARS) New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.
Sherwin Simmons 19
and other types of tourist goods sold in the Tyrol. However, an important factor in Hofer's popularity was Franz von Oefregger's series of oil paintings on which a myriad of oleographs and book illustrations had been based. The female nude in the illustration points with a delicate finger to a sign that reads, "Originals after designs by masters of the brush.,,47 Tattoos referring to oleographs referring to oil painting, the slippage between high and low makes Kossatz's female figure an embodiment of kitsch. It was seen as a profanation of art that problematized artistic identity, as is suggested by the tattoo of Dix's face enclosed by a palette on his figure's left arm. Kossatz didn't miss the reference, for he associated "Otto" with a man flexing his muscles and a heart pierced by a knife, metaphors interrogated by recent discussions of Dix's interest in the theme of Lustmord [sex murder], which Kossatz also referenced by the tattoo of Jack the Ripper on his figure's shoulder.48
Carl Einstein claimed that Dix, Grosz, and Rudolf Schlichter used kitsch to "force it [an era] into self-irony," writing, "Dix sets craft and objectivity against sham and a sordid sensibility. The bourgeoisie gets kitsch back from him in sharp focus; he can do it because he paints very well, so well that his painting aborts kitsch, executes it. ... Painting as a critical statement.'.49 However, these artists had been enthusiastic consumers of one type of kitsch, adventure stories written for a male audience. Reimann emphasized this literature's importance for Grosz: "The author of all authors for him is Karl May. George Grosz's taste is the taste of a coarse market assistant. ,,50 May was the most famous writer of this literature which developed from novels about Italian robbers popular with the bourgeoisie in the late eighteenth century.51 During the
47. Louisa Miihlbach's historical novel is perhaps the most famous example of the popular literature spawned by the story. See Meinrad Pizzinini, Andreas Hofer: seine Zeit, sein Leben, sein Mythos (Vienna: Kremayer & Scheriau, 1984); and Gert Ammann, 1809: der Tiroler Freiheitskamp/(LanaIMeran: Tappeiner, 1984). Tirol in Waffen, a film of 1914 from the Messter Film Company, also attested to the popularity of Hofer's story.
48. See Lewis, "Lustmord: Inside the Windows of the Metropolis," and Tatar Lustmord68-97.
49. Einstein, "Otto Dix" 101-02.
50. Reimann, "Monumenta Germaniae" 1115-16. See also George Grosz: An Autobiography (New York: Macmillan, 1983) 17-18,69-75.
51. For the genre's origins and development, see Plaul, Illustrierte Geschichte der Trivial-Literatur; Fullerton, "Creating a Mass Book Market in Germany" 265-85; and "Toward a Commercial Popular Culture in Germany: The Development ofPamphiet Fiction, 1871-1914," Journal of Social History 12 (Summer 1979): 489-511. For the impact on the dadaists, see Tower, "Asphaltcowboys and Stadtindianer" 18-20.
20 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
1870s these novels began to be sold in installments to the lower classes by colporteurs who worked the tenement districts of German cities. New pulp fiction was also written by individuals, such as May, much of which was set in the American Wild West. The theme's popularity soon led German publishers to import stories about Buffalo Bill, while a detective series which featured Nick Carter as hero and New York City as setting was also translated and distributed widely. Such stories thrilled the imaginations of German youths and their rising sales intensified a campaign that teachers and pastors had organized against Schundliteratur [trashy literature], because of its perceived destructive effect on public morality. 52 In 1910, when Grosz visited Karl May at his Villa Shatterhand in Radebeul, public attention was focused on a slander suit May had brought against Rudolf Lebius, a conservative journalist and editor, for exposing aspects of May's background and characterizing him as a "born criminal. ,,53 Despite support May gathered from intellectuals and writers, Lebius's writings were judged legally protected and the trial's outcome was seen as a victory for opponents of Schundliteratur. Within the avant-garde, however, the trial was viewed as another example of Wilhelminian society's repression of art and literature, which had been brought to a focus by the Lex Heinze debate at the turn of the century. For instance, Rudolf Kurtz published an open letter in Der Sturm thanking May for the excitement his novels had provided and asking him to ignore the "wretched moralism of a society usually inclined toward really unserious moral considerations. ,,54
In his autobiography, Grosz indicated an awareness of the Schundliteratur controversy and efforts to create a more wholesome literature for the lower classes. The movement had its impact on May who turned to Sasha Schneider, a painting professor at the Weimar Academy, as an
52. For a discussion of adventure literature in contemporary literary journals, see Hermann Meister, "Mein Freund Nick Carter," Saturn 1.3 (Oct. 1911): 25-28; and Martin Roehl, "Der Kriminalroman als Kunstwerk," Das Schaubiihne 12.47 (23 Nov. 1916): 475- 77. Also see Wieland Herzfelde's description of Schundliteratur's impact on a childhood friend, Wieland Herzfelde, Immergriin (Berlin & Weimar: Aufbau, 1975) 63-69.
53. Gerhard KluBmeier and Hainer Plaul, Karl May: Biographie in Dokumenten und Bildern (Hildeskeim: Olms, 1992) 212-63. The judgement was rendered on 12 April 1910 by the Amtsgericht Berlin-Charlottenburg. Bloch addresses this in an essay "Winnetou's Silver Rifle" published in 1929 in the Frankforter Zeitung. See Bloch, Heritage of Our Times (Berkeley & Los Angeles: U of California P, 1990) 154-57.
54. Rudolf Kurtz, "Offener Brief an Karl May," DerSturm 1.11 (12 May 1910): 86.
For a conservative view of the verdict, see Ferdinand Avenarius, "Der Fall May und die Ausdruckskultur," Der Kunstwart 23.15 (1 May 1910): 183-85.
Sherwin Simmons 21
Figure 7. Cover design by Arpad Scbmidhammer for Till Eulenspiegel and cover design by an unknown artist for Robber Chief Hans Jagenteufel, called the Red Satan, and Black Mary, the Daughter of the Executioner of Prague. Comparative illustrations for Paul Westheim, "Schundliteratur," Archiv fUr Buchgewerbe48.3 (Mar. 1911): 71.
illustrator who could raise the artistic status of later editions of his work, but Grosz indicated his preference for the sensational, brightly colored and crudely drawn covers of May's earlier pamphlets over Schneider's classical male nudes with their Teutonic spirituality. 55 In 1911 Paul Westheim discussed an exhibition of Schundliteratur that Dr. Ernst Schulze and the Deutsche Dichter-Gedachtnisstiftung circulated to German cities and contrasted covers (fig. 7) of 'good' and 'bad' books for young people. Till Eulenspiegel was an example of the classic 'folk literature' published by the Freie Lehrervereinigung as a substitute for Schundliteratur.
55. Grosz, George Grosz: An Autobiography 72.
22 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Arpad Schmidhammer's cover reflected the tasteful graphic design developed in Jugend which contrasted, Westheim claimed, 56 with "the tableau of the [novel's] most blood-curdling episodes" on the cover of Robber-Chief Hans Jagenteufel, an example of a "colporteur novel." However, the anti-trashy literature campaign began to fall apart in 1913 because of conflict between the various reformers and Schundliteratur was not significantly suppressed until after the war's outbreak.
In the early summer of 1917, the Berlin Police President published a sixteen-page list of trashy books whose distribution was prohibited and punishable under martial law.57 Shortly thereafter, Grosz began work on The Adventurer (fig. 8), his largest painting to date. The figure with his multiple weapons, boots, money pouch, jewelry, and large hat over a bandanna-wrapped head repeated the iconography of the original robber novels set in Italy in the late eighteenth century, but the locale was shifted to America, its Wild West and metropolises. The painting was, in part, an assertion of the adventure genre in the face of the governmental ban and an identification with Germany's new military opponent, which had entered World War I on April 6, 1917.58
The painting, however, raises many other issues and in the first published essay about a painting by Grosz, Willi Wolfradt interpreted The Adventurer allegorically, writing:
In his brutal cynicism this adventurer seems equally the absolutely necessary product and an avenging god of this robber civilization that is without soul. . . the money pouch is transparent and jingles really shamelessly with his gold and a yellow cane hangs elegantly on the guy's arm like the punch line of the cynicism which fills, as if in gradations of consciousness, the American milieu, the adventurer and ultimately the half sneering and half prophetic cynic George Grosz, a taunt, an insidious malice, whose yellow pushes its way into the picture. 59
56. Paul Westheim, "Schundliteratur," Archiv fiir Buchgewerbe 48.3 (Mar. 1911): 73.
57. "Der Kampf gegen die Schundliteratur," Basler Nachrichten 1 Aug. 1917; and J.
Tows, "Unsere Jugend - unsere Zukunft," Berliner Tageblatt 20 Jun. 1917, Evening edition.
58. Grosz's choice of subject for his next major painting Das Begrdbnis des Dichters Oskar Panizza can also be interpreted, in part, as a criticism of the government's censorship of art's critical force. See Barbara McCloskey, George Grosz and the Communist Party: Art and Radicalism in Crisis. 1918 to 1936 (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1997) 42-45.
59. Willi Wolfradt, "George Grosz: Der Abenteurer," Der Cicerone 11.23 (1919): 765-66. Ignaz Jezower mentioned the painting in a book about Casanova and other adventurers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries for which Grosz did illustrations. Jezower wrote that the adventurer's skepticism appealed to him and Grosz because it undermined bourgeois order and convention. Ignaz Jezower, Die Rutschbahn: Das Bucb vom Abenteurer (Berlin: Bong, 1922).
Sherwin Simmons 23
Figure 8. George Grosz, The Adventurer, 1917, oil on canvas, 150 x 120. Previously in Stadtmuseum Dresden, now lost. © Estate of George Grosz / Licensed by V AGA, New York, NY.
The cane is the marker of an identity, the aristocratic dandy, which Grosz adopted during the war years in addition to that of the American adventurer. However, aristocratic identity also figured importantly in
24 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
the colportage novel as emphasized in a lecture Karl May gave in Vienna shortly before his death in 1912.60 Influenced by Friedrich Schiller's aesthetic, May believed that, with the rise of bourgeois society, poets had become "princes of the empire of the intellect. They have to think, feel, wish, and act like a prince, not basely as in Ardistan, but loftily and nobly as in Dschinnistan.,,61 May's idealistic view of the artist's role, however, was belied by the unreality of noble titles and qualities attributed to characters in his novels where they seem thin attempts to add luster to the bourgeois world and meet expectations of the colportage novel's readership.62
The Adventurer's cane and money pouch struck Wolfradt as signs of a cynicism produced by a "robber civilization that is without soul. ,,63 It is an apt observation, but Hans Siemsen's review of Kasimir Edschmid's Six Mouths, a group of adventure stories often proclaimed the first example of expressionist prose, offered more specific insights about the allure that colportage held for avant-garde artists during the war years. He wrote:
These six mouths are six revolver muzzles pointed at all tender souls ... He [Edschmid] loves life, corporeal life, struggle, the fist's blow, horse riding, driving cars, the sound nerves and large muscles of cowboys, wrestlers, and athletes. And is himself only an intellectual athlete, a nervous boy, a man of letters. His soul sneers at sentimentality and emotional prostitution; he thinks it is proper for a man to be silent and take action - and writes a book. 64
Siemsen detected an anxiety underlying the constant self-assertive action in Edschmid's stories. This nervousness about male identity within the artist's role is also seen in the pose of adverturer that Grosz adopts in his painting. The erect penis at the apex of his firm stance seems excessive, compensation for a feared lack. In such works, Siemsen suggests,
60. For the best discussion, see Beth Irwin Lewis, '''The Medical Journal of Dr. William King Thomas. U.S.A. Oct. 15 to 15 Nov. 15': Sketchbook 1915/2," The Sketchbooks of George Grosz, ed. Peter Nisbet (Cambridge: Busch-Reisinger Museum, 1993) 42-47.
61. Karl May lecture, "Empor ins Reich der Edelmenschen," presented on 22 Mar.
1912 in Vienna's Sofiensaal, as quoted in Gert Ueding, Glanzvolles Elend: Versuch aber Kitsch und Kolportage (FrankfurtlMain: Suhrkamp, 1973) 115.
62. Ueding, Glanzvolles Elend 109-13.
63. For further comments about the intersection of art and commerce in Berlin dada, see Willi Wolfradt, "Neue Jugend," Die Schaubiihne 13 (21 Jun. 1917): 578.
64. Hans Siemsen's review ofKasimir Edschmid, Die sechs Miindungen (Leipzig:
Kurt Wolff, 1915), in "Glossen und Kritiken," Zeit-Echo 2.2 (1915-16): 30.
Sherwin Simmons 25
prostitution replaced nobility as a metaphor, materialism diluted a spirituality associated with the artist's calling in the nineteenth century. These were strongly gendered terms in early twentieth-century discourse, linked to the increasingly evident commercial aspect of art production.
Grosz was sensitive to the shift through his work in applied art and advertising, an awareness evident in the tone of disillusionment found in his writings.65 Recalling his dealings with Sally Falk, a patron in Mannheim who purchased his paintings with wealth made from selling military supplies to the High Command, Grosz commented that art had become "merchandise that can be sold with clever promotion exactly like soap, towels or brushes, and the artist has become a sort of manufacturer who must produce new goods with ever-increasing speed for ever-changing display windows.'.66 These observations were made about an art market that was changing rapidly as war profits were invested not only in the work of old masters, but increasingly in contemporary art. The change was signaled by the sale of Alfred Flechtheim's collection in Berlin on June 5, 1917, the first auction of contemporary art in Germany.67 Many participants in the German art world, like Grosz, took note of the change as relationships of artists to dealers altered and new collectors entered the market. Fritz Stahl, the art critic for the Berliner Tageblatt, believed that auctions turned paintings into mere commodities and bemoaned the loss of dealers and connoisseurs who slowly nurtured the talent of younger artists:
Now everything is Americanized. Artists, dealers, buyers can't wait. The buyer wants a name that is already famous. The artist immediately wants the price that his pictures will perhaps sometime demand. The dealer wants to realize large profits that are already made. . . .
65. I treat this topic in another article, '''Advertising Seizes Control of Life': Berlin Dada and the Power of Advertising," Oxford Art Journal 22 : 1 (Spring 1999): 119-46.
66. Grosz, George Grosz: An Autobiography 105. Grosz's acknowledgement of this circumstance contrasts with Max Liebermann's comments concerning his efforts to control the disposition of his works: "A work of art is not a commodity that one can trade here and there, that one is permitted on this morning to place in that display window like some piece of fabric, rather it is a piece of the artist's personality." Vossische Zeitung 2 Jun. 1918, Morning edition. For information about Falk's collection and his participation, through the investment of his war profits, in the rise of the modern art market, see Stiftung und Sammlung Sally Falk, eds. Roland Dom, Karoline Hille, & Jochen Kronjager (Mannheim: Stlidische Kunsthalle, 1994).
67. See O. K. Werckmeister, The Making of Paul Klee's Career 1914-1920 (Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1989) 86-88.
26 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Previously the sale of a picture was a matter of taste and discernment, a matter in which the finer person triumphed. Today, it happens this way: "I offer 500 more!" "Going once, going twice, going thrice. Mr. Meier's bid is accepted.,,68
The Flechtheim sale, which was handled by Paul Cassirer and Hugo Helbing in the old Secession building, was followed by others, as collections, such as Falk's, were turned over quickly and substantial profits taken.69 Conservative legislators and publications took note, attributing such changes to Jewish influence in the art trade and asserting that they damaged German culture and the war effort. Attacks on Cassirer intensified during 1918 as it was claimed that he used connections to Count Harry Kessler's propaganda efforts in Switzerland to further his profits in the international art trade. 70
Grosz was close to these developments through contacts with his patrons - Falk and Kessler. His reactions were ironic and ambivalent. In his autobiography, he mourned the passing of the artist's more idealist role, while describing how his interest in money led him to toady to his patrons. In letters of 1916 he mentioned the way the increasing use of graphics and painting in support of the war effort completed his disillusionment with art and fantasized ironically about making money through the production of kitsch war mementos from shell fragments.f ' While Grosz was ambivalent about art's altered condition, an article in Die freie Zeitung expressed clear revulsion about the willingness of German artists to serve the war effort: "The planned militarization of art is certainly so grotesque that one has considered it the monstrous product of a cynic afraid of the trenches, who hoped thereby to make himself exempt, rather than the flower of Hindenburg's mind."n During the summer of
68. Fritz Stahl, "Kunsthandel und Kunstauktion," Berliner Tageblatt 31 Jun. 1917, Morning edition.
69. Although an auction of Falk's collection was considered, Cassirer purchased a substantial portion of it himself in March 1918 which he then sold through his Berlin gallery. Dorn, Stiftung und Sammlungen Sally Falk 137-39.
70. Christian Kennert, Paul Cassirer und sein Kreis (FrankfurtlMain: Lang, 1996) 125-50.
71. Letter of July 1916 from Grosz to Robert Bell in George Grosz, Briefe 1913- 1959, ed. Herbert Knust (Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1979) 34-35. Kitsch war mementos comprised a section of the exhibition "Krieg und Kunstgewerbe" held during 1915 at the Landesgewerbemuseum in Stuttgart. "Vermischtes," Kunstgewerbeblatt 26.7 (Apr. 1915): 138.
n. "Ein deutscher Geheimzirkular," 178. Also see "Die deutsche Kunst im Kriegsdienst, Diefreie Zeitung 1 Jan. 19187. On the founding and activities of the Bild- und Filmamt, see "Kunst und Wissenschaft," Kreuz Zeitung 1 Jun. 1917, Evening edition.
Sherwin Simmons 27
1917 Grosz and Heartfie1d began efforts to find employment in the war propaganda offices and by fall Count Harry Kessler obtained just such exemptions for Grosz and Heartfie1d to allow them to work on animated films for the Bild- und Filmamt [Bureau of Pictures and Film].73
There is another marker in The Adventurer of the cynicism produced by art's commercialization, but it goes completely unremarked in Wolfradt's detailed description of the painting. A headless, naked female body lies at the adventurer's feet, the corpse found so often in the works of Grosz, Dix, and Schlichter. These violated bodies were ignored in contemporary art criticism, although their obsessive presence in Six Mouths was parodied by Hanns Braun in a story dedicated to Edschmid published in Die Aktion.74 Kathrin Hoffmann-Curtius, in a study of Grosz's Frauenmdrder [Killer of Women] paintings of 1918, has interpreted this body as the nude female torso that became the model of artistic beauty in the nineteenth century, the material of nature that was artistically transformed by the male creator.75 She reads the Frauenmorder as a thematization of Schaulust, which had been treated by earlier artists, such as William Hogarth, with a similar mixture of eroticism and violence. Maria Tatar, on the other hand, historicizes the motif76 more narrowly by suggesting how the displacement of Grosz's
73. F or more about propaganda and film, see Simmons, "Advertising Seizes Control of Life."
74. Hanns Braun, "Rasimir," Die Aktion 7.18-19 (5 May 1917): 251-56. Another critic dismissed Edschmid's claim that the stories "emptied into renunciation, sorrow, and death," and said that it was rather "a matter mostly about the possession of a woman or numerous women, erotic tortures, more seldom about ecstasy and madness: boodlust, cruelty, craving for solitude, the folly of life - whose final determination however is again erotic." W. Schumann, "Kasimir Edschmids Novellen," Der Kunstwart 30.13 (1. Apr. 1917): 31.
75. Kathrin Hoffmann-Curtius, "'Wenn Blicke toten konnten' oder: Der Kiinstler als Lustmorder," Blick-Wechsel: Konstruktionen von Miinnlichkeit und Weiblichkeit in Kunst und Kunstgeschichte, eds. Ines Lindner, Sigrid Schade, Wilke Wenk, & Gabriele Werner (Berlin: Reimer, 1989) 381-85; and Im Blickfeld: George Grosz, 'John, der Frauenmorder' (Hamburg: Hamburger Kunsthalle, 1993) 27-32.
76. Tatar, Lustmord 98-131. Hoffinann-Curtius, in a paper titled "The Discursive Structures of Images of Frauenmord" delivered at the 1997 meeting of the Association of Art Historians in London, has argued that account should be taken of material beyond the biographical, such as foreign propaganda that associated German culture with butchery during World War I. The discourse about violent and sexual crimes in Germany was certainly affected s by the war. An example of this are the newspaper reports surrounding the murder of one female prostitute by another in a barbershop at ElsasserstraBe and AckerstraBe in Berlin N during spring 1916. See the discussion in Fritz Gehrke, "Zur Psychologie der Frauenmorderin," Die Gegenwart 45.20 (13 May 1916): 307-10. Connections between this discourse and Grosz's drawing Lustmord in der AckerstrafJe of 1916-17 bear investigation.
28 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
anger about the horrors of trench warfare intersected with conventional gender constructions and male psychosexual development, transforming Schaulust into Mordlust [desire to kill]. The identification of women with art's commercialization may be added to these interpretations of the violated female body's presence in Grosz's work. The identity of the woman's killer, the person responsible for the savage destruction of art, continually changed in Grosz's treatments of the theme. By turns, he could be an Ostjude [Jew of Eastern origin) dressed in black suit and hat, a typical German Burger in his apartment decorated with kitsch, a revolutionary sailor, or a Dadaist such as himself or John Heartfield, but always there was the suggestion that women brought the violence on themselves by prostitution of their former ideal. 77
Huyssen's 1986 essay, which takes its lead from Gustave Flaubert's repudiation of Emma Bovary's interest in Trivialliteratur (trivial literature), is the best known investigation of modernism's association of mass culture with women, but the linkage was particularly strong in German critical theory of early twentieth century. Walter Benjamin wrote insightfully about Baudelaire's allegorization of feminine bodies, which linked the prostitute-body with the commodity and the poet's own loss of aura within a market economy.78 Christine Buci-Glucksmann has described the resulting crisis: "And so what 'body' can now give 'flesh and blood' to the destructive impulses of an ever more 'feminized' poet, one who has been expelled from the great models of paternal filiation and mimicked by his own 'abyss'? The answer is precisely the bodies of the feminine, which polarize the sadistic and perverse images of the allegorical gaze.,,79
Grosz's fascination with and attack on feminized mass culture became more specific in 1922 when he provided illustrations for Hans Reimann's Hedwig Courths-Mahler: Simple Stories for the Intimate Home. The book parodied the romantic fiction published in books and magazine stories by Germany's most famous female writer. Reimann compared her work to an influenza that infected the public with a kitschy female taste:
77. For the suggestion of the Ostjude in John, der Frauenmorder of 1918, see Hoffmann-Curtius, Im Blickfeld 16. Hans Reimann voiced the bizarre idea that that World War 1'8 violence was reality's revenge for the sentimentality of women's popular culture, but left unsaid how this could be used to rationalize a response in kind by the men who suffered the violence in combat. Reimann, Hedwig Courths-Mahler 66.
78. Irving Wohlfarth, "Perte d'aureole: The Emergence of the Dandy," Modern Language Notes 85 (May 1970): 529-71.
79. Christine Buci-Glucksmann, Baroque Reason: The Aesthetics of Modernity, trans. Patrick Camiller (London: Sage, 1994) 103.
Sherwin Simmons 29
Hedwig Courths-Mahler is the embodiment of the narrow-mindedness and impoverished imagination of petty bourgeois women ... Through "writing" she identifies with her readers and writes from their disgraceful standpoint. Every one of her sentences is calculated and her actions have as little to do with writing as the gilding of a plaster bust has to do with the carving of a block of marble. We have to recognize the vile principle in the devil and the banal principle in Hedwig Courths-Mahler. The gilded plaster busts produced in Berlin pervert the taste of people who are weak in judgment.P''
Reimann called these romances, not detective and robber stories which drew calls for censorship, the true trashy literature, because they avoided all sensations and painted "the life of the upper ten thousand ..
in a way that one is inclined to believe that the World War had been bloody reality'S frantic revenge for the lemonade-like mucking by the writer of original novels from Saxony.,,81 Reimann's views were similar to those Ernst Bloch later expressed about the magazine story:
The parasitic life of the upper class is presented by it as highly acceptable, wealth is grace. The poor devil does not rebel, he flies of his own accord into the lap of the rich heiress. This complacent, impossible aspect, which does not however upset any of the rules of the game, already alone distinguishes the kitschy happiness of the magazine story from the far less passive colportale, which is consequently detested by noble bourgeois conformists.f
In contrast to the romance stories, Bloch wrote that the colportage adventure story contained a wish image of freedom, the remnant of Friedrich Schiller's play "The Robbers" that lived on as a substitute for revolution among its readership.83 However, while Bloch recognized the adventure story's revolutionary potential, he also believed that it was ambivalent and could serve as a stimulus to sexual murder and fascism.
Grosz's illustrations pictured the counts and schoolteachers who populated Reimann's parodies, as well as his concept of Courths-Mahler's readers. His frontispiece drawing reinforces the title opposite by its focus on a woman alone in a simple bedroom. Indications of a washbasin and
80. Reimann, Hedwig Courths-Mahler 65-66.
81. Reimann, Hedwig Courths-Mahler 66.
82. Bloch, The Principle of Hope, vol. I (Cambridge: MIT, 1986) 351-52.
83. In 1922 the Malik Verlag published a portfolio of Grosz lithographs with captions taken from The Robbers. George Grosz, Die Rauber. Neun Lithographien zu Sentenzen aus Schillers 'Rauber" (Berlin: Malik, 1922).
30 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
a toilet bucket allude to the intimate tasks of a body whose heaviness and worn features speak of middle age. With drinking glass in hand and bath slippers on her feet, she stands naked in banal routine. She is mirrored by a drawing (fig. 9), also of a naked middle-aged woman, found at the end of the book and whose caption says "Goodbye!", concluding a letter from Courths-Mahler to Reimann. Her erect posture, hose, and kempt hair may indicate a higher economic level, or even CourthsMahler's presence, but she is linked to her lower-class sister by the erasure of her sexuality. The figures' contours come to a stop at the zones of breasts and hips, the line's abrupt end indicating the lifting of pen from paper as Grosz refused to render the sexual features that he so frequently exposed in other drawings. Perhaps the idea came from Reimann, who remarked on the absence of frank sexuality in CourthsMahler's idealized romances by writing: "Her 'characters' are knickknack figurines without lower abdomens.,,84 However, Reimann's statement and Grosz's drawings are more than a literary critique. By the erasure of primary sexual characteristics, they simultaneously reduce women's creativity to the bearing of children and anxiously deny even that role, scorning it as a 'lack' and 'mere' reproduction like the "gilded plaster cast produced in Berlin." In contrast to these images of women, The Adventurer not only asserts Grosz's cynical independence from society, but links creativity to violence and originality to a male autogeny centered in the aroused sexual member.85
A collage (fig. 10) entitled Herr Krause,86 which represents Grosz's stereotype of the petty bourgeois male, also contrasts strongly with The Adventurer. It is marked by an absence, as in his images of petty bourgeois women. Newspaper cuttings, which range from headlines warning about economic ruin produced by strikes to advertisements for soap and laxative pills, literally form the Burger from the blank ground. A hat bounces as slogans pound into Krause's head, determining the opinions that exit his mouth. At the center of his sentimental valentine-like soul are kitsch silhouettes of tin soldiers prepared to follow orders. Wieland Herzfelde, in commentary about the Dada-Messe, addressed the collage's reference to the formative role of propaganda by linking it
84. Reimann, Hedwig Courths-Mahler 68.
85. For discussion of this in relation to other works by Grosz, see Tatar, Lustmord.
86. The collage is now lost, but it was reproduced on a page of Dadaco, a 1920 Dadaist atlas that remained unpublished. Carl Einstein's essay "Schulze" presented a similar literary portrait in Der blutige Ernst 1.6 (1920).
Sherwin Simmons 31
~~ ~II~:-- ~ '"
Auf Wil:deraJm 1
Figure 9. Illustration by George Grosz "Goodbye" in Hans Reimann, Hedwig Courths-Mahler: Schlichte Geschichten fUrs traute Heim (Hannover: Steegemann, 1923) 149. © Estate of George Grosz / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
32 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Figure 10. George Grosz, Herr Krause, 1919, collage and unknown medium, dimensions unknown, now lost. © Estate of George Grosz / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.
Sherwin Simmons 33
with Matthias Erzberger.87 But Herzfelde warned of placing too much stress on such political propaganda, realizing that effective propaganda drew on existing cultural constructions of value and meaning which he described in the following way: "The narrow horizon of the German petty bourgeoisie was overloaded with representations of huge profits, business, world power, sales regions, advertising and so forth. From an early age one has taught him awe for all that, so that his heart, which is sincerely devoted to the nation just as to the mother, is almost crushed by it. ,,88 References to nation and mother lie close to the heart in Grosz's collage, while the flaccid penis below implies that creativity and sexual prowess were also crushed by the petty bourgeois male's devotion to such values.
When Reimann wrote, "Chaplin smiles on the wall, George Grosz's Mona Lisa," he understood the way Chaplin's presence implied a resistance to the petty bourgeois world of Frau Courths-Mahler and Herr Krause. Similarly, when Ivan Goll published the first essay on Chaplin in German, he positioned Chaplin within Germany's revolutionary terrain, opposing him to the activist expressionists-"the woodcut artists and manifesto writers who announced a risen Christ." Goll argued that such activity could not save Germany, rather only the enormous satire of a fool who could coax an artless howl from all of Europe. This would only issue forth when the public recognized the nothingness behind the illusory stage sets of contemporary social institutions. The anarchic elements of Chaplin's slapstick comedy encouraged this recognition. He provided a model of existence in a world of nothingness, in Goll's words: "Falling towers can't flatten his soft bowler hat. Express trains race through his trousers. He sits contented in the middle of the world and grins." However, Goll politicized that grin and the laughter it provoked, ending his essay with these lines:
Charlot is the genius of our age. Who is it that pays him millions for a film? The fat, sweaty bourgeoisie? An idea. He rolls himself a cigarette and grins. Then, when he climbs a lamp post like a rose-colored Jacob's ladder and dives headlong into space, so many unhappy shopgirls, soldiers, miserable men on strike, poor, poor people, sob with laughter. Charlot is the best man of our era. He doesn't really grin. He dies oflaughing desperation/"
87. Erzberger directed propaganda in the German Foreign Office during the war, see my "Grimaces on the Walls."
88. Wieland Herzfelde, "Zur Einfiihrung," commentary on no. 45 in the DadaMesse catalogue.
89. Goll, "Apologie des Charlot" 32-33.
34 Chaplin Smiles on the Wall
Chaplin's smile was similar to that of the wish-image Bloch saw reflected within the mirror of colportage.
The fairy-tale-like colportage is a castle in the sky par excellence, but one in good air, and insofar as this can at all be true about plain wish work: the castle in the sky is right. In the final analysis, it derives from the Golden Age and would like to stand in such an age again, in happiness, which pushes forward from night to light. This kind of happiness is such that it will cause the bourgeoisie to laugh on the other side of its face, and it will cause the giant, otherwise known as the big banks today, to believe in the power of poor people.90
Reimann's observation about the substitution of Chaplin's smile for the Mona Lisa's is a trope that makes us aware of interlinking crises of art, politics, and gendered identity that arose with popular culture's expansion at the beginning of this century.
90. Bloch, Principle a/Hope 369.