Christian Schad

By Allie Mills


In a world that was facing drastic changes, a select few artists created a new style of art called “Neue Sachlichkeit” or “New Objectivity” which captured the changes in the world. This style wanted to return to symbolic painting from abstract painting so that the viewer did not have to decipher the work. This movement was a visual representation of what was going on in the world. Christian Schad was one of the artists of this style who captured the changing socioeconomic trends. Schad’s works emulated the great Italian masters and antiquity while incorporating symbolism through sexual themes.

Neue Sachlichkeit or “New Reality” is an art style that evolved in Germany around time of World War I.[1] This movement lasted from roughly 1919-1933. In the beginning, the movement was followed by doubt and skepticism because the German people had been used to seeing abstract works that needed to be interpreted.[2] This movement was a return to order, a return to symbolic representation and saw to seek the truth in the world. Schad himself referred to Magic Realism as a synonym for this movement. [3] Because this style called for realistic works, Schad had to somehow incorporate symbolism without being abstract.

Christian Schad was born on August 21st, 1894 at his grandparent’s home in Miesbach, Bavaria. This was a small and affluent town.[4] Christian Schad came from a stable family. His father was a respected lawyer who would eventually come to be a privy councilor. His mother came from a line of successful family owned breweries and stayed at home with Christian Schad as well as his sister Margarethe. Creative ability rain in the family: Christian Schad’s grandfather was the man who brought the bicycle to Germany. His childhood home was a sprawling mansion that included butlers and maids. He was able to take summer trips to places such as the Alps and the famous art centers of Italy. This exposure to culture helped to push Christian Schad into his art.[5] Before WWI broke out Christian Schad attended Munich academy for a brief amount of time. It was there where he began to produce art. His first pieces were woodcuts done at the academy.

In 1920-1925 he began to paint in the style of New Objectivity. Prior to his involvement with New Objectivity, Schad had been associated with Dada. Schad had been living and working in Geneva since 1916. In 1920, Schad was involved with a Dadaist art show and had also been published.[6] Schad was finding success in the art world. In March of 1920, Schad returned home to Munich. It was his return to Munich that sparked his change of movements. After seeing the conditions that Germany was left in after the war, Schad had a change of heart.[7] This change of heart caused Schad to break with Dada and

it’s games.[8]After his break with Dada, Schad traveled to Rome and was dissatisfied. After Rome, Schad traveled to Naples where he began to differ from abstract art and into New Objectivity.[9]

Schad’s works are widely known for having sexual themes.[10]During the time period in which Schad was working, Germany was faced with a sexual revolution that encouraged sexual exploration.[11] True to his style, Christian Schad captured the sexuality of the time. These themes were expressed explicitly and implicitly.

Two examples of explicit sexual themes was Two Boys[12], and The Five Humours.[13] This work captured two nude male lovers in the midst of passion. This work had an explicit sexual theme in that the work depicts an intense sexual act. This work is symbolic through this explicit sexual theme of the understating of homosexuality. Another one of his explicit sexual themes is seen in The Five Humours. This work was a series of three drawings; each one was a variation of female genitalia. This work expressed acceptance of yourself and your sex life through an explicit sexual theme. An example of a work with an implicit sexual theme is Dr. Haustein.[14] This work depicts Dr. Haustein with a shadow behind him. Upon further investigation one would find out that the shadow is his mistress.[15] Dr. Haustein also treated prostitutes with sexually transmitted diseases.[16] This work is implicitly symbolic of the darker side of sex.

The best of this hyper-realistic works emerged between 1926 and 1929.[17]Some of the popular forms that he depicted are nude women, genitalia, low-cut dresses, transparent clothes as well as sexual activity. Even though Christian Schad is thought of as an erotic painter he is also considered to be a modernist painter who painted similarly to a conservatist.[18]

A group in particular that was on the rise to power during the time of Christian Schad’s more sexual works was the Nazi Party. The Nazi Party wanted to make sure that the only art seen by the population was the art that they approved. The Nazi’s actually enjoyed the art of Christian Schad and didn’t find him to be depraved and therefore, Christian Schad was supported by the Nazi Party. 9 Even though he was supported by a political party, Christian Schad had no interest in social criticism or politics. 10 He felt that every person is unique and their own person. He wanted to stay out of political fights and the war. He received a note from his doctor claiming that he was too ill to fight even though he was healthy.  11 This supports the statement that he wanted to avoid political fights and war because he went so far as to claim medical disability to avoid involvement.

How did Christian Schad begin to study the great masters as an adult? As aforementioned,  Schad was originally involved with Dada in Zurich. After the war he avoided all of the socioeconomic turmoil by moving to Naples. While in Naples, Schad turned to Italian art and studied artists such as Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci and Antonio des Pollaiuolo.[19]By 1926 he was skilled in his new way and stated, “And so I succeeded…in painting once again the way all of them painted who are still venerated as masters.”[20] He aspired to be a household name and have a long career like his predecessors. Schad’s works are similar to Florentine court painter Bronzino and other Renaissance Mannerist painters.[21] This stems from his exposure to these artists as a child.  However, Christian Schad has some similarities and differences that work together to make his sexual message more powerful.

His Woman from Pozzuoli[22] is similar to Raphael’s “La Fornarina[23] in that both are three-quarter figures, large soulful eyes and transparent colors. These aspects are also seen in Schad’s Self Portrait[24] which also includes three quarter figures and transparent coloring. A large difference is that Raphael’s painting has the woman looking to the viewer and inviting them in whereas Schad’s work lacks warmth and welcome as the form looks away. In the work Two Girls[25] by Schad, the forms do not make eye contact with the viewer and that keeps the work from being too vulgar.[26]Two Girls is similar to antiquity in that it shows two female forms partially nude and lounging around which is common in antiquity. Titian’s Venus of Urbino[27] is similar to Christian Schad’s Two Girls in that respect. Christian Schad captures sexual undertones but still slightly resembles antiquity and the great masters of that time.

A large difference between Christian Schad and the great masters was that he used a wide variety of models, anyone from a Count to a pauper. The great masters that he looked up to rarely used common people in their works. Christian Schad wanted individuals who had not conformed, like himself. He wanted to paint people who stood for something and had a certain idea to express. Because of his varied model choices and symbolic painting style he was able to capture the changing world around him. His works can be seen as a chronological artistic depiction of how Europe changed before, during and after the World War.

Christian Schad’s works capture the emotions, socioeconomic changes, and sexual freedom that filled Germany after World War I. Christian Schad captured the world from different kinds of people which gave his works a world view. What makes Christian Schad a unique painter is that his painting style follows the styles of the great Italian masters. Christian Schad uses those skills to incorporate implicit and explicit sexual undertones while not being vulgar. His works were seen all over Europe during this time and he is still seen today as an artist that resorted back to the antique Italian masters.

[1] Wieland Schmied, Neue Sachlichkeit and German Realism of the Twenties (London: Arts Countil of Great Britain, 1978), 46.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Wieland Schmied, Neue Sachlichkeit and German Realism of the Twenties (London: Arts Countil of Great Britain, 1978), 47.

[4] Jill Lloyd and Michael Peppiatt, Christian Schad and the Neue Sachlichkeit. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2003),237 .

[5] Ibid.

[6] Jill Lloyd and Michael Peppiatt, Christian Schad and the Neue Sachlichkeit,241.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Arthur Danto, “Sex and the City: The Erotic Dreamworld of Christian Schad.” The Nation. 276. no. 22 (2003): 33-36.

[11]Hilton Kramer, “Weimar Era’s Schad, Cynical, Sardonic”, New York Observer. (2003): 1.

[12] Christian Schad, Two Boys, silverpoint,1929, Schlossmuseum, Aschaffenburg.

[13] Christian Schad, The Five Humours, lithographic crayon, 1931, Stiftung, Aschaffenburg.

[14] Christian Schad, Dr. Haustein, oil on canvas, 1928, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid

[15] Christian Schad. Christian Schad Retrospective. (Basel: Basel : Editions Panderma Carl Laszlo ,1972), 232.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Arthur Danto, “Sex and the City: The Erotic Dreamworld of Christian Schad.” The Nation. 276. no. 22 (2003): 33-36.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Sabine Rewald, Ian Buruma and Matthias Eberle, Glitter and Doom: German Portraits from the 1920s ( New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 151.


[20] Ibid.

[21] Sabine Rewald, Ian Buruma and Matthias Eberle, Glitter and Doom, 165.

[22] Christian Schad, Woman from Pozzuoli oil on canvas, 1925, private collection.

[23] Raphael, La Fornarina, oil on wood, 1518-20, Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Antica, Rome

[24] Christian Schad, Self-Portrait, oil on wood, 1927, private collection.

[25] Christian Schad, Two Girls, oil on canvas, 1928, private collection.

[26] Arthur Danto, “Sex and the City: The Erotic Dreamworld of Christian Schad.” The Nation. 276. no. 22 (2003): 33-36.

[27] Titian, Venus of Urbino, oil on canvas,1538, Tiziano and Sebastiano del Piombo.


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