Dr Haustein is by Christian Schad and was created in 1928. Schad was an artist of the “New Objectivity” or “Neue Sachlichkeit” style. This was a new style in Germany that pulled away from abstract art and more into real forms and explicit meanings. There was a rebirth of culture and societal norms in Europe. This time period was also one filled with a new sense of sexual and erotic freedom. What was once deemed to be inappropriate and risqué prior to World War I was now acceptable and common after the war. As a Neue Sachlichkeit artist Christian Schad focused on the form and expressed an erotic freedom in any way that he could.
At the time of this painting, Christian Schad was living and working in Berlin. He became friends with Dr. Haus and his wife, Friedel. Dr. Haus was a dermatologist in Berlin who specialized in treating prostitutes with syphilis. Schad met Dr. Haus through Friedel Haustein, the wife of Dr. Haus. She knew how to attract and entertain people who could be of benefit to her husband. 1 Schad spent a lot of time with Dr. Haus while in Berlin. Dr. Haus’ home became a location where physicians, politicians and scientists would gather and discuss topics of interest to them; it became an intellectual center. Schad remarked that Dr. Haus’ home was, “of extreme intellectual and erotic freedom [where] writers, artists, and politicians would mingle with a plethora of scientists, physicians and beautiful women.”2 In the1920’s, Berlin was filled with extreme intellectual and erotic freedom, which was also evident in the Haus’ home.
This work has two figures in it. The prominent form is a man in a black suit, this is Dr. Haustein. He sits at an angle looking away from the viewer and only the top portion of his body shown. He is in a very casual position with his fingers laced. Behind him is a shadow that at first glance seems to be demonic. Upon further investigation the shadow is actually female. The shadow is cast upon a gray background. She seems to be waiting with little to no movement. Contrary to popular belief the shadow is not a premonition of death. The shadow behind Dr. Haus is of his mistress at the time, Sonja. 3 She seems to be looming over Dr. Haus, almost as if she is weighing on his conscience.
To set the mood, Schad uses a darker palette for this portrait. Shades of black, white, grey and brown give the work a somber mood. The colors are used in unison to create detail in this work. Not only does the color usage give the work detail, but Schad also uses soft brush strokes to blend the colors in this work to highlight details such as Dr. Haus’ facial hair and the smoke coming from the shadow’s mouth. Schad also uses strong lines to clearly define edges and forms. True to the style it was painted in, there is an almost excess amount of detail. The images are not idealized; the figures are painted as they were normally seen with every detail noticed. The mood and palette is also important pertaining to this movement because it reflects the outlook that many German people had about their future, dark and dismal.
Being as it is a portrait there isn’t a lot of movement in the work. Dr. Haus sits still and static. The main source of energy comes from the shadow of Dr. Haus’ mistress. She seems to be behind Dr. Haus waiting for him. There is smoke coming from her mouth which suggests that she is smoking.
Christian Schad depicts in this painting and man who was of great influence on him during this time. The viewer can tell that Dr. Haus is a contemplative man that is faced with social issues as well as dealing with his own demons. One of his own personal demons was depicted behind him, looming over him; his mistress. Christian Schad also captures the mood of Germany as a whole during this time period which was dark and hopeless. By painting a portrait of a man sitting down Christian Schad was able to capture numerous elements which proves there is more to it than meets the eye.
- Christian Schad. Christian Schad. (Basel: Editions Panderma Carl Laszlo. 1972), 232.