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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Christian Schad

Christian Schad (August 21, 1894 - February 25, 1982
Pope Pius XI, 1925
Oil on canvas 75 x 53,5 cm
Staatliche Galerie Moritzburg, Halle


Christian Schad, (August 21, 1894 - February 25, 1982)
Pater Aquilinus, 1925,
Oil on canvas
CSS Aschaffenburg

It is apparently part of the job description for "Pope" that one has to sit for one`s portrait.

Pope Pius XI sat for the painter Christian Schad (see above) in 1925.

It became quite a famous portrait. The artist procured a lucrative reproduction deal for the portrait with a publishing company in Berlin.

He secured the commission through a German Franciscan priest, Father Aquilin Reichert (Father Aquilinus) (also painted by Schad and pictured above). Father Aquilinus was a confessor to many Germans in Rome and the Vatican.

There is no doubt about the talent of Schad. However he is a rather unattractive character.

He was Bavarian and born into a well-to-do family. His father - a lawyer - supported him well into the Depression years.

After a short training at the Academy of Art in Munich in 1913, he avoided the draft by fleeing to Switzerland. Artistically he joined the Dadaist Movement.

After the defeat of Germany in 1918, he spent time in Italy. Life there was preferable to the hyper-inflation of the early Weimar Republic.

For a time there was a period of stability. In 1923, in the cathedral of Orvieto, he married Marcella Arcangeli, a medical professor's daughter, and the next year had a son, Nikolaus.

This was the period of his study of the Old Masters and the paintings above.

The stability did not last. In 1926 he went to Austria, then left his family to move to Berlin. Then came the years of painting the decadence of Weimar, before the rise of Hitler.

There he became part of the loose movement known as Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), in particular, a branch known as Verism. Looking soberly, cynically, and even ferociously at their fellow citizens, these artists found their true métier in portraiture. The movement was marked by a loss of modernist faith, a rise in nationalism and an embrace of tried and true artistic traditions.

The Movement embraced other artists such as Max Beckmann, Otto Dix and Georg Grosz who seem to have been motivated by some kind of social philosophy. In contrast, Schad`s paintings are of the demi-monde, sexual freedom, and portraits of dour characters, debauched and filled with ennui.

They are works caught by a passive observer, remote and distant from the action that it portrays. There is understanding. But empathy, there is none.

Whilst other artists in the Movement such as Dix were labelled by the Hitler regime as "degenerate", Hitler seemed to approve of Schad. He did not include his works in the infamous exhibition of Degenerate Art in 1937 and Schad`s works were included in the 1937 exhibition of great German art in Munich.

After the Second World War, Schad`a reputation declined. There are occasional shows showing interest in him is starting to wax again.