Bernhard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany
Title Details

280 Pages

22.8 x 15.2 cm

30 colour. 25 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture

Imprint: Camden House

Bernhard Heisig and the Fight for Modern Art in East Germany

by April A. Eisman

  • Description
  • Contents
  • Reviews
One of the first books to extend the currently burgeoning scholarship on East Germany to the visual arts, revealing that painting, like literature and film, was a space of contestation.
East German studies today is thriving. Scholars have shown East Germany to be a complex society where culture played an important, if contested, role in the making of the socialist person. In English-language scholarship, however,the visual arts-and especially painting-have been largely ignored, the result of the misperception that East German art was little more than kitsch or propaganda. This book focuses on one of East Germany's most successful artistsas a point of entry into the vibrant art world of the "other" Germany. In the 1980s, Bernhard Heisig (1925-2011) was praised on both sides of the Berlin Wall for his neo-expressionist style and his commitment to German history and art. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt chose him to paint his official portrait, major museums collected his work, and in 1989 he had a major solo exhibition in West Germany. After unification, Heisig was a focal point in the Bilderstreit, a virulent debate over what role East German art should play in the new Germany. Challenging current understandings of Heisig and East German art, this book focuses on Heisig's little-known fight for modern art in EastGermany. Examining major debates of the 1960s, it shows the key role he played in expanding the country's art from the limits of Soviet-style socialist realism to a socialist modernism that later gained recognition in the West.

April A. Eisman is Associate Professor of Art History at Iowa State University.
Introduction: Why Heisig Matters
From the Nazi Past to the Cold War Present
Art for an Educated Nation
Against the Wall: Murals, Modern Art, and Controversy
The Contentious Emergence of the "Leipzig School"
Portraying Workers and Revolutionaries
Conclusion: The Quintessential German Artist
Notes
Bibliography
Index
"It has taken until the publication of April Eisman's ?ne book to grant East German art generally, and Bernhard Heisig speci?cally, the attention he deserves in English-language scholarship as one of the major German artists of the twentieth century. For this Eisman deserves considerable praise." Stephen Brockmann, MONATSHEFTE
"[F]ascinating . . . . [C]aptures the complexity of th[e] era and stands to profoundly affect art historical understandings of this controversial period of artmaking. . . . Through the rigor of her social historical methods, Eisman reveals 'the complexity and artistry that was possible in East Germany' (136) and disproves the idea that communist ideology and modern art cannot coexist." ALLISON LEIGH, SLAVIC REVIEW
"The book does the great service of making very detailed information on visual art in 'East Germany' . . . . accessible to an English-speaking public. . . . The chapters on Heisig's development . . . are detailed and reliably reconstructed, and show an artist who not only had to endure the conflicts in the political and cultural system of the GDR but also exerted influence on them." Karl-Siegbert Rehberg, KUNSTCHRONIK
"[F]ascinating . . . . Eisman does an excellent job of showing us how Heisig's work illustrated the possibilities for this synthesis [of creating modern art and contributing to the project of building socialism] in what has been a much understudied field -- East German art history." Eli Rubin, GERMAN STUDIES REVIEW
"[C]an [be] read as an argument for the importance of biographical approaches in the study of socialist art, even in the context of collectivist practices. . . . [W]ill be welcomed by anyone interested in twentieth-century German art . . . and, more specifically, committed to moving beyond conventional accounts of modernism and its ideological others." Sabine Hake, MODERNISM/MODERNITY
"The first monograph in English devoted to Heisig, this book presents an overview of [his] life and work and makes a strong case for reconsidering his oeuvre -- and East German visual art more broadly -- for its important contributions to art history. . . . Accessible and well argued, the book is enhanced by 60 illustrations, many of them color plates, that reproduce the work of Heisig and his contemporaries, providing a visual lexicon of East German art. . . . Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals; general readers." Hester Baer, CHOICE
"Offers an interesting glimpse into the East German art world and into debates about art and society . . . . Beautifully illustrated with the works of Heisig and other GDR artists, Eisman's book is based on rich archival material, close visual analysis, and interviews with the late artist [Heisig] himself. . . . [This] book deserves to be read not only by people who are interested in East German art but also by anybody interested in German history in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries." Andreas Agocs, CENTRAL EUROPEAN HISTORY

Hardcover

9781640140318

October 2018

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Ebook (EPDF)

9781787443495

October 2018

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Title Details

280 Pages

2.28 x 1.52 cm

30 colour. 25 b/w. Illustrations

Series: Studies in German Literature Linguistics and Culture

Imprint: Camden House