Think “Weimar” and you think decadence and doom. There is certainly plenty of both on display in “Magic Realism: Art in Weimar Germany 1919-33”, a new exhibition at Tate Modern in London. But rather than presenting the Weimar Republic as a brief, ill-fated interlude born of one set of horrors and foreshadowing another, the organisers of the exhibition have selected artworks that give a more nuanced impression of the era.
“Magic realism” is most often thought of as a literary genre, one that blends fantastical elements with a more lifelike depiction of the world. Yet the term was coined in 1925 by Franz Roh, a German art historian, who observed that many artists in the Weimar Republic rejected the idealistic style fashionable before the first world war, which combined naturalistic depiction with an amplification of beauty and virtue, in favour of a realism with uncanny elements.