Friday, February 13, 2015

Hans Baluschek: Borderline Political

As his lengthy Wikipedia entry indicates, Hans Baluschek (1870-1935) was a man of the political left who made a career of painting and illustration until the National Socialists took power and terminated his livelihood.

Even though he had his motivations, the Baluschek images I viewed on the Internet were politically cautious, basically what is generally called "realism" or "genre" work. To put it another way, he seldom (or never, perhaps) made crude, in-your-face political cartoons-as-paintings in the manner of George Grosz or Otto Dix who were 20 years his junior and seem to have had no inhibitions in expressing rage and hate on canvas.

So to me Baluschek presents many interesting images of working class and lower-middle class life in Berlin from the late 1890s into the early 1930s, an era when Berlin was a very interesting place. Artistically, I'd place him in the amorphous neither good nor bad category, though he was a pretty good illustrator-reporter.


Arbeiterstadt - Workers' City - 1920
A wintery scene showing S-Bahn tracks crossing over a rail yard.

Couple, graffiti - 1920s

Couple in restaurant hall - ca. 1910

Big City Street Corner - 1929

Sonntagslust - 1932
The title is a little hard to convey in English. "Sunday Delight" or "Sunday Pleasure" would reasonable translations, though few people depicted here seem to express those emotions. Perhaps that was the ironic point Baluschek was trying to make.

Bahnhofshalle - 1929
"Train shed" would be a somewhat literal, technical translation, though what we see here is a typical European train terminal, one in Berlin.

Städtlichter - City Lights - 1931
I can't identify the square shown here. But that probably doesn't matter much because the buildings were probabaly destroyed during World War 2.

Städtlischer Arbeitsnachweis für Angestellte - 1931
A drawing showing people entering and leaving an employment registration facility.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for a really interesting blog!

Just some notes on the German in this posting, which I hope may be helpful.

Sonntagslust - 1932 : A European Sunday, where people put on their best clothes and take walks. 'Sunday Pleasure' sounds good.

Bahnhofshalle - 1929 : The literal translation would the Bahnhof = train station, Halle = hall. 'Train station' is sufficient IMO.

Städtlichter - City Lights - 1931 : should be Stadtlichter ('a' not 'ä')

Städtlischer Arbeitsnachweis für Angestellte - 1931 : Städtischer (no 'l'). The 'Arbeitsnachweis', the 'work certificate' was an important precondition for receiving social help, e.g. unemployment benefit (since ca. 1890). The depression had hit Germany at the time so the certificate was an important document.

BTW: Sonntagslust and Stadtlichter both contain females with remarkably similar and distinct faces.

Hope this was a help - keep up the good work!

Donald Pittenger said...

Anonymous -- Thank you for the help.

I "studied" German in high school and had to brush up to pass an exam in grad school, but those events happened decades ago. Some of it creeps back when I visit a German-speaking country, but my knowledge remains sketchy at best.