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FU-BEST 4: Perspectives on 20th-Century Art in Central Europe

InstructorDr. Matthias Vollmer
Credit Points5 ECTS / 3 U.S. credits


This course surveys the visual arts in Central Europe from the rise of modernism around 1900 to the present after postmodernism, with a strong focus on German art.
Its objectives are:

  • To study the individual works closely and interpret them critically by analyzing their formal structure, style and technique, iconography, etc.
  • To consider the intentions of the artists who created them.
  • To place the works against their wider historical, political, economic, social, and cultural backgrounds as well as within the international development of the visual arts in Western Europe and - for the second half of the 20th century - the U.S.

A consideration of the theoretical context is of particular importance for the understanding of 20th-century art and its role in society. Thus the course will also introduce students to major philosophical ideas of the period and will focus on various links to the visual art works including reflections on the methods which art historians have found appropriate in studying the objects and ideas which constitute their discipline. Berlin houses some of the most splendid art collections in the world, such as the Neue Nationalgalerie, the Hamburger Bahnhof (with the Friedrich Christian Flick Collection), the Kupferstichkabinett (Graphic Arts), the Brücke-Museum, and the Bauhaus-Archiv, not to mention the collections of ancient art.

In addition, a vibrant scene of art galleries provides new perspectives on contemporary art that has not yet been established in the museums. An essential approach of the course will be to work not only with slides and text sources in class but also with the originals during excursions to different museums. Thus the specific material qualities of the art works discussed in class will be experienced in front of the originals. This can serve as an eye-opener for understanding the reasoning and the artistic procedure of the artists in their respective period.