The show opens with Still Lifes. If one were to enter this room with no knowledge of the time and place they were painted, one would guess that they were the works of very disturbed mental patients who happened to be great artists. Even a seemingly harmless painting of a vase with flowers, "Autumn Bouquet" by Rudolf Wacker (Oil, 1938) on close examination depicts dead leaves and flowers whose petals are like dead fingers.
There are four paintings that win the prize for most horror provoking. Karl Volker's "Puppet Theater" (Mixed Technique ,1931-2) in which serious faced children are streaming in to see a creepy puppet show. The puppets cannot be described, except that they are slimy, with faces that horrify. And Volker's "Mask With Balls" (Mixed Technique, 1930), is a gory head on a stick as one might have seen in the village square in Medieval Times.
The power of Expressionism is truly on display here to evoke the oppressive time. The viewer can feel it palpably.
There are two paintings of ugly dolls with old women's heads by Rudolf Wacker, "Sheep And Doll" (Oil, 1934) and "Japanese Doll And Poppy (Oil, 1934). These are not childhood playthings!
Of the paintings in the first room, I was most struck by "Storm" (Oil, 1932) by Franz Sedlacek. His paintings are categorized as Surrealist. A tiny white deer flees eerie trees with dead branches and a black background. But at least in the white deer, one perceives the human spirit.
As you go up the stairs to the 3rd floor gallery, you are assaulted by a horrendous poster by Bruno Heinrich, in which a stereotyped caricature of a Jewish Man with a Jewish Star pendant and a grotesque nose and face stands behind the American and British Flags, "Der Jude Behind The Enemy Flags (1941-3). There is also a photo/poster by John Heartfield, "A Tool Or God's Hand?" in which a man dangles Hitler like a puppet on a string.
There are many works on paper on this floor that are depressing as hell as they depict Hell, with Nazi flags, Hitler with blood coming out his eyes and nose, a soulless faced German soldier with hollowed out eyes, and cartoon drawings from the time.
I was drawn to the Surreal landscapes. Again Franz Sedlacek caught my attention with "Thunderstorm" (Oil, 1936) in which a dark silhouette on a bicycle drives over a bridge under blackening skies, passed a factory with broken windows. The effect is of a silent nightmare. Sedlacek also painted "Rainbow" which, though blunted in color, on a black background on a road reflecting ominous clouds, nevertheless holds out a ray of hope as the rainbow lights up a small patch of green trees.
Richard Oelze's "Expectation" (Oil, 1935) is also a Surrealist painting in which an urban crowd is huddled out in nowhere. It made me think of War Of The Worlds.