The 1930s at The MBAC : The Making of
The 1930s at The MBAC
The Making of
Josée-Britanie Mallet, March 24, 2008
Salvador Dalí_Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936_Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / SODRAC (2008)
Salvador Dalí_Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonition of Civil War), 1936_Philadelphia Museum of Art: The Louise and Walter Arensberg Collection, 1950 © Salvador Dalí, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dalí / SODRAC (2008)


While the 1930s are known above all for the political upheavals that led to World War II, this decade merits being examined from another viewpoint. A North American exclusive, the exhibition The 1930s: The Making of “The New Man” brings together over 200 extraordinary works that explore the seminal link between art and biology. One cannot remain indifferent to the paintings, sculptures, drawings and photographs created at a time in which biology became a guiding, and often destructive force. The 1930s saw the dissemination of the contrasting concepts of the “degenerate” artist and those of “superman” or “The New Man”, which were spreading through Germany, Italy and the Soviet Union as well as overseas. The exhibition affords a unique opportunity to see works by eminent European artists such as Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, Vassily Kandinsky, Max Ernst and August Sander, and North American artists like Grant Wood, Jackson Pollock, Walker Evans and Alex Colville. In addition to examining the relationship between art and life science and the emergence of “The New Man”, the nine key thematic groups of the exhibition also reveal the wavering course of a troubling decade that nurtures and controls, strengthens and exterminates.

Bernard Fleetwood-Walker_Amity, 1933_Walker Art Museum, © Estate of Mrs. Peggy Fleetwood-Walker
Bernard Fleetwood-Walker_Amity, 1933_Walker Art Museum, © Estate of Mrs. Peggy Fleetwood-Walker


Max Ernst_The Fireside Angel, 1937_Private Collection, © Estate of Max Ernst / SODRAC (2008)
Max Ernst_The Fireside Angel, 1937_Private Collection, © Estate of Max Ernst / SODRAC (2008)


August Sander_Secretary at West German Radio, Cologne, 1931_Succession August Sander / SODRAC (2008)
August Sander_Secretary at West German Radio, Cologne, 1931_Succession August Sander / SODRAC (2008)


This exhibition explores the link between art and biology at a time when it was becoming a guiding force and an often destructive one. During the 1930’s, contrasting concepts were disseminated - of “degenerate artists and those of “superman” or “The New Man.” These ideologies, inspired by the totalitarian regimes of Germany, Italy and Russia and which were unified by the biological ideal of the “New Man” (or the construction of a “Master Race),” would have a profound effect on art and representations, the core of which was the human body. Artists caught in the conflict, were coerced into creating propaganda for their respective governments. Images selected for this exhibition delve directly into the most disturbing tensions shown in art of that period. The exhibition themes are portrayed through a combination of reality and satire.

Alexander Rodchenko_Dynamo Soccer Club, Red Square, 1935_National Gallery of Canada © Estate of Aleksandr Rodtchenko / SODRAC (2008)
Alexander Rodchenko_Dynamo Soccer Club, Red Square, 1935_National Gallery of Canada © Estate of Aleksandr Rodtchenko / SODRAC (2008)


Julio Gonzalez_Bust of woman_Institution, Washington (D.C.), don de Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966
Julio Gonzalez_Bust of woman_Institution, Washington (D.C.), don de Joseph H. Hirshhorn, 1966


Joan Miró_Flame in Space and Nude Woman, 1932_Fundació Joan Miró © Successió Miró / SODRAC (2008)
Joan Miró_Flame in Space and Nude Woman, 1932_Fundació Joan Miró © Successió Miró / SODRAC (2008)


In the 1930s, biology became a force for change, often destructive, notably in its racist and eugenicist forms that sought to “improve” the human species. During this decade, the opposed concepts of the “degenerate” - or “mentally ill” – artist, as described by the Nazi ideology of the Third Reich, and the “superman” or “new man” became widespread. These ideologies were to have a profound influence on forms of art and representation.

Salvador Dalí_Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, 1943_Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg (Floride) © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali / SODRAC (2008)
Salvador Dalí_Geopoliticus Child Watching the Birth of the New Man, 1943_Salvador Dalí Museum, St. Petersburg (Floride) © Salvador Dali, Fundació Gala-Salvador Dali / SODRAC (2008)


Joan Miró_Persons in the Presence of a Metamorphosis, 1936_New Orleans Museum of Art © Successió Miró / SODRAC (2008)
Joan Miró_Persons in the Presence of a Metamorphosis, 1936_New Orleans Museum of Art © Successió Miró / SODRAC (2008)


Aristide Maillol_Torso of a Young Woman, 1935_The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Purchase © Estate of Aristide Maillol / SODRAC (2008)
Aristide Maillol_Torso of a Young Woman, 1935_The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Purchase © Estate of Aristide Maillol / SODRAC (2008)


The 1930s: The Making of “The New Man” will bring together more than 200 works - paintings, sculptures, and photographs - by 103 artists from Europe, including Arp, Kandinsky, Ernst, Picasso, Miró, Dalí, Giacometti and Sander, and from North America, including Benton, Wood, Albright, and Evans. The works are grouped together under nine themes: Genesis, Convulsive Beauty, “The Will to Power”, The Making of “The New Man”, Mother Earth, The Appeal of Classicism, “Faces of our Time”, “Crowds and Power”, and The Charnel House.

Alberto Giacometti_Woman with Her Throat Cut, 1932_Gallery of Modern Art, National Galleries of Scotland © Succession Alberto Giacometti / SODRAC (2008)
Alberto Giacometti_Woman with Her Throat Cut, 1932_Gallery of Modern Art, National Galleries of Scotland © Succession Alberto Giacometti / SODRAC (2008)


John Heartfield_Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! [Hurray, the butter is finished!], 1935_George Eastman House © Succession John Heartfield / SODRAC (2008)
John Heartfield_Hurrah, die Butter ist alle! [Hurray, the butter is finished!], 1935_George Eastman House © Succession John Heartfield / SODRAC (2008)


Richard Oelze_Expectation (Erwartung), 1935-36_Purchase © Aleksandr Rodtchenko Estate / SODRAC (2008)
Richard Oelze_Expectation (Erwartung), 1935-36_Purchase © Aleksandr Rodtchenko Estate / SODRAC (2008)


The works presented in this exhibition come from some of the most prestigious private and public collections in Austria, Canada, the Czech Republic, Germany, Holland, Israel, Mexico, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States. “We are pleased to present an exhibition of such historic value and rich content,” emphasized Marie Claire Morin, president and Chief Executive Officer of the NGC Foundation. “It brings together a very large number of international works by renowned artists that are seldom seen together in North America.”

Thomas Hart Benton_People of Chilmark_1920
Thomas Hart Benton_People of Chilmark_1920


The 1930s: The Making of “The New Man”
 has been the subject of major thematic exhibitions in Berlin, Vienna, Madrid, and Paris. Most of these have shed light on the political dimension: the relationship between art and state power or artists’ reactions to totalitarianism.

Grant Wood_Spring in the Country, 1941_Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Iowa, achat © Estate of Grant Wood / VAGA (New York) / SODART (Montreal) 2008
Grant Wood_Spring in the Country, 1941_Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, Iowa, achat © Estate of Grant Wood / VAGA (New York) / SODART (Montreal) 2008


Christian Schad_Autoportrait
Christian Schad_Autoportrait


From June 6 to September 7, 2008

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