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Christian Schad

German Painter and Photographer

Christian Schad Photo
Movements and Styles: Dada, New Objectivity

Born: August 21, 1894 - Miesbach, Germany

Died: February 25, 1982 - Stuttgart, Germany

"My paintings are never illustrative... if anything, they are symbolic."

Summary of Christian Schad

Working across media, Christian Schad charted a unique path through the revolutionary tactics of the Dadaists in Zurich and later the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity) painters in Berlin. While mingling in Dada circles, Schad made radical experiments in photography, making abstract pictures composed by arranging various objects on light-sensitive paper, exposing them to light, and capturing their outlines. This revolutionary photographic technique would later be used by László Moholy-Nagy, Man Ray and others. Despite this important innovation, Schad is probably best known for his later portrait paintings; he painted socialites, bohemians, and the denizens of the cabaret world. Even with his forays into abstract photography, his paintings remained resolutely realistic, following the broader return to Classicism in the interwar years.

Not as politically radical as his fellow German colleagues like Otto Dix and George Grosz, though successful during his life, Shad's reputation later languished. His contributions to Neue Sachlicheit painting have received renewed interest, however, and as contemporary photographers experiment with camareless photography, Schad's pioneering photographic process becomes more crucial in photography's historical lineage.

Key Ideas

A full three years before Man Ray and László Moholy-Nagy began experimenting with the photogram technique, Schad was the first interwar avant-garde artist to make use of the process. Schad's photographic experiments most closely hewed to Dadaist tenets. He employed everyday, random objects to create his photograms, underscoring the desire to break down the barriers of traditional artistic subject matter, and his abstract compositions have a mysterious, dream-like quality to them that connects them to Surrealism as well.
While Schad was influenced by the abstractions of Cubism and Futurism, he found his greatest influences in the Italian Old Masters, such as Raphael. After World War I, Schad participated in Interwar Classicism, returning to more traditional styles of realism and classicism to handle the traumas of war and the changes in society. Schad's painting during this period veered more towards Magical Realism than the biting satire of other painters of the era.
Schad used a cool, precise realism to portray his subjects. While one senses the individualities of the people Schad paints, one also senses that he is trying to capture the type, or roll, the person plays in society, most notably the "New Woman", who was an androgynous bohemian, who was sexually liberated and career oriented.
Christian Schad Photo

Christian Schad was born to an affluent family in Miesbach (Upper Bavaria), Germany, in 1894. The family moved to Munich shortly after he was born. His father Carl Schad was a prominent lawyer, while his mother's family owned several successful breweries in Bavaria. Artistic ability and ingenuity ran in Schad's family. His mother was related to the German Romantic painter Carl Philipp Fohr and his paternal grandfather was credited with bringing the bicycle to Germany. His parents encouraged his abilities in art and music from an early age, exposing him to art and culture on family trips to Italy and other regional art centers.

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