Art and Devastation: A Tour of German Post-War Expressionism #1

Carl Otto Czeschka, from Die Nibelungen, 1920. Illustrated book. MoMA.

The book retells the myths of the Nibelungs, a family saga of power and betrayal. Czeschka’s stylish drawings look like the pre-war Vienna of 1909, the year of the book’s 1st edition. But in this 2nd edition (1920), Austrian schoolchildren would have turned past beautifully decorated opening pages to see this double-page spread: Kriemhild’s nightmare of eagles swooping down to kill a falcon. Kriemhild’s mother says the nightmare predicts her future husband’s death. In devastated post-war Austria and Germany,the nightmare had come true, and the theme of betrayal would only become more enticing.

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