A remarkable find - Schlichter’s “Schaubude”

The art historian Professor Dr Olaf Peterson on the lithostone “Schaubude”, discovered in 2016, by the German artist Rudolf Schlichter, one of the most important representatives of Neue Sachlichkeit.

The lithostone “Schaubude”

The lithostone we have here is titled “Schaubude” and was found in 2016, having been used as a paving stone which had been turned around. A drawing by Schlichter was discovered on the underside, which has remained intact over the time. It is not known if lithographic prints were taken from the stone – none have survived.

It depicts a scene located somewhere between brothel, vaudeville and fancy-dress party. Sexual assaults are alluded to in the scene.

Modern Art | 30.11.2018
Lot 217: Rudolf Schlichter - Schaubude
Estimate: €20,000 - €25,000.

Rudolf Schlichter

Study years

Born in 1890 in Calw, Schlichter first trained as a porcelain painter in Pforzheim from 1904. From 1907 to 1909 he attended the School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart before devoting himself to studying at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe from 1910. 

Rebellion against the bourgeoisie

During his time at the Art Academy in Karlsruhe, he rejected traditional bourgeois values and developed into an artist who saw himself connected to the bohemian ideals of the time. He lived for example with the occasional prostitute Fanny Hablützel and at times sold pornographic graphic art under the pseudonym Udor Rétyl. 

The First World War and the first exhibition

Schlichter was enlisted into the military in 1916 during the First World War, but returned the following year following a hunger strike on the Western Front. His first exhibition took place in 1919 together with Wladimir von Zabotin in his student city of Karlsruhe. Schlichter was one of the founders of the ‘Rih’ group and after his move to Berlin joined the Novembergruppe, the Berlin Secession, the Berlin Dadaists and the KPD. 

The first International Dada Fair

His first solo exhibition followed in Berlin in 1920 as well as participation in the first International Dada Fair where his object – a puppet soldier with the head of a pig hanging from the ceiling – caused a scandal. Schlichter, Grosz and others were charged with insulting the Reichswehr.

The Rote Gruppe

After a disagreement with the Novembergruppe, Schlichter co-founded the Rote Gruppe in 1924, which stood in opposition to the Novembergruppe. The Rote Gruppe was a communist artist’s collective, to which Grosz and Herzfelde also belonged.

The U-turn

After his works featured in the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Mannheim in 1925, he met his future wife Elfriede Elisabeth Koehler, known as Speedy, and began to turn away from politics and towards Catholicism. With this internal turnaround, the plan for an autobiographical ‘confession’ and a reckoning with his life arose.

The NS period

During the National Socialist era, seventeen of Schlichter’s works were confiscated from museums and exhibitions, four of which were included in the exhibition “Degenerate Art” in Munich. At the beginning of 1938, Schlichter was also expelled from the Reichskammer der Bildenden Künste and shortly after served three months in custody for his "unnational-socialist lifestyle”.

The Neue Gruppe

 Alongside well-known artists such as Karl Schmidt-Rottluff and Willi Baumeister, Schlichter was co-founder of the Neue Gruppe, an artists’ association founded in Munich in 1946, the majority of whose members had been ostracised by the Third Reich. Further important artists in the Neue Gruppe included Erich Heckel, Oskar Kokoschka, Ernst Wilhelm Nay and Max Pechstein.

The last years

Towards the end, Schlichter’s work turned to Surrealism. In 1950 he joined the re-established Deutsche Künstlerbund where two of his oil paintings from 1948 were included in the first exhibition in Berlin in 1951. He had further solo exhibitions in Munich in 1953 and 1955, the last one only a few weeks before his death in May 1955.