Rudolf Schlichter - Scala
Watercolour, gouache and black chalk on light card with blindstamp "SCHOELLERSHAMMER" 64.8 x 49.8 cm Framed under glass. Signed 'Rudolf Schlichter' in pencil lower right. Verso titled 'Nutten' in Sütterlin script and dated "1920" by an unknown hand as well as with the estate stamp "NACHLASS R. SCHLICHTER" (not recorded by Lugt), there numbered "B 179" in handwriting. - The paper browned with narrow light-stain; the depiction in fine condition with vibrant colours.
“Standing before Schlichter's watercolours, one often wishes to say: illustrated picture stories for adults! […] Because they are actual illustrated picture stories, the primary concern is the cut of their fashionable dresses. So that is what people wore! Is first of all what they are supposed to mean. The outfit is important: the people underneath, even at such a time, secondary. We are all wearers of clothing. The reign of the uniformed is only just abolished. Pay close attention: the shoes of the ladies are important. An erotic element.” - this is Theodor Däubler's apt commentary on Schlichter's work from 1921 (cited in: exhib. cat., Rudolf Schlichter, Tübingen/Wuppertal/ München 1997/1998, p. 22). For the draughtsman and painter, the 1920s in Berlin represented a cumulative pinnacle biographically as well as artistically: Schlichter joined the Communist Party, created illustrations for the Malik publishing house and met George Grosz, with whom he became very close friends, and his first solo exhibition soon opened at the Galerie Burchard. In the mix and stirring things up: DADA, politics and leftist intellectualism demanded ceaseless mental as well as physical restlessness - indeed, even more, constant provocation - in the unfettered world following in the wake of the lost war. With a sure instinct for every existential inconsistency, Rudolf Schlichter inexorably caused phenomena to reflect on one another: for him, art and human society were two sides of one coin. However, on account of his personal psychopathology, he could scarcely be appropriated for propaganda purposes. Stylistically, he developed himself into one of the leading protagonists of the “New Objectivity”. Carl Einstein had already described Schlichter as a “Verist” in 1920 and felt that “many of his works are so objective they are reminiscent of cinema” (cited in Andreas Kühne, Von der Dada-Revolte zur Neuen Sachlichkeit, in: exhib. cat., 1997/1998, op. cit., p. 42). The artist's portraits and depictions of milieus from this period, including his likenesses of Bertolt Brecht and Helene Weigel, record the historical moment of this epoch in an exemplary manner.
Around 1924 he created his painting “Margot” (Stiftung Stadtmuseum Berlin), in which a significant scrap from a poster on the brick wall in the background features the inscription “CIRCUS BUSCH/QUO VADIS”. This individual portrait from the social context of prostitution, a milieu with which the artist was all too familiar, can also ultimately be grouped with the present watercolour, on the back of which Schlichter has written “Nutten” ["tarts"]. Thematic ambivalences unfold around this formally simplified street scene, and these in turn become laconically condensed in the sketched electric sign for the “SCALA”. This refers to what was surely Berlin's most famous cabaret theatre, which opened in 1920. And the ladies striding past, elegant and bourgeois in their hats and furs, but notably entirely unaccompanied, may find themselves on a pavement in front of the stage entrance at the side of the theatre. Do they really wish to amuse themselves or are they there to provide amusement? Schlichter's characterisations seem merciless: it is a male gaze at an ostensibly modern female self-assurance, in whose made-up face he has inscribed not just “egotistical” (Schlichter) defiance, but also a stern blankness.
Formerly Collection Wolf Uecker, estate
Cf. exhib. cat. Rudolf Schlichter, Eros und Apokalypse, Mittelrhein Museum Koblenz, 2015/2016, cat. no. 24 with illus. p. 88, "Scala", 1926 (same but inversed motif as pencil drawing)
Stuttgart 1971 (Galerie Valentien), Rudolf Schlichter. Zeichnungen und Aquarelle, cat. no. 9; Hamburg 1978 (Galerie Brockstedt), Rudolf Schlichter. Aquarelle, Zeichnungen und Grafiken der 20er Jahre, cat. no. 16 with illus.; Berlin/Stuttgart 1984 (Staatliche Kunsthalle/Württembergischer Kunstverein), Rudolf Schlichter, cat. no. 117, illus. 81; Hamburg 1995 (Erotic Art Museum), Rudolf Schlichter, cat. no. 8; Tübingen/Wuppertal/Munich 1997/98 (Kunsthalle/Von der Heydt-Museum/Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus), Rudolf Schlichter. Gemälde, Aquarelle, Zeichnungen, cat. no. 85 with full-page colour illus.