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Morgan Library: From Berlin To Broadway

by Robert Sievert

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Otto Dix: We Want Bread (1923)


Otto Dix: Pimp and Girl


Egon Schiele: Standing Boy with Hands on Chest (1910)


Egon Schiele: Portrait of a young man (Erich Lederer)(1913)


How many shows of German Drawings have there been in the past few months? Quite a few..

The latest is at the Morgan Library: From Berlin To Broadway which just opened this past week. Expressionism is dominant and certainly makes its mark.

The Morgan Library has been the recipient of a collection of a bequest made by the late Fred Ebb, lyricist of a number of musicals including Cabaret and CHICAGO. There is clearly a link between the drawings and the content of these theater pieces..

In all there are about 45 drawings in this collection In comparison with the brilliant show recently at the Metropolitan (Glitter and Doom: German portraits from the 1920s) it is not a great selection of the work. Rather it is the scrapings of the bottom of the barrel. By the time Ebb was active in his collecting there was very little available.

Ebb was introduced to expressionistic art when he visited Actress Barbara Striesand and saw a work of Egon Schiele hanging on her wall. He was transfixed and began his investigation of this artwork which led to this collection of drawings.

There were more Schiele drawings in the collection than any other artist. They ranged from rather academic figures to intense character studies. Most unusual was a self portrait head which just floated on the page with no connection to the format of the page. How unusual for Schiele, who had a flair for creating dramatic spaces.

Many drawings had political content. In a drawing by Otto Dix a crowd of demonstrators are seen marching past a window of a café. Inside the café elegantly dressed patrons sip champainge oblivious to the crowd outside carrying a sign saying "We want bread." Evident in this work is the extraordinary sense of characterization Dix possessed. No one is beautiful everyone is the personification of some human flaw. In one drawing Pimp with Girl the pimp is clearly Hitler.

The show is up until July and it is a wonderful reason to visit the newly renovated Morgan library. They have taken a musty old relic of nineteenth century architecture and turned it into a light airy modern space connecting their antique galleries.


Text copyright © 2007 Robert Sievert




March 17, 2007