Who was Senna Hoy?

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Our translation of Else Lasker-Schüler’s The Nights of Tino of Baghdad is prefixed with the words: ‘This book I give to my beloved playmate, Sascha (Senna Hoy)’. At least, this is the dedication in the 1919 second edition that formed the basis for our translation; the first edition from 1907 was dedicated to the author’s mother.

So who was Sascha, a.k.a. Senna Hoy? Behind these names was a man born in 1882 with the far less exotic handle of Johannes Holzmann. But it was as ‘Senna Hoy’ – a phonetic reversal of his first name bestowed by Lasker-Schüler herself – that the German-Jewish bohemian anarchist writer found a measure of fame, or at least infamy. The extraordinary image above appears to be the only photograph of him that has survived, but it offers a vivid sense of a man whose zeal, magnetism and rebellious spirit made a great impression on his contemporaries. It remains a mystery why no one has yet undertaken a biography of this enormously compelling character.

Senna Hoy was a member of the ‘Neue Gemeinschaft’, or New Community, which greeted the dawn of the 20th century with grand plans for society from their base in Schlachtensee, a lakeside district then south-west of Berlin’s city limits. It was here that Else Lasker-Schüler made numerous vital contacts as she embarked on a new life, having recently separated from her first husband, Berthold Lasker. She was particularly drawn to the handsome young Holzmann in a group that also included the reform-minded artist Fidus (born Hugo Höppener), the philosopher Martin Buber, radical activitist Erich Mühsam, anarchist pacifist Gustav Landauer, writer and part-time vagrant Peter Hille, as well Georg Levin, who would become Lasker-Schüler’s second husband and a vital catalyst for early modernism in Germany under the name Herwarth Walden – also an invention of his wife.

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In 1902 Senna Hoy became associated with the journal Kampf (or Kampf!), which began as a supplement to the Berlin newspaper, the Montags-Post. In 1904-05 it was a freestanding publication under Senna Hoy’s editorship and featured numerous contributions under his own hand and from his Neue Gemeinschaft colleagues, as well as Hanns Heinz Ewers, Paul Scheerbart and sado-maso cabarettiste Dolorosa. Senna Hoy was never shy of controversy, offering vocal support to workers, anarchists and homosexuals. He was one of the very first of numerous Western intellectuals to take inspiration from revolutionary Russia, eagerly following the 1905 upheavals in his journal. Apart from Kampf, Senna Hoy’s major literary work was an idiosyncratic 1904 novella entitled Golden Kätie, in which he makes direct reference to Lasker-Schüler and her alter ego of Tino.

Just about every second edition of Kampf was banned and in 1905 Senna Hoy left Germany, fearing arrest. He ended up in Warsaw and joined an anarchist gang who robbed the rich to fund their struggle. He was arrested by Russian imperial forces; the loyal Lasker-Schüler, who could barely keep herself in coffee, scraped together the money to visit him in Russia and desperately tried to gain attention for his plight. She referred to him as ‘Sascha, Prince of Moscow’, but it was not a palace that he inhabited there, but an asylum.

Efforts to free him were in vain. Having basically lived out the entire 20th century before World War One even started, Senna Hoy died of tuberculosis in 1914, aged just 31. He is buried in the Wiessensee cemetery in Berlin – a few metres from where Else Lasker-Schüler’s son Paul would be buried in 1927. Might the two young men have had a closer connection than previously assumed? Read the Afterword to our translation of The Nights of Tino of Baghdad and find out …

A 1914 edition of socialist journal  Die Aktion  dedicated to Senna Hoy, shortly after his death.

A 1914 edition of socialist journal Die Aktion dedicated to Senna Hoy, shortly after his death.

Else on Magnus

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With our forthcoming publication The Nights of Tino of Baghdad, we though it would be interesting to share a short piece by the author of that work, Else Lasker-Schüler, in which she discusses her friend Magnus Hirschfeld, author of Berlin’s Third Sex.

This is one of numerous pen portraits of her friends and associates – including Karl Kraus, Oskar Kokoschka, Gottfried Benn, Tilla Durieux and Alfred Kerr – that Lasker-Schüler produced throughout her career, prose miniatures that capture the essence of her subjects’ personae. This article was first published toward the end of the First World War, and takes the form of an open letter to university students in Zurich where Hirschfeld was shortly to give a lecture. Describing his 50th birthday party which had taken place a few weeks earlier, it presents a warmer, more playful side to the tireless activist and pioneer of sex studies than most other accounts, including his own autobiography.


Doctor Magnus Hirschfeld

On Thursday, 11 July you will hear Magnus Hirschfeld speak in Zurich at the Schwurgerichtssaal; it is an evening to which you can look forward. I should like to tell you something about our doctor in Berlin. He is not just our doctor, he is also our host; his consultations end in beaux jours, the ailing forget their neuroses and for the healthy patient an afternoon in his delightful waiting rooms provides pleasing stimulation for the nerves. There in the middle of the Tiergarten amid stout chestnut trees and whispering acacias lives Medical Councillor Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld. Not that he likes us calling him that. ‘Children, just call me “Doctor”.’ Nevertheless, he confessed to me that his appointment to the Medical Council on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, greatly disputed and contested among the medical profession though it was due to his exceptional position, had pleased him. Beaming like a child, he showed me all his presents. We call him our doctor. And unto our doctor my playmates and I delivered an exquisite serenade on the eve of his birthday revels. Touched, the revellers came out onto his balcony to hear our songs accompanied by accordion and drum. The concluding chorus: ‘I should like to carve it in every crust...’. He is amused by our exuberance, because – being earnest – Dr Hirschfeld understands jest, he is not some serious professor with an oak-leaf beard. Now, I must confess to you dear students that, to my shame, I am not familiar with any of the many famous books that the doctor has written (essentially I only read my own), but can nevertheless judge them from his incomparably interesting lectures, these thrilling medical, historical novels, standard works that never turn stale. Doctor Hirschfeld is the advocate of sincere love of any kind, opponent of all forms of hatred. A gentle forensic physician who seeks to understand everything. All compassion, he sacrifices his strength, his time, his good heart to the departing soldier. At the railway stations one often sees our doctor cultivating entire tobacco plantations, distributing numerous boxes of cigars and cigarettes as he farewells them in their field grey. He is a man whose goodwill is truly blind to class. He rushes to those who summon him. I once ambushed him myself, and managed to get him away from his great practice to accompany me to a wounded friend in Pomerania. Gentlemen, I am pleased to sing the praises and wonders of our Doctor Hirschfeld. When he is away from Berlin it is as though our father confessor were missing. We all long for his words of comfort, for his cosy, warm green chambers which are as soothing as the man himself.


‘Doktor Magnus Hirschfeld’ by Else Lasker-Schüler was first published in German in the Züricher Post und Handelszeitung, 10 July 1918. First book publication in Essays, published by Paul Cassirer, 1920.

This translation © 2019 James J. Conway

Where is Rixdorf?

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It’s an understandable question that arises whenever we venture forth with our books: where does the name Rixdorf Editions come from?

Rixdorf is and was an actual place, although its contours are not always easy to define, with the area to which the name is attached growing and shrinking over time. Its Medieval origins pre-date even the city of Berlin into which it was later incorporated, and it has cycled through the stages of chivalric outpost, village, district, city and back to village again. And its history is interwoven with successive strands of migration that continue to the present day, a tale of Bohemians and bohemians, riotous taverns and shisha bars, imperial censure and tabloid hysteria.

Bethlehemskirche, Richardplatz

Bethlehemskirche, Richardplatz

Our story begins about 800 years ago with the Knights Templar, who settled in – and gave their name to – Tempelhof. Later this would be very much a part of (southern) Berlin, with an enormous parade ground that was turned into an airport and now serves as a park. But at the time Tempelhof was a modest elevation above a largely unpopulated plain. It was about this point that the knights of Tempelhof established an outpost to the east. And presumably one of their number was named Richard, giving his name to ‘Richardsdorp’, as the first recorded mention has it in 1360 (‘dorp’ being an old Germanic designation for ‘village’, which survives in Dutch and Afrikaans) on the site of the present-day square, Richardplatz. Over time the village’s name contracted to ‘Rixdorf’ and at some point it was taken over by the rival order of St John, and a church, the Bethlehemskirche, was established. Around this time the village came under the control of the twin towns of Berlin and Cölln to the north, but it was some distance away from even this modest hub and kept largely to itself.

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The village fared poorly in the Thirty Years War, although it did come out the other side with its own blacksmith – a sign of its growing importance. One of the key moments in Rixdorf’s history came in 1737, when Protestants cast out of Bohemia settled there with the permission of Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm I. Rixdorf was divided into ‘German’ and ‘Bohemian’ parts, the latter still remembered in locations like Jan-Hus-Weg, Böhmische Strasse and the Comeniusgarten named for 17th-century Czech philosopher John Amos Comenius. The grateful exiles erected a statue of their royal benefactor which still stands on Kirchgasse.

In the mid-19th century Rixdorf was devastated by fire and partly rebuilt. A horse-drawn omnibus connected the village with Berlin (which had long since devoured its twin, Cölln), and the rapidly expanding metropolis drew ever closer. The name Rixdorf was now applied to the neighbourhood north of the original village as well, which hosted a number of beer gardens and the huge Neue Welt amusement park which drew pleasure-seekers from all over the greater Berlin area. In 1874 German and Bohemian Rixdorf joined to form one community, known as ‘the largest village in Prussia’, but on the eve of the 20th century Rixdorf became a city in its own right.

Greater Berlin in 1900, showing Rixdorf in the south-east

Greater Berlin in 1900, showing Rixdorf in the south-east

Close up of Rixdorf in 1900

Close up of Rixdorf in 1900

As the new century dawned, Rixdorf had a rapidly growing proletarian population, and was fast developing a reputation. Music halls and other pleasure spots sprang up in this relatively out-of-the-way location, bringing thousands of revellers, along with prostitution, public drunkenness and (gasp) close dancing. A popular song of the time, ‘In Rixdorf is Musike’, hymned the pleasures of a night out on the lash in this louche, lively neighbourhood, sung in broad Berlin dialect. Soon the very name Rixdorf stood for unsavoury and insubordinate elements, and the consternation went right to the top.

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The more conservative city fathers, supported by the prudish Kaiser Wilhelm II, launched a rebranding exercise. With Cölln off the map they figured no one would mind if they adopted (and adapted) the name. And so in 1912 Neukölln was summoned into being by imperial decree (if you’re familiar with London and have ever wondered why Clapham Junction station isn’t actually in Clapham – it was the same problem; Battersea, where the station is in fact located, had become tainted by the area’s seamy reputation). Along with this renaming came a ban on close dancing. Neukölln had over a quarter of a million inhabitants but in 1920 it surrendered its short-lived city status to be officially absorbed into Berlin as a borough that also included neighbouring Britz, Buckow und Rudow.

Richardplatz

Richardplatz

Neukölln was always a working class district, and in 1933 the decidedly anti-Nazi council was forced to stand down, but throughout the Third Reich the district harboured a number of undercover resistance cells. In 1940, the last Czech-speaking inhabitants of Bohemian Rixdorf died. In contrast to central Berlin, much of Neukölln’s building stock survived the Second World War, but in the Cold War it found itself hard up against the Berlin Wall on its entire eastern and southern periphery. Immigration continued, and this corner of the American sector in West Berlin became a home to Gastarbeiter (guest workers), from Turkey in particular.

[Aside: a radical art collective emerged in the 1960s calling themselves Werkstatt Rixdorfer Drucke, although they were actually based in Kreuzberg; they combined interventions, poetry and highly innovative letterpress images and their work is well worth seeking out.]

Villa Rixdorf, Richardplatz

Villa Rixdorf, Richardplatz

After reunification, Neukölln was afflicted by high levels of unemployment and race-baiting populists pointed to the large number of foreign-born residents and claimed that it was a ‘no-go area’ — a recurring right-wing trope. But it never was, and the district’s crime rates always corresponded largely with those for Berlin as a whole. The northern part of Neukölln increasingly became home to Arab immigrants, particularly in 2015 when Syrian refugees were admitted in large numbers. Simultaneously, this area has followed a cycle of gentrification familiar from formerly down-at-heel parts of East London and Brooklyn.

Rixdorf Christmas market

Rixdorf Christmas market

Today the name Rixdorf refers – unofficially – to more or less the area of the old village(s), which still retains much of its historic flavour in the midst of the city, where you can still see the Bethlehemkirche, the blacksmith’s and a number of original houses. The borders of Rixdorf are difficult to define but are generally held to encompass the few streets surrounding Richardplatz, which each year hosts an extremely popular Christmas market, as well as a traditional Czech hay bale rolling competition in summer.

So that’s Rixdorf, but why Rixdorf Editions? Well, our office is located in Neukölln (in Germany’s most densely populated square kilometre, no less), a few streets from the historic village. But when it came to choosing our name we were particularly drawn to the period of iniquity, insurrection and illicit pleasures that so discomfited the authorities, especially as that period also produced the works that we are now bringing to a new readership. Once abandoned in disgust, the name ‘Rixdorf’ is one our books wear with pride.

Comeniusgarten, once the site of a perilously overcrowded apartment block which housed numerous left-wing residents; in 1931 the SA attempted to take over the tavern that stood at the front of the building but were driven out by the locals. The building was demolished in 1971.

Comeniusgarten, once the site of a perilously overcrowded apartment block which housed numerous left-wing residents; in 1931 the SA attempted to take over the tavern that stood at the front of the building but were driven out by the locals. The building was demolished in 1971.

Wedding (Anna Croissant-Rust)

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Presenting a previously unpublished translation of a banned short story by Anna Croissant-Rust

In 1891, early on in her career, German author Anna Croissant-Rust (1860-1943) published a number of remarkable short works. Blending prose and poetry, disregarding taboos, she was pushing at the edges of the permissible in both style and subject matter. In August she pushed right through, with a contribution to Moderne Blätter, the journal of the Munich-based ‘Society for Modern Living’ of which Croissant-Rust was the sole female member.

‘Wedding’ was a vivid insight into sexual anxiety in which a marriage ceremony is rendered as something akin to a ritual sacrifice. Croissant-Rust describes a young bride exposed to the leering gaze of the wedding party, her fear of imminent deflowering projected into imagined dialogue. Here we find the hallmarks of the writer’s most audacious work that would culminate in Prose Poems (1893) and reappear in Death on the eve of the First World War – lights, colours, flowers, the agency attributed to inanimate objects, instants distilled to their emotional essence through a filter of acute psychological perception.

But the intimations of sexuality were too much for the authorities, who confiscated the edition of Moderne Blätter in which it appeared. As the author herself related, it was given to three trainee lawyers to read, who were then asked if the story had aroused them; when they replied in the negative the issue was cleared for sale once more. It was at least a marketable episode, and as the issue returned to newsstands it bore a banner announcing the confiscation.

With its fearless avant-garde style and pre-Freudian insights, ‘Wedding’ confirms Anna Croissant-Rust as a vital yet undervalued exponent of early Modernist literature.


Wedding

A psychological study

The bride’s coupé stops at the church door, the long, stark row of black coaches forms a dark line on the sunny, whitish street.

A tingling curiosity passes through the crowd. It orbits above their heads, a fever in their hands and feet and a gawking in their eyes; softly, softly it steals through the silk upholstery of the coach and creeps into the matt white bridal bouquet with its sweet, sensual aroma of Malmaison roses, myrtle and orange blossom.

It peers out from the blossoms, a yellowish gaze with flickering red, it eyes the bride –

The bride!

She is overcome by quaking, she recoils in apprehension and fear of the yellow-reddish brute gaze that lurks there. The coupé door is now wide open, the church steps dazzling in the sunshine, boastful in their ingratiating covering, crimson, soft, submissive, while solemn plants peer expectantly from the dark church door, tall and green, with light flickering over the earnest admonishment in their leafy twigs. The stiff satin of the bridal train rustles busily and waves over the coupé footstep, billows haughtily over the supplicant runners and moves inside the church, grave and worthy.

White satin, white tulle surges soft and shy around maiden cheeks drained of colour, sultry scent of roses brazenly dominating the orange blossoms, while the myrtle remains stiff and incorporeal. The stiff white myrtle wreath is set firmly in her hair.

White the walls, white the flowers, myrtle and orange blossom …

A shudder runs through the young bride.

She sees the reddish-yellow brute gaze lurking all about, squatting in the church pews, grinning from the side aisles, nodding from the alcoves, waiting at the altar.

And it gets redder, it shimmers and glitters, it sits in the eyes of the men, comes toward her, closer and closer, it sticks to her dress, runs over her face, her breasts … she feels as though her dress has fallen away, her white body naked, standing there in the church sullied and soiled, under the green, stiff plants, in the constant glittering light. White the blossoms, white the satin …

Are they all looking at her? All of them?

Oh they know that today, only this day is she still a virgin; they grin, they mock, they laugh, pointing at her naked body …

Her mother sits in her firm-fitting silk dress, she sees her as though through a mist, but from the mist she beckons …

She beckons and steps forward, her right hand an obliging, inviting gesture directed at her child. She smiles sweetly.

‘Please, I insist, come closer everyone, you all know that today, today is the day, you know, you know the day when one wears white satin and myrtle because … well’ – and here she giggles, and now thick tears are running down her face, but again she laughs – ‘closer, please, look at my daughter the virgin for the first, second, third and last time. This very day she will give herself to her husband. In due form, with all due honour – a good match. But tactfully, not straight after their wedding; a banquet, a honeymoon, the first stop is in …’ her voice drops to a murmur, she retreats to her misty circle.

‘Money! So much money it cost,’ her father puffs behind her, wiping the sweat from his brow and twirling his top-hat in his hands, ‘but she has my blessing, it’s all fine and above board,’ and then he leers at her, leers at her friends.

Restlessly they encircle her, with garbled laughter, hot heads and beating hearts … what? In their eyes, too, the reddish-yellow brute gaze begins to smoulder, to spark …

The young bride looks at the floor, she shivers, her hands clutching the flowers, maliciously rises the sweet and sultry scent of the orange blossoms.

Next to her, touching her, a black tailcoat of the most elegant cut. The dull sparkle of silk lining, patent leather shoes tittering pretentiously, a stiff collar, white, dazzling and haughty, wreathed by a white tie. The wax head with its stiffened moustache and singed hair smiles with unceasing vapidity beside her.

The yellowish-reddish gaze steals over him to her, this spark – can he not see it?

The young bride is shaken by quivering. Like cold, slimy mud it runs down her body, soiling, staining, defiling.

Are the flowers not wilting in her hand? Is the wreath not falling from her hair, are the lights not going out? Is it not getting darker, darker?

But from out of the darkness comes bright, weaving sunshine. Breeze-ruffled flowers, swaying green leaves.

And a sunny, surging joy in her heart, calling hot and shy.

Another’s hand holds hers with the strength and joy of youth, two eyes shine, shine, call to her.

And no one about.

Flames ignite in her heart, shy, shivering little flames, flaring, flickering, increasing in constant ardour.

Two arms hold her tight, sheath upon sheath falls from her body, in chaste purity her body shines, inundated with hot sun. Soft, hesitant sounds of joy in her ear, resounding, exulting cries, she feels herself being carried away, bedded, engulfed – alone, alone!

The sound of the organ, women’s voices, a circlet presses her finger, skipping gleams of light, arms that press her, moist, fat, sucking lips meeting hers, a flaccid mouth pressing against hers, kisses, kisses … yellowish, reddish flashing gaze, the beast, the beast!

Her train rustles over the flagstones once more, the weary, mocking scent of flowers all around, mist, unsteady grimaces all about, a hand supports her and the silk upholstery creaks reluctantly under its dual burden.

Ah, ah – a note of redemption; the wax head stretches and yawns, his left hand on the scrunching silk, he bends toward her … white the blossoms, white the satin …


‘Wedding’ by Anna Croissant-Rust was first published in German as ‘Hochzeitsfest’ in Moderne Blätter, no. 22 (29 August 1891). First book publication in Lebensstücke: Ein Novellen- und Skizzenbuch, Dr. E. Albert & Co. in Munich, 1893.

This translation © 2018 James J. Conway

Death by Anna Croissant-Rust (incl. Prose Poems), tr. James J. Conway, is available through Rixdorf Editions.

Beauty in the metropolis

Ephraim-Palais

Ephraim-Palais

Berlin-born architect and theorist August Endell issued his most important text, Die Schönheit der großen Stadt, in 1908. And this year brings not only our English translation of this title (The Beauty of the Metropolis) but also an exhibition currently running in Endell's hometown that takes the name and content of the book as inspiration. Where the text drew numerous examples from the German capital in its celebration of the urban environment and the aesthetic riches it has to offer, the exhibition focuses on canvases capturing views of a city that has had numerous qualities ascribed to it, but rarely ‘beauty’.

On a bright, cold day with Siberian winds strafing the Spree (this was a while ago, you will note) I made my way from Jannowitzbrücke station to the centrally located Ephraim-Palais, a bijou Rococo palace originally built for the jeweller to the court of Frederick the Great, although deconstructed and reconstructed in the 20th century. The close identification of location and subject matter was confirmed by two works that offered views of precisely the route I had just taken, from differing historical perspectives.

The exhibition takes us from the Biedermeier era to the early 2000s, or as the subtitle has it ‘Berlin images from Gaertner to Fetting’, i.e., from someone you've probably never heard of to someone else you've probably never heard of. This is something of a misdirect, as the show actually offers work by the far more recognisable likes of Max Beckmann, Oskar Kokoschka and Jeanne Mammen. Wisely the pieces are grouped thematically rather than chronologically, but the selection sticks almost exclusively to oil on canvas, with no etchings, drawings or other works on paper. And no photography, although as I note in the afterword to The Beauty of the Metropolis, it is arguably in this medium that Endell’s vision of a citizenry in full aesthetic possession of its urban surroundings is most compellingly realised in the present day.

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Extracts from The Beauty of the Metropolis adorn the walls of the show, and both the work and its creator are at home in these surroundings. It wasn’t his building or design works that first brought Endell to public attention, but a rousing piece of art criticism published in 1896, entitled Um die Schönheit (On Beauty). It addressed a major exhibition in Munich that year, in which doughty offerings by seasoned academicians appeared alongside explosive new experiments in form and theme. The text announced Endell as a new and original thinker, one who proposed a radical submission to aesthetic input:

But those who learn to give in to their visual impressions completely, without associations, without secondary objects of any kind, those who just once feel the emotional impact of forms and colours, will find them to be an inexhaustible source of extraordinary, unimagined pleasure. And the moment when the understanding for these things first awakens should be an event in every person’s life. It is like an intoxication, a madness that comes over us. The joy threatens to destroy us, the profusion of beauty to suffocate us. Those who have not experienced this will never understand visual art.

These ideas in turn informed his perception of the city a dozen years later when he wrote The Beauty of the Metropolis. Certainly the variety of experience of which Endell speaks in the book is reflected in this selection. Sharing the same feverish, pre-World War One period with Endell’s text is Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s well-known Nollendorfplatz, which depicts a relatively new district as the meeting place of almost irreconcilable axes of motion, while Ludwig Meidner’s desolate images of building sites show the city simultaneously claiming yet more of its sandy environs for itself.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Nollendorfplatz 1912

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner Nollendorfplatz 1912

There are, it has to be said, a few works evidently selected for their affinity with the theme at hand, with artistic excellence a secondary consideration. Conversely, other artists are exposed in a new light. Jeanne Mammen's images of demi-mondaine city-dwellers may be familiar, but here she is represented by an unpeopled image of a church (thought to have been executed in the late 1930s), rendering the scene in a way that didn't at all conform to the Nazis' approved styles. And while I was dimly aware of the work of Impressionist Lesser Ury from reproductions, here they appeared as a revelation, one that brought Endell’s words vividly to mind. The most thrilling and evocative was a nocturnal study of the Landwehr Canal, and Endell’s depiction of this waterway in The Beauty of the Metropolis could be a transcription of Ury’s image (which unfortunately doesn't reproduce well):

The thick treetops prevent light from making its full impact. The quiet buildings rise darkly behind the shadowy clouds of the treetops. The gas lanterns seem like points of light attracting cabs and automobiles; a fine, blinking web of stars spreads out above this dark mass. The smooth, turgid water is completely dark, and this silent, spectral mirror below reflects the gentle life of the night above, shimmering at the passer-by.

Lesser Ury Abend am Landwehrkanal 1889

Lesser Ury Abend am Landwehrkanal 1889

Night takes on a far more sinister iridescence a century later in Wolfgang Peuker’s imagining of the (old) Chancellery, a scene populated solely by outsized martial statuary at the entrance of Hitler's intimidating lair. This is a rare retrospective view, with most artists sticking to their own eras, as seen in Louise Rösler’s deceptively festive Marsden Hartley-esque study of Kurfürstendamm on the eve of the Second World War, and Karl Hofer’s desaturated view of the bombed-out city after its conclusion. Konrad Knebel’s Straße mit Mauer (1977) is one of numerous works to depict the divided city in the Cold War, but while it depicts the Berlin Wall itself, its perspective magnifies the adjacent apartment blocks with the odd effect of reducing the barrier to the status of an almost incidental plane. Meanwhile Stefanie Bürkle’s Weinhaus Huth (1995) brings us forward to the redevelopment of the post-reunification era. Here skeletal concrete behemoths dwarf a tenacious remnant of old Berlin in the form of the eponymous building, almost the last original structure left standing on or around Potsdamer Platz following wartime bombing and the construction of the Wall.

Perhaps the most surprising work here is Oskar Kokoschka's Berlin, 13. August 1966. For one, I had no idea Kokoschka was still active in 1966 (and was further surprised to discover he lived until 1980). Not just that, the work was created at the behest of Axel Springer, and depicts the view over East Berlin from the top of the publisher's new high-rise, built right on the course of the Wall. Springer’s conservative, staunchly pro-American tabloid provocations would soon make him one of the bogeymen of West Germany’s ’68 generation, so it is all the more unusual to find him here in association with a survivor of the Weimar avant-garde.

For anyone familiar with Berlin, it is difficult to avoid trying to identify locations and individual features, but here – again – Endell is way ahead of us. It is not the metropolis that we should be seeking, but the beauty within it:

But only in our present era have we slowly begun to realise that form and colour do not derive their beauty from the object, that there may indeed be a beauty that is not even perceived in the object when we observe it for purely practical purposes, and that it is only artistic vision that confers upon the object the beauty that resides in form and colour, independent of all material relationships.

Die Schönheit der großen Stadt continues at Museum Ephraim-Palais, Berlin, until 26 August 2018

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