Decadence - a "new and interesting and beautiful disease"
Christian Schad. Self Portrait, 1927 (The artist's lover on this painting has a facial scar, the mark of fidelity, imposed by Neapolitan husbands upon their wives).
Schad (b.1894) entered the Munich Art Academy at the age of 17. His wealthy and influencial parents encouraged his pursuit of the artistic career all along. When WWI broke out, Schad fled to Switzerland to avoid military service.
With the financial help from his father, he could afford the most carefree lifestyle and traveled all over Europe. In Germany Schad was related to German Expressionism. In Zurich Schad entered the international circle of avant garde artists - the Dadaists of the Cabaret Voltaire, later he moved to Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity).
He returned to Germany and quickly left for Italy.
Christian Schad. St.Genois d'Anneaucourt, 1927 (Count St. Genois d'Anneaucourt was a well-known figure in Viennese society. An older manly type at left is identified as Baroness Glasen. St. Genois often served as Glasen's cavalier servant, or walker. The beak-nosed creature at right--something of a cult figure - was a famous transvestite at the Eldorado club in Berlin.)
Those were turbulent times for Germany during the era of the Weimar Republic: 40 percent of the unemployed, 5 million dead, 2 million orphans, 1 million disabled, a million widows and unprecedented inflation, when the money, printed in the morning, lost its value by noon. Clubs for any sexual preferences appeared throughout Germany: for homosexuals, transvestites, lesbians.
In 1930, there were 30,000 lesbians in Berlin, by contrast with 5,000 in Paris. Cocaine use had become almost the norm. Since 1914 widows in the German cities were forced into prostitution to provide for their families. As a result, widow and prostitute were considered almost the same. In the Weimar Republic a widow's veil became an accessory of a prostitute.
Berlin turned into the capital of bohemian Europe, intoxicated by cocaine, great shifts of mores and the songs of Kurt Weill.
Later the artist said that in Italy he learned everything from studying the masterpieces of Da Vinci, Titian and Raphael. In Rome Schad met his first wife Marcella Arcangeli, a medical professor's daughter, their marriage lasted 4 years. The couple moved to Vienna in 1925.
He returned to Berlin in 1929 and the same year had his solo show there. After that brief and great period in his oeuvre during the late 1920s, Schad did nothing of significance, as he generally stopped painting in the middle of 1930s, and took a job as a picture restorer and teacher.
During WWII Schad lived in Germany, he did commissioned portraits for the German film industry.
In 1947 he married a young actress Bettina Mittelstädt.
His magnificent oeuvre, the hypnotic and intense portraits, represent a dramatic record of life in Berlin in 1920s.
Christian Schad. Agosta and Rascha, 1929 (Bizarre funfair performers Agosta and Rasha. Schad painted them in 1929, emphasising Agosta's deformed chest and her black beauty.)
Christian Schad. Portrait of Eva von Arnheim, 1930 (She was the owner of a school of modern dance and gymnastics in Berlin. Schad met her at one of the popular parties at his friend's Dr Haustein in the Bregenzerstrasse.)
Christian Schad. Imperial Countess Triangi-Taglioni, 1926 (She was the eccentric society figure and performance artist Countess Triangi-Taglioni)
Christian Schad. Dr. Haustein, 1928
(Dr. Haustein was a dermatologist with a specialist interest in syphilis who serviced the prostitutes on Berlin's Kurfürstendamm. In the late 1920s his home became a fashionable salon where many of the distinguished artistic and literary figures of the time would meet. Schad described the unique atmosphere there as being one of 'extreme intellectual and erotic freedom [where] writers, artists, and politicians would mingle with a plethora of scientists, physicians and beautiful women'.)
Christian Schad. Operation, 1929 (Once Dr.Haustein invited the artist to watch the real operation - the case of acute appendicitis - in a hospital. The painting features a portrait of Felix Bryk, a Swedish entomologist, as the patient and Schad's current girlfriend, Maika, as one of the nurses. Interestingly, the gloves used to be black.)