2 More

Freudlose Gasse

Freudlose Gasse
signed with the initials and dated 'FWS 27' (upper centre)
oil on canvas
25 ¾ x 31 ½ in. (65.5 x 80 cm.)
Painted in 1927
Private collection, North Germany, by 1978.
H. Hoerle, ed., A bis Z, vol. 20, Cologne, December 1931, p. 78 (illustrated).
F.W. Seiwert, Gemälde, Grafik, Schriften, Prague, 1934, p. 14 (illustrated).
C.O. Jatho, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert, Recklinghausen, 1964, p. 42 (illustrated).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Socialistische Kunst Heden, November - December 1930, no. 277, n.p. (illustrated n.p.; titled 'Sombere Straat').
Cologne, Kölnischer Kunstverein, Franz W. Seiwert, Leben und Werk, January - March 1978, no. 79, p. 128 (illustrated p. 103); this exhibition later travelled to Munster, Westfälischer Kunstverein, April - June 1978, Berlin, Kunstamt Kreuzberg, June - July 1978, and Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Sta¨dtische Kunstsammlungen, August - September 1978.
Cologne, Museum Ludwig, Köln progressiv 1920-33, Seiwert, Hoerle, Arntz, March - April 2008, pp. 86 & 157 (illustrated fig. 112, p. 86).

Brought to you by

Micol Flocchini
Micol Flocchini Head of Works on Paper Sale

Lot Essay

A committed Communist and a frequent contributor to Franz Pfemfert's Die Aktion, Franz Wilhelm Seiwert was a pioneering avant-garde artist based in Cologne. In 1919, alongside Max Ernst, Hans Arp and Johannes Baargeld, Seiwert was instrumental in the creation of Cologne's significant, though short-lived branch of Dada. As Ernst was to remember though, due to political differences, Seiwert had ultimately pulled out of taking part in the much-celebrated Cologne-Dada inaugural exhibition shortly before its opening. According to Ernst, Seiwert's decision was made on the grounds that he found their concept of Dada not revolutionary enough, or as he described it, not 'socially concrete'. Instead, along with the artists Heinrich Hoerle and Anton Rädercheidt, Seiwert immediately founded the alternate, and in fact longer-lasting 'Gruppe Stupid' to which Ernst and Baargeld would also, for a time, be affiliated.

Later to become a keen exponent of the attempts to ally Dadaist radicalism with progressive Constructivist principles in the early 1920s, Seiwert would take part in the Dada-Constructivist conference in Dusseldorf in 1922 and then establish himself as the leader of the Gruppe Progressiver Künstler (The Progressive Group of Artists). This was a group who sought to reconcile Constructivism with a realism that carried radical political views. The style that Seiwert advocated was one of sharp graphic clarity, geometric precision and which also contained words printed on the surface whose themes concentrated on Marxist writings, on workers and on unionist principles as in Soviet era Russian Constructivism.

By the late 1920s, this ideal had evolved into a deliberately rigid style of geometric figuration that Seiwert called 'Figurative Constructivism' and of which his 1927 painting Freudlose Gasse (Joyless Alleyway) is one of the finest examples.

As in the work of his fellow 'Progressive', Gerd Arntz, the simplified geometry of this painting is intentional. Seiwert saw the rigid structure of his paintings as analogous to the similarly rigid structures of life imposed upon the proletariat by the ruling powers. As opposed to a work depicting social disintegration and decay such as George Grosz's 1918 Gefährliche Strasse for example, (and which this painting, in some ways, resembles) the rigid structures and strict compartmentalisation of Freudlose Gasse confront the viewer with an easy-to-read diagram of social order and control. Here, the picture outlines the essential stereotypes of much of 1920s German Realist painting: the bourgeois in his bowler hat, the naked prostitute and the policeman-guardian of the establishment, all neatly aligned into subordinate performative roles within the overall structure of the nocturnal metropolis.

Serving as a simple lexicon of German night-life in the 1920s, therefore, Freudlose Gasse is an elegant constructivist-style portrait of the innate and oppressive order underlying the decadent bourgeois society of the Capitalist West.

More from Impressionist and Modern Art Day and Works on Paper Sale

View All
View All