About this artwork
A leading practitioner of Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), Georg Scholz was among a group of young German artists who lived through the cruelty of frontline battle in World War I and returned home to find a weakening economy and mounting political and social problems. They felt that the ills of society were best exposed through the meticulously painted realism of the Old Masters, which evoked Germany’s illustrious past. Combining historical style with images of the nation’s present-day situation, Scholz’s paintings offer a biting critique of the new Weimar Republic’s political and social shortcomings.
Small Town by Day is a case in point. At the top of the canvas we are reminded of the mythic ideals of Germany: faith (a priest and the cross of a church illuminated by the sky), family (the woman pushing the carriage and a group of geese walking in an orderly line), the country’s great heritage (the bust of Frederick the Great), and national symbols (an inn called the German Oak). Further down, however, a cold clarity reveals the inner workings of a fictional town in the region of Baden. Nestled within the cozy buildings and streets, we see a cast of characters and the hypocrisy they represent. A puffed-up officer in uniform walks proudly while a wounded vet hobbles in the other direction, a bloated butcher squeezes clean the intestines of a pig as he holds a bloody knife in his mouth, a young boy scoops manure from a horse-drawn hearse, and an elderly woman walks to an outhouse. Scholz’s clear vision lays bare the base and at times sordid activities of a seemingly idyllic setting.
- Georg Scholz
- Small Town by Day (Badische Kleinstadt bei Tage)
- Made 1922–1923
- Oil on board
- 99.7 × 74.3 cm (39 1/4 × 29 1/4 in.)
- Through prior gift of Mr. and Mrs. Lewis Larned Coburn Memorial Collection