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Christian Schad: Important facts about the German artist and his work

The German painter Christian Schad, born in 1894, was one of the most important representatives of the art movement Neue Sachlichkeit

Christian Schad, photo by Franz Grainer
Christian Schad, photo by Franz Grainer

The German painter Christian Schad, born in 1894, was one of the most important representatives of the art movement Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). His work derived from classical models but was almost hyper-realistic and stood out for its equivocal content. Christian Schad was the inventor of the so-called “Schadographs” and he was a source of inspiration for the Dadaist group. Schad’s portraits form an extraordinary image of life in cities like Berlin and Vienna in the years following World War I.

Here are nine interesting facts you might not have known about Christian Schad.

9. He Faked Health Problems To Avoid Military Service

When the First World War began, Schad managed to simulate a heart problem in order to avoid military service. He furnished a medical certificate with the recommendation of his doctor to live in a high mountain region, Schad moved to Zurich, Switzerland.

8. Christian Schad Co-Founded A Dada Magazine Called “Sirius”

In Zurich, Christian Schad met the author Walter Serner. Schad supported Serner in founding the Dadaist magazine “Sirius” and in planning various Dada-campaigns.
For “Sirius”, Schad did some of the graphic art and created some of the magazine’s content.

“Sirius” poster designed by Christian Schad. © Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Sirius” poster designed by Christian Schad. © Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

7. Christian Schad Was A Pioneer On The Path To Artistic Abstraction

Towards the end of World War I, Christian Schad moved to Geneva where his personal Dada movement began. In this time, he experimented with different materials. His experiments led to photograms, which were later named “Schadographs”. These were contour images produced on light-sensitive plates, similar to the so-called rayographies of Man Ray. With his Schadographs the artist attempted to turn away from realistic representation within the Dada movement.

Schadography No. 11, Christian Schad, 1919 © Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg
Schadography No. 11, Christian Schad, 1919 © Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg

6. Schad Painted A Portrait Of Pope Pius XI

After a short stay in Munich, Schad had spent several years in Italy. There he first lived in Rome and later moved to Naples, which was more interesting for him because it was “less cultural”, as he said. In Naples, Christian Schad was commissioned by the Vatican to paint the portrait of Pope Pius XI.

Pope Pius XI, Christian Schad, 1924 ©artnet
Pope Pius XI, Christian Schad, 1924 ©artnet

5. The Sophisticated Side Of The “Golden Twenties”

At this time, the artist already went back to Germany and lived in Berlin. There he led a life as a dandy and moved not only in the art scene but also in salons, bars and nightclubs.


RELATED ARTICLE: Modern Realism vs. Post-Impressionism: Similarities and Differences


The people who surrounded him became his models. One of them was Sonja which he painted her portrait in 1928, this work embodied the modern women. An urban beauty that also commands distance in its fine frosty coolness. Her big eyes stare into emptiness and reveal her inner feelings. In this period, eyes should become the centre of Christian Schad’s paintings.

Sonja, Christian Schad, 1928 ©wikiart
Sonja, Christian Schad, 1928 ©wikiart

But the artist’s work also became more and more sexually explicit as shown in the painting “Two girls” of two masturbating women. He later explained that it was the young woman’s slender appearance that inspired him to paint her masturbating. The second woman in the background he painted without a real model.

The presentation of the two young women provoked the audience in two ways: First, there had never been such an explicit sexual and large-format picture. Second, it was the gaze of the woman in the front. Her eyes do not even refer to the viewer but she seems entirely self-conscious.

Two women, Christian Schad, 1928 ©artnet
Two women, Christian Schad, 1928 ©artnet

4. Schad’s “Self-Portrait” Became His Most Famous And Reproduced Work

In this self-portrait from 1927, Schad himself is dressed in a diaphanous, green-tinted garment. The artist once said that for the woman’s face in the painting, he was inspired by an unknown person whom he had seen in a stationery store.

In this densely sexualized painting, the two figures seem to occupy different realities. It is again their eyes that refer to this very special relationship.

Self-portrait, Christian Schad, 1927 ©Tate Modern
Self-portrait, Christian Schad, 1927 ©Tate Modern

3. He Nearly Stopped Making Art During World War II

During World War II, Christian Schad retreated into inner exile and nearly stopped painting. Instead of working as an artist, he managed a brewery and studied East Asian mysticism. In 1936, the Museum of Modern art in New York showed some of Schad’s early “Schadographs” without his knowledge.

2. Christian Schad’s Work Was Never Rejected For Exhibitions

None of the artist’s work was ever confiscated or refused into an exhibition. In 1934 he was even able to submit works to the “Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung” (Great German Art Exhibition). However, his paintings no longer possessed the style of earlier works, primarily due to the taste of his clients.

Schadograph 151, Christian Schad, 1977 ©Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg
Schadograph 151, Christian Schad, 1977 ©Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg

1. In his last years, Christian Schad referred to his early work.

After more than 40 years of art making, the German artist produced new photograms, which he continued to create until 1977. In the early 1970s, Schad returned to the realistic painting style of his modern period and published several graphic folders. Christian Schad died in February 1982 in the city of Stuttgart.

Im Irisgarten, Christian Schad, 1968 ©wikiart
In the iris Garden, 1968 by Christian Schad German Artist


NEXT ARTICLE: Baroque: An Art Movement as Luxurious as it Sounds


Christian Schad, photo by Franz Grainer
Christian Schad, photo by Franz Grainer

The German painter Christian Schad, born in 1894, was one of the most important representatives of the art movement Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). His work derived from classical models but was almost hyper-realistic and stood out for its equivocal content. Christian Schad was the inventor of the so-called “Schadographs” and he was a source of inspiration for the Dadaist group. Schad’s portraits form an extraordinary image of life in cities like Berlin and Vienna in the years following World War I.

Here are nine interesting facts you might not have known about Christian Schad.

9. He Faked Health Problems To Avoid Military Service

When the First World War began, Schad managed to simulate a heart problem in order to avoid military service. He furnished a medical certificate with the recommendation of his doctor to live in a high mountain region, Schad moved to Zurich, Switzerland.

8. Christian Schad Co-Founded A Dada Magazine Called “Sirius”

In Zurich, Christian Schad met the author Walter Serner. Schad supported Serner in founding the Dadaist magazine “Sirius” and in planning various Dada-campaigns.
For “Sirius”, Schad did some of the graphic art and created some of the magazine’s content.

“Sirius” poster designed by Christian Schad. © Museum für Gestaltung Zürich
Sirius” poster designed by Christian Schad. © Museum für Gestaltung Zürich

7. Christian Schad Was A Pioneer On The Path To Artistic Abstraction

Towards the end of World War I, Christian Schad moved to Geneva where his personal Dada movement began. In this time, he experimented with different materials. His experiments led to photograms, which were later named “Schadographs”. These were contour images produced on light-sensitive plates, similar to the so-called rayographies of Man Ray. With his Schadographs the artist attempted to turn away from realistic representation within the Dada movement.

Schadography No. 11, Christian Schad, 1919 © Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg
Schadography No. 11, Christian Schad, 1919 © Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg

6. Schad Painted A Portrait Of Pope Pius XI

After a short stay in Munich, Schad had spent several years in Italy. There he first lived in Rome and later moved to Naples, which was more interesting for him because it was “less cultural”, as he said. In Naples, Christian Schad was commissioned by the Vatican to paint the portrait of Pope Pius XI.

Pope Pius XI, Christian Schad, 1924 ©artnet
Pope Pius XI, Christian Schad, 1924 ©artnet

5. The Sophisticated Side Of The “Golden Twenties”

At this time, the artist already went back to Germany and lived in Berlin. There he led a life as a dandy and moved not only in the art scene but also in salons, bars and nightclubs.


RELATED ARTICLE: Modern Realism vs. Post-Impressionism: Similarities and Differences


The people who surrounded him became his models. One of them was Sonja which he painted her portrait in 1928, this work embodied the modern women. An urban beauty that also commands distance in its fine frosty coolness. Her big eyes stare into emptiness and reveal her inner feelings. In this period, eyes should become the centre of Christian Schad’s paintings.

Sonja, Christian Schad, 1928 ©wikiart
Sonja, Christian Schad, 1928 ©wikiart

But the artist’s work also became more and more sexually explicit as shown in the painting “Two girls” of two masturbating women. He later explained that it was the young woman’s slender appearance that inspired him to paint her masturbating. The second woman in the background he painted without a real model.

The presentation of the two young women provoked the audience in two ways: First, there had never been such an explicit sexual and large-format picture. Second, it was the gaze of the woman in the front. Her eyes do not even refer to the viewer but she seems entirely self-conscious.

Two women, Christian Schad, 1928 ©artnet
Two women, Christian Schad, 1928 ©artnet

4. Schad’s “Self-Portrait” Became His Most Famous And Reproduced Work

In this self-portrait from 1927, Schad himself is dressed in a diaphanous, green-tinted garment. The artist once said that for the woman’s face in the painting, he was inspired by an unknown person whom he had seen in a stationery store.

In this densely sexualized painting, the two figures seem to occupy different realities. It is again their eyes that refer to this very special relationship.

Self-portrait, Christian Schad, 1927 ©Tate Modern
Self-portrait, Christian Schad, 1927 ©Tate Modern

3. He Nearly Stopped Making Art During World War II

During World War II, Christian Schad retreated into inner exile and nearly stopped painting. Instead of working as an artist, he managed a brewery and studied East Asian mysticism. In 1936, the Museum of Modern art in New York showed some of Schad’s early “Schadographs” without his knowledge.

2. Christian Schad’s Work Was Never Rejected For Exhibitions

None of the artist’s work was ever confiscated or refused into an exhibition. In 1934 he was even able to submit works to the “Große Deutsche Kunstausstellung” (Great German Art Exhibition). However, his paintings no longer possessed the style of earlier works, primarily due to the taste of his clients.

Schadograph 151, Christian Schad, 1977 ©Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg
Schadograph 151, Christian Schad, 1977 ©Museen der Stadt Aschaffenburg

1. In his last years, Christian Schad referred to his early work.

After more than 40 years of art making, the German artist produced new photograms, which he continued to create until 1977. In the early 1970s, Schad returned to the realistic painting style of his modern period and published several graphic folders. Christian Schad died in February 1982 in the city of Stuttgart.

Im Irisgarten, Christian Schad, 1968 ©wikiart
In the iris Garden, 1968 by Christian Schad German Artist


NEXT ARTICLE: Baroque: An Art Movement as Luxurious as it Sounds


Alexandra Karg
Alexandra Karg
Hey! I am Alexandra Karg. I am researching, writing and lecturing on topics in the field of art and culture. In my hometown of Berlin I completed my studies in literature and art history. Since then I have been working as a journalist and writer. Besides writing, it is my passion to read, travel and visit museums and galleries. On TheCollector.com you will find articles by me about art and culture, especially about topics referring to the 20th century and the present.

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