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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Recommended for its outstanding reproductions, 2 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Berlin in the Twenties: Art and Culture 1918-1933 (Hardcover)
Having just read the companion volume about Münich I bought this book, published in 2007. It has the same format and, once again, the reproductions are outstanding; 398 with 90 in colour. Their strength lies in their complementarity to the text, which is translated from the German (slightly less successfully than for the Münich volume) and their diversity.

It would be relatively easy to illustrate a book on Berlin in the inter-war years with much better known reproductions but this eclectic collection, which includes works of art, architecture, contemporary photographs of artists (in the widest sense) and ordinary Berliners, and advertisements makes it abundantly clear that the 1920s (or, more accurately, the period of 1918-1933; this decision to broaden the chronological period is justified, although - see below - is has the consequence that the book is closed on a rather weak note) were a time of social and economic development, hedonism and political change.

These pictures also tell a generational story, that of the late 19th century, who were increasingly left behind by these developments, and the younger generation who would take their place at the forefront of an artistic, political and social revolution, in many cases far away from Berlin. This generational divide is also evident in the 172 brief biographical summaries of main figures (from Max Schmeling to Richard Tauber, Fritz Lang to Josephine Baker).

The text is divided into 10 chapters - The changing face of Berlin: a decade of rapid expansion; The November vanishing point: revolution and reaction; War and peace: Expressionism and Dada; Vile circumstances: the aesthetics of Verism; Unity and purity: utopias, collectives and futurisms; Metropolis of the modern: detachment and indifference; Cult and culture of the superficial: the New Objectivity: Eternity in transience: Berlin and the "other modernity"; The argument of the masses: four million people cannot be ignored, and The heart of the Reich: Hitler's capital. There is a relatively short index and a short bibliography which contains both English and German texts.

Because of the larger cast of players associated with Berlin in the 1920s, due to its capital city status, it is more difficult to chart a chronological route and the individual chapters do not bind as well as they might. For this reason, it might have been better to have included a final chapter which brings together the collective threads of the earlier chapters, rather than also trying to address the political changes which we all know are in train.

Nevertheless, I recommend this book highly and can only hope that the publishers, Thames and Hudson, will consider extending the series to other cities.
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Dr R
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: Norwich, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 188