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Double Portrait S. and L.
Karl Schmidt-Rottluff
Oil on Canvas 1925

Karl Schmidt-Rottluff took an intence interest in African art, particularly the masks and sculptures of the Gabon and Cameroon cultures. Around 1914 this African influence became evident in his painting.

His double portrait of S. and L. reduced the sitters to simple cubist shapes, much like the angular African aesthetics he adored. Schmidt-Rottluff's works became dark and forboding as the great war approached, and unlike many other German artists at the time, he looked at the looming disaster with dread.

He was drafted in 1915, and served in the army until 1918, when he turned almost exclusively to the art of making woodcuts.

Obviously impacted by the horror of war, he took to producing woodcuts with Christian religious themes, where the suffering of Christ served as a metaphor for the suffering of the people and of nations. Schmidt-Rottluff took a very active part in the radical Arbeitsrat fur Kunst (Co-Operative Council for Art), a political artist grouping founded in 1919 - though his work did not reflect political concerns.

In 1931 Schmidt Rottluff became a member of the Prussian academy of the arts, but in 1933 the Nazis removed him from his post, designating his work as entartete kunst ("degenerate art"). In 1936 the artist was forbidden to exhibit anywhere in Germany, and in 1937 some six hundred of his works were removed from museums and hidden from public view. When the Nazis held their infamous Entartete Kunst exhibit, 25 of Schmidt-Rottluff's paintings were included. The artist died in Berlin on August 10th, 1976.

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