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Berlin Metropolis: Jews and the New Culture, 1890 - 1918

November 14, 1999 - April 23, 2000

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No major city in Europe grew as quickly as Berlin in the late nineteenth century. By 1900 it was the third largest European city, capital of a great military and industrial power, and the center of an innovative modern culture. During the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1888-1918), known as the Wilhelmine era, Berlin was transformed from a provincial Prussian backwater into a modern metropolis. The city dweller confronted the vitality and diversity of urban life in the form of crowds, new modes of transportation, and a barrage of images and texts from store displays, kiosks, newspapers, and posters. The art and literature of Berlin during these years reflect this dynamism.

Berlin Metropolis focuses on a number of Jewish modernists in Berlin. None of them solitary artists, they gathered together at galleries, caf├ęs, theaters, and around avant-garde journals-Jews and Gentiles, Germans and non-Germans-furthering what was innovative in the arts and bringing it to a wider public. They opened up Berlin to international movements: French Impressionism, the Symbolism of the Norwegian Edvard Munch, French Cubism, and Italian Futurism. Jews and non-Jews were partners in this project, forming close professional and personal relationships. Together they helped define the agenda for twentieth-century culture.

E. M. Lilien
Poster for Berliner Tageblatt, ca. 1899
Color lithograph
48 x 34 5/8 in. (122 x 88 cm)
Kunstbibliothek, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin-Preussischer Kulturbesitz

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