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Video transcript

we're in the Tate Modern and we're looking at Christian Chad's self-portrait it's a painting from 1927 it's a tough painting it is it shows two figures who really take up the entire space of the canvas with the male figure in front looking very menacing and a passive very sexual female nude behind him he's the artist looking almost directly at us there is a very hard edge the figures are on a bed together and yet they feel worlds apart she has none of the erotic sensuality that one normally associates with a female nude she's very sexual but she looks very modern Rach she's on idealized Venus she's got makeup on she's got a 1920s hairdo and ribbon around her wrists and so she very much looks of the city but then she's got this terrible scar on her face and the way that the male figure in front who looks directly at us as he said and looks so kind of menacing one wonders what kind of harm he's inflicted on this female figure behind him or perhaps metaphorically what kind of harm he inflicts through his painting perhaps in his life more directly now let's just replace these figures they're both on a bed very very close to the foreground so they're really immediate to us but then we see very very thin veil behind these figures man separating them from the city right beyond not the city and we can just see the last traces of light fade away and he's wearing a shirt that's very much like a veil it's almost completely transparent yeah that's a pretty wild outfit for him to be wearing and notice that the shirt continues down past the role of his waist down to his hips and cast the greenish tonality on his flesh for all the sexuality here there's really no passion there's no warmth at all something in this painting that speaks to a kind of ugliness and difficulty and harshness of sexuality of the body of and a harshness of human relation it's interesting to put this then in historical context Germany had been a fairly agrarian society for a long time and in the years that preceded this in the you know the several decades that preceded this had caught up to much of the West in terms of industrialization in terms of the city becoming central to German life and the sexuality and the freedom that comes with the actual free that's right the city with the anonymity of the city and so you have an artist that seems to be directly dealing with that new reality German artists had before him I'm gonna think about Kyra Nora's street scenes absolutely but whereas Kyra was dealing with a kind of abstraction kind of surrealism or three shaved on us distortion here you have a return to a kind of focused clarified intense rendering where you can't even hide behind abstraction it's absolutely there and that's exactly I think what these artists were looking for the neues awfully cut art is this new objectivity new realism rejecting the distortions used by expressionist artists before them who use those kinds of distortions to represent emotional states here saying you know no we're not going to do that we're going to represent this cold reality