Art in Germany between the wars is the subject of a free, long-running exhibition, “Magic Realism” at the Tate Modern.

This includes around 70 artworks and some are very ugly and unsettling. “Suicide” by German painter George Grosz features two men who have killed themselves, one lying on a pavement after blowing his brains out and the other hanging from a lamp-post, while a naked prostitute looks on and leers from a nearby window. Continuing the grisly theme is Rudolph Schlicter’s “The Artist With Two Hanged Women” showing a kneeling man gazing up at two young women in long high-heeled leather boots hanging from a ceiling, this combination reportedly reflecting Schlicter’s two sexual obsessions.

If so the contributions from Otto Dix, who served on the bloody Western Front, may well signal a mind in turmoil, going by his “Lust Murder” watercolour showing a man with a demonic grin on his face walking away from the battered body of a woman, her heavily bruised buttocks exposed, and his “Lust Murderer”, a grinning man, maybe Jack the Ripper, with a knife in one hand dancing with a severed and mutilated leg in the other, surrounded by hacked off limbs and other bits, some still spurting.

Much more edifying, for us anyway, was an enigmatic work by Max Beckmann, whose painting of a dark-haired, sloe-eyed girl “The Egyptian” sold at auction in Berlin for a record 5.5 million euros. The Beckmann at this exhibition however was “Anni (Girl with Fan)” showing a striking young woman with exotically slanting eyes in an oval face set on a Modigliani-slender neck, holding a fan and staring flirtatiously around the back of her male companion, straight at the viewer, causing this vulnerable male one to fall ever so slightly in love and make the trip to the Tate most worthwhile after all.

Till July 2019

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