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

November 14, 1999 - April 23, 2000

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.

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, cafés, 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.