Drawing Modernity

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, drawing continued to play a seminal role in the creative process. Adolph Menzel, in keeping with his personal motto Nulla dies sine linea (Not a day without a line), was almost fanatical about exploring the visible world in his sketches. Similarly, nearly twenty thousand surviving sheets by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner demonstrate the artist’s urge to, in his own words, “draw to the point of madness.” Like their predecessors, these artists used drawing for unfettered explorations of new visual imagery; as a means of developing ideas for works in other media, such as paintings and prints; and to produce finished works of art. During the period of the Weimar Republic (1919–33), the Kupferstich-Kabinett actively acquired works by living artists, and many of the drawings on view here entered the museum’s collection shortly after their creation. The policies of the Nazi regime (1933–45), however, resulted in the confiscation and loss of many modern drawings that did not adhere to the cultural ideology of National Socialism and were deemed “degenerate.”