Olivia Tait (UCL) - 2014-15 Students

Missing Mothers & Postwar Paternity: Visualising the Familial in West Germany 1961 – 1989

Through in-depth case studies my project will examine the persistent engagement of postwar German artists with the familial, and the concepts of paternity, memory, history and identity which are inextricably connected to it. My research will focus on a generation of German artists whose artistic careers were launched in the volatile era of the 1960s and 1970s – including artists such as Gerhard Richter (b. 1932), Georg Baselitz (b. 1938), Sigmar Polke (1941-2010), and Isa Genzken (b. 1948) – artists whose works reveal an unprecedented engagement, confrontation and exploration of the familial in postwar Germany. My thesis will articulate how their works are embedded not only in the aesthetic discourse regarding the possibility of figuration and realism after Auschwitz, but also in the broader cultural questioning of identity, masculinity and memory. I will explore how their repeated aesthetic confrontations with both German and personal history – through portraiture (particularly in painting and photography) – address the legacy and importance of the ideology of the familial to the changing German private and public spheres. In contrast to the current marginalisation of these often very personal explorations of the familial, my research will reveal why precisely these works deserve closer consideration, particularly as charged representations of postwar German cultural production.

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