New Objectivity, which sprang up in especially the German language region in the 1920s, was a reaction to both Expressionism's subjective pathos and Abstraction's rejection of reality, by means of its objective-realistic impetus and the emphasis on a factual approach to the object. New Objectivity showed a certain closeness to early Renaissance art, Classicism, Romanticism and Biedermeier in its return to the closed form and an imperative distinctiveness of the composition.
Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub coined the term New Objectivity in 1923, the trend-setting exhibition in Mannheim in 1925 made for the term's general implementation. However, the term New Objectivity was still controversial to a certain extent - Werner Haftmann alternatively suggested "Neo-Realism", Franz Roh's concept included Verism and he was in favor of "Magic Realism". Nowadays New Objectivity is partitioned into a verist, a magic and a classic school.
In terms of style, New Objectivity is characterized by strict compositions with an emphasis on the effect of the perspective, a use of forms that is based on simple geometric forms, a sharp and exaggerated way of drawing, a richness in details that reminds of the old masters and an often subdued coloring. The strong focus on the factual approach leads to a somewhat alienated super realism, which is typical for new objective art. As far as topics are concerned, still lifes, portraits and self-portraits, landscapes, calm city views and "window pictures" with a calm, sometimes melancholic or mystic atmosphere. Besides painting, graphic art and photography also played an important role in New Objectivity.
The appearance of New Objectivity has to be seen in the light of the commotion of the time after World War I. But yet, New Objectivity cannot be regarded as an exclusively restorative tendency, even though the National Socialists tried to absorb it in the late 1920s.
Among New Objectivity's main representatives count Herbert Böttger (1898-1954), George Grosz (1893-1959), Heinrich Maria Davringhausen (1894-1970), Otto Dix (1891-1969), Conrad Felixmüller (1897-1977), Otto Griebel (1895-1972), Carl Grossberg (1894-1940), Paul Kälberer (1896-1974), Alexander Kanoldt (1881-1939), Curt Querner (1904-76), Franz Radziwill (1895-1983), Christian Schad (1894-1982), Rudolf Schlichter (1890-1955) and Georg Schrimpf (1889-1938). In Austria artists such as Franz Sedlacek and Rudolf Wacker shaped the style and Nikolaus Stoecklin for Switzerland.
Comparable tendencies as of the 1920s are Realism in North America, Neo-Classicism (Pablo Picasso, André Derain) and the Italian Pittura Metafisica. Other artists that were working in an objective style were Auguste Herbin or Fernand Léger in France, the artists of the "Nuova Oggettività" (in parts of their oeuvre also Carlo Carrà, Felice Casorati, Giorgio de Chirico or Gino Severini) in Italy, painters from the surroundings of Vorticism (Christopher Richard Wynne Nevinson, Percy Wyndham Lewis) in England and Pyke Koch and Jan Toorop in Holland. Ewald Dahlskog must be mentioned for Scandinavia and Rudolph Kremlicka (Czechoslowakia) or K. Zonev (Bulgaria) for Eastern Europe.
The term New Objectivity can also be applied to the new objective and anti-historic style in architecture and arts and crafts (New Architecture, New Living), which came up in the 1920s.