Ruhr Struggle, by Barthel Gilles


Ruhr Struggle (Ruhrkampf)
Barthel Gilles
Egg Tempera on Wood 1930

In Ruhrkampf, the artist portrayed a battle that took place ten years earlier in the Ruhr industrial area between radical workers and the regular army and police. The workers had been on strike and were suffering terrible repression - they eventually turned to arms for self defense.

Fighting soon broke out with the authorities and escalated to civil war proportions. The workers were defeated by the army and police only after hundreds of workers had been killed. Gilles' painting reveals a little known truth, that many Germans resisted the rise of the right, and the years leading up to Hitler's rule were ones of intense conflict.

Gilles was a member of the German Communist Party (KPD) and during the Nazi era was prohibited from painting or exhibiting his work publicly. Though an obscure and little known artist today, Gilles was a master of the difficult medium of egg tempera. His dynamic and realistic Ruhr Struggle was such a painting done on wood.

As the older Expressionist groups associated with the November revolution began to dissipate in the late 20's, a new school of Expressionism came to the forefront, Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity). Gilles was considered part of this new school of Expressionism, which put more emphasis realism.

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