Is there such a thing as a "German" modern art? Is not German merely a geographical term, an historical convention which identifies certain unchangeable and inalienable ways of thought, imagination, and expression with national and language boundaries?
For we all know that one of the most astonishing and significant characteristics of modern man is the really tremendous expansion of his historical and spatial consciousness. The past exists for us in a simultaneous present: the timeless immobility of Egypt, the majesty of ancient Greece, the spiritual magnificence of Byzantium, and the visionary expressiveness of the early peoples of Northern and Western Europe, the precise definition of reality of the Italian Renaissance, the ecstatic illusionism of the Baroque. And this is not all that has gone to shape the consciousness of modern man. He has also heard the voices of the magical cultures of Peru, of Mexico, of pre-Columbian America, and responded to the contemplative poise of the East Asians, the sensuousness of India, and the mysterious sign languages of Africa. All of these cultures have affected us and are a part of modern sensibility.
Similarly there has been a wide expansion of our geographic sense. Modern means of communication, the international scope of commerce, politics, engineering, and transportation, have related the whole world to the individual in his daily life. We may assume that it is an imperative of our time to achieve the spiritual mastery of our expanding global environment and the development of our deepening perspectives of time and space. This global image of the world, arising from practical experience and a new historical consciousness, must be balanced by a corresponding humanitarianism and an adjustment in the emotional life of the individual. It requires a broad human vision which will control the pure thirst for knowledge and prevent it from plunging us into anxiety and despair, as has happened in the realm of modern science.
Art is a fundamental reflection of man's emotional make-up. In fact, the advanced art of our century clearly responded to this new vision of a global culture long before public awareness of it. Suddenly old and remote cultures came alive: the prehistoric, the exotic, the primitive. At the same time the plastic arts of the twentieth century, Fauvism, Cubism, Constructivism, abstract art, Surrealism, were immediately projected upon a supra-national plane, as if all the nations concerned were subject to the same drives and compulsions. Today the impact of Picasso, Klee, and Kandinsky is world-wide.