The term was coined by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, director of the Mannheimer Kunsthalle, and publicized in the title of an exhibition he held there in 1925. It was meant to designate the common denominator of various programmatic tendencies in German art after World War I. The artists of the New Objectivity were united in their effort to return to a sober and realistic rendition of reality; for most of them, that implied taking a critical view of the Expressionism of the prewar years.
Schlichter’s portrait of his friend Bertolt Brecht shows an icon of the 1920s. The angular shapes and cool colors lend the model an air of standoffishness and restrained energy. The poet, a lover of cigars and fast cars — automobile parts appear in the backdrop — is presented as a technology enthusiast, a modern man.