REALISMUS ! The Max Lingner Project

Critical Thinking in the Plural. Conceptual Approaches in Research in the Social Sciences

Lead researcher: Franck Hofmann (CMB), Rahel Melis (Lingner-Stiftung)
Funding agency: Max-Lingner-Stiftung, CMB
Project partners: Max-Lingner-Stiftung​

An exhibition at the Max Lingner Foundation in conjunction with the Centre Marc Bloch and the French Institute, organized by Franck Hofmann (CMB) and Rahel Melis (Lingner Foundation).

To make Max Lingner a research object in his own right at the CMB is to establish, with the support of the Max Lingner Foundation, a true forum for debate. The objective is twofold: to create links between the world of research and Max Lingner’s life and work. Secondly, this enables us to confront Lingner’s artistic and political work with the following question: is Realism of any relevance today? Incorporating a broader European cultural history, Lingner’s trajectory appears emblematic of the cultural transfers between France and Germany. He only returned to Germany in 1949 after his stay in Paris and his commitment to the resistance, followed by his deportation to a French concentration camp. In his works – between proletarian typologies and modern urban landscapes – Lingner depicts a resolutely communist portrait of the world. This encompasses his career as a press illustrator for newspapers such as Le Monde, Avant-Garde or l'Humanité. The ideological scope of Lingner’s work, already closely linked to current political events during his stay in France, was further enhanced following his return to Berlin. With his monumental Bauernkrieg, which earned him the admiration of Bertolt Brecht, Lingner celebrates the creation of the German Democratic Republic in the 1950s, as with his mural Aufbau der Republik that adorned Berlin’s Haus der Ministerien.

Hence, it is a case of explaining Lingner’s intellectual and artistic influences, to probe the significance of the Western avant-garde through the work of a specific artist, widely recognized in the GDR as a laureate of the Nationalalpries der DDR, but equally criticized for his formalism during the Stalinist campaign. The themes of the CMB’s Lingner project are not exclusively limited to these works, however. It also aims to examine the aesthetic and political debates surrounding twentieth-century modernity, and to relate them to specific contemporary philosophical issues, such as the representation of the real, of the world, or of the struggle for cultural hegemony that is currently taking root right across Europe. It is thus a matter of asking ourselves the well-known question: how do we want to live; how can we live? The arts and humanities have offered their particular responses to this question, developing a specific position with regard to reality. Particular attention has been paid to aesthetic works and positions that focus on those individuals who have taken up the challenge to depict the human condition amidst wars and dictatorship, flight and deportation,   – which is what Max Lingner's life paradigmatically exemplifies. Hence, Realismus! is not a project exclusively linked with Lingner's creative output; it is a guiding principle as well, a principle which refers to the two concepts that occupy a key position in our thinking: commitment and awareness.


Kontakt: Franck Hofmann (

Link: Max Lingner-Stiftung

Principal Investigator(s):
Franck Hofmann