Christian Schad was born in 1894 Bavaria. As a boy, he loved both music and art. A faked heart issue enabled Schad to avoid military service and move to Zurich. In Zurich, he came into contact with both the Dada movement and writer Walter Serner, who would become his lifelong friend. Together, they produced a publication of Schad’s woodcuts and Serner’s essays. Schad produced many other woodcuts that showcased his interest in Cubism, Futurism, and Dada.
After moving to Geneva, Schad became fascinated by abstract photography. Seeking a new way to use photograph as conceptual art, Schad began to place objects on top of photographic paper. By allowing it to be exposed to the light, this created a negative image. Different objects would cast different white shadows against the black backdrop. Schad gave these prints to the leader of the Dadaists, Tristan Tzara. Tzara dubbed them schadographs. The new play in composition fascinated Tzara, who retained many of the prints. Schadographs become Christian Schad’s most recognizable and influential achievement.
More moves across Europe and the end of World War I ended Schad’s interest in Dada. Witnessing countless veterans attempting to regain a sense of normality caused Schad to become interested in themes of estrangement and isolation. While observing people in cafes and in the streets, he began to notice that these feelings were not contained to the returning soldiers. Among his generation there was a sense of loss and a need for escapism. Christian Schad set out to capture these feelings.
It was during this period that he became known for his contributions to New Objectivity. Scenes of decadent parties showcase the distance the party-goers put between themselves and the others. It is all an illusion, a mask that each one wears to cover a sense of loneliness. However, none of Schad’s work is exaggerated or abstract. He presents these subtleties by recording every intricate detail. Vacancies and seclusions further the feeling of both detachment and distance.
Christian Schad continued to find new forms of expression throughout his career. Lack of financial support lead him to becoming a theater critic and he painted sparingly. Regardless, Schad’s works are remembered as innovative.