Schad, Christian (German, 1894-1982)


Reference Type:
After observing an appendectomy, Christian Schad described his experience: “someone put a white coat on me and I was able to watch the removal of an appendix from close up. After fourteen minutes, when the operation was over and we had taken our white coats off, the surgeon said, ‘Right then, now we’ll go dancing again.’ But I didn’t go with him. I went straight home and started to sketch. It was the almost mathematically accurate interplay of action and interaction that had fascinated me, the concentrated life of the procedure, which ran wordlessly with the precision of clockwork.” His response is evoked in the painting. The precision and intense focus of the process—completed in “fourteen minutes”—is reflected in the way everything is rendered with great detail, along with the intense focus of the medical team as the surgeon extracts the appendix. Schad also reported that the procedure had run “wordlessly:” while united in their physical task, which they perform perfectly, the team does not look at one another or interact psychologically in any way. The sterility of the scene borders on overwhelming: everyone but one nurse is dressed fully in white; the white bed sheet almost completely encases the patient’s body; the numerous surgical instruments shine brightly, as if they had not been used; and there is almost no blood. The lack of visible blood caught the attention of the surgeon, who came to Schad’s studio. The artist reported, “he brought his instruments with him and gave me advice from the point of view of a surgeon. Once he pointed out that the color of the intestines in my painting was too pallid.” Schad had witnessed a lot of blood in a Caesarian performed by the same doctor—“there was so much blood that I could scarcely make out any details—[it] was much less optically productive for me than the almost bloodless appendix operation.” The nurse anesthesiologist at the head of the patient was modeled by the artist’s girlfriend. The model for the patient was his friend Felix Bryk, an entomologist and ethnographer in whose work the artist took great interest. (Quotes from Jill Lloyd and Michael Peppiatt, eds., Christian Schad and the Neue Sachlichkeit [New York: W.W. Norton: Neue Galerie, 2003], 233) Notes by Mariann Smith
Art of Medicine
Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich