Allen Forrest: Berlin in the 1920s



Out there she was so popular, ink drawing, 2014


“I have an attraction to Berlin, especially the 1920s, when it was an art and science haven for the best and the brightest. I am also fascinated with German Expressionism, and many of the artists who were in residence in Berlin during the 20s,” says Allen Forrest, a Canadian artist whose work spans drawing and painting as well as computer graphics, film and video.

“Music and dance were a very big part of Berlin in that era. Berlin was also in turmoil in the 1920s. The Nazis were still in their fledgling period and the Weimar Republic at the time was struggling to hold on to power, overcome with inflation and mass unemployment, and yet amidst all this unrest was an incredible creative period in the arts and sciences.”


Berlin in the 1920s, Showgirls #1, ink on paper, digital overlay, 2013


Berlin in the 1920s, Show girls #2, ink on paper, digital overlay, 2013


“Besides the innovations ahead of their time, I feel a connection to Berlin. I hope to go there one day and do a series of cityscapes in ink on paper and then later in oil on canvas. I am fascinated by certain cities, Berlin and New York are at the top of that list.”



Born in Canada and raised in the U.S., Forrest, 60, lived in New York in the early 80s and now lives in Vancouver, British Columbia. Although largely self taught, Forrest studied drawing and painting at Bellvue College in Bellvue, Washington where his paintings are displayed in the Bellevue College Foundation’s permanent art collection.



Berlin in the 1920s, Bicycle Ride, in on paper, 2013


Forrest considers his drawing and painting style “a mix of avant-garde expressionism and post-Impressionist elements reminiscent of Van Gogh creating emotion on canvas. The expressive   use of color in Vincent’s work was a huge wake up call and calling for the young artists of the   day. Since Berlin was then in such political and economic turmoil it was a basis for the German Expressionist creative explosion art. My fascination with Expressionism is its place as the first big movement since the Post-Impressionists. I call myself an Expressionist. I am drawn toward emotion in art and I have always used feeling as as guide to my work.”

He especially admires the paintings of Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, August Macke, Alexej Jawlensky, Oskar Kokoschka and Lyonel Feininger. For his 1920s Berlin series, Forrest acknowledges the influence of American illustrators and artists Ben Shahn, William Steig and Robert Crumb “synthesized into one to create the series.”

“The ink drawing (above) Out There, She Was So Popular, is a send up to William Steig’s style that I have tweaked a little. I thought those two guys with their eyes bugged out, must be really keen on her so hence the title.”


Taxi fare, ink on paper, digital overlay, 2013


“I used to draw and paint en plein air, but now I prefer to wander with my little camera and take shots of settings that I feel would make a good painting or drawing. In the Berlin series, I worked from photos I hunted down from books about the city in the 1920s or on the internet to make my stylized interpretations.

“Sometimes I like to work from a model, to interpret that model in painting or drawing. Subject matter changes from figurative to landscape, back and forth, depending on my mood and interest, sometimes on location, sometimes from photographs.

“Private feelings and ideas inspire me to express them on the canvas or paper,” he says. “The inspiration comes through a need to express. Through art, I try to discover and express that unknown.”

Forrest’s evocative drawings have appeared in numerous magazines and literary publications, among them the New Plains Review, Pilgrimage Press, The MacGuffin, Blotterature, Gargoyle Magazine.

He recently won the the Leslie Jacoby Honor for Art at San Jose State University’s Reed Magazine and will be featured in the Spring issue.


Musicians and Artists, ink on paper, 2015


“When I start a new piece, I do not want to know what it will look like in advance. I do not have a clear vision of the finished painting, just a hint of an interesting idea based on my view of the model. So, I want to be surprised in the end. When my work surprises me, that is a good sign.”


Berlin in the 1920s, Dancers #2, ink on paper, 2013


Slider blog image: Berlin in the 1920s, Tennis Player, ink on paper, digital overlay, 2013

Click here to see more of Allen Forrest’s work.


                                             Also of Art Interest:


Les Yeux du Monde Gallery to present Selections 2015: Pam Black, Peyton Hurt Millikan, Kris Iden, Ann Lyne, David Summers, Theo van Groll, Sanjay Vora.

The group show will open Friday February 6, 5:30-7:30 p.m. and run until March 8. 841 Wolf Trap Road ● Charlottesville, VA  



— Elizabeth Meade Howard, Art Editor

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