A Peek Behind The Wall

As an icon of escape, Wolfgang Mattheuer's Die Flucht des Sisyphos (The Flight of Sisyphus), from 1972, is unmistakable. A worker is suspended in mid-stride, fleeing the path of the stone he has been pushing uphill; he's both dodging the plummeting boulder and heading for an idyllic valley. But here's the twist: when he painted it, Mattheuer was an avowed communist coddled by East German apparatchiks, yet the work is an obvious protest at the condition of life for ordinary folk in the G.D.R. — not the sort of thing one expects a state-supported artist to have produced. It is such...

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