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Art and the German Bourgeoisie

Art and the German Bourgeoisie: Alfred Lichtwark and Modern Painting in Hamburg, 1886-1914

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 184
  • Book Info
    Art and the German Bourgeoisie
    Book Description:

    In this new study of art in fin-de-siècle Hamburg, Carolyn Kay examines the career of the city's art gallery director, Alfred Lichtwark, one of Imperial Germany's most influential museum directors and a renowned cultural critic. A champion of modern art, Lichtwark stirred controversy among the city's bourgeoisie by commissioning contemporary German paintings for the Kunsthalle by secession artists and supporting the formation of an independent art movement in Hamburg influenced by French impressionism. Drawing on an extensive amount of archival research, and combining both historical and art historical approaches, Kay examines Lichtwark's cultural politics, their effect on the Hamburg bourgeoisie, and the subsequent changes to the cultural scene in Hamburg.

    Kay focuses her study on two modern art scandals in Hamburg and shows that Lichtwark faced strong public resistance in the 1890s, winning significant support from the city's bourgeoisie only after 1900. Lichtwark's struggle to gain acceptance for impressionism highlights conflicts within the city's middle class as to what constituted acceptable styles and subjects of German art, with opposition groups demanding a traditional and 'pure' German culture. The author also considers who within the Hamburg bourgeoisie supported Lichtwark, and why. Kay's local study of the debate over cultural modernism in Imperial Germany makes a significant contribution both to the study of modernism and to the history of German culture.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7102-7
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-8)

    In Imperial Germany, modern art and bourgeois society struggled through a troubled relationship, of great concern to artists, museum directors, art dealers, and the art-going public. Controversial German artists transformed the styles and subjects of German art, influenced at first by French impressionism and nineteenth-century Dutch painting and later by the startling new works of Munch, van Gogh, Gauguin, Cézanne, and the Fauves. During the 1890s, secession movements arose in Berlin, Munich, Dresden, Karlsruhe, Weimar, and Düsseldorf; secession artists such as Max Liebermann, Fritz von Uhde, and Walter Leistikow rejected academy-style painting and experimented with modern aesthetics. This led to...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Alfred Lichtwark and Modern German Art
    (pp. 9-40)

    To make the acquaintance of Alfred Lichtwark, one can turn to the many books, essays, and letters he wrote in his lifetime. His writings are like conversation pieces – indeed, he intended them as such – and they offer an indelible impression of the man and his ideas. They even tease us somewhat, since there are aspects of this bourgeois gentleman that remain a mystery: his decision not to marry, for example, or his sociability with officers and aristocrats.³ The most difficult task, however, is to piece together his ideas about culture. Because of his many interests, these ideas can...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Petersen Portrait: The Failure of Modern Art as Monument in Hamburg
    (pp. 41-69)

    In 1892, six years after Alfred Lichtwark began working as Kunsthalle director in Hamburg, he found himself in the midst of a bitter dispute over a portrait he had commissioned of the respected Burgomaster Carl Petersen by Max Liebermann.¹ The portrait was loathed by Petersen and his supporters among Hamburgʹs political and social elite – dismissed as a horrific example of unbridled excess in modern painting and banned from public showing. The cityʹs political leaders also questioned Lichtwarkʹs suitability as Kunsthalle director, in the wake of what they considered a poor choice of artist for an official commission. Much of...

  7. CHAPTER THREE The Scandal in 1896 over the ʹNew Tendencyʹ
    (pp. 70-99)

    In the early months of 1896, another controversy over modern art erupted in Hamburg, but this event was much more public than the Petersen affair. The provocative design of a poster set off the scandal, leading to a bitter conflict between Hamburgʹs Kunstverein – a citizensʹ arts association – and Lichtwark. The Kunstverein members involved in this debate believed that Lichtwark favoured German impressionism above traditional works, and that he exerted too much influence in the governing committees for annual Kunstverein exhibitions, choosing paintings for display that did not merit inclusion. In the many articles, letters, and reviews that appeared...

  8. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  9. CHAPTER FOUR Lichtwark and the Society of Hamburgʹs Patrons of Fine Art (the Gesellschaft Hamburgischer Kunstfreunde)
    (pp. 100-116)

    One of the men who had joined the Wichmann camp against Lichtwark in 1896 was Friedrich Leopold Loesener; we have seen that he won election to the Kunstverein managing committee during the fractious debate over art in Hamburg. Loesenerʹs daughter-in-law, Mary Loesener-Sloman, took quite a different stance on the issue of Lichtwark and the ʹnew tendencyʹ in German painting: she and her mother, Amélie Albers-Schönberg, defended the embattled Kunsthalle director.¹ Both had come into contact with Lichtwark after joining the Gesellschaft Hamburgischer Kunstfreunde (GHK) – the Society of Hamburgʹs Patrons of Fine Art – formed in 1893 and attached closely...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 117-122)

    In March 1912 Lichtwark travelled to Bremen to give moral support to his friend Gustav Pauli, who was in the midst of a bitter cultural dispute. A year and a half earlier Pauli had purchased van GoghʹsPoppy-Fieldfor the Bremen Kunsthalle, at a cost of 30,000 marks. This resulted in public attacks both on the work and on Pauli himself; by early 1912 a committee of enraged citizens in the Bremen Kunstverein had formed an opposition group to oust him from the Kunsthalle. Furthermore, a former Worpswede artist, Carl Vinnen, had used this incident to launch a general assault...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 123-146)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 147-158)
  13. Index
    (pp. 159-166)