The German Werkbund: The Politics of Reform in the Applied Arts

The German Werkbund: The Politics of Reform in the Applied Arts

Copyright Date: 1978
Pages: 374
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    The German Werkbund: The Politics of Reform in the Applied Arts
    Book Description:

    For years one of Germany's foremost cultural organizations, the Werkbund included in its membership such pioneers of the modern movement as Henry van de Velde, Hermann Muthesius, Walter Gropius, and Mies van der Rohe. Joan Campbell traces its history from its founding in 1907 to 1934, when it was absorbed into the bureaucracy of the National Socialist State.

    The Werkbund set out to prove that organized effort could revitalize the applied arts and architecture. In addition to acting as an agent of reform, it provided a forum for the debate of such broad concerns as the need to restore joy and dignity to work in modem industry.

    Originally published in 1978.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6762-2
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
    (pp. viii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-2)
    (pp. 3-8)

    The German Werkbund was formed in 1907, in response to a widespread feeling that the rapid industrialization and modernization of Germany posed a threat to the national culture. Unlike similar associations spawned by the Arts and Crafts reform movement, however, the Werkbund rejected the backward-looking handicraft romanticism of most English and Continental cultural critics, and refused to indulge in the cultural pessimism increasingly fashionable in intellectual circles.¹ Instead of yielding to “cultural despair,” its founders set out to prove that an organization dedicated to raising the standard of German work in the applied arts through cooperation with progressive elements in...

  7. CHAPTER I The Founding of the Werkbund
    (pp. 9-32)

    The Founding meeting of theDeutsche Werkbund,held in Munich on October 5 and 6, 1907, brought together about one hundred prominent artists, industrialists, and art lovers. Convened in response to an appeal by twelve individual artists and twelve manufacturers, it represented a novel approach to one of the problems that engaged the attention of educated Germans at the time, namely how to reforge the links between designer and producer, between art and industry, that had been broken in the course of the nation’s recent spectacular economic development. The fact that both artists and entrepreneurs attended the convention raised hopes...

  8. CHAPTER II The Evolution of the Werkbund to 1914
    (pp. 33-56)

    Between 1908 and 1914 the Werkbund translated its vaguely defined principles into a program of action. It de veloped a national organization and exerted growing influence on standards of public taste and design. In 1914, it was ready to mount a large-scale exhibition that, from June until the outbreak of war in August, made the Rhineland city of Cologne the center of pilgrimage for domestic and foreign visitors wishing to view the finest products of German skill and industry. Yet all was not well within the Werkbund. At the July 1914 annual meeting, held at Cologne in conjunction with the...

  9. CHAPTER III Cologne 1914
    (pp. 57-81)

    In July 1914, against the background of an ambitious exhibition intended to demonstrate its achievements, the Werkbund met to discuss basic principles and develop a program for future action. Instead of constituting a public display of strength and unity, however, this seventh annual meeting degenerated into a bitter debate. Triggered by Muthesius’ keynote address, a duel developed between Muthesius and van de Velde on the issue of standardization(Typisierung)versus individualism. The violent emotions that colored the proceedings showed that more was at stake than a difference of views on this one subject. Rather, the debate revealed a profound division...

  10. CHAPTER IV The Werkbund in a Nation at War
    (pp. 82-103)

    The outbreak of war in August 1914 abruptly cut short the Cologne Werkbund exhibition. The transition from peace to war was so unexpected that there was not even time to photograph everything worth preserving. The three Werkbund officials charged with preparing a publication to commemorate the exhibition went straight from the site into military service. Within days, the halls that had housed the finest products of Germany’s industry and crafts were converted to receive wounded soldiers from the front.¹

    The remarkable spirit of unity and community evoked by the war had an immediate effect on the Werkbund, pushing the serious...

  11. CHAPTER V Revolution and Renewal: 1918–1919
    (pp. 104-140)

    The Armistice of November 1918 did not bring peace to Germany. Instead, it inaugurated a period of political and social turmoil and growing economic distress. Faced with defeat and revolutionary unrest, Germans responded in very different ways. Some felt that the destruction of the old order, long overdue, created a welcome opportunity to build a new and better society; others despairingly prophesied complete social and cultural disintegration. Against this background of chaos and conflict, the Werkbund struggled to survive and to evolve a program appropriate to the needs of the day.

    The altered relations between nations in the aftermath of...

  12. CHAPTER Vl Years of Trial: 1920–1923
    (pp. 141-170)

    The period 1920–1923 was one of grave trials. Economic distress and political discord threatened to undermine not only the new republican institutions but the basic structure of German society. As inflation accelerated, prophets of doom among the intellectuals found their worst fears confirmed, while the radicals, abandoning dreams of imminent social and cultural revolution, yielded to the general malaise affecting the nation. As the élan generated at the Stuttgart congress dissipated, the Werkbund found itself unable to make good its claim to leadership of the creative avant-garde. Only after inflation was brought under control in late 1923 could it...

  13. Illustrations
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER VII Alliance with the Future: 1924–1929
    (pp. 171-205)

    When stabilization of the currency at the end of 1923 brought inflation to a halt, the affairs of the Weimar Republic took a turn for the better. The restoration of relative equilibrium in the economic and political spheres raised hopes for a period of progress, and the Werkbund responded by resuming its prewar role as focus of the nation’s forward-looking cultural elements. From 1924 it once more secured the cooperation of a portion of the artistic avant-garde; and it enjoyed the confidence and patronage of governments to an extent never achieved under the Imperial regime. Without minimizing the importance of...

  15. CHAPTER VIII The Disintegration of the Weimar Werkbund: 1930–1932
    (pp. 206-242)

    In 1929, the Werkbund looked to the future with confidence. Although its membership remained just under 3,000, its architects, designers, and craftsmen held leading positions in many parts of the country.¹ Cities vied with each other for the privilege of playing host to the annual congresses, while the branch associations enjoyed good relations with municipal and state governments. Above all, the patronage of Reich authorities reinforced the Werkbund’s prestige and made possible a wide-ranging program of exhibitions at home and abroad. If its leaders somewhat overestimated the degree of popular support for their progressive stance and failed to realize the...

  16. CHAPTER IX The Werkbund and National Socialism
    (pp. 243-287)

    By the end of 1932, the Werkbund was virtually moribund. Ill-prepared to meet the challenge of National Socialism, it quickly fell victim to the Nazi revolution. As early as June 1933, it underwent the process ofGleichschaltungthat brought it under National Socialist leadership. Then, in October 1934, it lost the last remnant of independence. Incorporated into theReichskammer der bildenden Kiinste(Reich Chamber of the Visual Arts,RdbK), it struggled to maintain its identity, but soon vanished without trace, to be resurrected only after the destruction of the National Socialist regime.

    The fact that the Werkbund ceased to exist...

    (pp. 288-294)

    Looking back over the history of the Werkbund between 1907 and 1934, one is struck by the tenacity with which it pursued the artistic, cultural, and social aims outlined by its founders. Undaunted by war, revolution, and economic upheaval, its members sought ideological and organizational solutions to a wide range of questions on the borderline between culture and politics, questions significant not only for Germany but also for other societies in the throes of modernization.

    On the whole, the Werkbund was perhaps more successful in pinpointing the crucial issues than in finding satisfactory answers; and it is important to recognize...

  18. Appendix I. The Werkbund Leadership
    (pp. 295-295)
  19. Appendix II. Annual Meetings, 1908–1934
    (pp. 296-296)
  20. Appendix III. Principal Werkbund Publishers
    (pp. 296-296)
  21. Appendix IV. Membership
    (pp. 296-296)
    (pp. 297-336)
  23. INDEX
    (pp. 337-350)
  24. Back Matter
    (pp. 351-351)