The construction of artistic identity in turn-of-the-century Berlin : the prints of Klinger, Kollwitz, and Liebermann / by Jay A. Clarke.
The prints of Max Klinger, Käthe Kollwitz, and Max Liebermann serve as case studies for exploring how artistic identity was constructed through the vehicle of art criticism in turn-of-the-century Berlin. What follows is not a sequential “history” of Berlin's fin-de-siècle art community nor is it an institutional history of German museums or art academies. Rather, this is a story of historical misrepresentation. The received histories of Klinger, Kollwitz, and Liebermann have, for one reason or another, neglected to interrogate the period discourse produced during the 1880s and 1890s. Once these sources have been examined, a very different picture of the artists begins to emerge. The recovery of this important historical perspective allows us to retrieve what has been overlooked or written out of subsequent discourses that has largely reduced these complex figures to mere place holders in an unbroken art-historical genealogy. While the questions necessarily vary due to the tenor of the discourse associated with each artist, the answers are surprisingly inter-connected. Each case study reveals what critics saw as the function of culture and how this culture related to German nationalism. The power invested in Klinger's, Liebermann's, and Kollwitz's art relates directly to the capacity of their images to reinforce or demean preexisting cultural stereotypes, and how such imagery was used or abused for its perceived capability to formulate a distinctly German visual culture. For example, as a painter, Liebermann was seen to have brought a sometimes welcome sometimes unwelcome foreign (read French/Jewish) element into German art, and yet as a graphic artist he was unanimously praised as distinctly “German.” One may ask how Liebermann's prints, which employed the same facture and subject matter as his paintings, served to position him as a carrier of German cultural pride. While the shifting terms of Liebermann's artistic identity were constituted primarily through the lens of race, the larger questions raised by such transitions in period discourses, when combined with similar instabilities surrounding issues of gender in Kollwitz and German nationalism in Klinger, collectively enable our revision of turn-of-the-century print culture.
Record last modified: 2018-05-22 11:47:00
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