Art and the German Bourgeoisie: Alfred Lichtwark and Modern Painting in Hamburg, 1886-1914
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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.
the young Hamburg artist Arthur lilies, who had met Eitner in a drawing class in the city in 1888. These artists shared an interest in landscapes, the use of colour, and the techniques of impressionism; they were soon joined by a number of other young painters - Paul Kayser, Julius von Ehren, Friedrich Schaper, Julius Wohlers, Alfred Mohrbutter, and Arthur Siebelist. Thomas Herbst, an older and more established painter, friend to Max Liebermann, associated himself with them too. By 1897 these men
all been disappointed in this matter. Like an epidemic this sickness spreads, also infecting circles that have up to now been healthy; thus it is the duty of those who still have a feeling for the true and beautiful art handed down to us, to unite, in order to preserve, untouched and pure, the treasures which we have inherited and which we will pass on to those who follow us.33 The choice of descriptive words and images in Wichmann's letter depicts the cultural scene in Hamburg in extreme
and a teacher. He moved on to the St Jakobikirchenschule in 1868, and there, too, worked as a teacher's assistant. At night he studied at the Nikolaikirchenschule to become a teacher, although for some reason he never obtained a teaching certificate. Then in 1871 Lichtwark took courses at a Gymnasium in Altona and another in Hamburg. He studied until 1880 and supported himself by offering private lessons, and by teaching at the Gottschalksche Mittelschule for boys.14 We have a clear sense, even
role in the political economy properly; for art is no longer, as it was a hundred years ago, the servant of the prince and the court. Lichtwark, 189748 Despite its small size, the GHK was a receptive forum for Lichtwark's ideas about the transformative influence of art. It was also a gathering place where members could concentrate on painting, drawing, and crafts. Lichtwark constantly promoted dilettantism in the GHK, despite the fact that at this time the amateur artist was a figure of scorn.
letter from Liebermann to Lichtwark, 12 Oct. 1902. 146 Notes to pages 118-22 6 Birgit-Katharine Seemann has argued that in many of Hamburg's leading families women took a keen interest in the arts, and thus purchased paintings and developed art collections for their families. See her Stadt, Burgertum und Kultur, 25. 7 Evans, Death in Hamburg, 14. 8 Augustine, Patricians and Parvenus, 165; Evans, Death in Hamburg, 56. 9 See the letter of 23 Aug. 1900, in Lichtwark, Briefe an die Commission,