Monday, 12 September 2016


This fascinating book investigates what is specifically German about German Art. It comprises of seven chapters and a epilogue.  These essays do not deal with German art itself, but with the history of its appropriation by the Germans. This book reveals how much art was, and still is, a matter of national concern in Germany. It might also reveal how art historiography is itself a subject of history. Germans have had a difficult time coming to terms with the visual arts, which have always had a greater social impact in Germany.  Art history has played a major role in this history. ‘’Occidental art’’ (meaning European Art in a Western tradition) ‘’German Art’’ as a topic for study was a taboo for post war German scholars. Like all Germans after the war, scholars were anxious to replace their tainted identity with a new identity preferably ‘’occidental’’ rather than European, but under no circumstances ‘German’.
During the cold war, art history in both east and west- Germany ceased to possess a shared theoretical basis. West German scholars focused on the arts of their own territory; while the paintings, sculptures and historical monuments of East Germany were on the other side of a border that became almost impermeable.  German art was not at the top of the agenda on either side.  Germans were stigmatized as ‘’artistic barbarians’ as early as the 18th century. Belting shows that German art has always been informed by the fear of being taken over by art from abroad and by the Germans’ inherent self-doubt, based on the outside world’s view of them over the centuries as art barbarians. Art became important in the Romantic period because people wanted art to provide what the political reality of their times could not. The attempts by Romantic painters to portray German history and folklore through mystical visions are indication enough of this landscape painting became the most popular genre of this period.
Art historians   attempted enthusiastically to proclaim ‘’Ottonian art’’ s an expressionist style of the medieval period, and as such the first truly German style. In 1949 a conference for art historians was held. Its topic was ‘Europe’s first millennium’ during which occidental culture had developed and matured. In 19th   century Durer was celebrated as the German artist par excellence and considered a representative of German identity. German Art criticism has been coloured by division, a split caused both by opposing ideologies and by the contradiction between what the Germans have wanted their Art and their nation to be and the reality of what they were.
Thus a detailed depiction of art made artistically.
* Hans Belting is a Professor of art history and media theory in the school for new media at Karlsruhe and a visiting professor at Columbia University in NewYork and the University of Heidelberg.
*Fritz Hellmuth Ehmucke, cover of the first edition of Hermann Bahr’s Expressionismus 1916  Hermann Bahr was one of the ‘’angry young men’’ who identified with a wildness inherent  in the German soul.
*The writers thus proclaimed the rise of Expressionism as a rebirth of national art. The blame of barbarism would, in fact, turn into a victory for the Germans, once they had accepted that their innermost nature was much too wild to be tamed by the average superficial civilization.
*The myth of an occidental culture not only became the main focus of research among German art historians after the war, it also offered them the chance to apply the holistic approach to a past golden age that experienced decline and fall.

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