The following discussion is note 41 to the author’s Unwilling Moderns: The Nazarene Painters of the Nineteenth Century.
here had been frequent coming and going of artists between Germany and America in the first six or seven decades of the nineteenth century (Katharina Bott, Vice Versa: Deutsche Maler in Amerika/ Amerikanische Maler in Deutschland 1813–1913, exh. cat. [Munich: Hirmer, 1996], pp. 11–16). The editor of the American edition of Wilhelm Lübke's two-volume Outlines of the History of Art (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1878) could even claim that German art was "better known to our people than the art of England" (2.641).
In the closing decades of the century, however, French Impressionism had such an immediate and strong appeal to American collectors that in the public at large there was soon a "virtual identification of 19th century art with Paris" and German art of the time slipped largely from view (Françoise Forster-Hahn, "German Painting: The Forgotten Century," Art News 69 , pp. 50–55). On the marginalization of German art, see also Introduction to the 1952 catalogue of the Charles and Emma Frye Collection in Seattle; Kermit and Kate Champa, German Painting of the 19th Century, exh. cat. (New Haven: Yale University Art Gallery, 1970), p. 5; Philippe de Montebello, Introduction to German Masters of the Nineteenth Century: Paintings and Drawings from the Federal Republic of Germany, exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1981), p. 6; Peter Betthausen, Introduction to The Romantic Spirit: German Drawings 1780–1850 from the Nationalgalerie, Berlin, and the Kupeferstichkabinett, Dresden, exh. cat., Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, pp. 20–21. For many years the English Pre-Raphaelites suffered similar neglect or disdain, as acknowledged in a publication marking the acquisition by the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart of a major work by Burne-Jones:
"People have become accustomed to looking at nineteenth century painting with eyes trained by frequenting painters like Matisse or Picasso and have hacked a pathway back,…on which the chief stops bear the names Cézanne and Manet, Courbet, Delacroix and Géricault. Only now …is the painting of the late nineteenth century, at once sensual and symbolically encoded, beginning to come back into our field of vision. If the interest of the Naturalists and Impressionists was focused entirely on the object and its appearance, Burne-Jones explores the meaning that is reflected in them. [Kurt Löcker, Der Perseus-Zyklus von Edward Burne-Jones (Stuttgart: Staatsgalerie, 1973), p. 19]
By the end of the nineteenth century, some German art historians were complaining that a francocentric perspective had taken hold in Germany itself. Unfortunately, much of the criticism of the "evolutionary view" of art and its assumption of a natural and inevitable evolution toward Impressionism seems to have been motivated by an anti-Western and anti-modern chauvinist ideology—as in Henry Thode's Böcklin und Thoma: Acht Vorträge über neudeutsche Malerei (Heidelberg: C. Winter, 1905), pp. 3–5—that did little to awaken greater interest in or understanding of nineteenth-century German art in broader, international circles.
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13 August 2016