Accepted Paper:

German Expressionism, Anthropology, and Colonialism  

Authors:

Dorthe Aagesen (Statens Museum for Kunst)
Beatrice von Bormann (Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

Taking the notion of the artist-as-explorer as a our starting point this paper suggests that the practice of the two German Expressionist artists, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde, evolved through a productive interplay with ethnography and anthropology in the early decades of the 20th Century.

Paper long abstract:

Taking the notion of the artist-as-explorer as a our starting point this paper aims to examine the particular approach to non-Western art in the practice of two key artists of the German Expressionist movement: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Emil Nolde. While both artists spent time from 1910-11 studying objects and materials in ethnographic museums their practices were soon expanded to include travels to colonial regions (Nolde) and the staging of exotic studio-environments (Kirchner) as means to explore non-western life forms and behavioral patterns and coopting them into their own artistic projects. This paper rests on the hypothesis that Kirchner and Nolde's approaches to a large extent relied on imagery and ideas of early modern ethnography and evolved through a productive interplay with ethnography and anthropology as these disciplines too were subject to revisions and changing methods. Our paper will to discuss if indeed Kirchner and Nolde's methods could be described as "anthropological", while exploring possible intersections, overlaps, and exchanges between ethnology, anthropology and art in the early decades of the 20th Century. The particular cultural and political discourse in Germany in the beginning of the 20th Century, including the colonial enterprise of the German Kaiserreich and its implications, will constitute an important frame for the interpretation and anchor the analysis in the specific context of German colonial history.

Panel P069
Confluences of Art History and Anthropology