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Konstens nationella identitet.: Om tysk och österrikisk modernism i svensk konstkritik 1908-1934
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of the History of Art.
Responsible organisation
2008 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
The National Identity of Art : On German and Austrian Modernism in Swedish Art Criticism 1908-1934 (English)
Abstract [en]

This dissertation investigates the reactions to German and Austrian modernism in Swedish art criticism between 1908 and 1934. It analyses the rhetoric of art-critical texts and examines the persuasive strategies and powerful verbal imagery of art criticism as well as its national interests. Earlier perceptions of a generally negative Swedish reaction to German art are revised. The analysis reveals a strong Swedish commitment to German art, which has been neglected or ignored by previous Francophile narratives in the writing on Swedish art history.

In interpreting and defining German and Austrian art as both product and evidence of national character and as an antithesis to French art, Swedish art criticism is indirectly defining and manifesting Swedish art identity. Dramatic and metaphorically loaded descriptions of modern German exhibitions in Sweden present Swedish art identity as split between its racial and mental closeness to “Northern” German culture and “brutal” vigorous expressionism on one side, and its longing for the “beauty” and moderate harmony of “Southern” French and classicistic art on the other. The critics’ ambivalent feelings toward German modernism also hide a crucial conflict between modernizing and internationalizing tendencies versus conservative and nationalistic tendencies in the Swedish artworld. The textual analyses thus show a complex interaction between modernistic and nationalistic ideas, not least concerning the artist’s rôle. In case studies on the Swedish reception of German and Austrian expressionists – Emil Nolde, Egon Schiele, Oskar Kokoschka, Gabriele Münter, Die Brücke and Wassily Kandinsky amongst others – the avant-garde artist is revealed as not only striving for autonomy and international openness, but also as nationally bound and dependent on a national audience and nationalistic legitimation.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Drau förlag , 2008. , 574 p.
Eidos (Stockholm), ISSN 1650-5298 ; 21
Keyword [en]
art criticism, rhetoric, nationalism, national identity, modernism, avant-garde, artist’s rôle, German expressionism, Austrian expressionism, German art, Swedish art, Wassily Kandinsky, Käthe Kollwitz
National Category
Art History
Research subject
History Of Art
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-8207ISBN: 978-91-633-3341-5OAI: diva2:199803
Public defence
2008-10-10, hörsal 8, hus D, Universitetsvägen 10, Stockholm, 10:00
Available from: 2008-09-18 Created: 2008-09-17Bibliographically approved

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