The Invention of German Expressionism: Expressionist Art and its Curators, 1918-1962


This dissertation project examines the continuities and discontinuities, regarding people and ideas, in the staging and interpretation of expressionist art between 1918 and 1962. Its focus lies on a group of influential, closely networked curators and museum directors who championed expressionism in the Weimar Republic and during the Nazi and post-war periods.

Combining methodological approaches from intellectual history and new cultural history, the project analyzes the ambivalent interpretative dimensions of expressionist art in both the democratic state and under dictatorial rule. The study presumes that expressionism functioned as a projection surface across all eras, which was used to negotiate modern ideas of order and to reconfigure national and cultural identities.

The dissertation project will examine, for the first time, the biographies and networks of influential curators and museum directors, whose role in the Nazi era has yet to be sufficiently examined. Cooperation with American colleagues beginning in the 1920s, which would later have a productive effect on the design of West German democracy after 1945, is taken into particular account in the study as well.

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