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Title: Artists and radicalism in Germany, 1890-1933 : reform, politics and the paradoxes of the avant-garde
Author: Pegioudis, N.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5364 6040
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2015
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This thesis seeks to lay the foundations for a socio-historical analysis of German radicalism and the avant-garde. Following first the development of the German applied arts movement from 1890, and then the debates over the role of painting from within and beyond the avant-garde in the interwar period, it addresses the ways the reform of artistic and technical-vocational education was intertwined with the questions of the ‘art proletariat’ and the nature of intellectual labour in capitalist economy. It argues that the history of what was widely conceived as the ‘avant-garde’ in the interwar period was still responding to the same set of concerns addressed in the context of the applied arts movement. The concept of functional, ‘useful’ artistic labour as opposed to the ‘useless’ fine arts, a concept connecting the prewar reform movement with the interwar avant-garde, is translated here into a new model of professional politics serving the radical or vanguard artist. ‘Radicalism’ is discussed here neither in terms of political positions per se nor with regard to artistic innovation, but instead as a distinct historical phenomenon of professional politics. The question is not what makes an artwork or an idea radical, but how artistic radicalism itself was shaped. The secession of the applied artist from the traditional art institutions is seen as a decisive moment in this process. Precisely this outsider position – beyond fine arts and traditional crafts – determined the increasingly exclusionary policies of the avant-garde movement. Thus this thesis ultimately proposes a new interpretation of the conflict between the advocates and enemies of modern art as a whole. It was the artists’ own professional politics which shaped this conflict and determined affiliations with specific political parties, and not the opposite. The relation of artistic developments to larger political issues must, I argue, be read through the specific professional politics emerging out of the polarity between the vanguard artist-reformer and the so-called ‘art proletariat’.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available