The Gesamtkunstwerk—the “total artwork” promoted by the composer Richard Wagner in the mid-nineteenth century—profoundly affected the development of modern art.Though Wagner's original conception centered on the "three primeval sisters" of poetry, music and dance, visual artists adapted his theory to help them invent new styles and working methods.
This lecture considers the legacy of Wagner’s aspiration to unify various media through examples ranging from Symbolist paintings to Ballets Russes productions and recent installation art projects. These latter-day Gesamtkunstwerke use Wagner's theory to raise questions about authorship and collaboration; to propose new forms of spectatorship; to redefine artistic genres and national identities.
Juliet Bellow is Assistant Professor of Art History at American University and consulted on the exhibition “Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909–1929: When Art Danced with Music,” on display at the National Gallery of Art through October 6.
When & Where
The Goethe-Institut Washington organizes and supports cultural events that present German culture abroad and that further intercultural exchange.