Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
History of Art
Early twentieth-century Munich was a leading intellectual and cultural center, as well as a society in crisis, experiencing growing tension between the materialistic bourgeoisie and the disillusioned intelligentsia, while moving ever closer to war. This pervasive sense of societal malaise became the target of several alternative social critiques, including one, which I address here, calling for a spiritual revolution. Many artists and intellectuals began to see such a revolution as necessary to change their world and create a better life. For the Russian artist, Vasily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and the German artist, Franz Marc (1880-1916), foremost among those extolling a spiritual struggle, eschatological concepts provided a means to challenge the present experience of suffering they perceived within society, offering hope for a spiritual transformation and a new future.
This dissertation’s goal is to locate within the German apocalyptic tradition the thought and practice of these two modern artists working in Munich during the early twentieth century. The focus is from 1896 through World War I to Marc’s death in 1916, paying close attention to 1911-1912, crucial years for the Blaue Reiter artists’ group founded by Kandinsky and Marc. During this time their ideas and practices took shape, including the development of what I claim to be their apocalyptic perspectives. Of primary concern is how both artists integrated the intellectual and artistic discourse of apocalypse into their experience and the consequences this had for their art and thought. I analyze each artist’s apocalyptic mindset itself and consider its implications. Guiding this inquiry is the following question: as a product of a distinct historical, cultural, social and political situation, does such a worldview perhaps mask—or unmask—a troubling ideology, and does an element of danger thus reside within its hope and optimism? Moreover, by adopting a traditional frame of reference as a means of confronting the issues of their day, are these pioneering modernists in part anti-modern?
This ideological exploration of the apocalyptic mindset, drawing on modern European intellectual history, revises a concept of modernism imposed on Kandinsky and Marc, thereby making a contribution to the larger discourse of modernity.
Leeuwrik, Linda. "Blue Riders of the Apocalypse: Kandinsky and Marc in the German Apocalyptic Tradition." PhD diss., Bryn Mawr College, 2009.