Im Geist der Gegenwart : the speculative method of the art historian Fritz Burger

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Hamer, Lauren Grace

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Between the outbreak of World War I and the mid-1930s, the best-selling and most widely read book on the topic of modern art in Germany was written by the art historian Fritz Burger (1877–1916). Burger is now all but forgotten in the art historiography of the period and absent in the English literature. This thesis provides the first English interpretation of Burger's major works and seeks to locate his art historical method in relation to then-contemporary intellectual streams. Trained in the late 19th century, Burger largely rejected the cultural-historical studies and theories of stylistic development and embraced an artistic-critical model forwarded by neo-Kantians like Adolf Hildebrand and Konrad Fiedler. Beginning with Burger's texts Cézanne und Hodler (1913) and Einführung in die Moderne Kunst (1917), I examine the conceptual underpinnings of these works with particular attention to Burger's notions of color, artistic cognition and philosophical speculation. I consider Burger's written output as the compliment to his hands-on pedagogical technique at the University of Munich, his involvement with the Munich avant-garde and friendship with the artist Wassily Kandinsky. Burger's work is a rare and early attempt to write about contemporary art as an historical document but without recourse to artistic biography or cultural milieu as interpretive tools.



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