Kurt Badt. Verlust der Mitte (On the Question of Modernism and the Anti-modernism in mid-20th Century German Art History)

Ivan D. Sablin, St. Petersburg State University, Russian Institute of Art History
2021 Vestnik of Saint Petersburg University Arts  
On the example of the activities of the German art historian Kurt Badt, the article reveals the complex relationship between modern art and contemporary art history. The outstanding and, obviously, underestimated figure of the scholar, who throughout his long life was ready to confront the rest of the discipline unwilling to become a part of the university system, with all his creativity embodied the very idea of freedom that modern artists and sympathizing art critics strove for. Due to the
more » ... ilability of English-language versions of the art historian's texts mainly on the masters close to modern art — Delacroix, Constable, and Cézanne — his position in the dispute about modernism seems more or less unambiguous. The aim of this article is to show that this is far from the case, discovering the points of contact of Badt with many of his colleagues who have earned a reputation as unconditional conservatives. First of all, it concerns the Austrian art theorist Hans Sedlmayr, an interest for whom, especially in recent times, is predetermined by widespread ideas about the fundamental incompatibility of academic art history with attempts of unbiased consideration of the history of modern art. Moreover, a deep kinship of such research activity with the most reactionary political ideas is also widely discussed, which, as it should be noted, this outstanding critic of the modern culture was not absolutely innocent of. Nevertheless, his clash with Badt, a polemic that took place in the 1950s and 60s, centered on the work of not Cézanne, but Vermeer van Delft, can be considered from the point of view of the attitude of the two scholars to phenomena less distant in time. This makes it possible to raise the question of the paradoxical similarity of the views of these two authors — with such a different creative and human destiny.
doi:10.21638/spbu15.2021.309 fatcat:4onz7ojsc5cn7kaidqlglq52xy