Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s

by Charlotte Ashby (Volume editor) Grace Brockington (Volume editor) Daniel Laqua (Volume editor) Sarah Victoria Turner (Volume editor)
©2019 Edited Collection XVI, 494 Pages
Series: Internationalism and the Arts, Volume 2


The period from the 1870s to the 1920s was marked by an interplay between nationalisms and internationalisms, culminating in the First World War, on the one hand, and the creation of the League of Nations, on the other. The arts were central to this debate, contributing both to the creation of national traditions and to the emergence of ideas, objects and networks that forged connections between nations or that enabled internationalists to imagine a different world order altogether. The essays presented here explore the ways in which the arts operated internationally during this crucial period of nation-making, and how they helped to challenge national conceptions of citizenship, society, homeland and native tongue. The collection arises from the AHRC-funded research network Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920 (ICE; 2009–2014) and its enquiry into the histories of cultural internationalism and their historiographical implications.
This collection has been edited by members of the ICE network convened by Grace Brockington and Sarah Victoria Turner.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction: Art and Culture Beyond the Nation (Grace Brockington / Sarah Victoria Turner)
  • Part I. Individual Perspectives
  • 1. Introduction: Cosmopolitanism and the Individual (Daniel Laqua)
  • 2. The Fabulous Destiny of Saint-Patrice: Royalist Cosmopolitanism and Republican France (Jessica Wardhaugh)
  • 3. Navigating International Networks for Modern Sculpture at the Fin de Siècle: The Case of Medardo Rosso (Sharon Hecker)
  • 4. A Prussian Diplomat and Cosmopolitan: Count Harry Kessler’s Cultural Politics during and after the First World War (Dina Gusejnova)
  • 5. ‘Distance Passes through Me’: Herwarth Walden, Modernism and the Cosmopolitan Utopia (Marina Dmitrieva)
  • Part II. Communities
  • 6. Introduction: Cultural Networks and Connections (Charlotte Ashby)
  • 7. Boston as Museum: Cosmopolitan Constructions of Japan (Christopher Reed)
  • 8. Third Culture Artists: Scandinavians in Paris (Vibeke RÆStorp)
  • 9. Art as Cosmopoetics: Ferdinand Hodler, Mallarmé and La Revue de Gèneve (Juliet Simpson)
  • 10. Synoptic Outlooks: Cosmopolitan Vision and the Arts and Crafts Movement (Rosie Ibbotson)
  • Part III. Sites
  • 11. Introduction: Real Places and Imagined Journeys (Sarah Victoria Turner)
  • 12. Universal Histories, Universal Exhibitions and Universal Museums in Europe: Henry Cole and the Legacies of the South Kensington Museum (Hervé Inglebert / Sandra Kemp)
  • 13. Regional Modernity and the Global Exhibition Network: Prague’s Exhibitions of 1891 and 1895 (Marta Filipová)
  • 14. World Capital Cities in the Belle Époque: Claiming Centrality through Cosmopolitanism (Wouter Van Acker)
  • 15. European Design Journals as Transnational Spaces (Charlotte Ashby)
  • Part IV. Languages
  • 16. Introduction: The Expanded Universal Language Movement (Grace Brockington)
  • 17. Translations: Maori Art Nationalized in Settler-Colonial New Zealand and Internationalized in European Art and Theory (Leonard Bell)
  • 18. The Hawk Princess at the Hawk’s Well: Neo-Noh and the Idea of a Universal Japan (Helena Čapková)
  • 19. ‘So Utterly Foreign to the Spirit of Modern English Drama’: Internationalism and Theatrical Relations in London in the Early Twentieth Century (Katja Krebs)
  • 20. ‘Acquiring a Foreign Accent’: Painting as Cosmopolitan Language in Edwardian Art Writing (Sophie Hatchwell)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

← viii | ix →


This collection of essays arises from the ICE network (‘Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870–1920’), which was funded by an AHRC Research Networking grant and unfolded through conferences and colloquia convened at the Universities of Cambridge, York, Bristol, Northumbria, Oxford and the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, and at Tate Britain and ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum. We extend our grateful thanks to our funders who made it all possible, to those who gave generously of their time and expertise as convenors, and to the many colleagues who contributed to ICE events and helped to build the network into an international community of its own. The network finances were managed by the University of Bristol, the website by York, and publication of this book assisted at every stage by the editorial team at Peter Lang. We thank them all – and the many whom we have not mentioned here – for their help in realizing this collective project. ← ix | x →

← x | xi →


← xvi | 1 →


Art and Culture Beyond the Nation

Let us start with a collage of material from this collection: the Japanese dancer Itō Michio weaving the shapes of Egyptian hieroglyphs into his choreography for ‘Irish-Noh’ theatre, Mme Boeufvre (the wife of the French consul of New Zealand) examining the Book of Kells in Dublin, the British artist Walter Sickert making the case for art as a common language, the German actress Rosa Behrens starring at the Deutsches Theater in London, the Swiss painter Ferdinand Hodler painting himself as a man awakened from sleep by the figure of Death, Anna and Patrick Geddes setting up an Arts and Crafts commune in Edinburgh Old Town, the Russian artist Leon Bakst echoing Aubrey Beardsley in his cover design for Mir Iskusstva, the wealthy Bostonian Charlotte Bowditch reporting that she felt much like a caged monkey on her travels in Japan, the Czech writer Svatopluk Čech imagining his anti-hero Matěj Brouček at the Prague Jubilee Exhibition of 1891, the Swedish artist Ida Ericson-Molard letting a room of her house in Paris to Gauguin, the Belgian intellectual Paul Otlet shifting the location of his cosmopolis from Belgium to Switzerland, the Dutch artist and critic Etha Fles reimaging the Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso as a French Impressionist, the British inventor Henry Cole tracing a universal history of the world through the design of the South Kensington Museum, Leonard and Virginia Woolf reading Harry Kessler’s new biography of Walther Rathenau aloud in bed, the Franco-American adventurer James Harden Hickey declaring himself king of an uninhabited island in the South Atlantic, and the curator Herwarth Walden on trial as a German spy in Stalin’s Russia.

In bringing together these different names, narratives and ideas, the essays in this book conduct a collective enquiry into the ways in which art and culture operated internationally in the late nineteenth and early ← 1 | 2 → twentieth centuries – because of their properties, because they were internationalist ideologies, or because they were, de facto, international in the ways that they were made, circulated and experienced. Imagined Cosmopolis takes its cue from Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities (1983), a book that has defined the agenda for the study of nationalism as a cultural construct; as the dominant mode of social organization, but also as one which is historically situated and therefore as fragile and temporary as any product of human civilization.1 There have been other ways of organizing the world – empires, tribes, city-states – and different ways of imagining it, even during the age of nationalism. Witness the coexistence of national and imperial structures, the persistence of anarchist ideology, and the gathering strength of multinationals in the present era of globalization. Nations, too, require superstructures of international organization in order to coexist – even to exist – peacefully and profitably. This collection explores the alternatives and complements to nationalism that were imagined – and realized – by artists and performers during a crucial period of nation-making. In what follows, we set out the rationale for such a discussion and explore the historiographical context in which it operates.

Anderson’s national community is imagined in the sense that it is virtual. Members are bound together by what they have in common – by factors such as race, territory, language, religion, politics – rather than by direct acquaintance. Our cosmopolis was imagined, sometimes for the same reason – the readership of internationally circulating art journals, for example, or speakers of a global auxiliary language such as Esperanto – but it could also be imagined because it was a fantasy, a projection into past or future. Some manifestations of internationalism were real and already operative in the period, coexisting with the dominant system of nation-states; others were at the stage of utopian yearning for a different world order. The case studies presented here draw across that spectrum; we see cultural internationalism in operation as part of the fabric of traffic between nations, and we see it envisaging a world without them.2 Our case studies ← 2 | 3 → take us to New Zealand, Japan, Honolulu, North America, Scandinavia, Russia, Great Britain, and across Europe from Paris to Prague. We note that, whereas much of our material focuses on Europe as a centre for thinking beyond the nation in the period, it is not necessarily the origin for all such conceptualizations. ‘Internationalisms’ are, as Glenda Sluga and Patricia Clavin demonstrate, a plural phenomenon, and several of our contributors suggest ways of decentring and reconfiguring their narratives in relation to the creative arts.3

Cosmopolis, internationalism, cultural exchange – our terminology is mixed from the very title page. To an extent, this reflects the natural variety of this multi-authored collection. It is also symptomatic of the range of thinking about global politics, and the provisional, multi-valent nature of its terminology. As Cuddy-Keane et al. observe in their large-corpus study of the meanings of ‘internationalism’ in modern literature, the different connotations of the word might appear to diverge, suggesting, on the one hand, orderly negotiation between nations which are separate and distinct; on the other, the belief that some ideas, activities and relationships can transcend the nation altogether, or even undermine it: ‘its conflicting usages signal not error or confusion, but the diverse interpretations of the tensions, or indeed the synergies, between individual and communal life.’4 Cosmopolis, likewise, can denote different things: a global capital, a place of preeminent power and opportunity which threatens to flatten cultural difference and overshadow provincial centres;5 ‘the world as city’, which accommodates difference through the co-existence of the multiple local ← 3 | 4 → centres within it;6 or – and this is a nuance which emerges particularly from this collection focusing on the arts – a utopian society unattached to any nation and governed according to internationalist principles.

The historiography, too, is characterized by an evolving lexicon of overlapping terms: comparative, international, world, global, universal and transnational history – the work of disentangling them is almost become a sub-discipline in its own right. ‘Why does it seem that more printed pages have been dedicated to discussions on the need for and methodology of transnational history than to empirical research?’ was the question posed by the historian Sven Beckert in 2006.7 This collection assembles just such a body of research through the presentation of case-studies of internationalism as it was manifested across different media: sculpture, architecture, performance, painting, engraving – the list is not exhaustive. We follow the paths of the agents of cultural internationalism – the curators, patrons, dealers, makers, critics – as they travelled the globe, or imagined travelling it, creating in the process a cultural world that went far beyond the limits of the nation-state. The biographies of objects that feature in this collection, and by association the people who made, bought, sold, displayed and discussed them, create many lines of travel, a map of cultural crossings that complicates the more traditionally conceived narratives of the national histories of art.

The years between about 1870 and 1920 have become a focus for research into internationalism and its variants precisely because it was also a period of rising nationalism and imperialism, culminating in the First World War on the one hand and the creation of the League of Nations on the other.8 The Franco-Prussian War (1870–1) and the First Universal Peace Congress (1889), the Fashoda Crisis and the Tsar’s Rescript (both ← 4 | 5 → 1898), the First Moroccan Crisis and the creation of the Anglo-German Friendship Society (both 1905): each is, as the historian Micheline Ishay puts it, ‘the dialectical response of the other’, and they interacted with particular intensity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.9 It was at this moment that a self-consciously ‘new internationalism’ developed, staged through the activities of organizations such as the International Workingmen’s Association (1864–76), the Universal Postal Union (1874) and the International Alliance of Women (1904), and advertised in the writings of commentators such as Herbert Spencer, Bertha von Suttner and Gustave Hervé.10 A self-conscious internationalism also emerged in the art world in this period, as evidenced by the formation of artists’ groups and societies, exhibitions and art journals that actively promoted cultural internationalism: the Salon des Indépendants and the Women’s International Art Club, world fairs and dealer networks that operated across the world, The Studio and the many other art journals that adopted its model of describing and illustrating art from different countries. Such structures gave a collective voice and institutional weight to the endeavours of the numerous individuals who created and subscribed to them.11

The ‘transnational turn’ that has shaped historical studies over the past two decades has moved the study of internationalisms to the centre of ‘the major political questions and themes of the twentieth century: war and peace, imperialism and nationalism, states and state-building’, as the historian Glenda Sluga declares.12 The implications for research into the creative arts are enormous, offering a route out of what she calls ‘the conceptual prison-house of national norms’. 13 The prison is strongly built. The idea of ← 5 | 6 → national schools in the arts developed contemporaneously with, and has fundamentally structured, the modern academy. We identify as historians of Indian art, English literature, Japanese theatre, just as many of the artists whom we study worked consciously within, and actively constructed, national traditions.14 However, their lives could also be cosmopolitan and their practices shaped by cross-cultural collaboration, even to the extent that the ‘imagined cosmopolis’ became an alternative site of self-definition. This observation applies particularly to women, for whom international networks provided solidarity and a focus for activity in the absence of recognition from national institutions. Transnational methodologies have significant implications for the project of writing women into the history of the arts. Yet the arts themselves have come relatively late to the debate. As Akira Iriye, pioneer of transnational history, points out, the growth of internationalism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries ‘had much to do with efforts by intellectuals, artists, musicians and others from various civilizations to engage in serious exchanges’, but such civilizing forces were ‘conspicuously missing’ from the first wave of research into transnational history.15 This collection responds to his call, and to other, more recent work on the global production and circulation of the arts which seeks to reshape the academy beyond its traditional geographical confines. We note in particular a recent slew of publications that draw attention to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a key point in the histories of art and internationalism, which collectively suggest new ways of structuring the study of the humanities more broadly.16 ← 6 | 7 →


The question we have asked ourselves is this: when artists in this period imagined a nationless world, how was it constituted in relation to the categories that Anderson and others have identified as being crucial to the formation of nations? What were their imagined communities? Where were their sites of operation? How did they communicate? How did they govern themselves? What histories did they construct, and what futures did they project? Four themes structure our enquiry: ‘Individual Perspectives’, which examines the figure of the cosmopolitan, whether as celebrity, mediator or misfit; ‘Communities’, which explores transnational networks and subcultures; ‘Sites’ which examines capital cities, regional networks, and temporary sites such as exhibitions; and ‘Languages’ which explores the idea of art as a universal language, and translation between national cultures. Within each of these, a set of case studies present new material, while an introductory essay by the part editor draws out the connections between them.

Our collection begins with the individual as the smallest unit of an imagined global community. ‘Individual Perspectives’ presents four cosmopolitan lives, each radically, irresolvably and necessarily different from the others, but pointing nonetheless to shared ideas of world citizenship. Jessica Wardhaugh examines the fantastical career of Saint Patrice, the novelist, adventurer and monarchist who declared himself king of the previously unclaimed island of Trinidad in the South Atlantic Ocean. His rule was cut short when the British seized the island for a telegraph ← 7 | 8 → cable-relay station. Here, individual prerogative was no match for a nation asserting itself internationally. Sharon Hecker’s chapter on the sculptor Medardo Rosso shows how he refused to assimilate either to the artistic establishment of his native Italy or to that of France where he made his home, with the result that he struggled to secure his reputation in either cultural stronghold. Dina Gusejnova alerts us to the political risks taken by the German écrivain-diplomate Count Harry Kessler when his vision of an interconnected world culture extended to early Soviet Russia. Marina Dmitrieva shows how the curator Herwarth Walden worked to promote modernism as an international movement, and how his lifelong commitment to Expressionism led to his downfall and death in Stalin’s Russia. In each of these chapters the cosmopolitan individual is a conflicted, even persecuted figure who sets out to change the world and sometimes succeeds.

‘Communities’ focuses on the formation of cultural groups which positioned themselves as international and that acted as alternative sources of support – social, creative, intellectual, practical – for those who felt out of place in the homeland of the nation. Juliet Simpson draws attention to the international artistic and literary group that formed around La Revue de Gèneve, and the insight it brings to bear on the career of the Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler. Christopher Reed examines the formation of the preeminent Japanese collections of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, and the circle of collectors and connoisseurs who shaped its interpretation. Vibeke Röstorp shows that, contrary to the legend of a home-grown Scandinavian school of art, a number of Scandinavian artists lived permanently abroad and made their careers amongst the expatriate communities of fin-de-siècle Paris, including a number of women artists. And Rosie Ibbotson draws attention to the importance of community within the Arts and Crafts Movement though the example of the artist-craftsman Patrick Geddes and his invention of an Outlook Tower as a device for forging connections between the local and the global. In all these cases, community is generated through the circulating, collecting and cherishing of objects and images; a parallel world to the text-based communities that Anderson highlights in his analysis of middle-class solidarity.17 ← 8 | 9 →

‘Sites’ explores the variety of spaces in which cultural internationalism could be performed and imagined, from the microcosms envisaged on the pages of the art journal, to the vast territories of the global city. Charlotte Ashby examines the flowering of art and design journals across Europe around 1900, and the ways in which they facilitated comparisons between different national styles. Hervé Inglebert and Sandra Kemp’s chapter maps the etymology of the terms ‘international’, ‘universal’ and ‘world’ in relation to museum collections and exhibitions in the nineteenth century, with particular reference to the South Kensington Museum. Marta Filipová examines the intersections between regional modernity and global networks as manifested in exhibitions organized in Prague in the 1890s. Wouter Van Acker takes us into the twentieth century, in the prelude to and aftermath of the First World War, when intellectuals, activists and politicians joined in a quest to locate a physical site for internationalism. He explores the work of Paul Otlet, a Belgian intellectual who campaigned for a cosmopolis, a ‘Cité Mondiale’, first in Brussels, then in Tervuren and finally in Geneva. We note that the Swiss capital recurs in this collection as a centre for internationalism, a sort of terra libra where, in the words of the artist Roger Fry, European intellectuals could come together and ‘insist on the internationalism of everything to do with the intelligence and the spirit.’18

‘Languages’ explores the ways in which terms such as ‘universal language’ and ‘translation’, which would ordinarily belong to the ‘world republic of letters’, also operated in the realm of the visual and performing arts.19 Leonard Bell examines the claim that Maori artefacts expressed a universal aesthetic which could potentially unite the disparate cultures of Maori and Pakeha (European New Zealander). Helena Čapková presents a parallel case in her analysis of the reception of Japanese Noh theatre in Europe. She shows how translations back and forth between Japanese and Western versions of Noh generated a series of transformations which were ← 9 | 10 → underpinned by the belief that Noh is a universal language. Katja Krebs takes up the theme of performance and translation in her analysis of the Deutsches Theater in London. She considers its strategies for attracting both German and English-speaking audiences and the ways in which it promoted the Gesamtheit of German performance culture, including non-verbal aspects of production. Sophie Hatchwell explores the nuances of the term ‘language of art’ in the writing of Edwardian artists and critics who negotiated between nationalist anxieties and a Francophile cosmopolitanism. Taken together, these essays demonstrate the extent to which artists, critics and performers were preoccupied with the problem of language in an increasingly international world, and the ways in which art and performance could be seen to offer solutions.


XVI, 494
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (September)
Internationalism The arts Imagined Cosmopolis Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s Cultural exchange
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2019. XVI, 494 pp., 17 fig. col., 38 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Charlotte Ashby (Volume editor) Grace Brockington (Volume editor) Daniel Laqua (Volume editor) Sarah Victoria Turner (Volume editor)

Charlotte Ashby is an art and design historian who lectures at Birkbeck, University of London and the University of Oxford. Grace Brockington is Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of Bristol. Daniel Laqua is Associate Professor of European History at Northumbria University. Sarah Victoria Turner is Deputy Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art in London.


Title: Imagined Cosmopolis
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511 pages