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Imagined Cosmopolis

Internationalism and Cultural Exchange, 1870s–1920s


Edited By Charlotte Ashby, Grace Brockington, Daniel Laqua and Sarah Victoria Turner

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.

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5. ‘Distance Passes through Me’: Herwarth Walden, Modernism and the Cosmopolitan Utopia (Marina Dmitrieva)


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5   ‘Distance Passes through Me’: Herwarth Walden, Modernism and the Cosmopolitan Utopia

A ‘European’ – this is how the artist Nell Walden described her former husband Herwarth Walden (1878–1941) in a memorial book that she published in 1954.1 Born and raised in Berlin as the child of Jewish parents, Herwarth’s original name was Georg Lewin; he adopted his nom de plume after meeting the poet Else Lasker-Schüler, to whom he was married from 1903 to 1911. In 1910, Herwarth Walden founded Der Sturm, a Berlin-based gallery, movement and journal that, for over two decades, served as a forum for European modernism. Its cosmopolitan approach – bringing together artists and authors regardless of their national background – reflected the outlook of its manager. According to Nell, Herwarth ‘had no time for nations or races. He positioned himself as an internationalist.’2 Her own trajectory suggests affinities in this regard: Swedish-born, she was married to the German gallery owner and writer from 1912 to 1924, and then emigrated to Switzerland after the National Socialists’ rise to power.

Nine years after publishing her initial tribute to Herwarth, Nell’s 1963 biography reiterated the point that her former husband had lacked a sense of national home. She suggested that his urbane habitus might have stretched enough to include a ‘desire’ for a home in the form of an ‘enclosed room in the middle of a city, covered with bookshelves from top to bottom’ – but certainly...

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