The Role of the Vienna School in Shaping Central European Approaches to Art History and Related Discourses
VII. The Revision of a Bourgeois Idea: From a National to a Dynastic History of Art
Hegemonic Nationalism and the Centre-Periphery Problem
The nationalist paradigm of the history of art, which sees the history of styles as the expression of “national characteristics” and which dominated continental art history in the 1930s and 1940s, was a hegemonic rather than a pluralist (“Herderian”) theory. Competition between nations was regarded as a struggle for superiority and dominance. It was Émile Mâle who had already, in 1914, articulated the idea of the inferiority of German art in comparison with that of France or Italy, which filled the whole German art historical community with indignation.1 On the other hand, this “inferiority complex” functioned as a catalyst in German art history. In 1913, Kurt Gerstenberg published a book on a specific German version of the Gothic style, Deutsche Sondergotik;2 and Georg Dehio in his Geschichte der deutschen Kunst; articu lated not only the patriotic credo that the German nation is the true “hero” of the history of German art3 but also responded to the humiliation ← 148 | 149 → with a conception of German art as an active mediator between West and East, transmitting Western models to the Slavic nations,4 and in 1932, Heinrich Wölfflin built up the theory of two different but equal “feelings for form” – Italian and German – in his Italien und das deutsche Formgefühl.5German response culminated in Wilhelm Pinder’s theory of centre and periphery.6 Pinder’s theory consisted of two components: the “Sonderleistungen” (“special achievements”) and “Ausstrahlungen” (“radiations”) of German art. The first...
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