Max Jordan and the creation of the artists as a national role model at the beginning of the German empire
In the first decades of the new born German empire, in the late 1870s and 1880s, Max Jordan, the first director of the newly founded German National Gallery (today: Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin), staged a series of monographic exhibitions about living artists. The very first of these exhibitions in 1877, the year just after the opening of the National Gallery, were dedicated to Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, Ludwig Richter and Theodor Mintrop.
Until now, the concept as well as the historical context of these exhibitions has been neglected. Jordan’s intention towards a historiography of the displayed artists as well as the further implications of his engagement are still a desideratum for research. In my paper I want to shed light on the network of art historians, curators, collectors and publishers who aimed at creating artistic role models of national importance. Together they realised an effective art historical ‘media campaign’, flanking the exhibitions by monographic publications, articles, biographies and catalogue raisonnés, to honour the artists on exhibition. Taking the Nazarene and late-romanticist artists Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld and Ludwig Richter as examples, I want to retrace and reconstruct the relations, influences and interests leading towards the exhibitions in question and their accompanying publications, the scholarly catalogues and biographies. Of particular importance is the consideration of the cultural and political forces of the emerging German national state. It will be shown that the national and liberal orientated, Leipzig and Dresden bound circle of friends around the novelist Gustav Freytag nucleates these activities on the historiography and art historical classification of Schnorr and Richter. This widespread network of art collectors, publishers, scholars, writers and curators supported those artists by collecting their works and publishing reprints of it, initialising monographs and biographies about their works and lives, and organising exhibitions about them.
The intentions behind those activities aiming at shaping and forming the oeuvre and vitae of the artists in question have to be examined. The emphasis on certain aspects of the artistic activities while others remain neglected is an important issue to be raised. Also the impact that this network around Gustav Freytag has on the artists themselves, on their self-concept as well as on their further artistic development, is another important aspect that I would like to discuss in my paper.