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The Total Work of Art in European Modernism$
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David Roberts

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801450235

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801450235.001.0001

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Gesamtkunstwerk and Avant-Garde

Gesamtkunstwerk and Avant-Garde

(p.144) 7 Gesamtkunstwerk and Avant-Garde
The Total Work of Art in European Modernism

David Roberts

Cornell University Press

This chapter examines the total work as synthesis of the arts. It argues that the avant-gardes functioned as the bridge between aesthetic experimentation and programs of spiritual regeneration and/or social utopianism. The group spirit, intensified by the apocalyptic-millenarian expectations of the time, radicalized aesthetic and political tendencies in equal measure. Three representative examples of the elective affinity between the avant-garde and the Gesamtkunstwerk are considered: Stravinsky’s collaboration with the Ballets Russes; Kandinsky and Schoenberg’s experiments with alternatives to the Wagnerian conception of the union of the arts in the music drama; and Bruno Taut’s manifesto for the crystal cathedral as the transcendent spiritual center of the city.

Keywords:   total work, synthesis, avant-garde, Igor Stravinsky, Ballets Russes, Wassily Kandinsky, Arnold Schoenberg, Bruno Taut, cathedral

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