In my dissertation I reconsider the protracted lifespan of Jugendstil, often termed the “German variant” of Art Nouveau, through the early career of artist and designer Bernhard Pankok (1872-1943). More than simply a “style” in the art historical sense, I see Jugendstil as both a creation and a casualty of artists, publishers, and academics clamoring not only for fame but also for a particular type of influence, coded alternately as nationalist, intellectual, aesthetic, and moral.
Pankok, like his peers Peter Behrens and Henry Van de Velde, was trained as a painter before moving into architecture and decorative arts. His career spanned several decades, moving from graphics to furniture to a position as an esteemed teacher and then leader of an important art and design academy in Stuttgart. It is thus one of my primary contentions that the vexed efflorescence and subsequent repudiation of Jugendstil – as a set of formal strategies, a cultural position, a mode of production—is inextricably intertwined with the fluctuating relationship between the amateur and the professional at this moment. What does it mean for those who lack credentials to suddenly find themselves in the position of conferring them upon others? How does shifting between media entail processes of both learning and unlearning?
By way of conclusion I lay bare important intellectual and pedagogical ligatures between the abortive lifespan of Jugendstil and the radical innovations of the 1920s. My work not only follows the initial stirrings against state-run art schools, but also the nearly immediate codification and subsequent absorption of such ideas by new institutions. In broadest terms, my dissertation will reveal how the myriad attempts to reinvigorate the applied arts and to link them with painting and architecture circa 1900 were conditioned by broader concerns with teaching and learning. It is within this conceptual and historical framework that I will interpret Pankok’s remarkable oeuvre as well as shed new light on his better-known peers.