Ernő Kállai’s “Herwarth Walden” (1928)

Translated from the German by David Britt.  From Between Two Worlds: A Sourcebook of

Central European Avant-Gardes, 1910-1930.  (The MIT Press.  Cambridge, MA: 2002).

• • •

herwarth walden

was fifty years old on September 16.  today, more than ever, he is an outsider in a bourgeois culture that hankers after orderliness and peace and quiet, to appreciate the importance of his forceful and many-faceted campaign to revolutionize german intellectual life, it suffices to list the artists on whose behalf walden vigorously intervened at a time when the official understanding of modern art still struggled to come to terms with cézanne and van gogh.  back in 1910, walden, whose magazine, publishing house, and art gallery operated under the title of der sturm, was a pioneer advocate for pechstein, kirchner, nolde, schmidt-rottluff, kokoschka, franz marc, archipenko, boccioni, campendonk, marc chagall, delaunay, albert gleizes, fernand léger, august macke, jean metzinger, molzahn, and schwitters.  there is a special interest, for us, in noting that bauhaus masters including feininger, kandinsky, and klee, and former masters johannes itten, georg muche, lothar schreyer, and moholy-nagy also passed through der sturm, which published the “glass architecture” of scheerbart and the works of august stramm.  herwarth walden’s pioneering work was greeted with intemperate abuse from all sections of the daily and specialist press, just a few years later, however, cautious literary men and art dealers were clambering through the breaches made by der sturm in order to survey the field with a keener appreciation of nuances of quality — and then ply a profitable trade in the “best of the best.”  herwarth walden was incapable of such a dispassionate approach, in the end, his ambition — no doubt aided by the sensationalism that made him raise the roof with new sturm attractions every month — led to lapses of discrimination that we cannot but deplore in the interests of the young art that remains free of the currently fashionable petit-bourgeois banality, for in germany today there is not one magazine or art gallery with the courage to take a firm stand against all this neo-biedermeier.  at the same time, over the last few years der sturm has suffered a loss of quality that must appall even the most heartfelt former sympathizer, this may explain the fatal isolation into which der sturm has fallen: an isolation that is now far more extreme than formerly, even though the ideas and artists for whom the paper once fought have long since come into their own.  truly, a tragic isolation, which makes it incumbent on us to quote a remark made by rene schickele almost twenty years ago in justification of herwarth walden: “in art all that counts is to make, to detect, and to make known something that is new; the whole history of art is a succession of such discoveries; to go on this warpath and lose one’s way is better than to peddle yesterday’s fashions.”

[Originally published as “herwarth walden,” in bauhaus 4 (1928)]

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~ by Ross Wolfe on October 23, 2010.

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