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In search of total design

Palais Stoclet (1905 to 1911) - Josef Hoffmann, Brussels, Belgium

The integration of architects, artists, and artisans makes the Palais Stoclet an example of Gesamtkunstwerk, one of the defining characteristics of Art Nouveau. [Mar 2006]


Gesamtkunstwerk is a German term attributed to the German opera composer Richard Wagner which refers to an operatic performance which encompasses music, theater, and the visual arts. He felt that in ancient Greek tragedy, these had been fused, but at some point they drifted apart -- he was critical of current opera which he felt emphasized the music too heavily and did not contain quality drama.

Literally meaning "synthesis of the arts," the term is also commonly used (especially by Germans) to describe any integration of multiple art forms.

Wagner placed great importance on "mood setting" elements, such as a darkened theater, sound effects, and seating arrangements which focused the attention of audience on the stage, completely immersing them in the imaginary world of the opera. These concepts were revolutionary at the time, but they have since come to be taken for granted in the modern operatic environment. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gesamtkunstwerk [Mar 2006]

Joseph Beuys

In his life work Joseph Beuys tried to overcome (western) materialism by combining it with (eastern) spirituality. In his synthesis of the arts (Gesamtkunstwerk) he even used the Berlin wall as a piece of art. By throwing a Blood sausage over the concrete wall (from West to East Germany), he tried to unify the nation symbolically. [Mar 2006]

Hans Makart

Hans Makart was deeply interested in the interaction of all the visual arts and thus in the implementation of the idea of the "total work of art" which dominated discussions on the arts in the 19th century. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Makart [Mar 2006]

Richard Wagner in 1849

The conscious act of artistically addressing all the senses with regard to the viewer’s experience in totality made a resounding debut in 1849 when Richard Wagner conceived of a Gesamtkunstwerk, or an operatic work for the stage that drew inspiration from ancient Greek theater in its inclusion of all the major art forms: painting, writing, music, etc. (Britannica) In devising operatic works to commandeer the audience’s senses, Wagner left nothing unobserved: architecture, ambiance, and even the audience itself were considered and manipulated in order to achieve a state of total artistic immersion. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Installation_art [Mar 2006]

The Art-Work of the Future

AS Man stands to Nature, so stands Art to Man.
When Nature had developed in herself those attributes which
included the conditions for the existence of Man, then Man
spontaneously evolved. In like manner, as soon as human life had
engendered from itself the conditions for the manifestment of
Art-work, this too stepped self-begotten into life.

Nature engenders her myriad forms without caprice or arbitrary aim ("absichtlos und unwillkürlich"), according to her need ("Bedürfniss"), and therefore of Necessity ("Nothwendigkeit"). This same Necessity is the generative and formative force of human life. Only that which is un-capricious and un-arbitrary can spring from a real need; but on Need alone is based the very principle of Life. --The Art-Work of the Future, Richard Wagner, translated by William Ashton Ellis, original title, Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft http://users.belgacom.net/wagnerlibrary/prose/wagartfut.htm [Mar 2006]

See also: 1849 - Richard Wagner - design - opera

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