Journal Article

Jugendstil Visions: Occultism, Gender and Modern Design Pedagogy

Zeynep Çelik Alexander

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 22, issue 3, pages 203-226
Published in print September 2009 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online September 2009 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jdh/epp025
Jugendstil Visions: Occultism, Gender and Modern Design Pedagogy

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This essay uses the autobiography of Hermann Obrist (1863–1927) to make connections between occultist practices, design education and questions of gender in turn-of-the-century Germany. Recognized today as one of the foremost artists of Munich Jugendstil, Obrist was also known as an important pedagogue in the early twentieth century. In 1902, Obrist and the painter Wilhelm von Debschitz (1871–1948) founded the private art school Lehr- und Versuchsatelier für angewandte und freie Kunst (Atelier for Teaching and Experimenting in Applied and Free Art), where the distinctions between the fine and the applied arts were dissolved under the rubric of ‘design’ (Gestaltung). Drawing on the contemporaneous occultist movement, Obrist developed innovative pedagogical practices, most notably a spontaneous sketching technique, which purported to unleash and train the creative powers assumed to be lying hidden within the subconscious of his primarily female students. Design pedagogy thus played a critical role in the modernist project of challenging nineteenth-century conceptions of education and subjectivity, even though its practitioners remained ambivalent about the model of selfhood made possible by the new art education.

Keywords: design education; Germany; Jugendstil; occultism; subjectivity; women's history

Journal Article.  14470 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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