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Monday, November 23, 2009

Gesamtkunstwerk.....a word to live by

Original William Morris interiors, including the hallway of his own Red House at the bottom. 

I discovered the word Gesamtkunstwerk a few months ago and came across it again last week while researching the Fortuny post.  It is a German word that translates to "a total work of art".  It came into common usage with the German opera composer Robert Wagner who believed the operatic experience should be the perfect synthesis of all the arts (music, literature, poetry, dance, theater, architecture, painting, etc.)---in other words, a Gesamtkunstwerk.  It is just a small step across the English Channel to find Wm Morris living out his own life of Gesamtkunstwerk epitomized by his most famous quote:  "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."

While looking on-line for any discussion of Gesamtkunstwerk and Morris I found this wonderful essay on exactly this topic on the blog of NY artist Doug Blanchard.  And I'll end with the words of my polymath friend Cliff:
"All of one’s life MUST be a gesamtkunstwerk, or just phone it in...."