Tuesday, March 24, 2015
It is not that there have not been critics of Goethe, and in reading their oppositional views one comes to see Goethe in a different light and understand him a little better. One such writer was the biologist Jacob Hermann Friedrich Kohlbrugge, whom I discussed in an earlier post. Another critic was the Jesuit writer Alexander Baumgartner (1841–1910), from whom the title of this post comes. His 3-volume life of Goethe appeared in 1879, and an excerpt appears in volume 3 of Goethe im Urteil seiner Kritiker, edited by Karl Robert Mandelkow.
Baumgartner, writing fifty years after Goethe's death, takes issue with the 19th-century "deification" of Goethe. I use that term advisedly. According to Baumgartner, Goethe's admirers transported him to that "religious-political battlefield" which Goethe himself deliberately avoided during his life. He was proclaimed the prophet of a new Gospel of "Tat und Gesinnung," with the intention of driving out true Christianity's Gospel of "Wort und Glauben."
Baumgartner is of course an apologist for orthodox Christianity, especially in the context of Quanta Cura (1864), and his objections concern Goethe's aesthetic "morality" (Sittlichkeit). He writes: "Goethes Philosophie, Religion und sogenannte Weltanschauung ist weiter nichts als der seichteste und flachste Naturalismus." He is particularly troubled that "der geliebteste Lehrer Deutschlands" had such a cavalier attitude toward women: "Besonders für Frauen und Mädchen ist Goethe der schädlichste und verhängnisvollste Schriftsteller. Wie in seinem Leben, so hat er auch in seinen Schriften, mehr als irgend ein anderer Dichter, den Frauen geschmeichelt, alle ihre Schwächen verherrlicht und glorifiziert, aber nur, um sie schließlich, nach Körners Ausdruck, herabzuwürdigen." Strong words.
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
|Wilhelm still held that lovely hand|
|Conosci la terra dove fioriscono i limoni?|
Monday, March 16, 2015
|A Domestic Scene (MMA 1971.115.6)|
The painting is attributed to "German Painter" and dated 1775–80. It was originally thought to be by the Dresden painter Johann Eleazar Zeissig, called Schenau (1737–1806), but, according to the Met's website, comparison with secured works by that painter in 2013 turned up differences in style.
2002.564): The Children of Martin Anton Heckscher, from 1805. The painting was donated to the Met in 1971, "Gift of the family of August Heckscher II, in his memory." Martin Anton Heckscher, originally Marcus Abraham Heckscher, a descendent of a long-established banking family in Hamburg Altona, converted to Christianity to escape the rising anti-Jewish sentiments of Hamburg merchants. His son Charles August Heckscher (born 1806) emigrated to the United States in 1829 and acquired wealth by opening a trading house. Later, he seems to have become fabulously wealthy in the anthracite business. It is interesting that the painting of the three boys remained in the Heckscher family for so many years. This makes me think of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks, in which family wealth led to decadence as symbolized by art; not so in the case of the Heckschers, however, whose wealth and love for the arts continue to enrich public institutions.
Another suggestion for A Domestic Scene is the painter Kaspar Benedikt Beckenkamp, whose portrait of the married couple below, from 1795, is in the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum. There is something about the Beckenkamp painting that suggests the milieu in which Goethe lived in Weimar in these years.