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Kessler, Harry Klemens Ulrich, Graf von

    Full Name: Kessler, Harry Klemens Ulrich, Graf von

    Other Names:

    • Graf Harry von Kessler

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1868

    Date Died: 1937

    Place Born: Paris, Île-de-France, France

    Place Died: Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): French (culture or style) and nineteenth century (dates CE)


    German aristocrat and cultural advisor and scholar of French 19th-century art, author of several art books. Kessler’s father was a wealthy international businessman and Hamburg banker, Adolf Wilhelm Kessler, and his mother, the Anglo-Irish Alice Baroness (Gräfin ) Blosse-Lynch (1844-1919). He was educated in Paris and England until he was fourteen. His family traveled in the highest of circles to which the young Kessler was exposed. Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797-1888) was attracted to his mother and speculation persisted that the Kaiser was Kessler’s true father. Field Marshall (and effective head of state) Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) was another family friend. Kessler attended the Johanneum in Hamburg before studying law and art history in Bonn and Leipzig. His art studies in Leipzig were under Anton Springer until Springer died in 1891. Kessler graduated that same year with a law degree from Leipzig, intent on foreign service work. He published articles in the contemporary art journal Pan, founded by Julius Meier-Graefe. Kessler was Director Weimar’s city museum and acted as its cultural advisor to the grand duke of Saxe-Weimar. He met the young art nouveau architect and designer from Berlin, Henry van de Velde (1863-1957). Edvard Munch painted his portrait. Kessler was a member of the German delegation to sign the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. His liberal attitudes toward modern art attracted the malice of the Nazi regime and he was forced to flee. His papers are owned by the Marquis de Brion.

    Selected Bibliography

    [forward to the second German edition of,] Craig, Edward Gordon. Die Kunst des Theaters. Berlin und Leipzig: Hermann Seemann Nachfolger, 1905′ Impressionisten: die Begründer der modernen Malerei in ihren Hauptwerken. Munich: F. Bruckmann, 1908; Maillol. Berlin: Galerie Flechtheim, 1928, English, Maillol. London: London County Council Central School of Arts and Crafts, 1930. and Blasberg, Cornelia, and Schuster, Gerhard, eds. Künstler und Nationen: Aufsätze und Reden 1899-1933. Volume 2 of his Gesammelte Schriften. Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1988.


    Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, p. 120; Newman, L. M., ed. Craig, Edward Gordon. The Correspondence of Edward Gordon Craig and Count Harry Kessler, 1903-1937. London: W. S. Maney/Modern Humanities Research Association and the Institute of Germanic Studies, University of London, 1995; Grupp, Peter. Harry Graf Kessler 1868-1937: eine Biographie. Munich: Beck, 1995; Stenzel, Burkhard. Harry Graf Kessler: ein Leben zwischen Kultur und Politik. Weimar: Böhlau, 1995; Fiedler, Theodore. “Weimar contra Berlin: Harry Graf Kessler and the Politics of Modernism.” in, Forster-Hahn, Françoise, ed. Imagining Modern German Culture, 1889-1910. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art/University Press of New England, 1996; Neumann, Gerhard, and Schnitzler, Günter, eds. Harry Graf Kessler: ein Wegbereiter der Moderne. Freiburg im Breisgau: Rombach, 1997; Buruma, Ian. Berlin in Lights: the Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1918-1937. New York: Grove Press, 1999; Easton, Laird McLeod. The Red Count: the Life and Times of Harry Kessler. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.


    "Kessler, Harry Klemens Ulrich, Graf von." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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