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Lichtwark, Alfred

    Full Name: Lichtwark, Alfred

    Other Names:

    • "k", pseudonym

    Gender: male

    Date Born: 1852

    Date Died: 1914

    Place Born: Hamburg, Germany

    Place Died: Hamburg, Germany

    Home Country/ies: Germany

    Subject Area(s): art theory


    Art Historian and pedagogical reformer, founder of the “Experiential Art Appreciation” method of teaching. He was born in Reitbrook, Germany, which is part of present-day Hamburg, Germany. After graduating from the university, Lichtwark worked as a teacher. In 1878 he began attending the lectures of Justus Brinckmann who had founded the Hamburg Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe the year before. Brinckmann introduced Lichtwark to the Hamburg industrialist Call Kall. Kall came to consider Lichtwark his son and paid for Lichtwark to study art history under Anton Springer in Leipzig. Lichtwark moved to Berlin where Brinckmann got him a job in Berlin’s Kunstgewerbemuseum under Julius Lessing. Lichtwark travelled in the intellectual circles of Berlin, making the acquaintance of important art scholars, such as Herman Grimm and museum directors Woldemar von Seidlitz, Hugo von Tschudi, Richard Schöne and Wilhelm Bode. He wrote art reviews for various Berlin newspapers under the pseudonym “k”, beginning with the Nationalzeitung in 1881. When the city council of Hamburg mandated a director for their art museum, Lichtwark, native son and Berlin-experienced, was appointed Director of the Kunsthalle in 1886. He reatined the position he retained until his death. The same year he launched the Gesellschaft der Hamburger Kunstfreunde (Hamburg Commission of Friends of Art), a group to intended to nurture the training of artists. Lichtwark saw children’s art education as critical. In 1897 he initiated the “Child as Artist” (Das Kind als Künstler) exhibition, which provided a forum for his beliefs. Lichtwark built on the notion, popular throughout Europe at the time, to cultivate appreciation and production of art (and particularly crafts) by learning the techniques of production directly. A similar impulse occurred in England with William Morris’ Arts and Crafts Movement. Lichtwark’s ideas, known as Kunsterziehungsbewegung, resounded through art schools and museums, resulting in exhibitions appealing to children and non-art specialists. One of the neighborhood children who visited his home (the Villa Liebermann of Max Liebermann) was the future art historian Otto von Simson. Udo Kultermann sites Lichtwark among those Gründerzeit museum directors, along with Bode, Brinckmann, von Seidlitz, and Karl Woermann, as responsible for the formation of art history by virtue of their scholarship and interest in museum training. His lectures (along with those of Brinckmann) inspired the modernist art historian Rosa Schapire to become an art historian.

    Selected Bibliography

    übungenin der betrachtung von Kunstwerken. Dresden: G. Kühtmann, 1898; Julius Oldach: hamburgische Künstler. Hamburg: Kunsthalle, 1899.


    Der Brockhaus: Enzyklopädie; J. Gebhard: A. Lichtwark u. die Kunsterziehungsbewegung in Hamburg (1947); Präffcke, Hans. Der Kunstbegriff Alfred Lichtwarks. Hildeshiem: G. Olms, 1986; Leppien, Helmut R. Kunst ins Leben: Alfred Lichtwarks Wirken für die Kunsthalle und Hamburg von 1886 bis 1914. Hamburg: Die Kunsthalle, 1987; Kultermann, Udo. The History of Art History. New York: Abaris, 1993, pp. 126-7, 138; Metzler Kunsthistoriker Lexikon: zweihundert Porträts deutschsprachiger Autoren aus vier Jahrhunderten. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1999, pp. 239-42; Kay, Carolyn Helen. Art and the German Bourgeoisie: Alfred Lichtwark and Modern Painting in Hamburg, 1886-1914. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2002.


    "Lichtwark, Alfred." Dictionary of Art Historians (website).

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