Sex sells! Wolfgang Gurlitt, erotic print culture and women artists in the Weimar Republic

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Abstract


This article explores erotic material commissioned by the art dealer and publisher Wolfgang Gurlitt (1888–1965). Between 1919 and 1920, Gurlitt published a hand-printed series of erotic volumes Der Venuswagen (The Chariot of Venus), which straddled the areas of art, literature and sexology that saw him end up in court. A decade later, he commissioned the artist Jeanne Mammen to illustrate Pierre Louÿs’ Les Chansons de Bilitis [The Songs of Bilitis] – a fictional set of poems supposedly written by the lover of Sappho. At a time when women’s sexual autonomy was frequently pathologised, Mammen’s images made a powerful visual statement about homonormative experience in 1920s Germany. But they remained unpublished. Investigations into Gurlitt’s early career expose the limits and tensions of Weimar sexuality, as well as open up important lines of enquiry regarding women artists’ roles as active contributors to, and shapers of, erotica.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)780-806
Number of pages27
JournalArt History
Volume42
Issue number4
Early online date12 Aug 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2019

Keywords

  • erotica
  • print culture
  • Weimar
  • women artists
  • Wolfgang Gurlitt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts

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