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ERNST KIRCHNER'S STREETWALKERS: ART, LUXURY, AND IMMORALITY IN BERLIN, 1913-16
An article entitled "Culture in the Display Window," which surveyed the elegant artistry of Berlin's display windows, appeared in Der Kritiker, a Berlin cultural journal, during the summer of 1913. Its author stated that these windows were an important factor in Germany's recent economic boom and the concomitant rise of its culture on the world stage, serving "as an alarm clock of our hedonism" and transforming the frugal German housewife into a fashionable lady.(n1) Women's fashion was said to be at the heart of a new love of luxury that made Berlin the economic and cultural equal of Paris.
The historical and theoretical bases of the article's argument lay within recent developments in German applied arts. For several years the Deutscher Werkbund had promoted both the aestheticization of commodities through packaging and display techniques and the growth of German fashion's prestige within the world market.(n2) Display window competitions and articles in the popular press encouraged consideration of the new commercial culture's artistry,(n3) while scholars, such as Werner Sombart in his 1913 book Luxus und Kapitalismus, ascribed new importance to luxury's role in capitalism's development. Sombart equated Titian's paintings of nudes and celebration of the courtesan with the flowering of capitalism in the sixteenth century, arguing that a "purely hedonistic aesthetic conception of woman" promoted luxury and economic growth, as courtesans began to influence other women through art, fashion, and an eroticism of consumption. This, he maintained, was a pattern that persisted to the present, when "all the follies of fashion, luxury, splendor, and extravagance are first tried out by the... [continues]
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