Harry Graf Kessler
Harry Clément Ulrich Kessler (23 May 1868 – 30 November 1937) was an Anglo-German count, diplomat, writer, and patron of modern art. His diaries "Berlin in Lights" published in 1971 revealed anecdotes and details of the artistic and theatrical life in Europe, mostly in Germany, from the collapse of Germany at the end of World War I until his death in Lyon in 1937.
Harry Kessler's parents were the Hamburg banker Adolf Wilhelm Kessler (24 November 1838–22 January 1895) and Alice Harriet Blosse-Lynch (born 17 July 1844 in Bombay; died 19 September 1919 in Normandy), the daughter of Anglo-Irish Baronet Henry Blosse-Lynch. Kessler's parents married in Paris on 10 August 1867; Kessler was born, also in Paris, in 1868. Kessler's younger sister was born in 1877, and was named Wilhelma after Kaiser Wilhelm I, who became the child's godfather. After marriage, her name would become Wilma de Brion.
Life and work
Kessler grew up in France, England and Germany. Kessler was educated first in Paris and then, from 1880, in a boarding school in Ascot, England. Following his father's wishes he enrolled in 1882 at the Gelehrtenschule des Johanneums in Hamburg, where he completed his Abitur (high-school education). Afterwards he joined the 3rd Garde-Ulanen regiment in Potsdam and earned the rank of an army officer. He studied law and art history in Bonn and Leipzig respectively. Kessler was familiar with many cultures, travelled widely, was active as a German diplomat, and came to be known as a man of the world and patron of the arts. He considered himself part of European society.
After moving to Berlin in 1893, he worked on the Art Nouveau journal PAN, which published literary work by, among others, Richard Dehmel, Theodor Fontane, Friedrich Nietzsche, Detlev von Liliencron, Julius Hart, Novalis, Paul Verlaine and Alfred Lichtwark. The short-lived journal also published graphic works by numerous artists including Henry van de Velde, Max Liebermann, Otto Eckmann and Ludwig von Hofmann.
On 24 March 1903 Kessler assumed control of the "Museum für Kunst und Kunstgewerbe" in Weimar. There he worked with new exhibition concepts and the establishment of a permanent arts and crafts exhibit.
In 1904, during his work in Weimar, Kessler began to publish a group of bibliophilic books containing artistic compositions of typography and illustrations. In the beginning he cooperated with the German Insel Verlag. In 1913 he founded his own company, the Cranach Press, of which he became the director.
Around 1909, Kessler developed a concept for a comic opera together with Hugo von Hofmannsthal and together they wrote the libretto. Richard Strauss provided the music, and in 1911 Der Rosenkavalier premiered in Dresden under the baton of Ernst von Schuch.
Around 1913 Kessler commissioned Edward Gordon Craig, an English theatrical designer and theoretician, to make woodcut illustrations for a sumptuous edition of Shakespeare's "Hamlet" for the Cranach Press. A German translation by Gerhart Hauptmann, with illustrations by Craig, was finally published in Weimar in 1928. The English version, edited by J. Dover Wilson, came out in 1930. This book, printed on fine paper, using different type-faces, with marginal notes with source quotations, and featuring Craig's woodcuts, is regarded by many as one of the finest examples of the printer's art to have been published in the 20th century. It is still sought by collectors worldwide.
Kessler's ideas of reforming culture went beyond the visual arts. He developed a reformation concept for the theatre which was supported by Edward Gordon Craig, Max Reinhardt and Karl Vollmöller. Kessler asserted that a so-called "Mustertheater" should be established. The Belgian architect Henry van de Velde sought to design the corresponding building. On the initiative of Kessler many prominent writers were invited to introduce a literary modernity to Weimar, but the hegemonic opinions were considered too conservative and nationalistic, and the plans for the Mustertheater failed.
During his Weimar period Kessler became close friends with Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche, the sister of late Friedrich Nietzsche. At the suggestion of Kessler, she chose Weimar as domicile for the Nietzsche-Archiv.
In 1903 Kessler launched the "Deutscher Künstlerbund" and became its vice-president. The consortium supported less acknowledged artists including Edvard Munch, Johannes R. Becher, Detlev von Liliencron and the painters of Die Brücke. In 1906, an exhibition commotion gave reason to depose Kessler from his office.[clarification needed]
- Price, Thomas, "Edward Gordon Craig and the Theatre of the Imagination", Stanford University Libraries Digital Image Collections, 1985.
- Gesammelte Schriften in drei Bänden. Fischer, Frankfurt/M. 1988. ISBN 3-596-25678-X
- Vol 1: Gesichter und Zeiten.
- Vol 2: Notizen über Mexiko.
- Vol 3: Erinnerungen.
- Das Tagebuch 1880–1937. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2004 ff.
- Vol. 2: 1892–1897. ISBN 3-7681-9812-X
- Vol. 3: 1897–1905. ISBN 3-7681-9813-8
- Vol. 4: 1906–1914. ISBN 3-7681-9814-6
- Vol. 5: 1914–1916. ISBN 3-7681-9815-4
- Vol. 6: 1916–1918. ISBN 3-7681-9816-2
- Vol. 7: 1919–1923. ISBN 3-7681-9817-0
- Vol. 8: 1923–1926. ISBN 3-7681-9818-9
- Vol. 9: 1926-1937. ISBN 3-7681-9819-7
- Walther Rathenau : Sein Leben und Werk, (1928).
- Barzantny, Tamara (2002). Harry Graf Kessler und das Theater : Autor Maezen Initiator. Boehlau Cologne. ISBN 3-412-03802-4. (in German)
- Easton, Laird M. (2002). The Red Count : The Life and Times of Harry Kessler. University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles. ISBN 0-520-23035-3.
- Grupp, Peter (1995). Harry Graf Kessler 1868 - 1937 : Eine Biographie. Beck Munich. ISBN 3-406-39860-X. (in German)
- Kessler, Count Harry (1999). Berlin in Lights - The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler (1868 - 1937). Grove Press New York. ISBN 0-8021-1663-9. (text first published in 1971)
- Rothe, Friedrich (2008). Harry Graf Kessler : Biographie. Siedler Munich. ISBN 978-3-88680-824-3. (in German)
- Kessler, Harry (2011). Laird Easton, ed. Journey to the Abyss: The Diaries of Count Harry Kessler, 1880-1918. Random House Digital, Inc. ISBN 978-0-307-70148-0.