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Kitsch (// KITCH; loanword from German),[a] also called tackiness, is art or other objects that, generally speaking, appeal to popular rather than "high art" tastes. Such objects are sometimes appreciated in a knowingly ironic or humorous way. The word was first applied to artwork that was a response to certain divisions of 19th-century art with aesthetics that favored what later art critics would consider to be exaggerated sentimentality and melodrama. Hence, 'kitsch art' is closely associated with 'sentimental art'. Kitsch is also related to the concept of camp, because of its humorous and ironic nature.
Kitsch art may often contain palatable, pleasant and romantic themes and visuals that few would find disagreeable, shocking or otherwise objectionable; it generally attempts to appeal to the human condition and its natural standards of beauty on a superficial level. It may also be quaint or "quirky" without being controversial.
To brand visual art as "kitsch" is generally (but not exclusively) pejorative, as it implies that the work in question is gaudy, or that it serves a solely ornamental and decorative purpose rather than amounting to a work of what may be seen as true artistic merit. However, art deemed kitsch may be enjoyed in an entirely positive and sincere manner. The term is also sometimes applied to music or literature, or indeed any work.
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As a descriptive term, "kitsch" originated in the art markets of Munich in the 1860s and the 1870s, describing cheap, popular, and marketable pictures and sketches. In Das Buch vom Kitsch (The Book of Kitsch), Hans Reimann defines it as a professional expression "born in a painter's studio".
Kitsch is regarded as a modern phenomenon, coinciding with social changes in recent centuries such as the Industrial Revolution, urbanization, mass production, modern materials and media such as plastics, radio and television, the rise of the middle class and public education—all of which have factored into a perception of oversaturation of art produced for the popular taste.
Historical perspectives and analysis
Modernist writer Hermann Broch argues that the essence of kitsch is imitation: kitsch mimics its immediate predecessor with no regard to ethics—it aims to copy the beautiful, not the good. According to Walter Benjamin, kitsch is, unlike art, a utilitarian object lacking all critical distance between object and observer; it "offers instantaneous emotional gratification without intellectual effort, without the requirement of distance, without sublimation".
Kitsch is less about the thing observed than about the observer. According to Roger Scruton, "Kitsch is fake art, expressing fake emotions, whose purpose is to deceive the consumer into thinking he feels something deep and serious."
Tomáš Kulka, in Kitsch and Art, starts from two basic facts that kitsch "has an undeniable mass-appeal" and "considered (by the art-educated elite) bad", and then proposes three essential conditions:
- Kitsch depicts a beautiful or highly emotionally charged subject;
- The depicted subject is instantly and effortlessly identifiable;
- Kitsch does not substantially enrich our associations related to the depicted subject.
The Kitsch movement is an international movement of classical painters, founded[clarification needed] in 1998 upon a philosophy proposed by Odd Nerdrum and later clarified in his book On Kitsch in cooperation with Jan-Ove Tuv and others, incorporating the techniques of the Old Masters with narrative, romanticism, and emotionally charged imagery.
- Lowbrow (art movement)
- Museum of Bad Art – Privately owned museum
- Poshlost – A Russian word for a particular negative human character trait or man-made thing or idea
- Prolefeed – Newspeak term in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
- Notable examples
- Dogs Playing Poker – Set of paintings by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge
- Velvet Elvis – A painting of Elvis Presley on velvet
- William-Adolphe Bouguereau – 19th-century French painter
- Chinese Girl – 1952 painting by Vladimir Tretchikoff
- Christmas cards
- American Heritage Dictionary
- Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary
- Oxford Living Dictionaries
- Scruton, Roger (Feb 21, 2014). "A fine line between art and kitsch". Forbes. Retrieved 16 January 2017.
- Calinescu, Matei. Five Faces of Modernity. Kitsch, p. 234.
- Menninghaus, Winfried (2009). "On the Vital Significance of 'Kitsch': Walter Benjamin's Politics of 'Bad Taste'". In Andrew Benjamin (ed.). Walter Benjamin and the Architecture of Modernity. Charles Rice. re.press. pp. 39–58. ISBN 9780980544091.
- Broch, Hermann (2002). "Evil in the Value System of Art". Geist and Zeitgeist: The Spirit in an Unspiritual Age. Six Essays by Hermann Broch. Counterpoint. pp. 13–40. ISBN 9781582431680.
- Eaglestone, Robert (May 25, 2017). The Broken Voice: Reading Post-Holocaust Literature. Oxford University Press. p. 155. ISBN 978-0191084201.
- Scruton, Roger. "A Point of View: The strangely enduring power of kitsch", BBC News Magazine, December 12, 2014
- Tomas, Kulka (1996). Kitsch and art. Pennsylvania State Univ. Press. ISBN 978-0271015941. OCLC 837730812.
- Kulka, Tomas (1988-01-01). "KITSCH". The British Journal of Aesthetics. 28 (1): 18–27. doi:10.1093/bjaesthetics/28.1.18. ISSN 0007-0904.
- Higgins, Kathleen Marie (1998-01-01). "Review of Kitsch and Art". The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. 56 (4): 410–412. doi:10.2307/432137. JSTOR 432137.
- E.J. Pettinger  "The Kitsch Campaign" [Boise Weekly], December 29, 2004.
- Dag Solhjell and Odd Nerdrum. On Kitsch, Kagge Publishing, August 2001, ISBN 8248901238.
- Adorno, Theodor (2001). The Culture Industry. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-25380-2
- Botz-Bornstein, Thorsten (2008). "Wabi and Kitsch: Two Japanese Paradigms" in Æ: Canadian Aesthetics Journal 15.
- Botz-Bornstein, Thorsten (2019) The New Aesthetics of Deculturation: Neoliberalism, Fundamentalism and Kitsch (Bloomsbury). Foreword by Olivier Roy.
- Braungart, Wolfgang (2002). "Kitsch. Faszination und Herausforderung des Banalen und Trivialen". Max Niemeyer Verlag. ISBN 3-484-32112-1/0083-4564.
- Cheetham, Mark A (2001). "Kant, Art and Art History: moments of discipline". Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-80018-8.
- Dorfles, Gillo (1969, translated from the 1968 Italian version, Il Kitsch). Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste, Universe Books. LCCN 78-93950
- Elias, Norbert. (1998) "The Kitsch Style and the Age of Kitsch," in J. Goudsblom and S. Mennell (eds) The Norbert Elias Reader. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Gelfert, Hans-Dieter (2000). "Was ist Kitsch?". Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in Göttingen. ISBN 3-525-34024-9.
- Giesz, Ludwig (1971). Phänomenologie des Kitsches. 2. vermehrte und verbesserte Auflage München: Wilhelm Fink Verlag. [Partially translated into English in Dorfles (1969)]. Reprint (1994): Ungekürzte Ausgabe. Frankfurt am Main: S. Fischer Verlag. ISBN 3-596-12034-9 / ISBN 978-3-596-12034-5.
- Gorelik, Boris (2013). Incredible Tretchikoff: Life of an artist and adventurer. Art / Books, London. ISBN 978-1-908970-08-4
- Greenberg, Clement (1978). Art and Culture. Beacon Press. ISBN 0-8070-6681-8
- Holliday, Ruth and Potts, Tracey (2012) Kitsch! Cultural Politics and Taste, Manchester University Press. ISBN 978-0-7190-6616-0
- Karpfen, Fritz (1925). "Kitsch. Eine Studie über die Entartung der Kunst". Weltbund-Verlag, Hamburg.
- Kristeller, Paul Oskar (1990). "The Modern System of the Arts" (In "Renaissance Thought and the Arts"). Princeton University Press. ISBN 978-0-691-02010-5
- Kulka, Tomas (1996). Kitsch and Art. Pennsylvania State University Press. ISBN 0-271-01594-2
- Moles, Abraham (nouvelle édition 1977). Psychologie du Kitsch: L'art du Bonheur, Denoël-Gonthier
- Nerdrum, Odd (Editor) (2001). On Kitsch. Distributed Art Publishers. ISBN 82-489-0123-8
- Olalquiaga, Celeste (2002). The Artificial Kingdom: On the Kitsch Experience. University of Minnesota ISBN 0-8166-4117-X
- Reimann, Hans (1936). "Das Buch vom Kitsch". Piper Verlag, München.
- Richter, Gerd, (1972). Kitsch-Lexicon, Bertelsmann. ISBN 3-570-03148-9
- Shiner, Larry (2001). "The Invention of Art". University of Chicago Press. ISBN 0-226-75342-5.
- Thuller, Gabrielle (2006 and 2007). "Kunst und Kitsch. Wie erkenne ich?", ISBN 3-7630-2463-8. "Kitsch. Balsam für Herz und Seele", ISBN 978-3-7630-2493-3. (Both on Belser-Verlag, Stuttgart.)
- Ward, Peter (1994). Kitsch in Sync: A Consumer's Guide to Bad Taste, Plexus Publishing. ISBN 0-85965-152-5
- "Kitsch. Texte und Theorien", (2007). Reclam. ISBN 978-3-15-018476-9. (Includes classic texts of kitsch criticism from authors like Theodor Adorno, Ferdinand Avenarius, Edward Koelwel, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Hermann Broch, Richard Egenter, etc.).
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