Kitsch movement

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Image shows man on a spherical object hunched over.
Hope, George Frederic Watts, 1886. Cover of On Kitsch by Odd Nerdrum and others.[note 1]

Kitsch painting is an international movement of classical painters founded upon a 24 September 1998 speech and philosophy by Odd Nerdrum,[1] later clarified in his book On Kitsch[2] with Jan-Ove Tuv and others.[note 1] The movement incorporates the techniques of the Old Masters with narrative, romanticism, and emotionally charged imagery. The movement defines Kitsch as synonymous with the arts of ancient Rome or the techne of ancient Greece. Kitsch painters embrace kitsch as a positive term not in opposition to "art", but as its own independent superstructure. Kitsch painters assert that Kitsch is not an art movement, but a philosophical movement separate from art. The Kitsch movement has been considered an indirect criticism of the contemporary art world, but according to Nerdrum and many Kitsch painters, this is not their expressed intention.[3][4][5]

The kitsch philosophy[edit]

The word, kitsch, was originally popularized in the 1930s by the art theorists Theodor Adorno, Hermann Broch, and Clement Greenberg, who each sought to define avant-garde and kitsch as opposites. To the art world of the time, the immense popularity of kitsch was perceived as a threat to culture. The arguments of all three theorists relied on an implicit definition of kitsch as a type of false consciousness, a Marxist term meaning a mindset present within the structures of capitalism that is misguided as to its own desires and wants. Marxists believe there to be a disjunction between the real state of affairs and the way that they phenomenally appear."[citation needed]

The Kitsch philosophy, as a positive view, is based on the term art, or fine art as solely the "concept" as opposed to its physical manifestation, a view popularized in the 18th century by the German philosopher Immanuel Kant in his book, Critique of Judgement. According to Kant, art should be regarded with "aesthetic indifference". Others have come to similar conclusions about the origin of art, notably, Larry Shiner in The Invention of Art.[6]

Opposing views of kitsch[edit]

Ivan the Terrible and His Son Ivan on November 16, 1581 (1885) by Russian painter Ilya Repin.

According to Hermann Broch there is "kitsch of genius" (Austrian German: genialischer kitsch), such as the painter Ilya Repin or the composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.[citation needed] Broch called kitsch "the evil within the value-system of art"—that is, if true art is "good", kitsch is "evil". While art was creative, Broch held that kitsch depended solely on plundering creative art by adopting formulas that seek to imitate it, limiting itself to conventions and demanding a totalitarianism of those recognizable conventions. Broch accuses kitsch of not participating in the development of art, having its focus directed at the past, as Greenberg speaks of its concern with previous cultures. To Broch, kitsch was not the same as bad art; it formed a system of its own. He argued that kitsch involved trying to achieve "beauty" instead of "truth" and that any attempt to make something beautiful would lead to kitsch. Consequently, he opposed the Renaissance to Protestantism.

Some[who?] argue that the avant-garde, in becoming the established academic norm, has become the embodiment of this kitsch. That is, art now depends "solely on plundering creative art by adopting formulas that seek to imitate it, limiting itself to conventions and demanding a totalitarianism of those recognizable conventions."(Such as the zeitgeist and aesthetic indifference). Thus, Nerdrum's position could be construed as ironic. However, to conclude this as the primary objective would be an oversimplification of the kitsch philosophy.

Objective questioning[edit]

The kitsch philosophy is humanist in nature and characterized by empiricism, and/or objectivism, especially concerning aesthetics. It is founded upon knowledge a posteriori, or based upon experience. This is in distinction to Kant's claim that Art (as the sublime - aesthetic experience of the pure concept) is based upon knowledge a priori. As such, in contrast with the common contemporary definition of art, the positive view of kitsch rejects Hegel's assertion that the artist should follow the zeitgeist,[7] and further, questions the assumption of its existence; reasoning that many different ideologies, dogmas, and social perspectives exist simultaneously around the world at any given point in time. Consequently, the kitsch philosophy emphasizes individualism and liberty.

Memorosa by Odd Nerdrum

Origins of kitsch painting philosophy[edit]

The philosophy originated by Nerdrum first manifested into a group among Nerdrum's circle of students[8] Jan-Ove Tuv, Helene Knoop, Hege Elizabeth Haugen, Monika Helgesen, Kjetil Jul, Brad Silverstein, Carlos Madrid, Stefan Boulter, Brandon Kralik, Nanne Nyander, and soon expanded. Many kitsch painters were featured in and contributed essays to Nerdrum's book Kitsch: More than Art[9]


The Kitsch Movement has collaborated with The Florence Academy in a 2009 exhibition "Immortal Works".[10] Every two years, World Wide Kitsch[11] hosts the Kitsch Biennale,[12][13][14][15][16][17][18] a traveling exhibition which includes painters from around the world.

Philosophical basis[edit]


Orfeus Publishing, in Nov, 2013 released a book entitled: "The Nerdrum School: The Master and His Students" [19] depicting over 80 students of Nerdrum.


  • 2002 Kitsch Katakomben, Haugar Vestfold KunstMuseum, Tonsberg, Norway
  • 2002 Raugland Atelier, Stavern, Norway
  • 2002 Larvik Kunstforening, Larvik, Norway
  • 2004 Kitsch, Telemark Museum, Skien, Norway
  • 2005 Kitsch Annuale, Krutthuset, Fredricksvern Verft, Stavern, Norway
  • 2006 Kitsch Annuale, Stavern, Norway
  • 2008 Kitsch Biennale Pasinger Fabrik, Munich, Germany
  • 2009 Kitsch, Krapperup Castle, Sweden
  • 2009 Fall Kitsch, Galleri PAN, Oslo, Norway
  • 2009 Immortal Works, VASA KONSTHALL, Gothenburg, Sweden
  • 2010 Kitsch Biennale, Palazzo Cini, Venice, Italy[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Odd Nerdrum, Sindre Mekjan, Jan-erik Ebbestad Hansen, Jan-Ove Tuv, and Dag Solhjell
  1. ^ E.J. Pettinger [1] "The Kitsch Campaign" [Boise Weekly], December 29, 2004.
  2. ^ Dag Solhjell and Odd Nerdrum [2] "On Kitsch" Kagge Publishing, August 2001.
  3. ^ Signy Norendal, "Interview with Robert Dale Williams" [Aktuell Kunst] September 5, 2007
  4. ^ Richard Scott [3] The Philosophy of Kitsch.
  5. ^ Jan-Ove Tuv
  6. ^ Larry Shiner [4] University of Chicago Press; New edition (July 15, 2003)
  7. ^ [5] Encyclopædia Britannica, "Aesthetics: Kant, Schiller, and Hegel"
  8. ^ Kristiane Larssen "Skolemesteren" [D2/DagensNaeringsliv] November 18, 2011
  9. ^ Odd Nerdrum [6] Schibsted Forlag, September 30, 2011.
  10. ^ [7]
  11. ^
  12. ^ Mariachiara Marzari "Le particelle elementari" [Venezia News] #146 giugno 2010.
  13. ^ Maria Rita Cerilli [8] [Venezia News],
  14. ^ [9] La Nouva Venezia, September 19, 2010
  15. ^ Lidia Panzeri, "Biennale Kitsch e il retorno alla qualita", Il Gazzettino, September 18, 2010
  16. ^ "L'arte e un'automobile: Kitsch un Cavallo" Il Giornale Dell'Arte, #300 Luglio, August 2010.
  17. ^ [10] Atmosphere, Meridiana Fly publication, July 2010
  18. ^ [11]
  19. ^ [12] The Nerdrum School [Orfeus Publishing] Nov, 2013
  20. ^ "Kitsch Biennale: Venice" Kunst magazine, Oslo, Norway, May 2011