James Sheehan has done a masterful job with the project he undertook ... this important book promises to attract and reward readers for years to come. ( Central European History)
Sheehan has written this masterful history almost entirely from published sources. His bibliography features a remarkable array of works in German and English, and this list in itself is a valuable contribution to the study of museums and the art world. ( Central European History)
... concise and well-crafted ... James Sheehan is indeed a master of the historical craft ... clear organization, lucid prose, and the ability to balance a broadly sweeping narrative with close readings of specific subjects ... the author does an outstanding job of making a complex history very accessible. ( Central European History)
James Sheehan's masterly study is a contribution of great originality and power to our understanding of the crucial interaction between culture and politics in Germany from the mid-eighteenth to the early twentieth century ... anyone interested in the political and cultural history of Germany between the Enlightenment and the First World War will find this book rewarding. ( German History)
A trail-blazing work of great distinction ... written with all the author's customary elegance and wit ... many splendid visual illustrations intelligently chosen and integrated in the text. ( German History)
Handsome, compact, well-written and well-illustrated ... Museums in the German Art World engages demanding intellects on a broad front, but it is so clearly written that an outsider can read it like an adventure story. ( History)
[an] elegant study ... Museums in the German Art World impresses most by its lucidity and concision. In fewer than 200 pages, Sheehan traces the history of a major public institution in half a dozen or so German states over more than a century. Cultural, intellectual, and institutional histories are woven together with sparkling case studies of significant buildings ... Perhaps the most significant message of this story is that museums make their own history - they are monumental acts of reflection that bear witness not only to current fashions, but also to the modern era's changing consciousness of its past. ( Christopher Clark, The Times Literary Supplement)
Combining the history of ideas, institutions, and architecture, this study shows how the museum both reflected and shaped the place of art in German culture from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century. On a broader level, it illuminates the origin and character of the museum's central role in modern culture.
James Sheehan begins by describing the establishment of the first public galleries during the last decades of Germany's old regime. He then examines the revolutionary upheaval that swept Germany between 1789 and 1815, arguing that the first great German museums reflected the nation's revolutionary aspirations. By the mid-nineteenth century, the climate had changed; museums constructed in this period affirmed historical continuities and celebrated political accomplishments. During the next several years, however, Germans became disillusioned with conventional definitions of art and lost interest in monumental museums. By the turn of the century, the museum had become a site for the political and cultural controversies caused by the rise of artistic modernism. In this context, Sheehan argues, we can see the first signs of what would become the modern style of museum architecture and modes of display.
The first study of its kind, this highly accessible book will appeal to historians, museum professionals, and anyone interested in the relationship between art, politics, and culture.
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