PSU, Museum Home, PAN, A Graphic Arts Time Capsule, Europe 1895-1900, Pan Time: The First Art Magazine of the Twentieth Century, By Peter Frank
Decorative border illustration
Capriccio by Gustav Kühl
Advertisement for opening of
Samuel Bing’s Paris gallery
L’Art Nouveau, 1895
Friedrich Nietzsche, 1899
Etching after a photograph by Olde
Reproduction of two woodcut illustrations, 1895
BLACKMORE, RICHARD DODDRIDGE (British, 1825-1900)
Fringilla or Tales in Verse
The First Art Magazine of the Twentieth Century
By Peter Frank
The periodical PAN can be seen, among other things, as a product of its Zeitgeist. In its earnest struggle to maintain an eclectic and international purview, the Berlin-based magazine symptomatized the peculiar expansivity of the fin de siècle, an era whose arts were driven by a tendency to universality even as nationalist sentiment crested globally, and xenophobia took more elaborate (and even pseudo-scientific) form. Indeed, PAN’s supra-nationalism, problematic and contradictory as it could be, betrays a sense among German intellectuals and aesthetes that, situated at the center of Europe as they were, they bore perhaps outsize responsibility for artistic expression throughout the continent – beginning, but not ending, with a newly-unified Germany itself. With only a few the exceptions, the magazine’s written contents are entirely in German, clearly indicating that the intended audience was to be found in the German Kaiserdom and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But in presenting literary and artistic work from France, England, Scandinavia, and elsewhere around the continent as well as from the United States, PAN endorsed and disseminated the often controversial work of foreign artists – artists whose own daring mirrored and even spurred that of their Germanic counterparts.
In this respect PAN embodied the same internationalist impulse that led, for instance, to the establishment of the Biennale di Venezia the same year (1895) the magazine debuted. The next year saw the revival of the Olympic Games – a competitive context, to be sure (as, in fact, was the Biennale), but one designed to channel the inevitable competition between sovereign states into confrontations between their symbolic representatives. One could argue, furthermore, that the Olympic Games as often pitted individuals against one another as they did teams, and that ultimately the contests were not between nationals or ethnics, but between humans. Similarly, the inevitable judgment passed by its audience on the “competitors” in PAN’s pages would be applied, ideally, to individual artists and writers, not to Germans or Frenchmen – a reification, in a way, of the transcendent, modernizing individualism advocated by Friedrich Nietzsche, specifically in Also Sprach Zarathustra, excerpts from which are prominently featured in the very first volume of PAN.
By time PAN appeared, Nietzsche had ceased writing, although his friends, colleagues, and advocates were active in disseminating (and reinterpreting) his work. No longer an active author, he had become a touchstone for a younger generation of intellectuals skeptical of ethnocentrism and inherited privilege who, although also distanced from Marxist class consciousness, were to maintain a discourse that would overtly disregard national boundaries (if not national distinctions) and allow for a pan- European networking of vanguard ideas. The First World War broke this internationalist avant-garde trajectory, but until the guns of August 1914 rang out, artists and thinkers of all kinds sought out one another, gravitating, for instance, to the enlightened milieu of Paris and the intellectual ferment of Vienna or, barring that, seeking to make “mini-Athenses” of their own centers. Berlin was one of the richest and most vibrant of such centers, a backwater only in the provincialism forced upon it by its newly ascendant, but fervently reactionary, monarchy and government. By 1910 the German capital had evolved past the conservatism of its most important residents and could claim its own prominence as a center for artistic experiment.
By 1900 – the year that PAN completed the run of its original iteration and its “house philosopher,” Nietzsche, died – it was just becoming clear to Berliners that their city could, and should, maintain such radical discourse. It was also clear to Germans throughout their new kingdom that they could be responsible not simply for the cultivation, but for the generation, of experimental ideas in the arts. For instance, Jugendstil, a version of Art Nouveau distinct in philosophy and style from its French equivalent, was defined most specifically by Jugend, a publi cation out of Munich founded the year after PAN first appeared. Unlike PAN (which was revived in 1910 by Paul Cassirer but appeared fitfully until 1915), Jugend published continually until war broke out. Also unlike the original PAN, Jugend propounded what we recognize today as a coherent style, serving as the voice of a distinctive movement. By contrast, PAN sought in effect to ease rather than provoke its audience into a new world of thought and image.
Still, PAN was as dedicated to the future as Jugend – and can be said to have set the stage for that and other more aesthetically radical periodicals, exhibitions, and other means of propagation. What appears to us as PAN’s sometimes dizzying, sometimes self-contradicting eclecticism was rather its relatively (if not consistently) gentle transiting from one mind set to another. PAN’s reliance on established as well as emerging writers and artists – to the extent of representing many texts and images (beginning with Also Sprach Zarathustra) and intermingling them with new work – must have been seen in its time and place as a graceful and logical guide into a new era (not to mention a new century). The oppositional ideology we associate with artistic avantgardism, after all, was not to appear for another decade, and the innovators of the fin de siècle – symbolists, naturalists, divisionists, secessionists – saw themselves as alternatives to the hidebound academies, but not as iconoclasts fomenting a rupture with past art. It was radical enough in the context of Wilhelminian Berlin to propose that ap plied art was worthy of the same level of intellectual and aesthetic consideration granted fine art; however, the nature and extent of that consideration did not have to be too far removed from convention.
Although PAN, then, could as easily have been named after another Roman god, the two-headed, back-and-forth-facing Janus, its chosen god was a reassuring device by which to advance into a new century, one whose difference had already been heralded by a quarter-century of technological innovation and political and social realignment. In its juxtaposition of old, recent, and new, PAN averred continuity no less – and no more – than it affirmed change. While PAN made more stylistically and ideologically homogeneous publications like Jugend possible, it fell to such publications to exemplify “newness” per se, and ultimately to provide the models for the yet more ideologically driven aesthetic periodicals of the following decade, periodicals such as Der Blaue Reiter, Der Sturm, and even the Dada magazines (to name only a few that appeared in Germany during the 1910s). PAN’s aesthetic outlook, and voice, was more general; with London’s Studio (founded two years earlier), it provided the model for more deliberately educational and informational--even journalistic--art magazines such as Art News (begun in New York in 1902). PAN’s model also was to inspire more generalized cultural loci, publications such as the luxurious American publication Horizon, or the more formally inventive but no less eclectic Aspen and Avant Garde magazines that brought the various arts together. All these appeared in the 1960s during the Art Nouveau revival and critical reassessment of the fin-de-siècle period. And these periodicals appeared at a time when new practices such as happenings, concrete poetry, and conceptual art were being introduced and theorized as Intermedia – a renewal of the Wagnerian concept of the Gesamtkunstwerk, a concept that was suffused throughout PAN.
The intermingling of visual, verbal, musical, and theatrical praxis took place far more immediately in the artist-produced periodicals of the ‘60s – Wolf Vostell’s happenings-oriented dé-collage, for instance, or the Brazilian concrete poetry journal Noigandres – than it did in Horizon or even the design-heavy Aspen. In this, the arts publications of forty-some years ago recapitulated the distinction between stylistically committed periodicals such as Jugend and more broadly dedicated publications like PAN. But Horizon was finally no less influential than Aspen on the general public’s understanding of new art; it served the same purpose as had PAN six or seven decades earlier in acclimating a potential audience to the otherwise daunting world(s) of artistic expression, innovative or not, and inculcating a sense of continuity even within, or despite, innovation. Horizon was no less sophisticated in its approach, or even look, than was PAN (although PAN was a good deal more adventurous in its employment of new, elaborate print methods). And it demonstrated, once again, the crucial role general-level publications of a progressive bent have played in bringing the avant-garde its audience – a role PAN helped pioneer.
This exhibition is funded in part by the Student Association, Winkel Endowment, Friends of Art, and the State of New York|
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Last Updated: November 12, 2014