Given the strongly antibourgeois bias of Expressionist art, it is hardly surprising to find that the topos of the artist as imposter plays an important role in many early Expressionist dramas. Portrayed as an outsider, the artist is juxtaposed with a proprietary society that regards his art as a commodity. Depicting the materialistic assessment of art in capitalist society as a given, these plays explore the existential possibilities open to the artist faced with the devaluation of art in the early twentieth century. Thus, these plays reflect a concern common to literary Expressionism, i.e., criticism of bourgeois capitalism. Four plays that use this particular artist- society dialectic for social criticism are Frank Wedekind's Marquis von Keith (1900), Carl Sternheim's Burger Schippel (1913), Hanns Johst's Der Einsame (1917), and Bertolt Brecht's Baal (1918). Common to these plays is an inherent antagonism between the "artist"-hero and a philistine society, a society which the artist disdains yet into which he paradoxically seeks entry or upon which he is materially and/or emotionally dependent. The responses of the artist figures in the face of their ambivalence vis-a-vis a corrupt society are strikingly similar: resorting to deceit, they seek either to outwit or to coopt the bourgeoisie. The solutions offered in these plays to the particular exigencies of the artists' situation establish the parameters of possible response — ranging from assimilation to total isolation — for the artist-outsider hero in bourgeois capitalist society.
Kuhn, Anna K.
"The Deceitful Artist in German Expressionist Drama,"
University of Dayton Review: Vol. 16:
3, Article 3.
Available at: https://ecommons.udayton.edu/udr/vol16/iss3/3