The Widow, kitsch example of late-19th-century popular lithograph of a humorous painting by Frederick Dielman
Cottage-shaped tea pot and milk jug
Kitsch (; loanword from German), also called cheesiness or tackiness, is art or other objects that 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.
To brand visual art as "kitsch" is generally 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 true artistic merit. The chocolate box artistThomas Kinkade (1958-2012), whose idyllic landscape scenes were often lampooned by art critics as "maudlin" and "schmaltzy", is considered a leading example of contemporary kitsch.
The term is also sometimes applied to music or literature.
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".
The study of kitsch was done almost exclusively in German until the 1970s, with Walter Benjamin being an important scholar in the field.
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."
Tomá? 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.
"Kitsch. Texte und Theorien", (2007). Reclam. ISBN978-3-15-018476-9. (Includes classic texts of kitsch criticism from authors like Theodor Adorno, Ferdinand Avenarius, Edward Koelwel, Walter Benjamin, Ernst Bloch, Hermann Broch, Richard Egenter, etc.).
"Kitsch". In John Walker's Glossary of art, architecture & design since 1945.
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