Representing National Histories in Popular Illustrated Literature for Youth: Illustrations by Arthur Kampf and Georg Belwe to «Preußens Geschichte» («Prussian History», 1913) by Rudolf Herzog as a Case in Point

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17721/2519-4801.2023.1.01

Keywords:

historical mythologies, popular historiographies, book illustration, political iconology, representations of history,, history of Prussia, history of Germany, Arthur Kampf, Georg Belwe

Abstract

This study looks at illustrated popular literature as a tool for shaping its readers–viewers’ perceptions of national histories. The author explores this issue through the example of Rudolf Herzog’s book for German school students «History of Prussia» ("Preußens Geschichte'', 1913) illustrated by Arthur Kampf and Georg Belwe. Despite the book’s popularity in the 1910s, this paper offers its first academic examination.  The study combines terminology and methods coming from the fields of history of representations, political mythologies’ and visual cultures studies as well as art history. The author also adheres to methodological recommendations formulated by researchers in illustrated literature. 

The paper demonstrates that «Preussens Geschichte» exemplifies personality- and event-centred «official-nationalist» approach to history writing. The book’s contents reflect the current political situation and seek to promote the imperial government’s agendas as well as certain moral values. The author argues that the specific purpose of Kampf and Belwe’s illustrations consisted in stressing and simplifying the book’s key subject matter and facilitating its memorisation. The ballads performed the same function. The author maintains that the stylistic unity and repetition of similar subject-matter in Belwe and Kampf’s work contribute to the book’s overall representation of Prussia’s history as a coherent narrative. 

Belwe’s pictures encapsulate the book’s main ideas through the use of generalised images rather than directly translating Herzog’s prose and poetry into pictures. Kampf’s illustrations further stress the role of monarchy and army as the key actors of Prussian history through the artist’s selection of subject-matter and employment of artistic devices. Together with Herzog’s text, his pictures promote determination, courage, and self-sacrifice for the sake of the country. Two other themes that dominate Kampf’s illustrations are the bond between the monarchy, the nation, and the church (an element of The Second Reich’s official nationalism) as well as Prussia’s technological advancement as an epitome of its political power.

Downloads

Published

2023-06-04

Issue

Section

Special Issue

How to Cite

Representing National Histories in Popular Illustrated Literature for Youth: Illustrations by Arthur Kampf and Georg Belwe to «Preußens Geschichte» («Prussian History», 1913) by Rudolf Herzog as a Case in Point. (2023). Text and Image: Essential Problems in Art History, 1(15), 6–28. https://doi.org/10.17721/2519-4801.2023.1.01