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The Building of Hamburg's Bismarck Memorial, 1898-1906

Mark A. Russell
The Historical Journal
Vol. 43, No. 1 (Mar., 2000), pp. 133-156
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3021016
Page Count: 24
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The Building of Hamburg's Bismarck Memorial, 1898-1906
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Abstract

Hamburg's Bismarck memorial, unveiled in 1906, is considered to be one of the greatest expressions of Imperial Germany's Bismarck cult and an important development in the history of German memorial art. This article looks beyond these contextual categories to focus on the political and cultural exigencies specific to Hamburg which gave birth to the memorial. It suggests it was born of the desire of Hamburg's patrician classes to defend their political privileges in the face of dramatic social change and attendant demands for political reform. To those who presided over its construction, it was also a means of asserting Hamburg's cultural aspirations and of shrugging off a reputation as a city hostile to the arts. The article examines some of the memorial designs submitted to a competition as a means of illustrating the functions it was intended to fulfil, but argues that it failed to fulfil both. Meeting widespread disapproval among the working classes, the memorial could not stay their increasing support for the Social Democrats. Although widely admired, the monument did not stimulate further significant patronage of the arts in Hamburg.

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