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Wilhelm II, "True Art" (1901)

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But [only] almost! With this point in mind, I wish to impress upon you: Sculpture has, as yet, remained largely free of so-called modern directions and influences. It still stands tall and sublime. See to it that it remains so. Do not let yourselves be led astray by mortal judgments and all manner of vacuous preaching to abandon [sculpture’s] noble foundations!

Art that violates the laws and goes beyond the bounds I have indicated is no longer art. It is factory production, commercialism, and that can never be art. So often, under the much abused name and flag of “freedom,” one descends into excess, licentiousness, and presumption. However, he who sins against the quintessence of art, who views solutions to his main task from a merely technical perspective, loses touch with the law of aesthetics and all feeling for beauty and harmony. Such things are felt in every man’s breast, even if he cannot express it himself.

But there is more: Art should assist in educating the public. By way of its ideals, it should also offer [the members of] the lower classes the opportunity – after a day of strenuous work and effort – to refresh and strengthen themselves. For us, the German people, the great ideals [of art] have become eternal goods whereas they have become more or less lost on other peoples. It [consequently] remains to the German people alone to protect, nurture, and carry on these great ideals. And these ideals demand that we give [the members of] the working, toiling classes the chance to edify themselves through beauty and thereby elevate themselves above everyday concerns.

If art, now, does no more than portray misery – as it happens so often today – in an even more dreadful light than that in which it is already cast, then it sins against the German people. The nurturing of ideals is at the same time the greatest task of culture. And if we want to be and remain a model to other peoples, we [the German people] must all work for it together. And if culture is to fully fulfill its duty, it must penetrate the lowest levels of society. Art can only do this [however] when it offers its hand, when it elevates, when it does not lower itself into the gutter instead.

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