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Wilhelm II, "True Art" (1901)

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It sometimes pains me as sovereign that art – in the person of its masters – does not vigorously resist such influences. In no way do I even remotely fail to recognize that many an ambitious character among the followers of such trends might have the best of intentions. He nevertheless remains on the wrong path. The true artist has no need for ballyhoo, marketing or connections. I do not think that in the area of the [arts and] sciences our great predecessors in ancient Greece, Italy, or the Renaissance ever advertised, the way it is so often done today in the press, so as to draw attention to their ideas. They worked as God intended and let the people say what they would.

And a true artist must work in this very same way. Art that sinks to the level of advertisement is no longer art – may it be praised a hundred or a thousand times over. Every individual has a sense for that which is ugly or beautiful – may he be ever so simple. And I need all of you to cultivate this sense among the people. The fact that you accomplished a portion of such work in the Siegesallee – for this, I thank you especially.

Source: Wilhelm II, “Die wahre Kunst” [“True Art”] (December 18, 1901), in Ernst Johann, Reden des Kaisers: Ansprachen, Predigten und Trinksprüche Wilhelms II [The Kaiser’s Speeches: Addresses, Preachings, and Toasts by Wilhelm II]. Munich, 1996, pp. 99-103.

Original German text also reprinted in Jürgen Schutte and Peter Sprengel, Die Berliner Moderne 1885-1914 [Berlin Modernity, 1885-1914]. Stuttgart, 1987, pp. 571-74.

Translation: Angela A. Kurtz

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