Cover image for The red count : the life and times of Harry Kessler
The red count : the life and times of Harry Kessler
Easton, Laird McLeod, 1956-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xv, 497 pages ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
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DD231.K4 E27 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



The life of Count Harry Kessler (1868-1937), the famous Anglo-German art patron, writer, and activist, offers a vivid and engrossing perspective on the tumultuous transformation of art and politics that took place in modern Europe between 1890 and 1930. In the first half of his career Kessler was one of the most ardent and well-known champions of aesthetic modernism in Imperial Germany, becoming a friend and patron to pioneering artists and writers of his day, most notably French sculptor Aristide Maillol, Belgian architect Henry van de Velde, English theater designer Gordon Craig, and Austrian poet and playwright Hugo von Hofmannsthal and, in his capacity as director of the Museum of Arts and Crafts in Weimar and vice-president of the German Artists League, served as a spokesman and lightning rod for embattled modern art. In the aftermath of the First World War, in which he served as a soldier, propagandist, and secret agent, Kessler embarked on a public career as a committed internationalist and pacifist, a stance that led ultimately to his exile from Germany upon the Nazi seizure of power. Making use of the recently discovered portions of Kessler's extensive diaries, one of the most remarkable journals ever written, Laird Easton explains the reasons for this startling metamorphosis, showing for the first time the continuities between Kessler's prewar aestheticism and his postwar politics and highlighting his importance within the larger history of the rise of modern art and politics. This lively narrative, the first English-language biography of Harry Kessler, provides a rich and fascinating portrait of the man whom W. H. Auden called "a crown witness of our times."

Author Notes

Laird McLeod Easton is Associate Professor of History at California State University, Chico.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

During the reign of William II and until the end of the Weimar Republic, Harry Kessler played a significant role in the cultural and political life of Germany and, indeed, of Europe. William II, whose tastes in the arts ran toward traditional neoclassical work, made no secret of his dislike for Kessler's enthusiasm for new departures in drama, painting, and sculpture, and the two clashed publicly in 1904. When war broke out, Kessler fought with courage for his country until Verdun, when his nerves gave out. After 1918, Kessler, who hitherto had been as conservative in his political views as he had been radical in his artistic preferences, moved to the left. Throughout the Weimar years Kessler defended the League of Nations and, side by side with Einstein, argued for pacifism. When Hitler came to power, Kessler fled Germany. He died in exile in 1937, and his death may have come in large part from his despair over the future of Germany and Europe. In this brilliant biography, Easton (California State Univ., Chico) offers much more than a portrait of this remarkable and cosmopolitan man. He provides a wealth of unique insights into the history of the early 20th century. All levels and collections. S. Bailey Knox College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrationsp. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xiii
Introduction: Art and Politics in Modern Germanyp. 1
Part 1 Family and Education
1. Pirates and Philosophersp. 13
2. From Ascot to Hamburgp. 22
3. At the Universityp. 33
4. From New York to Potsdamp. 47
Part 2 Apprenticeship
5. Berlin in the 1890sp. 59
6. Decadence and Renewalp. 73
7. A Change of Plansp. 88
Part 3 The Third Weimar
8. The New Weimarp. 99
9. The Culture of the Eyep. 116
10. A Theater of Dreamsp. 129
11. The Rodin Scandalp. 145
Part 4 The Fever Curve
12. Greek Idyllsp. 159
13. Hofmannsthal and Der Rosenkavalierp. 176
14. A Monument for Nietzschep. 185
15. The Legend of Josephp. 196
Part 5 War's Purifying Fire
16. Furor Teutonicusp. 219
17. Pax Germaniap. 237
18. Propaganda and Peace Feelersp. 249
19. Apocalyptic Timesp. 266
Part 6 The Red Count
20. The Lost Revolutionp. 279
21. Pacifism and Its Discontentsp. 298
22. Diplomatic Missionsp. 315
23. American Interludep. 327
24. Retreat from Politicsp. 346
Part 7 The Path Downward
25. The Golden Twentiesp. 365
26. Revenge of the Philistinesp. 384
27. "And thus he left me"p. 397
Conclusion: A World Forever Lost?p. 409
Notesp. 413
Bibliographyp. 461
Indexp. 483