Defense Date

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

Art History

First Advisor

Dr. Kathleen Chapman

Second Advisor

Dr. Eric Garberson

Third Advisor

Dr. Colin Lang

Abstract

This thesis offers a new way to conceptualize Hermann Max Pechstein’s “primitivism” as a kind of ethnographic “primitivism.” By creating a constellation that connects Pechstein’s Nidden and Palau-based projects, Paul Gauguin’s “primitivist” aesthetic, and the research produced by German ethnographers, I argue that the “documentary” nature of Pechstein’s work paradoxically merges the “scientific” aspects of ethnography with his, and more generally, other Expressionists’ interest in the “primitive.” In addition, the following work demonstrates that the purportedly “scientific” representations and visual accounts of South Seas natives that ethnographers like Otto Finsch produced in the late 1800s and early 1900s heavily and problematically relied on an aestheticization of these foreign people that renders them as decorative, “exotic” objects, which are in many ways subjugated to the gaze of and “on display” for the Westerners examining them. This thesis ultimately focuses on how Pechstein’s representations of people from Palau effectively combine the style typical of most Expressionists and an impulse towards ethnographic depiction not seen in the work of his Brücke colleagues.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

10-1-2015

Available for download on Sunday, September 28, 2025

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