As a work of art are referred to a work, are in the various arts such as music, poetry, dance / mime, architecture and painting, united. The compilation is not arbitrary and illustrative: the components of complement necessary. The total work of art has a " tendency to eradicate the border between aesthetic structure and reality " ( Odo Marquard ). There is no indication of the divine creation, as was customary in the art from Gothic to Baroque, but it lays claim to its own advantage.


The idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk is created in the Romantic period. The philosopher Friedrich Schelling stressed about the " a necessary deification of man" (Bruno or the divine and natural principle of things, 1802). This heightened self-awareness made ​​it possible to equate the work of the artist to the works of nature. The term itself was first used by the writer and philosopher Eusebius Trahndorff in the font aesthetics or theory of belief and the Arts ( 1827). In 1849, he reappears in Richard Wagner's essay The Art and Revolution. Whether Wagner Trahndorffs known work is an open question.

Wagner described the Attic tragedy as the " great work of art ." In his shortly thereafter incurred font The Artwork of the Future expanded Wagner from the meaning of the term. In his conception of an integral, comprehensive various arts work of art, which he detailed described in his lengthy book Opera and Drama and was later approached by other than music drama, Wagner ordered the single "Sister Arts" a common purpose, the drama under. The increasing division of labor ( as in the separation of lines in the theater ) and the selfish isolation in society should be removed from his sight. As a role model and enemy at the same time he had the French grand opera in mind, where all performance arts were already united in their latest technology. Wagner was based on the belief that the opera located on the wrong track when they absolutely put the music and all of the other elements, especially the drama itself subordinating.

Wagner's siblings were still at the same time been an actor, singer and dancer too, which was not possible due to the specialization of the theater professions after 1850. On another way this universality should be recovered: by equal work of the performers at the work of art in the service of its author. Wagner spoke of a " cooperative of artists ." He went there from as aesthetic ideas of the German romantics like the political and aesthetic discourses that in 1840 in the wake of the various revolutions were virulent in Paris and to realize a social utopia by means of aesthetics hoped:

"The great Gesammtkunstwerk, which has to include all genres of art, to consume any one of these genres as a means to a certain extent, to destroy the sake of achieving the Gesammtzweckes of all, namely the unconditional, direct representation of perfect human nature, - this great Gesammtkunstwerk he does not recognize as the possible arbitrary deed of the individual, rather than necessarily conceivable joint work of the people of the future. "

An implementation of the Wagner's idea of ​​Gesamtkunstwerk in the context of the Bayreuth Festival ( 1876 ) practiced later by stage designer Adolphe Appia criticism. He saw a contradiction between the linguistic and musical structure of Wagner's music dramas and respected by him as conventionally realistic stage directions Wagner. Appia's designs on equipment and production style contributed significantly to the theater reform in 1900 at.

Edward Gordon Craig, however, the success of the synthesis of the genius of the director made ​​dependent. Wassily Kandinsky resulted in his 1923 Manifesto About the abstract stage synthesis as an overarching principle, the space a.

Current meanings

In the exhibition " Der Hang zum Gesamtkunstwerk " by Harald Szeemann, which was shown in 1983 at the Kunsthaus Zurich, in the museum of the 20th century in Vienna and in early 1984, in Berlin's Schloss Charlottenburg, a variety of art works to the public were presented: including the Merzbau of Kurt Schwitters, the Goetheanum in Dornach, the cathedrals (such as Sagrada Família ) by Antonio Gaudi, the Monte Verità in Ascona, Vittoriale degli Italiani on Lake Garda. In the exhibition are European utopias since 1800 assembled, who do not want to be limited to purely aesthetic importance, but have a transformation of social reality to a renewed society in mind.

In more recent times, the term Gesamtkunstwerk overlaps with that of the ( synthetic ) Intermediality. Whether art, at the same time appeal to different senses, free compilations within the meaning of multimedia or en: Mixed -media or whether they satisfy the claim of an association for total work of art is a matter of interpretation. Even happenings, Fluxus, performance, experimental theater and other phenomena are interpreted as variations of the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk.