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Abstract

Kunst fürs Volk repositions genre painting in nineteenth-century Germany as a form of mass culture, rather than high art, to achieve new insight into the form and function of a rather tired pictorial format. Genre paintings were as commonplace at galleries and large-scale art exhibitions as they were in commercial art, and they were used to illustrate all manner of objects and ephemera. The reiteration of forms within genre paintings had become, in a sense, a ‘massification’ of artistic technique and expression, just as the images and figurative elements themselves were repeated endlessly within different media formats. To the extent that the pictorial elements were ‘devalued’ by virtue of their mediocrity and popular usage, as well as their repetitiveness, the context in which they were situated took on increased significance; the interplay between the object and its context, audience, and reception is the subject of my analysis.

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