Lustmord: Images of Violence and the Legal Contours of the Public Sphere in Weimar Germany

Online talk by Frederic J. Schwartz as part of the series Cultures of Legality in Weimar Germany

Date: 8th November 2023
Time: 10.00 h to 11.00 h
Location: Online via Zoom

The so-called Lustmord images—graphic representations of sexual violence by artists such as George Grosz, Otto Dix, Rudolf Schlichter and others—remain a problem in the study of early twentieth-century German art. They offer a privileged view into the challenges to masculine identity at a certain stage in modernity and the way sex and violence are inscribed in the constitution of modern masculinity. But these extraordinarily complex images function according to logics beyond that of patriarchy, endemic violence toward women then and now, and the disturbing role of such images as sources of male visual pleasure. Their tropic movement throughout the culture of the time, for example, shows how they were interwoven with complex practices of publicity. In this talk, however, I shall be looking at the material conditions of these images’ production and circulation. This was the time of fundamental changes in many media, from increasing capitalisation (in, for example, film) to the increased speed of circulation of images by means of developing print technology, and also changing conditions of representation as legal limitations on what could be made public were altered, at the same time as relations between media and genres were being renegotiated. A few examples will allow us to explore how these images worked across and between media at the time, and also how the law constituted a complex and contested space of the legally representable.

Frederic J. Schwartz is Emeritus Professor of History of Art and Architecture at University College London. He is the author of The Werkbund: Design Theory and Mass Culture before the First World War, Blind Spots: Critical History and the History of Art in Twentieth-Century Germany and, most recently, The Culture of the Case: Madness, Crime, and Justice in Modern German Art, on which this talk draws.

The seminar series is part of the project Imagining Justice: Law, Politics and Popular Visual Culture in Weimar Germany, funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

International Start Times: 09:00h BST / 20:00 AEDT

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