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Hence the vast host of mediocrities, not only in art but in almost
every field of human activity, nowadays advertise and seek patronage
because only in this way can they find purchasers and live. These
artists, often men of talent, dislike having to advertise; they would
rather work for art's sake, but having to do so need not hinder them
from working for art's sake, since all that is meant by that much
misused phrase is that while the artist is working he shall not think
of the reward of his work, but simply and solely of how to do the best
work he can.

Before leaving the Emperor's speech one is tempted to inquire what
should be the attitude of a sovereign towards art and artists. For the
Englishman the doctrine of Individualism - the thing he is so apt to
make a fetish of - gives an answer, and, it may be, the right one. The
Englishman will probably say that if in any one province of life more
than in another freedom should be allowed to originality of conception
regarding the form as well as the substance, the manner as well as the
matter, it is in the province of art, always provided, of course, that
the artist is sane and not guilty of indecency. The artist, like the
poet, is born not made; you cannot make an artist, you can only make
an artisan. The artist, who represents the Creator, the creative
faculty, can influence man: man cannot, and should not try to,
influence the artist, but can, and should only, offer him the
materials for his art, smooth the way for his endeavour, encourage him
in it by sympathetic yet candid criticism, and above all, when he can
afford it, by buying the result of his endeavour when it is

This should be the attitude of both monarch and Maecenas: it is an
attitude of benevolent neutrality. "I know," such a Maecenas might say
to the artist,

"that your artistic faculties move in an atmosphere above as
well as on the earth, as I know that above the atmosphere of
oxygen and hydrogen which envelops the earth there is an
ethereal, a rarefied atmosphere, which stretches to worlds
of which all we know is that they exist. If your spirit can
soar above this earthly atmosphere, well and good. I, for
one, shall do nothing to limit or hinder it: I shall only
welcome and applaud and reward whatever effort you make to
bring our inner being a step, long or short, nearer to the
source of celestial light. Consequently, I offer you no
instructions and put no fetters on your imagination."

It takes all sorts of art to make an artistic world, as it takes all
sorts of people to make the human world: a world with only classic art
in it would be as uninteresting and unthinkable as a world in which
every one was of the same character, occupation, and dress.

But it is time to consider the Emperor a little more in detail in
relation to his connexion with the arts. If he were not a first-rate
monarch he would probably be a first-rate artist. He said once that if
he were to be an artist, he would be a sculptor. But if he is not a
professional artist he is a connoisseur, a dilettante in the right
sense, a lover of the arts, an art-loving prince. The painter Salzmann
tells us how he used to go to the Villa Liegnitz in Potsdam to give
Prince William lessons, and how the Empress, then Princess William,
used to sit with the pupil and his teacher, discussing technical and
art questions. A result of the teaching, in addition to the pictures
mentioned elsewhere, was an oil-painting, a sea-fight, which still
hangs in the Ravene Gallery in Berlin.

In the spring of 1886 the Prince sent his teacher a sketch for
criticism. Salzmann wired his opinion to Potsdam, and a telegram came
back, "What does 'wind too anxious' mean? is it so stormily painted
that you shuddered at it, or is it not stormy enough?" Salzmann is
also authority for the statement that the Prince sent in a sea-piece
to the annual Berlin Art Exhibition. It was placed ready to be judged,
but suddenly disappeared. The Emperor William, it appeared, had
decided that it would not do for a future Emperor to compete with
professional artists or run the risk of sarcastic public criticism.
Naturally since he came to the throne the Emperor has never had time
to cultivate his talent as a painter, but has always fed his eyes and
mind on the best kind of painting, and brings his sense of form and
colour to bear on everything he does or has a voice in.

That the Emperor's own taste in painting is of a "classical" kind in a
very catholic sense was shown by the personal interest he took in
getting together and having brought to Berlin the exhibition of old
English masters in 1908. At his request the English owners of many of
these treasures agreed to lend them for exhibition in Germany,
submitting thereby to the risk of loss or damage, displaying an
unselfish disposition to aid in elevating the taste of a foreign
people, and at the same time giving Germans a better and more tangible
idea of the nation which could produce artists of such nobility of
feeling and marvellous technical capacity. The Emperor paid several
visits to the exhibition and thousands of Berlin folk followed his
example, so that the beauty of the works of Gainsborough, Raeburn,
Lawrence, Hoppner, and Romney was for months a topic of enthusiastic
conversation in the capital.

Encouraged by this success, the Emperor next caused a similar
exhibition of French painters to be arranged. The Rococo period was
now chosen, many lovely specimens of the art of Watteau, Lancret,
David, Vigee, Lebrun, Fragonnard, Greuze, and Bonnat were procured,
and again the Berliner was given an opportunity not only of enjoying
an artistic treat of a delightful kind, but of comparing the
impressions made on him by the art spirits of two other nations. The
opening of this French exhibition was made by the Emperor the occasion
of emphasizing his conciliatory feelings towards France, for he
attended an evening entertainment at the French Embassy given
specially in honour of the occasion.

A third art exhibition followed in 1910 - that of two hundred American
oil paintings brought to Berlin and shown in the Royal Academy of Arts
on the Panser Platz. They included works by Sargent, Whistler, Gari
Melchior, Leon Dabo, Joseph Pennell, and many others. The suggestion
for this exhibition did not proceed from the Emperor, but in all
possible ways he gave the exhibition his personal support. On
returning from inspecting it he telegraphed to the American Ambassador
in Berlin, Dr. D. J. Hill, to express the pleasure he had derived from
what he had seen. Nor was such a mark of admiration surprising. The
exhibition was nothing short of a revelation, going far to dissipate
the German belief - perhaps the English belief also - that America
possesses no body of painters of the first rank.

Again we have recourse to the marine painter, Herr Salzmann. Wired for
by the Emperor, the painter got to the palace at 10.15 PM. When he
arrived the Emperor cried out, "So, at last! Where have you been
hiding yourself? I have had Berlin searched for you." The Emperor and
Empress and suite had just returned from the theatre and were standing
about the room. It turned out that the Emperor wanted the painter to
help him sketch a battleship of a certain design he had in mind, to
see how it would look on the water. In the middle of the room an
adjutant stood and read out a speech made by a Radical deputy in the
Reichstag that day, and the Emperor made occasional remarks about it,
though at the same time he was engaged with the ship. The painter does
not forget to add that he "was provided with a good glass of beer."

The Emperor is reported to be a capital "sitter." He had the French
painter Borchart staying with him at Potsdam to paint his portrait.
Borchart describes him as an ideal model, so still and patiently did
he sit, and this at times for more than two hours. He talked freely
during the sittings. "I don't want to be regarded as a devourer of
Frenchmen," was a remark made on one of these occasions; on another he
praised President Loubet; and on a third he had a good word even for
the Socialist Jaures. When Borchart had finished and naively expressed
satisfaction with his own work the Emperor said, "Na, na, friend
Borchart, not so proud; it is for us to criticize."

As the Emperor is a lover of the "classical" in painting and
sculpture, it is not strange to find him an admirer of the classical
in music and recommending it to his people as the best form of musical
education. He holds that there is much in common between it and the
folk-songs of Germany. At Court he revived classical dances like the
minuet and the gavotte. He is devoted to opera and never leaves before
the end of the performance. Concerts frequently take place in the
royal palaces at Potsdam and Berlin, items on the programme for them
being often suggested by the Emperor. The programme is then submitted
to him and is rarely returned without alteration. Not seldom the
concert is preceded by a rehearsal, which the Emperor attends and
which itself has been carefully rehearsed beforehand, as the Emperor
expects everything to run smoothly. At these rehearsals he will often
cause an item to be repeated. Bach and Handel are his prime
favourites. He is no admirer of Strauss. Wagner he often listens to
with pleasure, and especially the "Meistersinger," which is his pet
opera. Of Italian operas Verdi's "Aida" and Meyerbeer's "Huguenots"
are those he is most disposed to hear.

He has been laughed at for once attempting musical composition. The
"Song to Aegir," which he composed in 1894 at the age of thirty-five
(when he should have known better), was, he told the bandmaster of a
Hannoverian regiment, suggested to him by the singing of a Hannoverian
glee society. It is a song twenty-four lines long, with the inevitable
references to the foe, and the sword and shield, and whales and
mermaids, and the God of the waves, who is called on to quell the
storm. The lady-in-waiting who wrote the "Private Lives of the Emperor
and His Consort" tells with much detail how the song was really
written, not by the Emperor, but almost wholly by a musical adjutant.
It does not greatly matter, but it is likely that the Emperor is
responsible for the text if he did not compose the music.

One of the best and most interesting descriptions of his kindly and
characteristic way of treating artists is that given by the late
Norwegian composer, Eduard Grieg.

"The other day," writes the composer,

I had a chance to meet your Kaiser. He had already expressed
a desire last year to meet me, but I was ill at that time.
Now he has renewed his wish, and therefore I could not
decline the invitation. I am, as you know, little of a
courtier. But I said to myself, 'Remember Aalesund' (for
which the Emperor had sent a large sum after a great fire),
and my sense of duty conquered. Our first meeting was at
breakfast at the German Consul's house. During the meal we
spoke much about music. I like his ways, and - oddly
enough - our opinions also agreed. Afterwards he came to me
and I had the pleasure of talking with him alone for nearly
an hour. We spoke about everything in heaven and
earth - about poetry, painting, religion, Socialism, and the
Lord knows what besides.

"He was fortunately a human being, and not an Emperor. I was
therefore permitted to express my opinions openly, though in
a discreet manner, of course. Then followed some music. He
had brought along an orchestra (!), about forty men. He took
two chairs, placed them in front of all the others, sat down
on one, and said, 'If you please, first parquet'; and then
the music began - Sigurd Jorsalfar, Peer Gynt, and many other

"While the music was being played he continually aided me in
correcting the _tempi_ and the expression, although as a
matter of course I had not wanted to do such a thing. He was
very insistent, however, that I should make my intentions
clear. Then he illustrated the impression made by the music
by movements of his head and body. It was wonderful
_(göttlich)_ to watch his serpentine movements _à la
Orientalin_ while they played Anitra's dance, which quite
electrified him.

"Afterwards I had to play for him on the piano, and my wife,
who sat nearest him, told me that here too he illustrated
the impression made on him, especially at the best places.

"I played the minuet from the pianoforte sonata which he
found 'very Germanic' and powerfully built: and the 'Wedding
Day at Troldhaugen,' which piece he also liked.

"On the following day there was a repetition of these things
on board the _Hohenzollern_, where we were all invited to
dinner at eight o'clock. The orchestra played on deck in the
most wondrously bright summer night while many
hundreds - nay, I believe thousands - of rowboats and small
steamers were grouped about us. The crowd applauded
constantly and cheered enthusiastically whenever the Kaiser
became visible. He treated me like a patient: he gave me his
cloak and sent to fetch a rug, with which he covered me

"I must not forget to relate that he grew so enthusiastic
over 'Sigurd Jorsalfar,' the subject of which I explained to
him as minutely as possible, that he said to von Hiilsen,
the intendant of the royal theatres, who sat next to him:
'We must produce this work! (This was not done, however.)

"I then invited von Hiilsen to come to Christiania to
witness a performance of it, and he said he was very eager
to so. All in all this meeting was an event and a surprise
in the best sense. The Kaiser, certainly, is a very uncommon
man, a strange mixture of great energy, great self-reliance,
and great kindness of heart. Of children and animals he
spoke often and with sympathy, which I regard as a
significant thing."

On the New Year's Day following the Emperor sent the composer a
telegram reading: "To the northern bard to listen to whose strains has
always been a joy to me I send my most sincere wishes for the new year
and new creative activity." In 1906, Grieg, having once more been the
Emperor's guest, writes to a friend:

"He was greatly pleased with having become once more a
grandfather. He called to me across the table (referring to
'Sigurd'), 'Is it agreeable if I call the child Sigurd?' It
must be something _Urgermanisch_."

The following anecdote may remind the reader of the amusing scene in
Offenbach's "Grand Duchesse of Gerolstein," where the Grand Duchess,
talking to the guardsman whose athletic proportions she admires,
addresses him with a rising scale of "corporal" ... "sergeant" ...
"lieutenant" ... "captain" ... "colonel," and so on, as she talks,
only, however, later cruelly to re-descend the scale to the very
bottom when her courtship is ineffectual. The Emperor is at an organ
recital in the Kaiser William Memorial Church; the recital is over and
the Court party are about to go when he greets the organist, Herr
Fischer: "My cordial thanks for the great pleasure you have given us,
Herr Professor." "Pardon, your Majesty," replies the organist, with
commendable presence of mind: "May I venture to thank your Majesty for
the great mark of favour?" "What mark of favour?" asks the Emperor, a
little puzzled. "The fact is your Majesty has more than once addressed
me as 'professor,' although - " "Why, that's good," exclaims the
Emperor, with a great laugh, "very good indeed;" and striking his
forehead in self-reproach with the palm of his hand: "so forgetful of
me! Then you are not professor, after all! Well, no matter; what is
not, may be - what I said, I said. Adieu, _Herr Professor_" and goes
off smiling. The very same evening - need it be added? - Herr Fischer
had his patent as Professor in his pocket.

The Emperor is particularly fond of "my Americans" among his operatic
artists. A good deal of jealousy has at times been shown by the German
employees of the opera towards the American artists entertained there
and a deputy has more than once protested in the Reichstag against the
number employed; but the jealousy rarely results in harm, and on the
whole harmony - as it should - prevails.

Every year brings hundreds of American girl students to Berlin,
Munich, or Dresden to learn singing and perhaps carry off the great
prize of a "star" engagement at one or the other of the German royal
opera houses. The experiences of some of these students are tragedies
on a small scale, and in one or two instances have been known to end
in death, destitution, or dishonour. The explanation is simple. Such
students, filled with the high hopes inspired by artistic ambition and
the artist's imagination, fail to ask themselves before going abroad
if nature has endowed them with the qualities and powers requisite for
one of the most laborious and, for a girl, exposed professions in the
world; and do not learn until it is too late that they lack the
resolute character, the robust health, and the talent which, not
singly but all three combined, are essential to success.

Such a girl often starts on her enterprise poorly supplied with means
to pay for her board, lodging, clothes, recreation, and instruction;
she changes from the dearer sort of _pension_ to the cheaper, finding
her company and surroundings at each remove more doubtful and more
dangerous; she grows disappointed and disheartened, perhaps physically
ill; comes under bad influences, male or female; until finally the
curtain falls on a sufferer rescued at the last moment by relatives or
friends, or on a young life blasted. Such tragic cases, it should be
said, are far from common, but they occur, and the possibility of
their occurrence ought to be taken into account at the outset by the
intending music or art student.

Happily there is another and brighter side to the picture, and the
intending student with money and friends will enjoy and gain advantage
from a few years of continental life, even though exceptional strength
and genuine talent be wanting. Perhaps this is the experience of the
great majority of art students in Germany. Freedom from the restraints
and conventions of life at home compensates for the inconveniences
arising from narrow means. Novelty of scenery and surroundings has a
charm that is constantly recurring. The kindness and helpfulness of
fellow-countrymen and countrywomen make the wheels of daily life roll
smoothly. The freemasonry of art, its optimism and hope, and the
pleasure and interest of its practice, investigation, and discussion
wing the hours and spur to effort.

But to return to the Emperor. As a lad at Cassel he was fond of
playing charades, and is reported to have had a knack of quickly
sketching the scenario and _dramatis personæ_ of a play which he and
his young companions would then and there proceed to act. One of these
plays had Charlemagne for its subject, with a Saxon feudatory, whose
lovely daughter, Brunhilde, scorns her father for his submission. A
banquet, ending in a massacre of Charlemagne's followers, is one of
the scenes, and as Brunhilde is in love with Charlemagne's son she
helps him to escape from the massacre. The Play ends with the suicide
of Brunhilde. As he grew up the Emperor's interest in the theatre
increased, and, as has been seen, when he succeeded to the throne he
resolved to make use of it for educating and elevating the public
mind. As patriotism consists largely in knowing and properly
appreciating history he has always encouraged dramatists who could
portray historic scenes and events, particularly those with which the
Hohenzollerns were connected. Hence his support of Josef Lauff, Ernst
von Wildenbruch and Detlev von Liliencron. Not long ago he arranged a
series of performances at Kroll's Theatre intended for workmen only.
The performances were chiefly of the stirring historical
kind - Schiller's "Wilhelm Tell," Goethe's "Götz von Berlichingen,"
Kleist's "Prince von Hornburg," and others that require huge
processions and a crowded stage. The general public were not supposed
to attend the performances, but tickets were sent to the factories and
workshops for sale at a low price.

In 1898 the Emperor publicly stated his views about the theatre. "When
I mounted the throne ten years ago," he said,

"I was, owing to my paternal education, the most fervent of
idealists. Convinced that the first duty of the royal
theatres was to maintain in the nation the cultivation of
the idealism to which, God be thanked, our people are still
faithful, and of which the sources are not yet nearly
exhausted, I determined to myself to make my royal theatres
an instrument comparable to the school or the university
whose mission it is to form the rising generation and to
inculcate in them respect for the highest moral traditions
of our dear German land. For the theatre ought to contribute
to the culture of the soul and of the character, and to the
elevation of morals. Yes, the theatre is also one of my
weapons.... It is the duty of a monarch to occupy himself
with the theatre, because it may become in his hands an
incalculable force."

If the Emperor has any special gift it is an eye for theatrical effect
in real life as well as on the stage. He had a good share of the
actor's temperament in his younger years, and until recently showed it
in the conduct of imperial and royal business of all kinds. He still
gives it play occasionally in the royal opera houses and theatres. The
Englishman, whose ruler is a civilian, is not much impressed by
pageantry and pomp, except as reminding him of superannuated, though
still revered, historical traditions and events that are landmarks in
a great military and maritime past. He would not care to see his King
always, or even frequently, in uniform, as he would be apt to find in
the fact an undue preference for one class of citizens to another. His
idea is that the monarch ought to treat all classes of his subjects
with equal kingly favour. In Germany it is otherwise. The monarchy
relies on military force for its dynastic security, as much, one might
perhaps say, as for the defence of the country or the keeping of the
public peace, and consequently favours the military. Moreover, the
peoples that compose the Empire have been harassed throughout the long
course of their history by wars; a large percentage of their youth are
serving in the standing army or in the reserves, the Landwehr and the
Landsturm; finally the Germans, though not, as it appears to the
foreigner, an artistic people, save in regard to music, enjoy the
spectacular and the theatrical.

Accordingly we find the Emperor artistically arranging everything and
succeeding particularly well in anything of an historical and
especially of a military nature. The spring and autumn parades of the
Berlin garrison on the Tempelhofer Field - an area large enough, it is
said, to hold the massed armies of Europe - with their gatherings of
from 30,000 to 60,000 troops of all arms, serve at once to excite the
Berliner's martial enthusiasm, while at the same time it obscurely
reminds him that if he treats the dynasty disrespectfully he will have
a formidable repressive force to reckon with. Hence at manoeuvres the
Emperor is accompanied by an enormous suite; whenever he motors down
Unter den Linden it is at a quick pace, which impresses the crowd
while it lessens the chances of the bomb-thrower or the assassin. The
scene of the reception of Prince Chun at the New Palace was a great
success as an artistic performance, and the pageants at the
restoration of the Hohkönigsburg and at the Saalburg festival were of
the same artistic order.

The Emperor's theatrical interest and attention when in Berlin are
concentrated on the Berlin Royal Opera and the Berlin Royal Theatre
(Schauspielhaus), and when in Wiesbaden on the Royal Festspielhaus at
that resort. When in his capital he goes very rarely to any other
place of theatrical entertainment. His interest in the royal opera and
theatre both in Berlin and Wiesbaden is personal and untiring, and he
has done almost as much or more for the adequate representation of
grand opera in his capital as the now aged Duke of Saxe-Meiningen did,
through his famous Meiningen players, for the proper presentation of

Online LibraryStanley ShawWilliam of Germany → online text (page 18 of 31)