October 31, 2014
This week in 1913: Rilke wants a divorce, Kaiser Wilhelm shoots 1,100 pheasants, and a magnificent display of French art is dismissed by critics
by Alex Shephard
1913 is now available in paperback.
Just before one of its darkest moments came the twentieth century’s most exciting year . . .
It was the year Henry Ford first put a conveyer belt in his car factory, and the yearLouis Armstrong first picked up a trumpet. It was the year Charlie Chaplin signed his first movie contract, and Coco Chanel and Pradaopened their first dress shops. It was the year Proust began his opus, Stravinsky wrote The Rite of Spring, and the first Armory Show in New York introduced the world to Picasso and the world of abstract art. It was the year the recreational drug now known as ecstasy was invented.
It was 1913, the year before the world plunged into the catastrophic darkness of World War I.OCTOBER 23-31
October 23: Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, who was in Leipzig for the inauguration of the Monument to the Battle of the Nations, has just achieved the Serbians’ withdrawal from Albania in the Second Balkan War through an adept diplomatic initiative. This relieves and impresses the German Kaiser Wilhelm II so much that he visits the heir in his castle in Konopiště. The two men get along magnificently. Franz Ferdinand organizes a two-day hunt, on which Kaiser Wilhelm II, believe it or not, shoots 1,100 pheasants. Unfortunately, he only eats one for dinner.
October 31: Rilke sets off in haste back to Paris. From there he writes on 31 October that he wants to file for divorce from Clara.
Date unknown: Reviews of the re-opening of the Neue Galerie opened in autumn 1913 by Otto Feldmann at 6a Lennéstrasse in Berlin spoke of the state of Picasso’s reputation, and that of Modernism in general. Next to Paris artists Neumann also showed “negro sculptures,” Hellenistic sculptures and “Oriental” pieces. Early works from cultural expeditions to distant lands, which were having such a great influence on artists at the time, were therefore mixed with European works. It was a fascinating display of the situation of French art around 1913. In the magazine Die Kunst, however, Kurt Glaser drew the following surprising conclusion about new art salons in Berlin: “A still-life by Matisse is exhibited, the colors lacking impact. Picasso has a whole wall to himself, and you get the impression that it’s been designated as the exhibition’s shrine. Perhaps a little late, too, for one would hope that the fuss that has been made about these decent but nonetheless feeble artists will soon die down.”
Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.