The term Gesamtkunstwerk refers to the utopian aspirations beginning in the early nineteenth century toward the union of all the arts into a single work of art. Its insufficient treatment in terms of art history is one of the main reasons for the sustainedly arbitrary use of the word.[1] Lexical definitions which define the Gesamtkunstwerk as a term for the synergy of all the arts (poetry, music, dance, visual art, architecture) in a work for the stage,[2] or as the German art-theoretical term for the synthesis of all the different spatial arts (including architecture, urban development, garden design, ornament),[3] provide only vague information about the actual relation between the arts in the Gesamtkunstwerk, the form this relation takes, and for what purpose.

The concept of a universal poetry first emerged in early romanticism, having received its theoretical foundations by philosophers such as Friedrich Schlegel and Friedrich Wilhelm Schelling. In his essay Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft (The Artwork of the Future, 1849), Richard Wagner brought the idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk to fame. The new, leading genre was the musical drama, which was meant to unite all the other arts. Abstract tendencies in visual art and the emergence of atonal music led to a new, commensurable relationship among the arts. Since the 1970s, the use of digital media has accelerated the process of the dissolution of art genre boundaries.