1 Prior History of the Term Gesamtkunstwerk

There is evidence that the earliest use of the term Gesamt-Kunstwerk (synthesis of the arts, or total work of art) was in a piece of writing by the late-romantic author and philosopher Karl Friedrich Eusebius Trahndorff (1782–1863).[1] In his Ästhetik oder Lehre von der Weltanschauung und Kunst, published in 1827, he wrote that the four arts, … the art of the sound of the word, music, mimic art, and dance, bear the possibility of coalescing to become a single production.[2] He bases this idea on the unity of their inner life.

The origins of Trahndorff’s thoughts reach back to the early romantic era in Germany, when at the end of the eighteenth century the idea of a universal poetry emerged. With poetry the leading art genre, a melancholic quest began for a universal order; in the wake of the social upheaval brought about by the French Revolution, there was a longing to make up for the metaphysical isolation of the artist by means of unifying all the arts.