- Denis Dutton
[Ger.: ‘pretentious trash’; Ger. dialect kitschen: ‘to smear’; verkitschen: ‘to sentimentalize’, ‘to cheapen’]
Term used to identify spurious imitations of genuine artistic creations in the fine and applied arts, architecture, literature, fashion, photography, the theatre, cinema, and music. Kitsch is sometimes used to refer to virtually any form of popular art or mass entertainment, especially when sentimental, but, although many popular art forms are cheap and somewhat crude, they are at least direct and unpretentious. On the other hand, a persistent theme in the history of the usage of ‘kitsch’, going back to the word’s mid-European origins, is pretentiousness, especially in reference to objects that simulate whatever is conventionally viewed as high art. As Hauser (1974) remarked, kitsch differs from merely popular forms in its insistence on being taken seriously as art or as expressing ‘civilized’ taste. Kitsch can thus be defined as a kind of pseudo, parasitic art, whose essential function is to flatter, soothe, and reassure its viewer and consumer. In his essay ‘Of the Standard of Taste’ (...