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"Tacky" redirects here. For the Weird Al song, see Tacky (song).
This article is about the art term. For other uses, see Kitsch (disambiguation).
The Widow, kitsch example of late 19th century popular lithograph of a humorous painting by Frederick Dielman.
Cottage-shaped tea pot and milk jug

Kitsch (/ˈkɪ/; loanword from German) is a low-brow style of mass-produced art or design using popular or cultural icons. Kitsch generally includes unsubstantial or gaudy works or decoration, or works that are calculated to have popular appeal.

The concept of kitsch is applied to artwork that was a response to the 19th-century art with aesthetics that convey exaggerated sentimentality and melodrama. Hence, kitsch art is closely associated with sentimental art. Kitsch is also related to the concept of camp, because of its humorous, ironic nature.

Kitsch is usually used to reference decoration; for example "the living room was decorated in cheap 1950s style monster movie kitsch."

Origin and background[edit]

As a descriptive term, kitsch originated in the art markets of Munich in the 1860s and the 1870s, describing cheap, popular, and marketable pictures and sketches.[1] In Das Buch vom Kitsch (The Book of Kitsch), Hans Reimann defines it as a professional expression “born in a painter's studio”.


Hermann Broch argues that the essence of kitsch is imitation: kitsch mimics its immediate predecessor with no regard to ethics—it aims to copy the beautiful, not the good.[2] According to Walter Benjamin, kitsch is, unlike art, a utilitarian object lacking all critical distance between object and observer; it "offers instantaneous emotional gratification without intellectual effort, without the requirement of distance, without sublimation".[3]

Study and background[edit]

The study of kitsch was done almost exclusively in German until the 1970s, with Walter Benjamin being an important scholar in the field.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Calinescu, Matei. Five Faces of Modernity. Kitsch, pg 234.
  2. ^ Broch, Hermann (2002). "Evil in the Value System of Art". Geist and Zeitgeist: The Spirit in an Unspiritual Age. Six Essays by Hermann Broch. Counterpoint. pp. 13–40. ISBN 9781582431680. 
  3. ^ a b Menninghaus, Winfried (2009). "On the Vital Significance of 'Kitsch': Walter Benjamin's Politics of 'Bad Taste'". In Andrew Benjamin. Walter Benjamin and the Architecture of Modernity. Charles Rice. pp. 39–58. ISBN 9780980544091. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]