Count Harry Kessler—the man who knew everyone
Count Harry Kessler was the man who knew everyone. He closed down a bar in the Bülowstraße with Isadora Duncan, Josephine Baker improvised a dance at his Berlin apartment— where two days later Albert Einstein was a dinner guest. Henry van de Velde designed his desk, together with Hugo von Hofmannsthal he drafted the scenario for “The Rosenkavalier,” he traveled with Aristide Maillol to Greece. He made the Nietzsche’s mask on the philosopher’s deathbed and wrote a critically acclaimed biography of his friend Walther Rathenau. Who deserves a “society” named in his honor more than this man, the born “social artist” as it were? His motto may well have been--as E. M. Forster put it in Howard’s End-- “Only connect!” He stood in the middle of a vast social network which he constantly extended until it ranged from artists on the radical left to foreign ministers, princesses, and generals on the right. In his masterful diaries he presents a panorama of the rapidly changing European society from 1890 to 1930. The journals, over 10,000 pages populated by over 40,000 personal names, were intended only as the raw material for the great biography that he started but--exiled by the Nazis and impoverished--tragically could not complete. And yet, preserved by a miracle in their near entirety, the diaries are a treasure house of precise observations, evocative descriptions, and profound reflections.
Kessler is full of apparent contradictions: the political and cultural chasms, dislocations, the shifts of paradigm of the beginning twentieth century find their echo in him. So he evolved from the elitist, conservative aesthete of the 1890s into the “Red Count” after 1918. The experiences of the First World War shattered his belief in monarchy, conquest, and military solutions. At the age of 50 he was capable of a radical change in political views even as he remained deeply committed to art. The Count Harry Kessler Society has as its goal to make known, and to honor, his cosmopolitan accomplishments as a lover of the arts and as a champion of reconciliation between the peoples, and to further his work in this sense. We are looking for members who wish to cultivate, enjoy, and extend the same spirit of transnational communication that he breathed and lived.