Fall 2010 Guide: What is The Blue Flower, Anyway?

For the German Romantics one symbol summed up all their dreams—the blue flower.

"Infinite yearning"—this is how E.T.A. Hoffman summed up Romanticism. At the end of the eighteenth century, German poets, musicians, and philosophers spearheaded Romanticism. For the German Romantics one symbol summed up all their dreams—the blue flower. The image of the blue flower first appeared in Heinrich von Ofterdingen, a coming-of-age novel written by German romantic author Novalis in the eighteenth century. Rejecting the materialism of the bourgeois world around him, the young Heinrich searches for artistic and spiritual fulfillment, symbolized by a perfect blue flower. "It is not treasures that I care for" Heinrich said to himself, "but I long to see the blue flower. I cannot rid my thoughts of the idea, it haunts me."

After first gaining popularity during the Romantic movement, the symbol can also be found frequently in German folk songs of the last two centuries:
"If the golden sun laughs so bright, the world I must go roam,
Because somewhere in the earthly light, the blue flower must grow.
So I search the land and near the sea, to find this little flower,
And only where that blossom be, could I ever cease to wander.
-"Wenn hell die golden Sonne lacht," author unknown

The blue flower was adopted by both the German youth Movement during the Weimar Era and the Student Movement of the 1960s as a symbol of hope and regeneration after the world wars—the image could
be seen frequently on protests signs from both movements. Jim and Ruth Bauer, creators of The Blue Flower, were drawn to the image as it symbolized the complex world of the Weimar artists—searching both for artistic perfection as well as a way to rebuild the broken world that surrounded them.

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