Gothic Modern, 1880s-1930s

Gothic Modern, 1880s-1930s

Project Team

Professor Juliet Simpson, FRSA, FRHistS - Principal Investigator and project lead

Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff - principal partner, Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum

Collaborators

Dr Jan Baetens (Radboud University, Nimegen); Dr Tessel Bauduin (University of Amsterdam), Dr Jenny Reynaerts (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam), Dr Ralph Gleis, Alte Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Prof. dr. Gabriele Rippl, Universität Bern, Dr Stefan Bauer, Royal Holloway, University of London

Partners

Finnish National Gallery-Ateneum, Helsinki
Warburg Institute, School of Advanced Studies, University of London

Funder

Coventry University, CAMC; Finnish National Gallery, Ateneum; Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (international award to PI Prof Juliet Simpson); Warburg Institute, University of London (award to PI Prof Juliet Simpson).

Value

£500,000

Duration of Project

2018-2024

Impact Statement

To create ground-breaking new knowledge of the Gothic as a transformative stimulus for ‘other’ identities of modern art for publics and new audiences beyond academic via an international exhibition and linked programme of educational, cultural and outreach activities which resonates for twenty-first century publics individual, in relation to compelling new explorations of gender and transnational community, entwined with the dark, the emotive and uncanny

Project Overview

Gothic Modern, 1880s-1930s is the first in-depth study (comprising a scholarly, multi-author book, articles, an international touring exhibition with linked research publication and a series of international symposia) to explore the pivotal importance of medieval, in particular Gothic art for the artistic modernisms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries.

It aims to shed new light on a bold story of Gothic rediscoveries and reinventions from the 1890s to 1920s, crossing borders of past and present, place and community to shape new ideas of artist-hood, cultural connection and different ‘belonging’. Viewed through the lens of Northern and Nordic Europe, via artist and writer encounters, discoveries and recreations, the project interrogates and illuminates the Gothic as a core fascination for early twentieth-century art, transcending nationalism; straddling war and its aftermath. Key to this enquiry are innovative ways in which artists, writers and historians drew on medieval art through pilgrimages, ‘devotions’, eroticism and the ‘Dance of Death’, to create powerful expressions of their modernity; of sexuality and trauma, conflict, death and reconnection.

Gothic Modern thus presents an ambitious new approach to modern art focusing on the untold story and memory of Nordic and Northern European medieval reinventions from the 1890s to the fall of the Weimar Republic, which invites us to question familiar constructs and to discover the unseen. Its objective is to create ground-breaking new knowledge of the Gothic as a transformative stimulus for ‘other’ identities of modern art which resonates for the twenty-first century: of individual, gender and transnational community, entwined with the dark, the emotive and uncanny.

Project Objectives

  • An ambitious new approach to modern art focusing on the untold story of Nordic and Northern European medieval reinventions from the 1890s to the fall of the Weimar Republic.
  • Illuminates the Gothic as a core fascination for early twentieth-century art, transcending nationalism, straddling war and its aftermath.
  • Reveals a hidden Edvard Munch and Käthe Kollwitz through their deep attraction to the art of the ‘Gothic’ past and how this resonated for their contemporaries, including Akseli Gallen-KallelaHugo Simberg and Helene Schjerfbeck.
  • Explores how these artists were inspired by medieval art through pilgrimages, eroticism and the ‘Dance of Death’ to create powerful new expressions of sexuality and trauma, death and reconnection.
  • Project’s focus is on major fin-de-siècle and early twentieth-century Nordic, German and Russian art works displayed alongside rare medieval and Northern Renaissance objects.
  • A compelling exploration of the Gothic for the twenty-first century, about individual, gender and transnational community, entwined with the dark, the emotive and uncanny.

List of Outputs

Publications
  • J. Simpson, ‘Nordic Devotions: Gothic Art as Erotic Affect: J.-K. Huysmans’ Decadent Gothic Modern’ (Chapter), Nordic Literature of Decadence: Reverberations from Paris and Voices from the North, P. Lyytikäinen Mirjam Hinrikus, Viola Parente-Čapková, Riikka Rossi (Eds) (Routledge: New York, 2019), pp. 239-254 ISBN: 9780429655425
  • Multi-author book: J. Simpson, T. Bauduin, A.-M. von Bonsdorff and J. Baetens (Eds), et al, ‘Gothic Modernisms, 1860s-1940s, Peter Lang (Critical Interactions and Relations in the Arts, series ed. B. Bullen), Oxford-Vienna-Bern, 320pp. with ills. Publication: September 2020
  • J.Simpson, ‘Portable Museums: Imaging/Staging the ‘Northern Gothic Art Tour ― Ephemera and Alterity’Ephemeral exhibition spaces (1750-1918), Eds D. Bauer and C. Murgia, University of Amsterdam Press: Amsterdam, forthcoming, 2020
International Scholarly Exhibition and Publication
Symposia and Research Events
  • ‘Gothic Modernisms, 1880-1945’, international two-day research symposium, organized by Prof. Juliet Simpson and Dr Tessel Bauduin (University of Amsterdam), Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 2017
  • ‘Gothic Modern’ project launch – international knowledge-sharing workshop and papers co-convened by Prof. Juliet Simpson and Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff (Ateneum: Finnish National Gallery), Ateneum, Helsinki, May 2019
  • ‘Emotional Objects – Northern Renaissance Afterlives in Object, Image and Word, 1890s-1920s’, international research symposium organized by Prof Juliet Simpson, the Warburg Institute, University of London (June 2020)
  • ‘Gothic Connections – Reception, Display and Reinvention’, an international research workshop organized by Prof. Juliet Simpson and Dr Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, Ateneum-Finnish National Gallery, Helsinki (September 2020).

Additional Information

See Ateneum Website