Antiquity, Theatre, and the Painting of Henry Fuseli

Antiquity, Theatre, and the Painting of Henry Fuseli

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The rediscovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the eighteenth century challenged European assumptions about ancient life; just as influential, if quieter, was the revolution caused by translations of Greek tragedy. Art of the mid-eighteenth to early nineteenth centuries dealt with the violence and seeming irrationality of tragic action as an account of the rituals and beliefs of a foreign culture, worshipping strange gods and enacting unfamiliar customs. The result
was a focus on the radical difference of the past which, however, was thought to still have something to teach us: not how to live better, but that we live differently and should allow others to do so as well. In recognizing tragedy as an alien cultural form, modern Europe recognized its own historical
status as one culture among many.

Naturally, this insight was resisted. Greek tragedy was seldom performed. In painting, it lived a shadow existence alongside more didactic subject matter, emerging explicitly only in a corpus of wash drawings by Anglo-Swiss artist Henry Fuseli (1741-1825), and an international circle of artists active in Rome in the 1770s. In this volume, Pop examines Fuseli as exemplary of a pluralist classicism, paying especial attention to his experiments with moral and aesthetic conventions in the more
private medium of drawing. He analyses this broad view of culture through the lens of Fuseli's life and work; his remarkable acquaintances Emma Hamilton, Erasmus Darwin, and Mary Wollstonecraft, and the great theorists of art and morals to whom he responded, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Johann Joachim
Winckelmann, and David Hume, play prominent roles in this investigation of how antiquity became modern.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 288 pages
  • 163 x 241 x 22mm | 602g
  • Oxford, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 64 black and white and 11 colour illustrations
  • 0198709277
  • 9780198709275
  • 2,270,950

Table of contents

Introduction: Classicism and its Discontents ; 1. Tragedy, the Cultural Relativism of Henry Fuseli ; 2. Grave Monuments, Writing, and the Antique Present ; 3. Comedy, Dreaming, and the Sympathetic Spectator ; 4. Winckelmann's Fake and Activist Neoclassicism ; 5. The Satyr Play, or Naturalizing Human Nature ; 6. Ordinary Antiquity ; Conclusion ; Appendix I: Fuseli and Herder ; Appendix II: Fuseli and Homer ; Bibliography ; Index
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Review quote

In a tour de force of scrupulous research and glittering insight, Pop persuades us that Fuseli's art did not fail to exemplify virtue, it ventured a new kind of history painting. Inspired by newly discovered remnants of pagan culture, by growing knowledge of cultures around the globe and by contemporary ideas of liberal humanism, Fuseli reformulated the relations of the classical and the modern in works of art which raise the spectre of the relativity of morals. More
than a new account of Fuseli, this book is a readerly adventure in the history of art, and in the political and philosophical ideas underpinning current debates in social thought and visual culture. * Karen Lang, Associate Professor, History of Art, Univeristy of Warwick * Pop's intervention is deeply informed and highly original, rewriting the received history of neoclassicism. Fuseli emerges as a complex artistic, moral, and political character who engaged the question of the 'ends' of tolerance and sympathy in a liberal society while at the same time acknowledging the unpleasant, messy, vulgar, and indeed terrifying and traumatic configuration of its 'neopagan' classical past. Pop masterfully weaves the complicated story of a
fraught dialogue between neoclassic and neopagan claims and fantasies. The book is not only an essential resource for a subtle interpretation of the materials of its period but also a masterclass in art-writing. * Whitney Davis, Pardee Professor of History and Theory of Ancient and Modern Art, University of California, Berkeley *
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About Andrei Pop

Andrei Pop is Associate Professor in the John U. Nef Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago.
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