Remembering and Forgetting the Enlightenment

Day: Friday 6 April

Convenors

Hans Christian Hönes (The Warburg Institute)
Daniel Orrells (King’s College London, Department of Classics)

Session Abstract

Art history is often considered a child of the Enlightenment: its methodological roots – aesthetics and historicism – are commonly associated with towering figures of the 18th century. Winckelmann and Kant loom large, and their influence on the development of the discipline is uncontested. And yet, numerous art writers have been virtually forgotten, even though their contribution to and influence on 18thand 19th-century discourses on art was probably just as important as the theories of the better-known German grandees. Pierre d’Hancarville or Jørgen Zoega are just two names, representative of those whose work has not stood the test of time. More often than not, these writers belong to what has been called the ‘Super-Enlightenment’: their thinking is infused with mystical and occult ideas and is often interested more in history and myth than in beauty and style. That art history turned a blind eye might be surprising, given recent attempts to reinvigorate approaches open to ‘unreason’, in order to develop new ways for explaining the power of images. The renaissance of the work of Aby Warburg is notable here.

This session aims to evaluate these selection processes in the historiography and epistemology of art history and aesthetics: where and why do art historians, from the 18th to the 21st century, acknowledge the Enlightenment legacies of their discipline and when is it swept under the carpet? Does this canon formation in art history differ from other disciplines, such as classics and archaeology? Where has the ‘Super-Enlightenment’ left its traces in art historical thinking?

Speakers & Papers

Katharina Boehm (University of Regensburg) Enlightenment Objects and the Future of Historicism: Remembering antiquarianism

Lindsay Allen (King’s College London) The Lost World of Persian Antiquity in the 18th Century

Katherine Harloe (Reading) Sacred History, Art and Myth in the Enlightenment: CG Heyne and the ‘archaeology’ of Greece

Christina Contandriopoulos (UQAM University) Shifting the Origins of Architecture: Primitive monuments and fertility cults in antiquarian collections (1785–1805)

Helene Seewald (TU Berlin) Outline Drawings: The forgotten chapter of art history

Susanna Pettersson (Ateneum Art Museum / Finnish National Gallery) The Nordic art journal: Writing new art history

C Oliver O’Donnell (KHI Florence) Transcendental Visual Experience in 19th-Century American Art and Art History

Sandrine Canac (Stony Brook University) Square Pegs in Round Holes. Robert Barry’s anti-rationalist project

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