Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Antimodernism and Artistic Experience

Antimodernism and Artistic Experience: Policing the Boundaries of Modernity

Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 306
  • Book Info
    Antimodernism and Artistic Experience
    Book Description:

    Scholars in art history, anthropology, history, and feminist media studies explore Western antimodernism of the turn of the 20th century as an artistic response to a perceived loss of ?authentic? experience.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-2310-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xi-xii)

    This book has grown from papers presented at a weekend symposium held at the Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, in April 1996 as part of the OH!CANADA Project. This Project constituted a complex and controversial ‘framing’ through ancillary programming (including performances and fora for discussion as well as a range of small exhibitions) of ‘The Group of Seven: Art for a Nation,’ a major exhibition circulated by the National Gallery of Canada to celebrate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the first exhibition of that well-known group of Canadian nationalist artists. The National Gallery exhibition, organized by Charles Hill, Curator of Canadian...

  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-2)
  6. Antimodernism and Artistic Experience: An Introduction
    (pp. 3-10)
    Lynda Jessup

    This volume is a collection of essays that considers artistic production in the light of a response to modern social existence now described by the term antimodernism. A broad, international reaction to the onslaught of the modern world that swept industrialized Western Europe, North America, and Japan in the decades around the turn of the century, antimodernism has been defined by historian Jackson Lears as ‘the recoil from an “overcivilised” modern existence to more intense forms of physical or spiritual existence.’¹ Critically explored many years ago by Raymond Williams inThe Country and the Cityas a form of consciousness...


    • CHAPTER ONE Introduction to Part One: Around and About Modernity: Some Comments on Themes of Primitivism and Modernism
      (pp. 13-25)
      Fred R. Myers

      There is probably no topic in contemporary cultural study that is more rehearsed than that of primitivism. A virtual torrent of publications was unleashed in the wake of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) 1984 exhibition ‘“Primitivism” in 20thCentury Art: Affinity of the Tribal and Modern.’² The articles (and books) are no doubt familiar to most readers: Clifford’s ‘Histories of the Tribal and the Modern,’ Foster’s The “Primitive” Unconscious of Modern Art, or White Skin Black Masks,’ Manning’s ‘Primitive Art and Modern Times,’ McEvilley’s ‘Doctor, Lawyer, Indian Chief,’ and subsequently books such as Torgovnick’sGone Primitive.³ In anthropology, Sally...

    • CHAPTER TWO Performing the Native Woman: Primitivism and Mimicry in Early Twentieth-Century Visual Culture
      (pp. 26-49)
      Ruth B. Phillips

      Picture this. It is May 1931 in Paris. At the Gare St Lazare a train from Le Havre pulls in and disgorges a jazz ensemble, the United States Indian Band. Striking up a ‘lively tune’ and wearing ‘feathered head-dresses and costumes of American Indians,’ as the Paris newspapers will report the next day, the members march to a bus which takes them to their performance venue at the International Colonial and Overseas Exposition.⁴ A quintessential modernist scene, one would say, complete with internationalism, new music, embedded primitives, layered appropriations, and a subtext of colonial domination.

      The official government photograph that...

    • CHAPTER THREE The Colonial Lens: Gauguin, Primitivism, and Photography in the Fin de siècle
      (pp. 50-70)
      Elizabeth C. Childs

      Paul Gauguin’s escape from Paris to the South Seas is the most notorious and mythologized episode of modernist primitivism. Abandoning conventional bourgeois norms, Gauguin sailed to Polynesia in 1891 to seek rejuvenation in a confrontation with the ‘primitive.’ The story of his rejection of modernity, civilization, and the métropole to pursue what he termed the life of a ‘savage’ in the tropics seems, at first glance, to be an uncomplicated tale of fin de siècle anti-modernism – the ultimate individualist quest to recuperate the self in a rejection of a modern urban world perceived as overly industrialised, bureaucratic, and rational.¹...

    • CHAPTER FOUR Emily Carr and the Traffic in Native Images
      (pp. 71-94)
      Gerta Moray

      In these postcolonial times the ideological and political dimensions of artistic practice are more than ever under scrutiny. How do we read the work of an artist whose career and reputation were built on traffic in the Native image? This was literally the case with Emily Carr (1871–1945), a founding figure of modern art in Canada and a colleague of the legendary Group of Seven, who grounded an imagined modern-Canadian national identity in images of the landscape as a vast, alluring, and threatening wilderness. Carr herself contributed a further element to this foundational Canadian imagery: her paintings of the...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)

    • CHAPTER FIVE Introduction to Part Two: Staging Antimodernism in the Age of High Capitalist Nationalism
      (pp. 97-103)
      Benedict Anderson

      It is perhaps easy to forget that in the first quarter of the twentieth century the entire population of Canada, geographically the second largest country in the world, was roughly the same as that of Greater London, the imperial capital. It is only a little harder to remember that until the Great War industrialism was something still largely foreign. Small wonder therefore that a Department of External Affairs was only created in 1909, a bare decade before the Group of Seven made their initial splash.

      But in that decade, ‘everything changed.’ When the Empire went to war in August 1914,...

    • CHAPTER SIX Modernists and Folk on the Lower St Lawrence: The Problem of Folk Art
      (pp. 104-116)
      Lora Senechal Carney

      During the years 1936 to 1940 the Montréal painter John Lyman wrote an art column forMontrealer, a New Yorker–like magazine meant for Montréal’s Golden Mile, the richest residential district in Canada. Lyman situated Canadian art along with United States and European art in an art world in which Cézanne, Renoir, and Matisse were the stars. He called often upon Clive Bell, Roger Fry, and other modernist writers as authorities supporting the claims he made for modern art. Like Fry, he insisted that what the artist feels about a subject is a picture’s real subject, although some sort of...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN Handicrafts and the Logic of ‘Commercial Antimodernism’: The Nova Scotia Case
      (pp. 117-129)
      Ian McKay

      The postcolonial dilemma confronting inter-war Canadian nationalists was this: how to develop a powerful set of stories and symbols through which a British ‘Dominion’ – by definition, a territory held by force of British arms, a polity whose separate political existence was legitimized in terms of dynastic power and British imperialism – could become a Canadian nation. Their mission was to evolve an official nationalism through which (in Benedict Anderson’s words) ‘the short, tight skin of the nation’ could be stretched over the old, gigantic, transcontinental body of empire.¹ To meet this challenge, such cultural producers as the Group of...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Bushwhackers in the Gallery: Antimodernism and the Group of Seven
      (pp. 130-152)
      Lynda Jessup

      Decorum likely dictated Jackson’s use of three dashes instead of ‘hell,’ but I suspect his words are nonetheless shocking to Canadians steeped in the mythology of the Group of Seven and its fight for ‘a distinctively Canadian art.’ Coming from one of the foremost members of the Group and, for a large part of the twentieth century, Canada’s poster boy for cultural nationalism, these words rank with his now famous 1910 comment that the Georgian Bay landscape, which the Group would later celebrate, was ‘not quite paintable.’² Both suggest a counternarrative to the accepted story of the Group of Seven,...


    • CHAPTER NINE Introduction to Part Three: Modernity, Nostalgia, and the Standardization of Time
      (pp. 155-164)
      Kim Sawchuk

      For many artists and intellectuals living at the cusp of the twentieth century the allegory of an idyllic lost paradise that could be revisited offered the hope of personal and creative redemption. This yearning accompanied a rapid growth in industrialization and urbanization, in the words of Andreas Huyssen, ‘like a shadow that held the promise of a better future.’⁴ In the following four papers we read of this desire for another place and another time. In each instance the shift that is described is not only to aplaceof serenity, real or imagined, such as the countryside, nature, the...

    • CHAPTER TEN Artisans and Art Nouveau in Fin-de-siècle Belgium: Primitivism and Nostalgia
      (pp. 165-176)
      Amy Ogata

      The international phenomenon that is today called art nouveau was known by many names around 1900. The terms modern style,nieuwe Kunst,fugendstil, andmodernismohave all been used to describe the widely divergent manifestations of public and private architecture and decorative arts and crafts that flourished briefly throughout Europe at that time. While French speakers have always been credited with using the English ‘modern style’ to refer to art nouveau, the French term appeared frequently in editorial statements of the Belgian cultural periodicalL’Art modernein 1884.¹ Calling themselves ‘croyants de l’art nouveau,’ the editors of the magazine hoped...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Van Gogh in the South: Antimodernism and Exoticism in the Arlesian Paintings
      (pp. 177-191)
      Vojtěch Jirat-Wasiutyński

      After a two-year stay in Paris, Vincent van Gogh travelled to Aries on 19 February 1888, to start ‘this enterprise of a long voyage in the Midi’ (469).¹ This was not a sudden decision. As early as the end of 1886, less than a year after arriving in Paris, he had written to H.M. Livens, an English painter whom he had met in Antwerp, that he was ‘incolorseeking life’ and that he saw the South as ‘the land of thebluetones and gay colors’ (459a, original English) where he would practice this new painting. He also wrote...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Plays without People: Shadows and Puppets of Modernity in Fin-de-siècle Paris
      (pp. 192-205)
      Matt K. Matsuda

      Towards the end of the nineteenth century, writer and critic Éntile Lagarde penned a little volume on a popular amusement of the time – shadow theatre. He warned, however, ‘If, dear readers, you seek amusing scenes and stories and tales to make you laugh, do not open this little book … it contains, in effect, nothing but history.’¹

      ‘What! History?’ Lagarde continued, ‘do these groups of blacked-in men acting before an illuminated screen have a history, as armies, as peoples?’ The answer was clear, ‘But of course!’ After all, he argued, doesn’t everything have a history, whether brilliant or obscure,...

    • CHAPTER THIRTEEN Primitivism in Sweden: Dormant Desire or Fictional Identity?
      (pp. 206-214)
      Michelle Facos

      At the turn of the century, a group of prominent Swedish artists and intellectuals definitively reclassified the term ‘primitive’ for their compatriots. While they never questioned the fact that Sweden’s landscape and population were primitive, the term shifted in the 1890s from a designation with distinctly pejorative connotations to one of high praise. What occasioned this transformation? Was it an instance of ‘feel good’ propaganda in a small country on the periphery of Europe, or did it represent a more profound understanding and acceptance of Swedish culture and geography? Was this re-evaluation historically and/or culturally grounded, or was it constructed...

  10. Selected Bibliography
    (pp. 215-220)
  11. Contributors
    (pp. 221-223)