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European Revivals – Myths, Legends and Dreams of a Nation
06.05.2009 - 08.05.2009

 

European Revivals – Myths, Legends and Dreams of a Nation

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, European artists began to express a new profound interest in their unique local pasts and cultural inheritances. This growing sense of national identity prompted a major flowering of nationalist debate concerning the fast disappearing regional cultures throughout Europe. This was a debate largely shaped by the desire within several countries for cultural and artistic, and ultimately social and economic, independence.

As the new century dawned, national mythological literature and national epics, such as the Kalevala in Finland or the Cuchulainn legend in Ireland and Scotland, became a major vehicle of cultural expression and created some of the most important art of the age. Several of the most important artists of the period were also key figures in this movement. They worked across all artistic media from small-scale traditional domestic crafts and large-scale design to major schemes of architecture, and often rather than producing easel-painting artists undertook monumental programmes of mural decoration or stained glass because of the social implications such public art held. For those countries that had not yet achieved their dream of self-sovereignty it became imperative to promote their unique distinctive cultural present as unbroken with the past. This became particularly important for those small nations on the northern, eastern and western fringes of Europe and especially those that had been conquered and divided by powerful neighbours.

Although it is well known that countries on such fringes of Europe's borders such as Finland, Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Poland and Hungary had unique and far-reaching cultural renaissances in the form of a ‘national revival', it is less well known that although each was distinctive they also had much in common. And although direct connections existed, between Finnish and Hungarian artists or Irish and Scottish artists, several other factors contributed to a largely undocumented system of interaction and exchange from the educational and exhibiting opportunities in Paris, London, Berlin and Vienna; and the foundation of national collections of museums and research into vernacular and folk cultures; the rise of mythology and legendary history in literature and music; to the multitude of localised ‘national' exhibitions of contemporary art and new forms of integrated art and architecture in various local manifestations of the Gesamtkunstwerk; and the major role played by national displays at the International Exhibitions and World's Fairs of the period.

It is within this Europe-wide ‘national revival' movement that the idea of a renewal of art and art as a cornerstone of modern society was forged. The influence of unique local artistic traditions found fullest expression in forms of indigenous folk art and, although the globalising industrial revolution threatened many such folk traditions with extinction, at the heart of the ‘national revivals' movement was a desire to refine art and society for the modern age. Thus, the focus on themes drawn from the life of the people, indigenous material culture, national myths, and the native landscape carries an enduring significance that is still powerfully resonant in our own contemporary times in the twenty-first century.

The ‘European Revivals' research project aims to reflect upon these national revivals, in the six countries of Norway, Scotland, Ireland, Poland, Hungary and Finland, where art historical scholarship on the subject has already been broadly established. However, there has never been a joint project that looks at this phenomenon on a wider scale and that has sought to analyse the multifarious connections and correspondences, which helped shape the identities of each of these modern nations. The ‘European Revivals' project, therefore, aims to study and show the similarities and differences of these countries for the first time on a European scale.

Ateneum Art Museum - Finnish National Gallery
European Revivals - Myths, Legends and Dreams of a Nation
Workshop 6-8 May 2009 Helsinki

Programme

Thursday 7th May Workshop

Workshop, Ateneum hall, 9.15 am.

  • 9.30 am Opening of the European Revivals Workshop, Maija Tanninen-Mattila, Director
  • 9.40 am Plenary lecture, Professor Murdo McDonald, University of Dundee "The Celtic Revival in Scotland from James Macpherson to Patric Geddes"
  • 10 am Katalin Gellér, University of Budapest "The Influence of the Pre-Raphaelites in Hungary"
  • 10.15 am Edyta Barucka, University of Warsaw "Stanislaw Wyspianski and the Dream of a Polish Acropolis"
  • 10.30 am Sandra McElroy, National Museum of Ireland "Revival and Revolution: the Neo-Celtic style in Ireland"
  • Chair: Joseph McBrinn, Roundtable Discussion to 11.30 am.

Lunch 11.30 am - 1 pm

  • 1 pm Plenary lecture, Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, Ateneum Art Museum "Inspiration from the Kalevala"
  • 1.20 pm Juliette McDonald, Edinburgh College of Art "Northern Lights: Scottish stained glass and the Celtic Revival"
  • 1.35 pm Anna-Lisa Amberg "Suur-Merijoki Manor - a total work of art"
  • 1.50 pm Stella Bottai, University of Rome "The question of national style - Murals in Italy and in Finland at the turn of the 20th Century"
  • Chair: Riitta Ojanperä, Roundtable Discussion to 2.45 pm.

Coffee Break 2.45 pm. - 3.30 pm.

  • 3.30 Plenary lecture, Dr Joseph McBrinn, University of Ulster "The Interpretation of Dreams: The National Revival from Repression to Expression"
  • 3.50 Derek Fewster University of Helsinki, "Inventing your Ancestors - The Finnish Case"
  • 4.10 Katalin Keserü University Eötvös Lóránd, Budapest "Regionalism Then and Now"
  • 4.25 Laura Gutman-Hanhivaara "Symbolist Artist Houses in Europe"
  • 4.40 Vibeke Waallann Hansen, National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo "National Revival and Modernism in Norwegian Painting. A characterization of the development in the Norwegian Matisse-students paintings between 1910 and 1940"
  • Chair: Anna-Maria von Bonsdorff, Roundtable Discussion 4.40 pm - 5.30. pm