New book: Periodization in the Art Historiographies of Central and Eastern Europe

Periodization in the Art Historiographies of Central and Eastern Europe is a new volume edited by Shona Kallestrup, Magdalena Kunińska, Mihnea Alexandru Mihail, Anna Adashinskaya and Cosmin Minea and published by Routledge. It is now available open access and includes essays by CRAACE researchers Matthew Rampley and Julia Secklehner, as well as many other fascinating contributions.

The volume critically investigates how art historians writing about Central and Eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries engaged with periodization.

At the heart of much of their writing lay the ideological project of nation-building. Hence discourses around periodization – such as the mythicizing of certain periods, the invention of historical continuity and the assertion of national specificity – contributed strongly to identity construction. Central to the book’s approach is a transnational exploration of how the art histories of the region not only interacted with established Western periodizations but also resonated and ‘entangled’ with each other. In their efforts to develop more sympathetic frameworks that refined, ignored or hybridized Western models, they sought to overcome the centre–periphery paradigm which equated distance from the centre with temporal belatedness and artistic backwardness. The book thus demonstrates that the concept of periodization is far from neutral or strictly descriptive, and that its use in art history needs to be reconsidered.

Bringing together a broad range of scholars from different European institutions, the volume offers a unique new perspective on Central and Eastern European art historiography. It will be of interest to scholars working in art history, historiography and European studies.

Matthew Rampley‘s essay ‘Linear, Entangled, Anachronic: Periodization and the Shapes of Time in Art History‘ investigates recent suggestions for basing art historical periodization on alternative models of time. Practices of periodization and the reliance on linear notions of time have been an object of sustained critique in recent times. Not only have they been said to impose uniformity on the complex and multi-stranded course of art, they have also been accused of enabling an ideological agenda that privileges the art and culture of Western Europe and North America. In their place it has been suggested that art historians embrace alternative ideas of time, including notions of time as entangled, heterochronic and anachronic. This chapter examines the basis of such criticisms. It argues that while they highlight important issues, they also misrepresent art historical practice, including the heuristic function of the idea of periods. The chapter also argues that such alternative metaphors conflate historical narratives with temporal horizons. Without shared temporal horizons, it is impossible to make meaningful judgements of difference when comparing the art historical trajectories of different cultures. Consequently, the chapter suggests, the project of entangled, heterochronic and anachronic art history may end up being counterproductive.

Julia Secklehner‘s essay ‘Beyond the Provincial: Entanglements of Regional Modernism in Interwar Central Europe‘ challenges the periodization of regional modernism in central Europe at the turn of the twentieth century in an assessment of its functions in art historical discourses after 1918. Considering the emancipation of Salzburg as bastion of Austrian culture and of ‘Košice Modernism’ in Czechoslovakia, it argues that regional modernism remained vital in the construction of national and state identities after 1918 across the Habsburg successor states. Developing simultaneously to the modernism of the avant-garde that art historical accounts have long focused on, regional modernism, in this light, underlines myriad entanglements between the regional and the national, the peripheral and the central, as vital elements in the construction of art historical narratives throughout early twentieth-century central Europe.


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