Art history

Mediterranean Fantasies: Revivals and Utopias, 1919-1939

Module code: V4157
Level 6
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar, Workshop
Assessment modes: Unseen examination, Coursework

You'll study the role of the Mediterranean in art and visual culture between the two world wars (1919–1939). In particular, you focus on how modern artists re-used the Mediterranean and Levantine past and how such encounters were intertwined with political relations across Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Near East.

Many avant-garde artists in Europe turned to classicist aesthetics and ideals to overcome the shocks and traumas that followed the First World War. However, rather than dismissing this shift as yet another aesthetic revival, you will look at this ‘return to order’ in relation to the historical context of the colonial re-organisation and the cultural anxieties of the period between the two world wars.

You'll analyse how modern art was influenced by the Mediterranean as a reference for antiquity, orientalist and primitivist fantasies by studying diverse figures and movements such as:

  • Henri Matisse’s arabesques
  • Jean Cocteau’s classicism and Ithell Colquhoun’s uses of Greek mytholog
  • Fascism’s exportation of the Renaissance
  • Nazi propaganda architecture
  • Egyptomania in art deco.

You'll learn how to question the colour of the dominant narrative of European modernism, by looking at artistic and cultural exchanges in cities such as Paris, Algiers, Berlin and Istanbul.

You also study the growing body of literature on Turkish and North African modernisms, and look at artists such as Cemal Tollu, Hale Asaf and Azouaou Mammeri.

You'll develop a methodology to interrogate the hybridisation of the modernist canon and its institutions by taking into account the questions posed by critical race theory and postcolonial theory 

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate detailed and coherent critical evaluation of the visual culture relating to this subject within its historical context.
  • Develop an independently researched critical approach to the subject and present it in a variety of written and oral formats.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the differing approaches of current art-historical scholarship about this subject.