Problematizing periodization: folk art, national narratives and cultural politics in early twentieth-century Romanian art history

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Abstract

This chapter explores how Romanian art historians of the early twentieth century used discussion of peasant art and architecture to confront and circumvent the hierarchical problems inherent in Western models of periodization. By reclaiming Romania’s own artistic traditions, both Byzantine and vernacular, the negative connotations of ‘belatedness’ were replaced by positive assessments of ‘atemporality’, mapping a different artistic cosmos whose value did not depend solely on its uncomfortable relationship with Western criteria of art. Focusing on a number of key accounts written for a Western readership, the chapter probes the efforts of Romanian art historians to encourage a fresh reassessment not just of the art produced in the Romanian territories, but also the frameworks for its discussion. For some, like Alexandru Tzigara-Samurcaş and Nicolae Iorga, this was bound up with the wider cultural-ideological project of Romania’s new political borders after the First World War. For others, like George Oprescu and his friend the French art historian Henri Focillon, it was part of a broader interwar effort to transcend political geographies of nation or race and embrace folk art within a unifying vision of humanity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPeriodization in the art historiographies of Central and Eastern Europe
EditorsShona Kallestrup, Magdalena Kunińska, Mihnea Alexandru Mihail, Anna Adashinskaya, Cosmin Minea
Place of PublicationAbingdon, Oxon
PublisherRoutledge Taylor & Francis Group
Chapter11
Pages192-213
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781003178415
ISBN (Print)9781032013848
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Jun 2022

Publication series

NameStudies in art historiography

Keywords

  • Folk art
  • Romania
  • Central and Eastern Europe
  • Nationalism
  • Art historiography

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