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Ariane Varela Braga on Ornament and European Modernism

29 March 2019

Ornament and European Modernism: from art practice to art history

Review of:

Ornament and European Modernism. From Art Practice to Art History, by Loretta Vandi (ed.), New York and London: Routledge, 2018, 198 pp., 38 colour & b/w illus. £110,00, ISBN: 978-1-138-74340-3

Ariane Varela Braga (University of Zurich) 20/VB1

Abstract: In the edited volume Ornament and European Modernism, Lorandi Vandi presents five essays that, taking ornament as a central point of departure, all examine in different ways the question of the dissociation between non-representational and representation art and the problem of the unity of art. The book is thus not much so about ornament itself as the interpretation and meanings that have been given to ornament between the second-half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. Focusing as much on proto-Modernism as on Modernism itself, it provides an up-to-date reading of the approaches to ornament developed by historical key-figures, such as Owen Jones, Gottfried Semper, Wilhelm Worringer or Adolf Loos, besides examining the lesser known contribution of August Schmarsow and offering a new reading of Ernst Gombrich’s theory of perception.

Key words: ornament, architecture, Primitivism, Modernism, England, Germany, Austria, abstraction, psychology of perception

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