Painting Antiquity: Ancient Egypt in the Art of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Edward Poynter and Edwin Long

ISBN : 9780190697020

Stephanie Moser
584 Pages
178 x 178 mm
Pub date
Dec 2019
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Inspired by newly discovered antiquities of the ancient world exhibited in the museums of Europe and celebrated in the illustrated press of the day, the leading British history painters Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Sir Edward Poynter and Edwin Long created a striking body of artworks in which archaeology was a prime focus. Of the growing community of historicist and classicist painters in mid-nineteenth century Britain, these artists expressed a passion for archaeological detail, and their aesthetic engagement with ancient material culture played a key role in fostering the enthusiasm for antiquity with wider audiences. Painting Antiquity explores the archaeological dimension of their paintings in detail, addressing how the relationship these artists had with ancient objects represented a distinctive and important development in the cultural reception of the past. The book also considers the inspiration for the movement defined as "archaeological genre painting," the artistic and historic context for this new style, the archaeological sources upon which the artworks were based, and the critical reception of the paintings in the world of Victorian art criticism. Alongside extensive visual evidence, rendered here in both striking color and black-and-white imagery, Stephanie Moser shows how this artistic practice influenced our understanding of ancient Egypt. Further, she argues that these paintings affected the development of archaeology as a discipline, revealing how the painters had an intense engagement with archaeology, representing artefacts in extraordinary detail and promoting the use of ancient material culture according to an aesthetic agenda. The issues raised by placing importance on concepts of beauty and decoration, over values such as rarity, function, or historical use continue to divide archaeologists and art historians in the present day. Ultimately, by demonstrating how the artistic dialogue with antiquity contributed to defining it, Painting Antiquity sheds important new light on the two-way exchanges between visual representations of the past and knowledge formation.


Introduction: Possessed of the beauty of antiquity
Chapter 1. The ancient world in the art of Alma-Tadema, Poynter and Long: background, training and appraisals
Chapter 2. Embracing antiquity: the early Egyptian works of Alma-Tadema and Poynter
Chapter 3. 'Something more than painting': Alma-Tadema, Poynter and the establishment of archaeological genre painting
Chapter 4. Evoking antiquity with heart and mind: Alma-Tadema's and Poynter's Egyptian paintings of the 1870s
Chapter 5. A fascination for 'local colour': Edwin Long and the customs of ancient Egypt
Chapter 6. From genre to spectacle: Alma-Tadema's return to Egypt
Chapter 7. The currency of objects: artistic, historical and cultural contexts of archaeological genre painting in Britain
Chapter 8. Objects and images: Egyptological and archaeological sources for British archaeological genre painting
Chapter 9. Learned artistry: the methods and preparatory materials of Alma-Tadema, Poynter and Long
Chapter 10. 'A new type of beauty': critical reception of archaeological genre painting in the nineteenth century
Chapter 11. Rise and fall: critical reception of archaeological genre painting in the new century
Conclusion: The splendid appearance of things mundane

About the author: 

Stephanie Moser is a Professor of Archaeology at the University of Southampton. She is the author of four books, most recently Designing Antiquitiy (Yale, 2012).

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