The sociology of an artistic movement: art nouveau in Glasgow, 1890-1914

Eadie, William Payne (1989) The sociology of an artistic movement: art nouveau in Glasgow, 1890-1914. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This thesis attempts to present a controlled sociological examination of Art Nouveau in Glasgow from the eighteen-nineties into the first decade of the twentieth century. The phenomenon of Glasgow Art Nouveau (its ideological groundings, its socio-cultural base, and the nature of its artistic production), provides a case-study of avant-gardism. The main intention is to illustrate, with historical exemplification, to what extent Art Nouveau can be interpreted as a radical social critique underpinned by specific theoretical and ideolgoical concerns. I begin by examining (a) the analytic means whereby statisfactory criteria are developed for the purpose of defining Art Nouveau as an artistic style; the specific manifestations of this style in a variety of European countries, and its transformation from organic/symbolic to abstract/geometric form-language; and (b) Art Nouveau as a distinctive cultural movement which was attempting to transform the public sphere in accordance with artistic principles. The second chapter has a dual purpose: firstly, it examines the status of Art Nouveau as an avant-garde movement, and, secondly, it attempts to construct the basis for a specifically sociological theory of Art Nouveau by bringing together the arguments of certain social theorists who have made significant reference to the phenomenon. Subsequently, it is demonstrated that, within the sphere of influence of the Glasgow School of Art, continental avant-gardiste trends at the end of the nineteenth century provided the frame of reference for the understanding of new artistic movements in Glasgow. This leads to an analysis of Mackintosh's extant writings in order that a reconstruction of the essentials of Scottish Art Nouveau's distinctive ideology can be presented. It is argued that Glasgow Art Nouveau had a coherent viewpoint in many respects deriving from the formulations of the Edinburgh sociologist and theorist Patrick Seddes. As well as demonstrating the closeness of Mackintosh's theorising to that of certain Viennese Art Nouveau exponents (Wagner, Hoffmann) with whom he had contact, it is shown to what extent Scottish Art Nouveau was attempting to transcend the traditional distinction between the utilitarian and the artistic, and address the issue of a social environment transformed in accordance with modern social needs. The remainder of the thesis substantively examines crucially related aspects of the Glasgow cultural context. Firstly, it focusses upon the Art School as institutional context within which Art Nouveau emerges, and demonstrates the relevance of the implementation of an experimental approach to art teaching there. Secondly, it examines the issue of the actual and potential production of goods manifesting the new form-language. Thirdly, the nature of the reception given to the new form-language is investigated: this invovles an analysis of relevant reportage in Glasgow. The reasons for the failure of the movement to gain ground in Glasgow are shown to be connected with a number of complex factors ranging from moral outrage at its `decadence' to the absence of the kind of technical expertise capable of consolidating its innovations for a mass society.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Sociology Anthropology and Applied Social Sciences
Supervisor's Name: Supervisor, not known
Date of Award: 1989
Depositing User: Elaine Ballantyne
Unique ID: glathesis:1989-2086
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 Sep 2010
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2012 13:51

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