This book addresses modernism's ties to Romanticism, to post-Darwinian debates about evolution and religion, to evolving categories of modernist spirituality and to their collective relationship to aesthetics and thus modern art. The master narrative of the rise of modern art and literary modernism has long settled into the scholarly landscape. It has indeed come to appear as set, unproblematic, and rarely questioned. In this extensively interdisciplinary and transnational study Dr. Richard Lofthouse has set out to conduct a deep probe into that now well-traveled terrain. Whereas most previous scholars have looked to the power of French art and culture as the driving engine behind various modes of modernism, Lofthouse counter-instinctively looks to Germany and Great Britain. In the face of previous studies on the mechanical fascinations of modernists such as the Vorticists, Lofthouse rediscovers the power of European fin-de-siecle vitalism and its trajectory far into the twentieth century. Through Lofthouse's studies of Otto Dix, Stanley Spencer, Max Beckmann and Jacob Epstein a new counter-narrative of the development of modern art and modernism emerges.There is still the modernist rejection of many things Victorian, but these artists embrace a vitalist, organic scientific tradition with roots in the thought of Goethe and Lamarckians rather than Darwin and Haeckel.
This study reminds us that the world of science and philosophy in 1900 reflected anything but a triumph of positivist science and secularism. The minds and artists of the day confronted a much more indeterminate world of ideas in which mechanism was not triumphant and the spiritual had not been banished. Each of Lofthouse's protagonists rejected anything resembling traditional religious orthodoxy, but they continued to seek some kind of spiritual meaning in the world and in their own existences. This volume leads scholars to reconceptualize their approach to early twentieth-century culture. Lofthouse emphasizes the manner in which four separate artists of prominence stood determined to forge a new path that ignored the impact of French art, embraced the thought of Nietzsche or overlapping ideas derived from the post-Darwinian landscape that emerged in England by 1900, and produced lasting works of art for which this book provides new clues to understanding.Lofthouse leads his readers to understand that they must henceforth contemplate a variety of modernisms, that they must rethink their comfortable, familiar categories of interpretation, and look for new byways on what they incorrectly took to be an adequate mapped landscape of the modern.