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Tacitus and nationalism in nineteenth-century art

In the nineteenth century artists patronised by national, imperial and aristocratic elites in Europe turned to Tacitus and other classical sources for inspiration in defining the national and ethnic ideal of these patrons. This is a phenomenon that was particularly evident in the German-speaking countries of central Europe, where the figure of Arminius from Tacitus' Annals was represented in many different artistic media, from painting to monumental sculpture. In the German states themselves depictions often followed a similar prescription, which took their inspiration from the plays of Freidrich Gottlieb Klopstock and Heinrich von Kleist, which dramatised the victory of Arminius (or 'Hermann') over Quinctilius Varus and his Roman army. The national context of the time was complicated by the process of unification and the reach of German language and culture beyond the borders of what was in the later century united in the new German Reich. Use was also made of figures drawn from Tacitus in nineteenth-century Britain. In this thesis I also examine how Boadicea and Calgacus were employed in national and local contexts during a period when Britain's imperial power was at its height. It is shown that here too the approach taken by artists to their subject matter in a nationalist context was not always predictable. Examining both central Europe and Britain it compares different case studies, to demonstrate something of the flexibility possible in the treatment of an – at first sight – straightforward theme from classical literature. It will also be explored how the political and artistic contexts of the respective periods in which artists lived variously affected – or did not affect - their treatment of the themes. The extent to which one can analyse their individual portrayals as 'nationalist', or under the influence of 'nationalist' themes, is explored.
Date January 2014
CreatorsWarren, Richard
PublisherDurham University
Source SetsEthos UK
Detected LanguageEnglish
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation

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