Matthew Rampley


Matthew Rampley is chair of art history at the University of Birmingham. His research focuses on the cultural politics of art and education in central Europe from the mid-nineteenth century. His book The Vienna School of Art History: Empire and the Politics of Scholarship 1847-1918 (2013) examined the ways in which the historiography of art became embroiled in imperial and national political conflict in the final years of the Habsburg Empire. Recent edited books include: Art History and Visual Studies in Europe: Transnational Discourses and National Frameworks (2012) and Heritage, Ideology and Identity in Central and Eastern Europe (2012). He is currently leading a research project generously funded by the Leverhulme Trust on museums of art and design in Austria-Hungary.

KEYNOTE LECTURE: Beyond the National Paradigm

Accounts of art and architecture in central Europe from the late nineteenth century onwards tend to emphasise the predominant role of nationalism as the guiding value. On the one hand art is often celebrated as an active participant in the various ‘national awakenings’ of the region. Then, later, modernist figures sought to distance themselves from nationalism, seeing it as an embarrassment and focusing, instead, on embracing the internationalist values of the avant-garde. Still later, in the late 1920s and 1930s, nationalism made a return, in keeping with the reactionary politics that scarred the history of much of central Europe.

I wish to contest this account. Recent historians, most notably, Pieter Judson and Daniel Unowski, have pointed out that for many, national identity was a matter of indifference. Many were more loyal to Austria-Hungary than nationalist ideologues have been willing to admit. At the centre of this is the question of the relation to Vienna. While, on the one hand, many artists and architects sought to distance themselves from the imperial metropolis, others had a much more complex relationship that persisted even after the break-up of Austria-Hungary. It is these complex relations, of emulation, admiration and resistance that will be the focus of my lecture, examining the period from the 1880s to the 1930s.