Modernism and the Mediterranean: The Maeght Foundation, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Modernism and the Mediterranean

The Maeght Foundation, 1st Edition

By Jan K. Birksted


224 pages

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Situated in a Mediterranean landscape, the Maeght Foundation is a unique Modernist museum, product of an extraordinary collaboration between the architect, José Luis Sert, and the artists whose work was to be displayed there. The architecture, garden design and art offer a rare opportunity to see work in settings conceived in active collaboration with the artists themselves. By focusing on the relationship between this art foundation and its Arcadian setting, including Joan Miró's labyrinth, George Braque's pool, Tal-Coat's mosaic wall and Giacometti's terrace, Jan K. Birksted demonstrates how the building articulates many of the ideas that preoccupied this group of artists during the culminating years of their lives. The study pays special attention to the ways in which architecture can shape the experience of time, and addresses the Modernist desire for wilderness and its problematic roots in the classical Mediterranean ideal. In showing how the design of the Maeght Foundation is a Modernist representation of Mediterranean culture, the author has developed an interpretation of architecture that accommodates not only the architect's handling of material or function, but shows as well how it can be the embodiment of a particular vision of space and time.


'Jan Birksted has responded with passion and ingenuity to a marvellous subject. Sert's Maeght Foundation fulfils the criteria for an exemplary Gallery of Modern Art, but in this account it becomes a site of deconstruction. Using a mass of archival material from Sert and the Maeght family, he explores the relationship between patron, artists and architect, and between the built form of the gallery and the surrounding Mediterranean world.' Stephen Bann, University of Bristol, UK

'Jan Birksted's unravelling of the design process of the Maeght Foundation reads like a thriller where the corpse is only discovered at the very last line. It unwraps one layer of intentions after another, revealing the fascinating potentials of architectural modernism beyond the stereotypes of the International Style. It brings to light the surprising reinvention of architecture as landscape, and garden as architecture, begot by the dance of Modernism and Surrealism under the timely skies of the Mediterranean. A marvellous promenade architecturale.' Michel Conan, Dumbarton Oaks, US

'This book is a handsome object… Birksted has accomplished a rare task. He has written a book of fine scholarship; he has managed to make it read like a gripping story; and he draws us into a world of reflection upon the nature of landscape and architecture… When Birksted leaves scholarship behind and moves into the space of argumentative speculation he treats us to rich, rewarding and exigent thought.' Edward Winters, The Architects' Journal

'The author's style manages to be both readable and scholarly, and the notes and bibliography are exhaustive…' Sandy McLendon, Modernism Magazine

'… this is a beautiful, many-layered book that greatly deepens our understanding and knowledge of the building's whole design and methodology and has many fascinating details.' Twentieth Century Society Newsletter

'Though of particular interest to landscape historians, this book would also be useful to scholars of modernist art and architecture.' Katie Campbell, The Art Book

Table of Contents

Contents: Preface; Introduction: The Commission: 'A moment of Euphoria'; The labyrinth: The labyrinth; Knossos; The Mediterranean: The Mediterranean; Narratives; The Pools: The pools; Reflections; Conclusion: The Aftermath: 1974; Academic envoi: Spatial temporality; Bibliography; Index.

About the Series

Histories of Vision

Histories of Vision
Art history is not only an historical discipline, it is also the visual study of works of art. There is no naturally given, self-evident and transparent link between the object, its perception, its representation and its functions. Images are cultural constructions with their own poetics and histories, but vision as well has its histories. The aim of this series is to reconstruct these histories. It is devoted to the study of works of art considered as ways of seeing, viewing practices, and the various codifications of visual perception connected with the arts and artistic theories through the ages. The series not only covers painting and sculpture, but also architecture. Its scope is not limited to Western art, but includes in particular the ways in which non-Western art has been perceived in Western art history.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Buildings / Public, Commercial & Industrial
ART / History / General
ART / Sculpture & Installation