Ornament and European Modernism: From Art Practice to Art History, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Ornament and European Modernism

From Art Practice to Art History, 1st Edition

Edited by Loretta Vandi


198 pages | 8 Color Illus. | 30 B/W Illus.

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pub: 2017-09-12
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These in-depth, historical, and critical essays study the meaning of ornament, the role it played in the formation of modernism, and its theoretical importance between the mid-nineteenth century and the late twentieth century in England and Germany. Ranging from Owen Jones to Ernst Gombrich through Gottfried Semper, Alois Riegl, August Schmarsow, Wilhelm Worringer, Adolf Loos, Henry van de Velde, and Hermann Muthesius, the contributors show how artistic theories are deeply related to the art practice of their own times, and how ornament is imbued with historical and social meaning.


"This emphasis on the chronological margins of Modernism should not come as a surprise either, since Modernism and ornament are two notions that are often positioned in diametrically opposed way. The famous, but not always well read or contextualized slogan of Alfred Loos, ‘Ornament is crime’, is the best-known symptom of this antagonism, which the interesting collection edited by art historian Loretta Vandi aims to question. And it does so very successfully, thanks to the rich and sophisticated historical reconstruction and close-reading of many debates, publications, and realizations having to do with ornaments."


"[This book] offers an in-depth contribution to the theoretical interpretations of ornament and its role in the development of a crucial period in Western art and architecture. … While some of the essays provide a deep contextual analysis, others are more focused on the discussion of specific and complex theoretical issues, but all of them share a common concern about the question of the dissociation between non-representational and representation art and the problem of the unity of art."

--Journal of Art Historiography

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations


Contributors’s Biographies


Chapter One

Owen Jones’s Theory of Ornament

Isabelle J. Frank

Chapter Two

Function, Fiction, Flux and Silence:

Ornamental Theory, Science, and the Modern Search for Aesthetic Volition

Debra K. Schafter

Chapter Three

August Schmarsow’s Theory of Ornament

Christiane Hertel

Chapter Four

The Veil of Truth?

Van de Velde, Muthesius, and the Battle over Ornament in Modern Architecture

Ole W. Fischer

Chapter Five

Ornament, Image, and Tension in Ernst Gombrich’s Theory of PerceptionLoretta Vandi & Pavlos Jerenis


About the Editor


Loretta Vandi(Ph.D., Université de Lausanne, 1998) is Professor of Art History at the Scuola del Libro in Urbino. She has held four Samuel H. Kress fellowships. Her publications include La trasformazione del motivo dell'acanto dall'antichità al XV secolo (2002), Il Manoscritto Oliveriano 1 (2004), and Four Essays (2007).

About the Series

Routledge Research in Art History

Routledge Research in Art History is our home for the latest scholarship in the field of art history. The series publishes research monographs and edited collections, covering areas including art history, theory, and visual culture. These high-level books focus on art and artists from around the world and from a multitude of time periods. By making these studies available to the worldwide academic community, the series aims to promote quality art history research.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / Criticism & Theory
ART / History / General
ART / European
ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
HISTORY / Europe / General
HISTORY / Europe / Germany
HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain
HISTORY / Europe / Austria & Hungary