'Primitive Renaissances': Northern European and Germanic Art at the Fin de Siecle to 1930s

Research output: Book/ReportBook


This multi-author book sole-edited by Juliet Simpson with a 10,000-word Introduction, is the first study to explore the nineteenth- and early twentieth-century fascination with Northern European Renaissance artists as so-called ‘primitives’ in a period spanning the 1850s to the early 1930s. It presents original new scholarship and perspectives on a rich, yet neglected history of Northern European Renaissance art and visual culture in the collecting, art and cultural imaginaries of the European nineteenth century to the1930s, to uncover its stories and appropriations in art, monuments, museums, texts and their reception as ‘primitive’ and in competing period constructs of national and cosmopolitan identity. In fifteen chapters by leading international scholars and curators of art history, history and comparative culture, the book shows that interest in early Renaissance Northern art and visual culture emerges as central to many of the period’s most urgent debates: about ownership of cultural patrimony and heritage, ideas of artistic ‘genius’ and inheritance; about new concepts of the modern, beauty and individual perception; feeling and expression and about art’s value in shifting and competing conceptions of ‘nation-hood’ , national and cultural identity across four closely interlinked ‘Northern’ European contexts: Britain, France, Belgium and Imperial Germany
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationFarnham/New York
PublisherAshgate Publishing Ltd
Number of pages360
Volume(in press)
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2018


  • ART Modernity
  • cultural identity
  • primitive
  • memory-making
  • nationalisms
  • Northern Renaissances
  • heritage

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  • Activities

    • 3 Invited talk
    • 2 Participation in conference
    • 1 Visiting an external academic institution

    University of London

    Juliet Simpson (Visiting researcher)
    1 Oct 201930 Jun 2020

    Activity: Visiting an external institutionVisiting an external academic institution

    'Gothic Modern, 1880-1945: Munch to Kollwitz'

    Juliet Simpson (Invited speaker)
    10 May 2019

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Staging Spectacles of Nation: Art and Identities of Patrimony in Early 20th-century Europe’

    Juliet Simpson (Keynote speaker)
    9 May 201811 May 2018

    Activity: Talk or presentationInvited talk

    Research Output

    • 2 Chapter
    • 1 Anthology or Edited Book

    'Gothic Modernisms, 1880-1940s'

    Baetens, J-D., Bauduin, T., von Bonsdorff, A-M. & Simpson, J., 2019, (Accepted/In press) Peter Lang AG. 310 p. (Critical Interactions and Relations in the Arts)

    Research output: Book/ReportAnthology or Edited Book

    'Nordic Devotions: Gothic Art as Erotic Affect: J.-K. Huysmans' and Maurice Barres' Decadent "Devotio" Moderns'

    Simpson, J., 2018, (Accepted/In press) Nordic Decadence: Reverberations from Paris and Voices from the North. Lyytikainen, P., Rossi, R. & Parente-Capkova, V. (eds.). London: Palgrave Macmillan, Vol. (in press). p. (in press) 15 p.

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

    Science, Belief and the Art of Subjectivity: From Fromentin’s to Huysmans’s Modern Primitifs

    Simpson, J., 2014, Between Light and Darkness: New Perspectives in Symbolism Research. Lahelma, M. (ed.). Helsinki: The Birch and the Star – Finnish Perspectives on the Long 19th Century, Vol. 10. p. 16-25

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

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