As an aesthetic ideal, classicism is often associated with a conventional set of rules founded on supposedly timeless notions such as order, reason, and decorum. As a result, it is sometimes viewed as rigid, outdated, or stodgy.

But in actuality, classicism is far from a stable concept—throughout history, it has given rise to more debate than consensus, and at times has been put to use for subversive ends. 

This volume explodes the idea of classicism as an unchanging ideal. Through essays and other contributions from an interdisciplinary group of scholars, it traces the shifting parameters of classicism from antiquity to the twentieth century, documenting an exhibition of seventy objects in various media from the collection of the Smart Museum of Art and other American and international institutions.

With its impressive historical and conceptual reach—from ancient literature to contemporary race relations and beyond—this colorfully illustrated book is a dynamic exploration of classicism as a fluctuating stylistic and ideological category.


Edited by Larry F. Norman and Anne Leonard; with essays by Richard T. Neer, Susanna Caviglia, Andrei Pop, Frederick A. de Armas, Benjamin Morgan, Jennifer Wild, Rebecca Zorach, and Glenn W. Most; and other contributions from Rainbow Porthé, Ji Gao, Esther Van Dyke, Caitlin Hoff, Rebecca Crisafulli, and James Nemiroff

Publication date

February 2017


184 pages, 105 color plates, 8 x 11"



Purchase this catalogue

Available spring 2017 for $30 online through the University of Chicago Press or in person at the Smart Museum Shop.