Classicisms Episode 3: Elisabeth Décultot

last edited on Thu. June 22 2017

Welcome to the Smart Museum Podcast series: Classicisms. This podcast captures lectures given at the University of Chicago, in association with the Smart Museum of Art’s special exhibition Classicisms, up now through June 11, 2017.

Classicism is often presumed to be an unchanging concept—synonymous with order, symmetry, balance, harmony, and decorum—yet history tells us that it is anything but stable. As an aesthetic category, classicism has proved remarkably resilient and flexible, having been adapted to a wide range of historical circumstances and ideological aims. The Smart’s exhibition presents classicism as a multiple and variable phenomenon, one that offers essential points of connection between highly disparate examples.

Our third lecture is by literary historian Professor Elisabeth Décultot. Décultot is Humboldt-Professur für neuzeitliche Schriftkultur und europäischen Wissenstransfer at Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. Her lecture, “Does neoclassicism exist? History of an aesthetic concept” explores the history of notions of classicism and neoclassicism according to several national traditions (French, English, German, Italian) and addresses the difficulty of constructing a unified classical theory of art, from the end of the 18th century to the beginning of the 20th.

View images referenced in the talk (PDF)


A special thanks to the curators of Classicisms, Larry F. Norman and Anne Leonard. Support for this exhibition and its programs has been provided by the Smart Museum’s Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Endowment, Mary Smart and the Smart Family Foundation, the Smart Museum’s Pamela and R. Christopher Hoehn-Saric Exhibition Fund, Lorna Ferguson and Terry Clark, the Elizabeth F. Cheney Foundation, and the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the France Chicago Center at the University of Chicago, UChicago Arts Grants, The IFPDA Foundation, and the Museum’s SmartPartners. Thank you to our staff: producers, Margaret Glazier and Molly Bauer, and our composer, Rob Geada

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