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From tradition to modernism: British landscape painting in the postwar period

Antal Mavity, Imola (2008) From tradition to modernism: British landscape painting in the postwar period. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94175) (KAR id:94175)

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In the immediate aftermath of the war which threatened sovereignty, fractured geographical and political identities and cultures and left the land scarred and damaged, landscape became invested with deep and special significance. During this time, Romanticism unsurprisingly re-flourished and the first psychological accounts of the phenomenology of place and space started appearing. Landscape painting became a visual manifestation of national identity which had acquired a great meaning in these circumstances. Whilst relying on established notions of the British visual tradition, the introspective nature of wartime Neo-Romanticism ultimately allowed for the liberation of landscape painting from ideological constraints and the ease with which it assimilated modernism. War not only strengthened the idea of place and the landscape as a redemptive genre, but equally, in a counter direction, it encouraged the idea that art should set itself apart from society entirely, either as a perceptual investigation divorced from social enquiry, or as complete formalism. Modernism had brought a new emphasis on aesthetic appreciation and a reaction against mythical, historical and narrative tendencies in traditional landscapes. The work of Monet and Cézanne was redefined in a contemporary context and British artists, such as Lanyon, Heron and Frost, influenced by European and American postwar modernist models started experimenting with new approaches to landscape. In view of these foreign influences, the need to establish the existence of a strong, innovative home-grown avant-garde became imperative. As institutional support in the arts increased, regional cultural communities such as St Ives were rejuvenated and British art started being promoted abroad. This thesis demonstrates that landscape painting was an enduring and adaptable genre which significantly contributed to the integration of British art into modernism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Kear, Jon
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.94175
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 25 April 2022 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: N Visual Arts > ND Painting
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Arts
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 21 Jul 2022 15:18 UTC
Last Modified: 17 Jul 2023 08:54 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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