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Art historians publish new books on the visual in music and the Cologne avant-garde

Press release issued: 22 November 2013

The untold story of the Cologne avant-garde after Dada and an exploration of the concept of the visual in relation to music are the focus of two books recently published by researchers in the Department of History of Art.

Dr Dorothy Rowe's After Dada: Marta Hegemann and the Cologne Avant-Garde asks what happened in 1920s Cologne 'after Dada'.  Whilst most standard accounts of Cologne Dada stop with Max Ernst's departure from the city for a new life as a surrealist in Paris, this book reveals the untold stories of the Cologne avant-garde that prospered after Dada but whose legacies have been largely forgotten or neglected.

The book focuses on the little-known Magical Realist painter Marta Hegemann (1894–1970), re-inserting her into the histories of avant-garde modernism to reveal a fuller picture of the networks of artistic and cultural exchange within Weimar Germany.  It embeds her activities as an artist within a gendered network of artistic exchange and influence in which Ernst continues to play a vital role amongst many others including his first wife, art critic Lou Straus-Ernst; photographers August Sander and Hannes Maria Flach; artists Angelika Fick, Heinrich Hoerle, Willy Fick and the Cologne Progressives and visitors such as Kurt Schwitters and Katherine S. Dreier.

The book offers a significant addition to research on Weimar visual culture and will be invaluable to students and specialists in the field.

Professor Simon Shaw-Miller's Eye hEar The Visual in Music employs the concept of the visual in proximate relation to music, questioning the belief that there is a gulf between painting and music, the visible and the audible.  Such a belief, the book argues, betrays an ideological constraint on music, desiccating it to sound, and art to vision.  The starting point of this study is more hybrid: that music is never employed without numerous and complex intersections with the visual.

By involving the concept of synaesthesia, the book evokes music’s multi-sensory nature, stops it from sounding alone, and offers music as a subject for art historians.  Music bleeds into art and visuality, in its graphic depiction in notation, in the theatre of performance, its sights and sites.

The book also looks at music in its absolute guise as a model for art; at notation and the conductor as the silent visual fulcra around which music circulates; at the music and image of Erik Satie; at the concert hall as white cube; at the symphonic film '2001: A Space Odyssey'; and at the liminality of John Cage and Andy Warhol.

After Dada: Marta Hegemann and the Cologne Avant-Garde by Dorothy Rowe is published by Manchester University Press; £70

Eye hEar The Visual in Music by Simon Shaw-Miller is published by Ashgate; £55

Dr Dorothy Rowe is a Senior Lecturer in the Department of History of Art at the University of Bristol.  Her research interests include modern German art, twentieth-century women artists and photography in Germany.  After Dada is the result of a two year Leverhulme Research Fellowship in which she researched women artists and photographers in Weimar Germany.  A follow up project on Weimar Women: Photography and Modernity will continue these interests.

Professor Simon Shaw-Miller is Chair in History of Art at the University of Bristol.  His research interests are the history of art and music in the modern period (1800-1960s).  He is concerned with questions of interdisciplinary methodology, modernism, the concepts of visual music, musical iconography, synaesthesia, musical ekphrasis, and the aesthetics of the Gesamtkunstwerk.  He is an Honorary Associate and Research Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.

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