Rumble Fund Lecture in Classical Art 2017: Beauty & Classical Form
Why do we still experience the visible forms of ancient Greek art as beautiful? It is not difficult to understand why we should find them impressive in their longevity, or informative about the ancient societies for which they were made. But why should they inspire in us the thrill of beauty? And why should they continue to do so in a modern world where the sterner values of politics, economics or social justice may seem dominant? This lecture explores the ways in which modern artists may help us not merely to understand, but genuinely to see the beauty of classical form. It takes as a test case the art of Frederic Leighton (a nineteenth-century painter so often treated with condescension as the last of the ‘academic classicists’). The lecture argues that the seriousness of Leighton’s engagement with classical form may be seen, instead, as progressive and forward-looking.
The 2017 Rumble Lecture comes about thanks to the generosity of the Jamie Rumble Memorial Fund. It is organised by the Centre of Hellenic Studies, in collaboration with the Institute of Classical Studies and the Department of Classics at King’s College London. The event will be followed by a reception (in the Great Hall and Entrance Hall) to which all are warmly invited.
Elizabeth Prettejohn is Professor of History of Art at the University of York. Her books include Beauty and Art 1750–2000 (2005) and The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture: Greek Sculpture and Modern Art from Winckelmann to Picasso (2012). She is co-curator of the exhibition Alma-Tadema: At Home in Antiquity, on display at Leighton House Museum from July to October 2017.
Image: Frederick Leighton, Flaming June (1895); © Museo de Arte de Ponce.