Date of Degree

2-2022

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Art History

Advisor

Maria Antonella Pelizzari

Committee Members

Judy Sund

Katherine Manthorne

Ioannis Mylonopoulos

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Fine Arts | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Modern Art and Architecture

Keywords

Nineteenth-Century Greek Art, Greek Genre Painting, Nationalism

Abstract

In 1828, following a seven–year war waged against the Ottoman Empire and its nearly 400 years of subjugation, the newly–formed nation–state of Greece, “Hellas”, faced the daunting challenge of uniting a population that was as diverse as its multiple dialects. By mid–century, genre painting began to take shape. Eventually it was known in Greek as “ηθογραφία (“ethographia”) or “ethography,” from the word ήθος (ethos) or morals, referring to the guiding beliefs or ideals that characterize a community, nation, or ideology. Inspired by a literary vogue of the same name that predated genre painting, the anecdotal vignettes of ethographia were seasoned with references to nationalism. The projects of Greek genre painters were varied, but the pictorial legibility of these works ensured that educated urbanites as well as the predominantly peasant population could read them and advance a sense of national consciousness. Through a series of case studies, my dissertation elucidates the threads of nationalism that permeate these works. In examining them, I argue that nineteenth–century Greek genre painting desired to foster unification of a country that not only was emerging from centuries of foreign control but was also in the process of repositioning itself as European rather than Oriental. With particular attention to the hybrid, constructed nature of Greek genre painting—which negotiated between European models and a growing sense of indigenous identity—I explore the related notions of collective memory and national identity and their visualization in an art practice that has yet to be critically examined. My dissertation’s examination of an understudied facet of Greek art positions ethographia within prevalent nineteenth–century discourses of nation–building and national identity formation, and analyzes its reception by Greek and foreign audiences. Additionally, this study will situate Greek art within the growing scholarship on regional artistic traditions, contributing to the expansion of the canon in nineteenth–century art surveys.

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