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Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture by Lene Ostermark-Johansen

Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture

Part of the British Art: Global Contexts Series


Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture by Lene Ostermark-Johansen

Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture is the first monograph to discuss the Victorian critic Walter Pater's attitude to sculpture. It brings together Pater's aesthetic theories with his theories on language and writing, to demonstrate how his ideas of the visual and written language are closely interlinked. Going beyond Pater's views on sculpture as an art form, this study traces the notion of relief (rilievo) and hybrid form in Pater, and his view of the writer as sculptor, a carver in language. Alongside her treatment of rilievo as a pervasive trope, Lene A stermark-Johansen also employs the idea of rivalry (paragone) more broadly, examining Pater's concern with positioning himself as an art critic in the late Victorian art world. Situating Pater within centuries of European aesthetic theories as never before done, Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture throws new light on the extraordinary complexity and coherence of Pater's writing: The critic is repositioned solidly within Victorian art and literature.


Winner, Paul Mellon Centre Publication Grant 'Ostermark-Johansen is at her best when she draws out the complexity of Pater's critical writing, as in the fine final chapter, where she extends her characterisation of Pater's sculptural aesthetic to his prose style, both in practice and in his musings on the subject in the essay 'Style
of 1888. The book ends with an intriguing discussion of the visual and material aspects of Pater

's texts in both manuscript and print. Ostermark-Johansen's key idea of 'the language of sculpture'
thus reaches its point of greatest abstraction, as a concept for interpreting Pater

's work, when it addresses the texts in their most concrete form, something Pater himself would surely have appreciated.'
Burlington Magazine

'... this is a book that will delight Paterians, surprising and instructing even those who know him well. Ostermark-Johansen's deep respect for her subject informs every line while her impressive breadth of knowledge and imaginative scholarship make this study the essential work of reference for anyone interested in Pater and his relation to style, sculpture, and aestheticism.'
The Pater Newsletter

'... in her most recent book [...] Ostermark-Johansen, who is the author of much fine previous work on Pater and nineteenth-century artistic culture, uses sculpture to trace Pater's development as art historian, writer, and thinker... One of the lasting impressions of Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture is its real enthusiasm for its subject. Ostermark-Johansen knows Pater as only few other contemporary critics do, and she captures her subject with a winning mixture of intimacy and critical detachment... She is sensitive to the texture and shades of Pater's allusive prose. Her close readings tease out concealed meanings that are buried in Pater's notoriously knotty sentences. She offers exciting new readings of the spatial dimension of Pater's literary imagination and his experimental use of the senses - prominently, the sense of touch - in his critical writings.'
Journal of Pre

-Raphaelite Studies '... besides being a landmark book for Paterian studies, this is a very beautiful object both to the eye and touch, with high-quality sheet paper, 89 black and white illustrations and 20 colour plates... an invaluable and polished monograph on Walter Pater's aesthetics and style that not only provides a comprehensive exploration of all his works in their generic and thematic heterogeneity, but also offers a highly coherent view of that central late 19th-century author through that highly pertinent problematic of sculpture and the relief.
Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens

'... this is a study whose sheer richness will reward multiple readings, giving both new and experienced students of Pater a set of fresh connections, contexts, and intertexts with which to conjure.'
Victorian Studies Lene Ostermark

-Johansen's well-researched, richly digressive study of the meanings of sculpture in Walter Pater's work expands sculpture's sphere, embracing engravings, tapestries, anything woven, all kinds of relief, whether low or high, small or large scale.

& Victorianism on the Net

About the Author

Lene Ostermark-Johansen is Reader in English at the University of Copenhagen. She is the author of Sweetness and Strength: The Reception of Michelangelo in Late Victorian England (Ashgate 1998) and has published extensively on Pater, Swinburne and Wilde.

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Book Info

Publication date

21st July 2011


Lene Ostermark-Johansen

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Ashgate Publishing Limited an imprint of Taylor & Francis Ltd


402 pages


History of art & design styles: c 1800 to c 1900



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