Dr. Richard A. Lofthouse is a Teaching Fellow in Modern History at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and teaches Modern British and European history and politics in the twentieth century. He completed his Ph.D. at Yale University.
2005 0-7734-6165-5 References to ‘Life’, the ‘life-force’, Lebensphilosophie and a ‘vital-principle’ have all but disappeared from our collective historical memory, wiped out by sophisticated scientific explanations of the origins of life culminating in mid-twentieth-century genetics. However, vitalism, the collective term for these various ideas, played a major role in early-twentieth-century European intellectual development, spreading well beyond professional science into the world of culture and art. Vitalism in Modern Art traces the wider history of vitalism in order to explain why it assumed such a remarkable force in the modernist period, and then refines the theme by tracing vitalism in modern art, focusing on four major vitalist artists, the German painters Otto Dix and Max Beckmann, the English painter Stanley Spencer and the London-based, Polish-American sculptor Jacob Epstein. Vitalism in Modern Art addresses modernism’s ties to Romanticism, to post-Darwinian debates about evolution and religion, to evolving categories of modernist spirituality and to their collective relationship to aesthetics and thus modern art. It complements recent work by historians who have argued that the early twentieth century saw an extensive rejection of perceived Victorian materialism, and with it a renewed upsurge in religious debate and ‘holistic science’ both in England and in Germany.