Gustavian style – a Swedish style?
5 June 2017
Why has the neoclassical Gustavian style become so prominent in the Swedish self-image? A new dissertation from Uppsala University shows how researchers in art history, along with museums, commercial enterprises and the monarchy, have contributed to preserving and conveying the Gustavian style.
“An important reason for the extreme strength of the Gustavian style ideal,” says Hedvig Mårdh, doctoral student at the Department of Art History at Uppsala University, “is that it managed to unite a series of seemingly contradictory movements during the 1900s, such as tradition and modernity, and nationalism and internationalism, and that it has become part of various utopian visions.”
The Gustavian style, connected to the 18th century and Gustav III and Gustav IV Adolf, has been intimately associated with what has been designated as specific Swedish cultural heritage, linked to Swedish tastes and interior design. The style has generally been highly esteemed by both museums and art historians, who have produced national and international exhibitions and publications and have also contributed to successful furniture production from the late 19th century through today, including both IKEA’s line of 18th-century furniture as well as more small-scale production.
It’s about recurring re-use, in the form of copies, reconstructions and staging of the period. In her dissertation A Century of Swedish Gustavian Style: Art History, Cultural Heritage and Neoclassical Revivals from the 1890s to the 1990s, Hedvig Mårdh studied three periods that all illustrate the re-use of the Gustavian period in different ways:
- the 1890s, which saw the emergence of art history as a discipline, and of museums and cultural heritage
- the period 1930–1940, when the production of period furniture existed concurrently with functionalism
- the 1990s, a decade characterised by a cultural heritage boom, economic crisis and the search for a national identity in a European context.
There are a number of reasons behind the survival of the style as both cultural heritage and commercial product. Besides the fact that it has managed to incorporate contradictory social movements and forces through continuous recreation, art historians and museum curators have also played an important role by writing the style into the Swedish canon. But it’s not only academia, but also the monarchy, museums and commercial enterprises, as well as various state-financed initiatives such as international exhibitions, that have contributed to the strong position of the style and its importance for a Swedish self-image.
In her dissertation, Hedvig Mårdh examines the importance of the style concept for the discipline of art history and for cultural heritage processes.
“The concept of style can be problematic and is often ideologically charged, in that it conveys perceptions about things like changes over time and national identity,” says Hedvig Mårdh.
Style cannot be seen as a static concept, but rather as active, changeable and with agency, she says. Different uses of the Gustavian, such as artists’ interpretations or the activities of various historical societies, can enhance the understanding and interpretations of the Gustavian style. How we speak about, describe and stage cultural heritage is important because it affects how we act and how we identify and manage cultural heritage.
“There are limited resources and space for what can be displayed and preserved,” says Hedvig Mårdh. “Designating something as the best, the most Swedish or the most tasteful also means that something else is excluded. It is important to raise awareness of how cultural heritage is created, what processes lie behind it, what role the academic disciplines play in these processes and how research interacts with practice and thus stages cultural heritage.”
The dissertation is based on the research field of critical heritage studies, and researches the art historian’s role in the creation of cultural heritage and the connection to a national cultural heritage. This is a perspective that has only been partially examined previously.
The materials that are the focus of the dissertation have also not previously been put in relation to each other– how do textbooks, exhibitions, historical societies and furniture production affect one another and what role does art history research play in these contexts?
Legendary runestone bears witness to climate anxiety 1,200 years ago
08 januari 2020
After more than 1,000 years, one of the greatest mysteries of the early Viking Age, the Rök runestone which bears the world’s longest runic inscription, appears to have been solved. According to four Swedish researchers, the puzzling inscription h...
Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize goes to Afaf Doleeb and Patricia Lorenzoni
21 november 2019
The Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize is Uppsala University’s foremost award for contributions to the promotion of human rights and liberty. This year’s prize is shared by graduate student Afaf Doleeb and researcher Patricia Lorenzoni for their com...
Large-scale cadastral maps on parchment digitised
08 november 2019
Uppsala University Archives holds a large collection of hand-drawn seventeenth century maps on parchment. These maps are of significant historical value and a valuable source of information on the University’s agricultural properties at the time.
New Honorary Doctors Appointed at Uppsala University
21 oktober 2019
The nine faculties at Uppsala University have decided on who they wish to appoint as honorary doctors this academic year. The new honorary doctors include researchers in fields as diverse as string theory, maternal healthcare, evolutionary biology...
Excavation documentation from Labraunda digitised
21 oktober 2019
Uppsala University Library's part of the project Mötesplats Medelhavet ("Labraunda") - a research platform for digitised archaeological collections and archives at the Swedish institutes in Athens, Rome and Istanbul, is now being started. The aim ...
Aristocratic family trees became scientific model
01 oktober 2019
Before the French Revolution, family trees were reserved for the feudal upper classes, who used them to consolidate their social status. While feudalism broke down and family trees lost their old roles, the trees gained new functions as scientific...
Uppsala philosopher elected to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
19 september 2019
Folke Tersman, professor of practical philosophy at Uppsala University, has been elected as a member of the class for humanities and for outstanding services to science at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
Johan Ihre’s dissertations now in digital form.
06 september 2019
Johan Ihre (1707-1780) was professor of Rethoric and Politics at Uppsala University for 42 years. During this time he managed no less than 453 dissertations, the theses of the time. These dissertations are currently a widely used source material i...
Sustainable urbanisation requires collaboration
10 juni 2019
On Sunday, 30 June, six seminars on sustainability and urbanisation focusing on India and Sweden will take place in Almedalen. To find out more, we talked to Swaminathan Ramanathan, visiting research fellow, and Owe Ronström, professor of ethnolog...
Races for women play an important role
06 maj 2019
Participating in a race for women plays an important role for women and increases self-confidence among participants. Women aim to perform as well as they can, and they place most emphasis on their physical performance, despite the organisers’ oft...
Award for research and teaching on the Holocaust
11 april 2019
Tomislav Dulić, Senior Lecturer in History and Director of the Hugo Valentin Centre, has been awarded the Austrian Holocaust Memorial Award 2019.
Diplomatic wives’ political clout often overlooked
07 mars 2019
Many 20th-century accounts of international relations and diplomacy often leave out the role of women. Diplomats’ wives were not officially employed, but diplomacy was frequently based on couples working together.
Ola Larsmo awarded Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize
16 november 2018
The Martin Henriksson Holmdahl Prize is Uppsala University’s foremost award for efforts to promote human rights and liberty. This year’s prize is awarded to author and honorary doctor Ola Larsmo.
New light cast on Scandinavia’s most important Bronze Age site
09 oktober 2018
Håga, Scandinavia's most significant Bronze Age site, is relatively unknown. But in a new book, archaeologists at Uppsala University have brought together what is known and placed Håga in a larger context.
New study shows virus traces in historical skeletal material
06 september 2018
A new international study shows the importance of studying historical skeletal material to increase knowledge about how viruses develop.
Large-scale whaling in north Scandinavia may date back to 6th century
13 juni 2018
The intensive whaling that has pushed many species to the brink of extinction today may be several centuries older than previously assumed. This view is held by archaeologists from Uppsala and York whose findings are presented in the European Jour...
Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson to receive King’s Medal
08 juni 2018
H.M. King Carl XVI Gustaf has decided to award Uppsala University’s Vice-Chancellor Eva Åkesson and Johan Svedjedal, Professor of Literature, H.M. The King’s Medal.
This year’s Distinguished Teaching Award winners chosen
04 juni 2018
The 2018 Distinguished Teaching Award winners at Uppsala University teach subjects related to art history, informatics and media, pharmaceutical biosciences and information technology. The free Distinguished Teaching Award was presented to Senior ...
Human diversity as a research area
29 maj 2018
Human diversity abounds in language, culture and biology. An understanding of this diversity is central to a lot of research, but it is important to address the ethical issues raised by this research. The Human Diversity Research Network takes an ...
Shared meals important for wellbeing
29 maj 2018
How, where and when we eat are key issues for human health and wellbeing. A multidisciplinary research network at Uppsala University aims to deepen knowledge about the significance of meals.