Transcribing form: the ekphrastic image in interwar British art journals

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Photographs of sculpture in interwar British art journals played a key role in the articulation and dissemination of abstract aesthetics. Through comparative analysis of the journals Axis (1935–1937) and Circle (1937), this article argues for the historiographical significance of such editorial presentations of sculpture, by demonstrating the central role these publications played in furthering inter-war aesthetic debates. Axis and Circle were responsible for developing particular visual and verbal conventions for representing abstract art in print, influencing subsequent art-historical publications. This article traces the journals’ construction of these conventions and shows how an interplay between text and image foregrounded the aesthetic ideas they wished to convey. Image and text function ekphrastically in Axis and Circle, prompting an active form of reading that shows the reader not just what abstract art should look like, but what it should be like to encounter it. The significance of this is three-fold: first, it provides a precise chronology for the development of specific conventions for representing abstract sculpture in print. Second, it highlights the phenomenological potential of modernist art journals. Finally, it shows how the study of journals can further art-historical knowledge and understanding of the development and dissemination of abstract aesthetics.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77–102
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Modern Periodical Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2022

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  • abstract sculpture
  • Circle
  • Axis
  • ekphrasis
  • text and image

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Visual Arts and Performing Arts


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