Thursday, August 30, 2012

Enchanted Modernities: Blavatsky and the Arts

The Leverhulme Trust in England has announced its new series of grants for 2012, among them £124,356 for Enchanted Modernities: theosophy, modernism and the arts, c. 1875-1960, a project that will bring together specialists from a number of institutions. “As well as a series of academic conferences and workshops in Amsterdam and New York, the Network’s research will be made available to international audiences through two exhibitions, a series of musical performances and a website.”

Founded in 1875 in New York, the Theosophical Society quickly went global, attracting a cosmopolitan community of adherents worldwide. Often treated as a footnote in modern cultural history, there has been very little research [!] about why this esoteric organisation was so popular with artists, musicians and writers in this period and, furthermore, what impact it had on their artistic endeavours. The Enchanted Modernities International Network will bring together scholars who are experts in the visual arts, music and sound, and literature from all over the world to explore what the visual, material and performing arts can tell us about the relationships between theosophy, modernity and mysticism c. 1875-1960. The research carried out by the Network’s partners will examine where and how artists, writers and performers came into contact with theosophy and other mystical practices, and how theosophical ideas, especially those of key figures in the society in this period – such as Helena Blavatsky and Annie Besant – were given material, visual and audible form and shape.

Lee Mullican, The Ninnekah, 1951, oil on linen. The Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.

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