Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Mediating Modernity: Visual Culture and Class in Madrid, 1926-1936
by Barragán, Maite, Ph.D., Temple University, 2017, 413; 10285163
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation examines the differing responses to modernity in the visual culture of Madrid from 1926–1936. I trace the debates generated by the anticipation, apprehension, or expectations to the ongoing processes of modernization. My work is guided by the understanding that the metropolis is both a physical and psychological space, and that the resulting visual culture is imbued with those experiences of Madrid. Thus, the questions and concerns of the period are instilled in the visual arts, regardless if the city is explicitly represented in them or not. Although Madrid was not a model of industrialization, the city’s inhabitants acknowledged and reacted to the attempts to modernize the city as well as the ongoing political and social transformations.

My study examines diverse media alongside the popular press of the period. By examining individual works of art alongside periodicals, my dissertation reveals the relationship between the thriving popular culture, the elite culture, and an emergent mass culture. In the first chapter, I introduce how these different kinds of culture have been defined, as well as Madrid’s current place within art historical scholarship. In the second chapter, I look at how the construction of the Gran Vía avenue was presented in the press to investigate the social effects of the reorganization of Madrid’s center. The third chapter analyzes the development of the public persona of writer Ramón Gómez de la Serna and how he used his image as an advertisement for modernity. In the fourth chapter, I examine the film Esencia de verbena, directed by Ernesto Giménez Caballero. The film pictured Madrid’s traditions but also invoked Surrealist aesthetics. By bringing together ideas of international modernity and local folklore Giménez Caballero showed how popular culture was a useful resource for the local avant-garde. In the final chapter, I focus on the sculpture of artist Alberto Sánchez to demonstrate how his seemingly depoliticized artworks actually engaged in a critical discourse about the economic and social conditions resulting from modernization.

This dissertation challenge the current understanding of the distinctions between the popular, elite, and mass cultures in Spain. Such categories cannot fully express the complexity of the visual culture of Madrid in the 1920s and 1930s. Instead, I argue that Madrid’s inhabitants negotiated and mediated modernity by blurring the boundaries and exploring the interconnections between these different cultures.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Nelson, Adele E., Silk, Gerald
Commitee: Dolan, Therese, Mendelson, Jordana, Shellhorse, Adam Joseph
School: Temple University
Department: Art History
School Location: United States -- Pennsylvania
Source: DAI-A 79/01(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: European history, Art history
Keywords: Art, Madrid, Spanish literature, Twentieth century, Urban studies, Visual culture
Publication Number: 10285163
ISBN: 9780355171457
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