Zodiaque: Making Medieval Modern, 1951–2001

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9780271065069: Zodiaque: Making Medieval Modern, 1951–2001

Begun in 1951 by monks at the abbey of La Pierre-qui-Vire in Burgundy, the Zodiaque publications consisted of a triennial journal and multiple series of books, including the most famous: La Nuit des temps. The editors’ goal was to renew sacred art for twentieth-century viewers by making connections between the direct, “primitive” character of pre-Gothic religious art and an emerging modernist aesthetic. Focusing almost exclusively on Romanesque architecture and sculptural decoration, Zodiaque revived the style’s richness and variety, bringing to light monuments lost to popular currency and visually shaping their reception with a new eye to graphic forms. What captured the public imagination and brought the Zodiaque books to international attention was their primary feature: striking black-and-white photogravures. These powerful images went beyond documentary photography to become collectible graphic prints, shaping the plastic form seen by the camera into a fresh two-dimensional artwork. In Zodiaque, Janet Marquardt explores the motivations, philosophies, and workshop practices of Éditions Zodiaque and how they affected the scholarly discourse on medieval art and architecture.

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About the Author:

Janet T. Marquardt is Research Associate in Art History at Smith College and Distinguished Professor Emerita of Art History and Women’s Studies at Eastern Illinois University.

Review:

“The French avant-garde monks who created the publishing house Zodiaque in Burgundy thought they were shaping the inner world that post–WWII societies were lacking. How was picturing, framing, printing, and publishing on Romanesque art a way to a better world? And why Romanesque rather than Gothic? Thomas Merton, Albert Gleize and the Cubists, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Focillon, André Malraux, and Jacques Maritain were the scouts and witnesses of a fifty-year venture that made the medieval modern. The brilliant medievalist Janet Marquardt is our guide, the one we need for a journey that begins as a monograph on a sacred aesthetic experience and finally turns into global history.”

—Guy Lobrichon, Université d’Avignon



“This significant study casts a keen historiographical eye over the genesis and development of the famed Zodiaque series, books that are essential holdings in libraries worldwide. Janet Marquardt performs the important task of putting the Zodiaque project in the context of modern art, demonstrating how its aesthetic developed out of early twentieth-century interests and went on to influence scholarly assumptions about medieval architecture throughout the second half of that century. All libraries will want to have a copy of this book next to their Zodiaque collections.”

—Therese Martin, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas



“Janet Marquardt’s meticulous medieval scholarship, widely recognized both in France and in the United States, gives authority to her insight into the hitherto unappreciated modernist aesthetic that underlies Zodiaque’s success in rekindling public enthusiasm in France for Romanesque art. Her book, so wonderfully illustrated thanks to the cooperation of the monastic Zodiaque editors, will surely encourage the further spread of this enthusiasm among English readers.”

—Bailey K. Young, Eastern Illinois University



“The Zodiaque publications, produced by the monks of La-Pierre-qui-Vire, are celebrated for their arresting photographs of Romanesque sites. Janet Marquardt delineates how discourses surrounding twentieth-century art came to inform the distinctive aesthetic of these lavishly illustrated publications. In the process, she performs a great service in critically assessing the technologies through which we access monuments from the past.”

—Kirk T. Ambrose, University of Colorado



“Janet Marquardt reveals the ideological agendas behind the Zodiaque book series' creation of a photographic record of Romanesque architecture and sculpture and its capacity to shape our ideas of the past. Rather than simply juxtapose past and present, she articulates the means by which the present must inevitably affect our conception of the past. Richly nuanced in its analysis of both the form and the content of these images, Zodiaque gives articulate expression to their role in the creation of cultural memory.”

—Keith Moxey, Columbia University



“Janet Marquardt's Zodiaque is more than an in-depth study of the historiographically important Zodiaque publications. It is a rare look into the inner workings of the mutually influential interactions of academic and non-academic intellectual cultures at a crucial time in the postwar formation of Western medieval art history.”

—Conrad Rudolph, University of California, Riverside



“Most students of medieval art will be aware of the powerful presence upon the bookshelf of an extensive series of most unusual volumes on Romanesque art published by Zodiaque, based at the Burgundian monastery of La Pierre-qui-Vire. Zodiaque books, beautifully produced with striking black-and-white photography and texts that sometimes verge on the poetic, invite readers to enter and engage—just as they might enter a church or embark upon a pilgrimage.

“With impressive control of the art-historical and theoretical backgrounds as well as extensive and meticulous research in the primary sources, both written and oral, Janet Marquardt tells an extraordinary and most engaging story of a quest that went far beyond the traditional purview of art-historical scholarship and publishing. By drawing upon resonances between the dynamic rhythms of the ‘Romanesque’ and the abstractions of modern art, the visionary founder and leader of Zodiaque, Dom Angelico Surchamp, who had studied with Cubist artist Albert Gleizes, hoped to propagate a new vision—not just aesthetic, but also spiritual. The redemptive power of art might heal the wounds of war-torn Europe and animate not only the Benedictine house of La Pierre-qui-Vire but also the Catholic faith at large.

“This is a compelling plot—and Zodiaque: Making Medieval Modern, 1951–2001 kept me moving attentively forward to the final page.”

—Stephen Murray, Columbia University



“In this study, Janet Marquardt has created a powerful synthesis of religious, art, and technological history. Focusing on the monastery of La-Pierre-qui-Vire in Burgundy, she follows out the career of Angelico Surchamp, who, along with fellow monks and scholarly collaborators, produced the Zodiaque series of art books and the review of the same name. She shows how the study and presentation of Romanesque sculpture and architecture was forever changed by religious vocation, secular know-how, and an original, sometimes disputed, artistic aesthetic. Her book reveals to us just how much the European and American image of Burgundy and of medieval French history owes to the multifaceted genius of the French monastic renewal of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.”

—Joseph F. Byrnes, Oklahoma State University



“A rich meditation on photography’s role in the revival of Romanesque art, Zodiaque: Making Medieval Modern, 1951-2001 will be celebrated by historians of art, architecture, photography, religion, and the press. Janet Marquardt expertly traces the gripping story of the material and aesthetic struggles encountered by a group of modernist-inspired monks as they attempted to communicate their sense of the sacred through the carefully produced Zodiaque volumes, works of art unto themselves.”

—Elizabeth Emery, Montclair State University



“Janet Marquardt's Zodiaque: Making Medieval Modern, 1951-2001, is a brilliantly conceived analysis of the publishing enterprise that emanated from the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Marie de la Pierre-qui-Vire, a project that was itself an opus dei of the highest order. Intended to demonstrate art’s, and particularly abstract art’s, ability to express spiritual content, the photographs published in the various Zodiaque editions, including books and journals, would come to represent modern thinking about the essence of Romanesque art. Marquardt offers a cogent analysis of the modernist aesthetic visible in the magnificent and often moving photographic illustrations. Her study also recognizes the difficulty in defining Romanesque art, a task perhaps more challenging than with the art of any other period of Western art. Marquardt provides a rich historiography of Romanesque art by contextualizing nearly two centuries of its study.”

—David Simon, Colby College



“What student or devoted amateur of medieval art has not lost him- or herself in the inviting black-and-white photogravures of the Zodiaque volumes published for fifty years by the monks of La Pierre-qui-Vire? The quality of the photography and sheer beauty of the images brought the world of Romanesque sculpture and architecture to the fingertips of thousands. More than an invitation to become an armchair traveler, however, the volumes, often written by leading experts, introduced complex monuments, and even debates and controversies, in accessible language and clear presentations. In many cases, the scholarly opinions expressed have withstood the test of time. In some instances, the attention Zodiaque brought to monuments helped spur their preservation. The beautiful Zodiaque volumes initiated newcomers just as much as they engaged scholars.

“The remarkable story of the Zodiaque publications is the subject of Janet Marquardt’s book. It joins a growing bibliography of works on Zodiaque, including a recent spate of studies, and interest in Romanesque art’s modern (and modernist) connections more generally. Part biography (especially of Zodiaque’s founder, Dom Angelico Surchamp, himself a modernist painter by training, but of other early key figures as well), part history of mid-twentieth-century Catholicism in France, part history of modernist taste, this book leads the reader through the origins of the Zodiaque enterprise (tracing its origins to various German philosophical and spiritual sources) to the editorial pursuits of its monastic publishers, and finally to Zodiaque’s impact on the study of medieval art. Marquardt examines how, from the format of the books to the manipulation of the photographic subjects—hoping for the reader’s spiritualized connection to the works, through the close cropping and dramatic details—the Zodiaque series shaped modern understanding of the Romanesque past. “Buttressed by a prodigious volume of archival work to trace this history, Marquardt’s volume makes many thoughtful connections between medieval art and modernist sensibilities. It represents surely not the last word on Zodiaque’s influence on modern perceptions of Romanesque art, and Marquardt’s investigative approach and generous scope offer the reader countless further avenues for research. But Marquardt’s book will henceforth be a benchmark for those future studies.”

—Robert A. Maxwell, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University



“In this richly layered account, Janet Marquardt unpacks the remarkable publication venture of a remote Burgundian abbey. From 1951 until the venture’s demise half a century later, the beautifully illustrated Zodiaque volumes programmed readers to view Romanesque art through a modernist, quasi-abstract, and spiritually rejuvenating lens. By masterfully contextualizing the choices made by the publishers, writers, and photographers, Zodiaque goes beyond reception history to reveal a great deal about the cultural assumptions and aspirations of postwar France.”

—Brigitte Buettner, Smith College



“Marquardt’s book succeeds in situating the Zodiaque enterprise in the context of postwar French Catholicism and demonstrates the series’ impact on art-historical pedagogy. Scholars familiar with the Zodiaque books as well as art historians invested in critically evaluating their own visual pedagogical tools will find this study particularly enlightening.”

—Lindsay Cook, Peregrinations: Journal of Medieval Art & Architecture



Zodiaque is a kind of Gesamtkunstwerk that will either remind readers familiar with the Zodiaque format of what made the books special or will introduce a new generation of readers to them.”

—William J. Diebold, H-France

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Book Description Pennsylvania State University Press, United States, 2015. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Begun in 1951 by monks at the abbey of La Pierre-qui-Vire in Burgundy, the Zodiaque publications consisted of a triennial journal and multiple series of books, including the most famous: La Nuit des temps. The editors goal was to renew sacred art for twentieth-century viewers by making connections between the direct, primitive character of pre-Gothic religious art and an emerging modernist aesthetic. Focusing almost exclusively on Romanesque architecture and sculptural decoration, Zodiaque revived the style s richness and variety, bringing to light monuments lost to popular currency and visually shaping their reception with a new eye to graphic forms. What captured the public imagination and brought the Zodiaque books to international attention was their primary feature: striking black-and-white photogravures. These powerful images went beyond documentary photography to become collectible graphic prints, shaping the plastic form seen by the camera into a fresh two-dimensional artwork. In Zodiaque, Janet Marquardt explores the motivations, philosophies, and workshop practices of Editions Zodiaque and how they affected the scholarly discourse on medieval art and architecture. Bookseller Inventory # AAS9780271065069

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