Seeing and Hearing the “Beyond”: Art, Music, and Mysticism in the Long- Nineteenth Century

Association for Art History/ Courtauld Institute of Art and King’s College London

This interdisciplinary session will explore the dialogue between art and music in
addressing the subject of mysticism in the long nineteenth century (1789 – 1918). To counteract the positivist current that gained momentum during the period, artistic circles gravitated towards mystical means that initiated the beholder and listener into truths that transcended the world of external appearances. The session seeks to gauge the scope of different interpretations of mysticism and to illuminate how an exchange between art and music may unveil an underlying stream of metaphysical, supernatural, and spiritual ideas over the course of the century.

The multiple facets of mysticism manifested across a diverse range of styles, aesthetics, and movements. As esotericism saturated America, Europe and Britain, the Romantics and Symbolists responded to mystical beliefs expressed in Swedenborgianism, Spiritualism, Theosophy and Occultism while drawing on exposures to Eastern religions. Reinterpretations of pagan mysticism prompted the rediscovery of Folkloric primitivism. Meanwhile, Catholic and evangelical revivals alongside renewed interest in Medievalism revitalised Christian themes. In practice, the proliferation of occult revivals at the fin-de-siècle permeated the thematic programmes of artists and composers. Wagner’s operas underscored the link between music, myth, and mysticism through the synthesis of the arts: the Gesamtkunstwerk. Subsequently, Syncretism in mystical philosophies was paralleled by formal correspondences in the visual arts, especially in their ‘rhythmical’ qualities. Synesthesia would instigate the development of abstraction.

This session invites submissions that extend on these ideas by investigating how the
interconnectedness between art and music was able to evoke and be inspired by
mysticism. Papers drawn from other periods that examine the origins and newer forms of mystical appropriations will be considered, and those which incorporate perspectives across the spectrum of visual culture and musicology are particularly welcome.


Association for Art History 2018 Annual Conference
5-7 April 2018
Courtauld Institute of Art, London, UK
PLEASE SEND YOUR 250 WORD ABSTRACTS to both convenors by NOVEMBER 6 2017
Dr. Corrinne Chong,
Dr. Michelle Foot,