Disclosing a Transfer: Art and Religion in the Notebooks of Dominique de Menil

In: International Journal for History, Culture and Modernity
Samuel O’Connor Perks Doctoral student; Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Kardinaal Mercierplein 2 – bus 3200, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

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Rajesh Heynickx Professor; Architectural Theory and Intellectual History, KU Leuven, Paleizenstraat 65–67, 1030 Schaarbeek, Belgium

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Stéphane Symons Associate Professor; Aesthetics and Philosophy of Culture at the Institute of Philosophy, KU Leuven, Maria-Theresiastraat 23 – bus 3200, 3000 Leuven, Belgium

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The art collector and educator, Dominique de Menil (1908–1997) has mostly been remembered as a pragmatic orchestrator of high-profile commissions in the art world. However, little attention has been paid to her role as a thinker. This article seeks to address that lacuna in the literature by attending to an overlooked source in the Menil archives, de Menil’s notebooks, which were written between 1974 and 1994. By analysing de Menil’s use of metaphor in the notebooks, we place them within the trajectory of de Menil’s intellectual development stemming back to her 1936 article: ‘Pour l’unité du monde chrétien’. The first part situates the metaphors which de Menil employed in the notebooks from the 1970s in the intellectual context of her inception of these figures of speech in Montmartre, Paris in 1936. The second part unpacks a central metaphor which grounds de Menil’s conception of tradition. The third part compares de Menil’s art historiography vis-à-vis other models which sought to reinvigorate the avant-garde art scene via pre-modern sources. The Coda critically assesses de Menil’s art historiography against other prevalent views on the relation between pre-modern and modern works of art.

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