En ny klassicisme eller snarere et andet moderne? Dansk nyklassicisme 1910–30 som stilhistorisk problem, belyst gennem kunsthistorikeren Vilh. Wanschers tidlige skrifter

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Danish neo-classicism from the period 1910-30 has often been viewed, particularly in older architectural-history literature, as retrospective revivalism and as a transitional period of style history – a purgatory interposed between the eclecticism of historicism and the radicalism of the modernist movement. The viewing of architectural history as a linear process, in which one style-epoch succeeds another, has been heavily criticised, however, since the Second World War. In spite of new departures in research into neo-classicism, the above-mentioned problematic attitudes have nevertheless not yet been fully weeded out, and are still to be found in some recent literature.
This article reasons in favour of viewing the period not as the style-historical retrospective revival of a historical form, but rather as a unique artistic period in its own right - one that sought to provide an answer as to how the architecture of a modern society could be given shape, by not circling around classical idioms, but instead working through them. By way of extending the research field which in recent years in the humanities and social studies has been entitled multiple modernities, Danish neo-classicism 1910–30 can be seen as a different modernity, i.e. an aesthetic programme for modernity that provides an alternative to the modernism that took pride of place as the only true modern idiom in general public perception.
The article explores this issue by examining the philosophical basis of the movement as expressed in the early writings of the art historian Vilhelm Wanscher (1875–1961), who came to have powerful influence within the movement. It is argued that the essential modernity of the period was expressed in the demand that the right solution to a task should consist of uncovering a presupposed functional and aesthetic ‘kernel’. As regards function, this demand results in insistence on what the article describes as ‘functional definition’, i.e. that a usable object or a built structure should be given a form appropriate to its function. As regards aesthetics, it results in a requirement for formal aesthetic disciplining of design, evaluated on the basis of a radical formalism that is designated ‘objective aesthetics’ in this article.
The article moreover presents a philosophical discussion of the ‘objective aesthetics’ of the period, and indicates how, in the way it is formulated by Wanscher, it can be understood proto-phenomenologically, meaning that its ‘objectivity’ should be understood as intersubjectively substantiated.
In addition, Wanscher’s demand for ‘functional definition’ is considered in the context of modern post-Enlightenment architectural theory, and is traced back to Marc-Antoine Laugier (1713–1769) with reference to his mythological concept of the noble simplicity of the Primitive Hut.
Since the kernel of every design-task was seen by Wanscher as timeless, the ‘right solution’ would thus advance beyond narrow historicist precepts of distinct styles, which reduce the issue of style not just to the level of triviality, but also to the state of being inadequate as a key to the understanding of the period in question. In so far as neo-classicism, in extension of Wanscher, made use of a classic style idiom, this was legitimate in the sense that the stylistic-aesthetic expression did not form an obstacle to the functional definition demanded by modernity, since the solution of aesthetic problems by virtue of objective aesthetics was also liable to be refined through history, allowing the classic elements to be distilled for continued use and application.The article points out that Wanscher made the case for these criteria fully 20 years before the breakthrough of modernism that was to be central for Danish neo-classicism in the period 1910–30, and it can therefore be concluded that the period should be seen not so much as one of retrospective revivalism, but rather as a different modernity – one which did not circumvent the classical but worked through it.
Udgave nummer42
Sider (fra-til)84-109
Antal sider26
StatusUdgivet - aug. 2020


  • nyklassicisme
  • stilhistorie
  • arkitekturhistorie
  • modernitet
  • æstetik
  • Vilhelm Wanscher

Kunstnerisk udviklingsvirksomhed (KUV)

  • Nej