The Medieval Modern Discourse and the Ethos of the Menil Curatorial Method
Stephens, Katherine Adele
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This thesis examines how an obscure exhibition from 1958 called Islands Beyond: An Exhibition of Ecclesiastical Sculpture and Modern Paintings is the first visual embodiment in the United States of the early twentieth-century discourse relating medieval art and modern art. The small exhibition inaugurated the newly completed fine arts buildings at the University of St. Thomas in Houston, Texas and was organized by Jermayne MacAgy and Dominique de Menil. Its emphasis on non-naturalistic art, transhistorical juxtapositions, and its clearly spiritual preoccupation came to define the ethos of John and Dominique de Menil’s future projects in Houston, including the Rothko Chapel and the Menil Collection. Furthermore, Islands Beyond was preceded and substantiated by pivotal contributions to the medieval-modern discourse by the Dominican priest Father Marie-Alain Couturier, Catholic philosopher Jacques Maritain, and key historians of modern art who were trained in medieval art, like Meyer Schapiro, Alfred Barr and others.