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Inspiring Views from «a' the airts» on Scottish Literatures, Art and Cinema

The First World Congress of Scottish Literatures in Glasgow 2014

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Edited By Klaus Peter Müller, Ilka Schwittlinsky and Ron Walker

Where do Scottish literatures, art, and cinema stand today? What and how do Scottish Studies investigate? Creative writers and scholars give answers to these questions and address vital concerns in Scottish, British, and European history from the Union debate and the Enlightenment to Brexit, ethnic questions, and Scottish film. They present new insights on James Macpherson, Robert Burns, John Galt, J. M. Barrie, Walter Scott, James Robertson, war poetry, new Scottish writing, and nature writing. The contributions highlight old and new networking and media as well as the persistent influences of the past on the present, analyzing a wide range of texts, media and art forms with approaches from literary, cultural, media, theatre, history, political, and philosophical studies.

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James Macpherson’s Ossian and European Art Murdo Macdonald

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Murdo Macdonald (Dundee)

James Macpherson’s Ossian and European Art

Abstract: James Macpherson’s Ossian had a major influence on European visual art. I note the failure of Scottish galleries to show an interest in the art-historical context of Ossian, despite the impact of Macpherson’s work on artists of major international interest including Abildgaard from Denmark, the French artists Ingres, Gerard and Girodet, the English artist Turner and, in Germany, Runge. I note the significance of engraved book illustrations with respect to understanding Ossian and art.

In 2002 the Scottish National Portrait Gallery commissioned Calum Colvin’s internationally influential work Ossian: Fragments of Ancient Poetry / Oisein: Bloighean de Sheann Bhàrdachd. An exemplary Gaelic and English catalogue was produced. In due course the work toured internationally including to France, Belgium and Canada.1 It is therefore all the more puzzling that so little has been done by that body, or any other UK gallery, with respect to the art-historical context of Ossian. The whole area of Ossian and art has always had the potential to lead to a major international touring exhibition, taking in work from an array of the finest European artists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Public galleries in France and Germany demonstrated the potential of this in a joint project as far back as 1974.2 More recently, in 2005, Ossian work was one of the key themes explored within the full-scale reconsideration of the work of Anne-Louis Girodet at...

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