University of Leicester
2019MOORERLPhD.pdf (12.52 MB)

Art, Architecture and Aesthetics: Evelyn Waugh and the Visual Arts

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posted on 2019-04-17, 08:45 authored by Rebecca L. Moore
This thesis explores Evelyn Waugh’s aesthetic sensibilities through his written and visual art works in relation to the disciplines of art and architecture. A significant creative tension in his work derives from an adherence to contradictory theories of the source of artistic accomplishment. He was torn between the idea of the artist channelling an intrinsically mystical energy, as experienced by Dante Gabriel Rossetti, and the idea of skill arising from discipline and craftsmanship as defined by Roger Fry. These impulses I define as 'romantic’ and 'rational', relating respectively to questions of spirit and inspiration, and to the representation of the secular, and objective representation. Waugh’s visual art is not widely recognised or studied. I have had unprecedented access to all known letters, diaries, and artwork. Thus my first chapter offers new insights into his early writing process, suggesting how the construction of the visual image became an integral element of his writing. The second chapter discusses Waugh’s art collection, which included Pre-Raphaelite works and Victorian narrative paintings. The tension between the romantic and rational remains but manifests itself in collecting, rather than creation. Completing the picture are Waugh’s theories on architecture. He uses architectural symbolism to gain narrative distance from his subjects, reflecting the impulse behind his emotionless book illustrations. From 1930 Waugh sought shelter from what he considered chaotic egalitarianism, within the seemingly permanent walls of the aristocratic country house. After the Second World War, however, his only refuge was his Catholic faith, itself threatened by Vatican II's liturgical reforms, removing the vital element of privacy Waugh always sought, and destroying the link between priest and craftsman. Retreating into his work, he combined again the romantic and rational sides of his aesthetic ideology in the notion of pious creation.



Stannard, Martin

Date of award


Author affiliation

Department of English

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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