Jonathan Vernon

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Jonathan Vernon

PhD student

Thesis: Ideas about the Thing: Writing Ideology through Constantin   Brâncuşi

Supervised by Prof. Christopher Green

Funded by Stavros Niarchos Foundation

This thesis analyses the role of ideological conditions in setting the coordinates of Constantin Brâncuşi’s cultural identity.

The first English-language monographs on the sculptor, published shortly after his death in 1957, implicated his peasant Romanian upbringing in his ascetic lifestyle, the studio environment he constructed in Paris to facilitate it, and his use of direct carving, natural materials and folkloric symbols. However, the romanticised idea of the Eastern European peasantry invoked by such accounts was to prove not only anachronistic, but irreconcilable with the Romania that emerged in the post-War period under Nicolae Ceauşescu. At the same time, the Ceauşescu regime’s appeals to Romanian tradition as a means of securing legitimacy would have been faced by a world-renowned native who – as a radical modernist who distanced himself from the country after the War – was largely incompatible with its notion of a ‘native’ culture.

Deconstructing the politics of representation in narratives of the Romanian sculptor’s life and work, I read Brâncuşi’s continual identification with his native country against these parallel and shifting backdrops. In what will be the first extensive account of the Ceauşescu regime’s policy towards the sculptor and its impact upon perceptions of his work in Romania – in particular, through a case study recording the post-history of his First World War monument at Târgu-Jiu (1938) – my research builds upon previous efforts to set Brâncuşi into historical relief by articulating his identity as a space of negotiation for contending and overlapping ideological frameworks.


  • MPhil/PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art
  • MA History of Art (Distinction) at the Courtauld Institute of Art
  • BA Hons English and History of Art (Class I) at the University of Leeds

Research interests

  • Historical relations between modernism and totalitarian ideologies
  • Histories and legacies of dialectical thought
  • Politics of representation in twentieth-century art writing
  • Uses and interpretations of folk tradition and mythology in the European and American avant-gardes
  • Constructive art in pre- and post-War Europe

Recent publications

Other academic activity

  • Ridinghouse Contributing Editor at The Burlington Magazine
    July 2014 – Present
    I am responsible for identifying exhibitions and publications on post-1850 art worthy of review and inclusion in the Magazine’s monthly calendar; writing, commissioning and editing book and exhibition reviews; and coordinating specific initiatives such as the Magazine’s Contemporary Art Writing Prize.
  • Editorial Assistant at Tate Research
    January – May 2014
    Working in Tate’s Research Department, I fact-checked and conducted the first edit of catalogue entries forming part of the research project ‘Henry Moore: Sculptural Process and Public Identity’. I also liaised with academics commissioned to write essays for the project.

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