19th-century French art

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19th-century French art was made in France or by French citizens during the following political regimes: Napoleon Bonaparte's Consulate (1799-1804) and Empire (1804-1814), the Restoration under Louis XVIII and Charles X (1814-1830), the July Monarchy under Louis Philippe d'Orléans (1830-1848), the Second Republic (1848-1852), the Second Empire under Napoleon III (1852-1871), and the first decades of the Third Republic (1871-1940).

First French Empire Empire of Napoleon I of France between 1804–1815

The First French Empire, officially the French Empire, was the empire of Napoleon Bonaparte of France and the dominant power in much of continental Europe at the beginning of the 19th century. Although France had already established an overseas colonial empire beginning in the 17th century, the French state had remained a kingdom under the Bourbons and a republic after the Revolution. Historians refer to Napoleon's regime as the First Empire to distinguish it from the restorationist Second Empire (1852–1870) ruled by his nephew as Napoleon III.

Louis XVIII of France Bourbon King of France and of Navarre

Louis XVIII, known as "the Desired", was a monarch of the House of Bourbon who ruled as King of France from 1814 to 1824, except for a period in 1815 known as the Hundred Days. He spent twenty-three years in exile, from 1791 to 1814, during the French Revolution and the First French Empire, and again in 1815, during the period of the Hundred Days, upon the return of Napoleon I from Elba.

Charles X of France King of France and of Navarre

Charles X was King of France from 16 September 1824 until 2 August 1830. For most of his life he was known as the Count of Artois. An uncle of the uncrowned Louis XVII and younger brother to reigning kings Louis XVI and Louis XVIII, he supported the latter in exile. After the Bourbon Restoration in 1814, Charles became the leader of the ultra-royalists, an radical monarchist faction within the French court that affirmed rule by divine right and opposed the concessions towards liberals and guarantees of civil liberties granted by the Charter of 1814. Charles gained influence within the French court after the assassination of his son Charles Ferdinand, Duke of Berry, in 1820 and eventually succeeded his brother in 1824.

Contents

Many of the developments in French arts in this period parallel changes in literature. For more on this, see French literature of the 19th century.

For more on French history, see History of France.

Romanticism

The French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars brought great changes to the arts in France. The program of exaltation and mythification of the Emperor Napoleon I of France was closely coordinated in the paintings of Gros and Guérin.

French Revolution social and political revolution in France and its colonies occurring from 1789 to 1798

The French Revolution was a period of far-reaching social and political upheaval in France and its colonies beginning in 1789. The Revolution overthrew the monarchy, established a republic, catalyzed violent periods of political turmoil, and finally culminated in a dictatorship under Napoleon who brought many of its principles to areas he conquered in Western Europe and beyond. Inspired by liberal and radical ideas, the Revolution profoundly altered the course of modern history, triggering the global decline of absolute monarchies while replacing them with republics and liberal democracies. Through the Revolutionary Wars, it unleashed a wave of global conflicts that extended from the Caribbean to the Middle East. Historians widely regard the Revolution as one of the most important events in human history.

Meanwhile, Orientalism, Egyptian motifs, the tragic anti-hero, the wild landscape, the historical novel and scenes from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, all these elements of Romanticism created a vibrant period that defies classicism.

Orientalism imitation or depiction of aspects of Middle Eastern and East Asian cultures

Orientalism is a term used by art historians and literary and cultural studies scholars for the imitation or depiction of aspects in the Eastern world. These depictions are usually done by writers, designers, and artists from the West. In particular, Orientalist painting, depicting more specifically "the Middle East", was one of the many specialisms of 19th-century academic art, and the literature of Western countries took a similar interest in Oriental themes.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

The Massacre at Chios - Eugene Delacroix Eugene Delacroix - Le Massacre de Scio.jpg
The Massacre at Chios - Eugène Delacroix

One also finds in the early period of the 19th century a repeat of the debate carried on in the 17th between the supporters of Rubens and Poussin: there are defenders of the "line" as found in Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, and the violent colors and curves as found in Eugène Delacroix. The comparison is however somewhat false, for Ingres' intense realism sometimes gives way to amazing voluptuousness in his Turkish bath scenes.

Eugène Delacroix 19th-century French painter

Ferdinand Victor Eugène Delacroix was a French Romantic artist regarded from the outset of his career as the leader of the French Romantic school.

Romanticism is a literary language based on feelings. Writers who illustrated this concept included John Keats and Benjamin Constant. The Romantic tendencies continued throughout the century: both idealized landscape painting and Naturalism have their seeds in Romanticism: both Gustave Courbet and the Barbizon school are logical developments, as is too the late 19th century Symbolism of such painters at Gustave Moreau (the professor of Matisse and Rouault) or Odilon Redon. Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel are the most famous sculptors of their time.

John Keats English Romantic poet

John Keats was an English Romantic poet. He was one of the main figures of the second generation of Romantic poets, along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, despite his works having been in publication for only four years before his death from tuberculosis at the age of 25.

Benjamin Constant Swiss-born French politician, writer on politics and religion

Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque, or simply Benjamin Constant, was a Swiss-French political activist and writer on politics and religion. He was the author of a partly biographical psychological novel, Adolphe. He was a fervent liberal of the early 19th century, who influenced the Trienio Liberal movement in Spain, the Liberal Revolution of 1820 in Portugal, the Greek War of Independence, the November Uprising in Poland, the Belgian Revolution, and liberalism in Brazil and Mexico.

Gustave Courbet 19th-century French painter

Jean Désiré Gustave Courbet was a French painter who led the Realism movement in 19th-century French painting. Committed to painting only what he could see, he rejected academic convention and the Romanticism of the previous generation of visual artists. His independence set an example that was important to later artists, such as the Impressionists and the Cubists. Courbet occupies an important place in 19th-century French painting as an innovator and as an artist willing to make bold social statements through his work.

Birth of the Modern

Walter Benjamin called Paris "the capital of the 19th century". In order to understand the amazing diversity of artistic expressions which Paris gave birth to from the 1860s to all nightboulevards, but also replaced poorer neighborhoods and created fast routes to move troops through the city to quell unrest. Yet there was also a second Paris at the limits of Haussmann's city on the hill of Montmartre with her windmills, cabarets and vineyards. Café culture, cabarets, arcades (19th century covered malls), anarchism, the mixing of classes, the radicalization of art and artistic movements caused by the academic salon system, a boisterous willingness to shock all this made for a stunning vibrancy. What is more, the dynamic debate in the visual arts is also repeated in the same period in music, dance, architecture and the novel: Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Proust, Nijinski, etc. This is the birth of Modernism.

Édouard Manet represents for many critics the division between the 19th century and the modern period (much like Charles Baudelaire in poetry). His rediscovery of Spanish painting from the golden age, his willingness to show the unpainted canvas, his exploration of the forthright nude and his radical brush strokes are the first step toward Impressionism.

The Luncheon on the Grass (Le dejeuner sur l'herbe) - Edouard Manet Edouard Manet - Luncheon on the Grass - Google Art Project.jpg
The Luncheon on the Grass (Le déjeuner sur l'herbe) - Édouard Manet
Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) - Claude Monet Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant.jpg
Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) - Claude Monet

Impressionism would take the Barbizon school one further, rejecting once and for all a belabored style (and the use of mixed colors and black), for fragile transitive effects of light as captured outdoors in changing light (in part inspired by the paintings of J. M. W. Turner). Claude Monet with his cathedrals and haystacks, Pierre-Auguste Renoir with both his early outdoor festivals and his later feathery style of ruddy nudes, Edgar Degas with his dancers and bathers.

Some of these techniques were made possible by new paints available in tubes. These painters were also to a certain degree in a dialogue with another discovery of the 19th century: photography.

From this point on, the next thirty years were a litany of amazing experiments. Vincent van Gogh, Dutch born but living in France, opened the road to expressionism. Georges Seurat, influenced by color theory, devised a pointillist technique that controlled the Impressionist experiment. Paul Cézanne, a painter's painter, attempted a geometrical exploration of the world (that left many of his peers indifferent). Paul Gauguin, the banker, found symbolism in Brittany and then exoticism and primitivism in French Polynesia. Henri Rousseau, the self-taught dabbler, becomes the model for the naïve revolution.

See also

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