The Spectacle of Modernity: Art and Technologies in Late 19th-Century France
What form can be given to modernity? What were the national, colonial, class and gender politics of modern self-fashioning in late 19th-century French art? On what basis should we evaluate avant-garde practice? This class will focus on the period from the 1860s to 1900, considering not only the avant-garde painting movements typically called Impressionism and Post-Impressionism but also the broader visual culture of late 19th-century France. Thus the course will consider primitivism as well as the impact of technological transformation, mass production, universal exhibitions, and reproductive technologies such as photography and the illustrated press.
This is a rich and fascinating period of art-making as well as cultural and technological transformation. This class will necessarily focus on the case-studies that I find most illuminating: for instance, the painters Manet, Degas, Cassatt, Seurat, Vuillard and Toulouse-Lautrec, the sculptor Carpeaux, Bartholdi’s construction of the Statue of Liberty in Paris, the Eiffel Tower and the Universal Exhibitions of 1889 and 1900. But many artists and much art will not be covered as extensively as some deserve, including perhaps some of your favorites, for example, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and Renoir. What will receive more extensive consideration than usual are new technologies, including photography, photosculpture, industrial construction, and mass entertainment such as wax museums.