Art in an Age of Counterrevolution, 1815-1848 / Edition 1

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Art for art's sake. Art created in pursuit of personal expression. In Art in an Age of Counterrevolution, Albert Boime rejects these popular modern notions and suggests that history—not internal drive or expressive urge—as the dynamic force that shapes art.

This volume focuses on the astonishing range of art forms currently understood to fall within the broad category of Romanticism. Drawing on visual media and popular imagery of the time, this generously illustrated work examines the art of Romanticism as a reaction to the social and political events surrounding it. Boime reinterprets canonical works by such politicized artists as Goya, Delacroix, Géricault, Friedrich, and Turner, framing their work not by personality but by its sociohistorical context. Boime's capacious approach and scope allows him to incorporate a wide range of perspectives into his analysis of Romantic art, including Marxism, social history, gender identity, ecology, structuralism, and psychoanalytic theory, a reach that parallels the work of contemporary cultural historians and theorists such as Edward Said, Pierre Bourdieu, Eric Hobsbawm, Frederic Jameson, and T. J. Clark.

Boime ultimately establishes that art serves the interests and aspirations of the cultural bourgeoisie. In grounding his arguments on their work and its scope and influence, he elucidates how all artists are inextricably linked to history. This book will be used widely in art history courses and exert enormous influence on cultural studies as well.

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Editorial Reviews

Bloomsbury Review - R. K. Dickson

"The volume is copiously illustrated and firmly rooted in observation and research. Boime does not shy away from dissecting unconscious motivations and assumptions. . . . Enlightening, thought-provoking, and skillfully presented."

"In company with the first two volumes, it is a tour de force in the broader historical and sociocultural analysis of art practice and the uses of art in visual representation. The text is closely researched and highly informative. . . . The approach steers a steady course between traditional, sociological, theoretical, and discursive strategies while presenting astute critical appreciation of individual works of art. . . . Reinforced by effective endnotes and an exhaustive index, this book brings much new insight to the current literature and will certainly interest researchers, as well as provide reliable sources for students."
Nineteenth-Century French Studies - Dorothy Johnson

"Boime's study has many merits. It offers numerous stimulating readings of individual words as well as a synthesis and compilation of the vast pyramid of scholarship on which it depends."
Sehepunkt - Nancy Locke

"Like its predecessors . . . this book is rich, idiosyncratic, and unparalleled in the literature on nineteenth-century art. . . . It is a book to be appreciated not only in terms of the debates and allegiances that it brings back to life for a general reader as well as for specialists. . . . A book that offers this much new research belongs on every scholar's shelf."
Burlington Magazine - Sebastien Allard

"[Boime's] encyclopaedic cultural knowledge is the source of brilliant, often entirely original analyses, in which Art in the Age of Counterrevolution abounds."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226063379
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 8/28/2004
  • Series: A Social History of Modern Art Series
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 736
  • Product dimensions: 7.50 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Albert Boime is professor of art history at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of fourteen books, including Art in an Age of Revolution, 1750-1800; Art in an Age of Bonapartism, 1800-1815; and The Art of the Macchia and the Risorgimento, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Art in an Age of Counterrevolution 1815-1848

By Albert Boime
The University of Chicago Press
Copyright © 2004 The University of Chicago
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-226-06337-9

Chapter One
The Congress of Vienna: Conceptualizing Counterrevolution

The Congress of Vienna inaugurated the era of counterrevolution. There the crowned heads of Europe and their representatives decided the fate of Europe in the aftermath of the Age of Bonapartism. By March 1815, the Congress of Vienna had been in session for five months, convoked by the allies to negotiate a sweeping settlement covering the territories affected by the Napoleonic wars. Once Napoleon fell, conservative monarchies bent on maintaining order at home cooperated to stamp out the threat of revolution anywhere in Europe. Although the future of France was the most pressing issue facing the allies, the need to achieve some means of arranging all their respective interests prompted this international assembly.

The congress first met in Vienna in September 1814, an occasion for only halfway serious deliberations and unrestrained pomp. After twenty years of warfare, the royalties and aristocracies of Europe gathered to toast their return to rule and the chance to remake the map of the Continent in their image. The august fraternity included two emperors, several kings, and a host of diplomats with their retinues, all assuring the others that the new "old regime" would henceforth be impervious to social and political disturbances. The ostentatious display of revelry ominously recalled prerevolutionary excess and forged the Congress of Vienna into a symbol of aristocratic reaction from the start. The festive mood, moreover, retarded the proceedings, so much so that one participant cracked: "Le Congrès danse, mais ne marche pas."

Prince Klemens von Metternich, who had led the Austrian Empire to its triumph, ran the congress with consummate skill, and its policies can be seen as largely his work. More consistently than other representatives of the great powers, he had grasped the range of Bonaparte's ambitions and had welded the international coalition that defeated the French emperor. Appointed foreign minister of Austria in 1809, he would hold that position for nearly forty years, articulating his vision of Europe as a stable community of elites while protecting Austria's vital interests and promoting his personal career.

Early in the morning on 7 March, Metternich received a dispatch that Napoleon had escaped from Elba; the shocking news could have constituted the biggest fly in the Viennese ointment, but the potential threat was coolly handled. On 9 June, just nine days before Waterloo, the articles of the treaty were signed, the distribution was completed, and the congress adjourned. Considering the antiliberal and antirevolutionary purpose of the congress, the settlement of Europe after the Napoleonic wars proved favorable to France. The total victory over that nation was barely exploited, and its frontiers were left slightly better than those of 1789. The guiding principle of the congress was simple in theory but untrue in reality: "We will ignore the Revolution and its results, and restore Europe to its conditions previous to 1789." The Bourbons were returned with the understanding that concessions had to be made to the transformed state of their subjects. The new king arrived with a constitution, though in a moderate form: Louis XVIII-the younger brother of Louis XVI-granted it under the guise of a charter "freely conceded."

The map of Europe was now totally revamped in the interests of the five major powers-the "old Europe" invoked in the Communist Manifesto-that emerged from the wars: Russia, England, France, Austria, and Prussia. Russia received most of Poland as a separate kingdom under the czar. Prussia got about half of Saxony and, as compensation for the loss of the rest, was awarded expanded territories in the Rhineland. Austria acquired Venezia, which together with Lombardia greatly strengthened its dominance of northern Italy. The other duchies of northern and central Italy went to dukes with close Austrian ties. By these and similar exchanges in less pressing cases, the most extensive European settlement since the agreements at Westphalia in 1648 established the balance of power as an interlocking system.

The new French constitution, known as the Constitutional Charter, had been proclaimed on 4 June 1814, and provided the framework of the state (with a few changes in 1830) up to the revolution of 1848. Essentially a document of compromise, it yields insight into the balance of the political and social forces in the country at that time. The theory of royal power by dynastic right or by divine right-the traditional principle of legitimacy-was affirmed in a long historical preamble that ingeniously framed the new constraints on the old absolutism as "gracious concessions" emanating from the king's free will and consequently involving no abridgment of the traditional authority. At the same time, many of the major political and social changes of the Revolution were upheld in a great many clauses: equality of all persons before the law, and with respect to taxation and military service; freedom of the individual, freedom of thought and of expression, freedom of religion-though the Catholic faith was declared to be the state religion, not just the religion of the majority of French people, as designated under Napoleon's Concordat of 1801. The Civil Code was retained in its entirety; church or émigré properties that had been sold as "belonging to the nation" remained the property of those who purchased them.

The king exercised considerable power as "the supreme head of state," and ministers were responsible to him rather than to the chambers of the bicameral legislature. He retained part of the legislative power, since he alone could initiate laws and even amendments required his consent. National representation was secured by two chambers: the Chamber of Peers, nominated by the king, and the Chamber of Deputies. Electors must have reached thirty years of age and be paying three hundred francs in direct tax, while to be eligible for election to office candidates had to have reached forty years of age and be paying tax upward of a thousand francs. Clearly this meant that only the richest tier of society-the pays légal-was eligible to vote. The two chambers had equal power in the framing of laws, but the budget had to be voted first by the deputies. The Chamber of Peers functioned occasionally as a High Court of Justice to try crimes of high treason. The king summoned the two chambers and determined the length of their sessions and, under exceptional circumstances, could dissolve the Chamber of Deputies.

Although inspired by the English model, this regime could not be classified in any way as parliamentary since the government would not be determined by a parliamentary majority. In addition, it was representative only for approximately ninety thousand electors privileged by their wealth. Three social groupings may be distinguished among the privileged few possessing the vote. First, the big landowners: contrary to what is often alleged, this class was not wholly committed to the conservative program. Alongside the nobility who had managed to save their lands during the Revolution, there were arrivistes who, by purchasing "national property," had profited from the Revolution and acquired estates. While the nobles tended to fall into the extreme right wing, the arrivistes felt embattled by the many restoration policies reviving the ancien régime. Among the liberal opposition leaders, there were even landed aristocrats of the old regime, like Lafayette and the duc de la Rochefoucauld-Liancourt. The second major group comprised the industrial magnates, chefs d'industrie, merchants, and bankers: in contrast to the situation in England, banking was relegated to Protestants and Jews, who did not come under the church ban linking banking and usury. The rich bourgeois of first and second generation who occupied these key positions in the economy feared a return to the old regime, with its state controls, as much as did those who owned nationalized property. For class reasons as well, they refused aristocratic pretensions, though in the realm of culture they generally followed the lead of the nobility. Finally, there were the leading civil servants, recruited from the other two categories, who by definition supported the ministry in power at any given moment.

All of this appeared reasonable in the chaotic year of 1814. But insurmountable problems, like the financial deficit and the resulting reductions in the naval and military establishments, aggravated an already tense situation. There was no prime minister, no form of collective responsibility, and the diverging viewpoints of the new ministers further weakened Louis XVIII's first administration. The military class especially associated the new dynasty with a humiliating peace, a miserable economy, and diminished opportunities for promotion. Ragged, barefooted, without regular pay, many of the veterans of Napoleon watched with outrage the wholesale distribution of their Legion of Honor to civilians, the formation of the Household Corps of young aristos, old émigrés, and foreigners, all of which smacked of the old Imperial Guard. The Ordonnance of 12 May reserved two-thirds of the vacant promotions to the officers on half pay and the remaining one-third to the king's nominees. The troops, especially the returned prisoners, could hardly help romanticizing the memory of their former chief, and their discontent radiated through their native villages and towns.

By the summer of 1814, party positions in Paris crystallized into more definite shapes. An extreme right wing, known as the ultras, condemned the bicameral constitution and criticized the government for allowing Bonapartists and former Jacobins to sit in the legislature. The ultras wanted to see France divided into provinces again instead of departments, parlements instead of law courts, and agitated for the deportation of the regicides. In the absence of a strong leftist movement, the main opposition to this ultra-royalist faction was a constitutional party that based its policies on the English parliamentary system. The great topic of debate was the loyalty of the government to the Constitutional Charter, one that haunted the Restoration government through 1830. It cropped up in connection with every phase of public policy, including the press, land, and the church. A government scheme to censor the press was attacked by the constitutional group as a violation of the charter and seconded by the conservative paper Journal des débats.

Another heated discussion arose over a bill to restore to the émigrés those lands that had not yet been sold by the state. Although on the surface this appeared as an equitable move, Antoine-François-Claude Ferrand, the minister who introduced it to the chambers, intimated that it represented only a first stage in the king's policy and aroused suspicion that the clause in the charter decreeing the inviolability of all property was unsafe from attack. The national debate now expanded to include the possibility that the Bourbons were planning a colossal scheme of eviction with a view to restoring the land to its former owners. Already by the closing of the 1814 parliamentary session, the government had plunged in public esteem.

Thus when Napoleon arrived in the capital from Elba, he was greeted as a savior by the people all along the way. On 17 March Maréchal Ney deserted the king for his former chief, and on the night of 19-20 March the king drove out of Paris. In Vienna there was widespread agreement that the return of Napoleon was incompatible with the new hoped-for balance of power, and the eight signatories of the First Peace of Paris signed a joint statement declaring him an international outlaw. The coalition that had defeated him now regrouped and, thanks to the convenience of the assembly in Vienna, acted rapidly and efficiently. On 18 June 1815, at Waterloo, Napoleon's army failed to dislodge Wellington's and was then routed by the English officer assisted by the Prussians. Like a revolving door, French society allowed both Napoleon and Louis XVIII a second chance at rulership.

Nevertheless, Napoleon's swashbuckling venture left its indelible impress on the body politic. The terms of peace were altered, the possibility of a stable restoration questioned, and the signification of Bonapartism redefined. During his Hundred Days, Napoleon had offered a liberal government that softened the memory of his despotism and initiated a new myth that would rally liberals right through the revolution of 1848. Exiled this time to Saint Helena, Napoleon and his loyal veterans continued to propagandize for Bonapartism as the best means of achieving both liberty and order.

The Congress of Vienna and the Slave Question

Among Bonaparte's liberal actions during the Hundred Days was his ban on slave traffic in the French colonies, a critical move designed to win liberal adherents from the government opposition, who made the slave question a cardinal plank of their program. The participants in the Congress of Vienna had less success with their attempt to secure international agreement on the slave trade. Great Britain, after a century of riches for its slave merchants shuttling between West Africa and the New World, had recently prohibited the traffic (but not the ownership) of slaves and now sought to suppress the entire trade. England's foreign secretary, Lord Castlereagh, had failed to insert any solid regulation in the First Peace of Paris, and this left his party open to domestic attack from the powerful abolitionist movement headed by William Wilberforce. Thus Castlereagh was particularly eager at Vienna to secure an agreement to meet the political pressures at home. Although many of the powers of the first and second rank accepted the idea of some practical legislation on the slavery issue, France, Spain, and Portugal did not. Castlereagh finally managed to obtain a joint declaration that the slave trade was "repugnant to the principles of humanity and universal morality." This was a modest first step toward agreement that would be reached in the postwar period, but not before international scandal and exposure of widespread corruption and cover-up gave French liberals a powerful platform from which to launch their attacks on the government. While the Restoration government affirmed Napoleon's ban on the slave trade, the possibility of cheap labor and the opportunity of fortune hunters to gain patrician status encouraged ongoing clandestine traffic.

For the English, the chief champions of abolition, the economy no longer rested on the sale of human beings and sugar, but on that of cotton goods. English entrepreneurs wanted to expand their interests in West Africa, to seek new avenues of wealth other than through the unwieldy system of slavery. Legitimate trade and manufacture could not thrive in areas where slave trading remained active, since African merchants and chiefs found it more profitable to export slaves than to exploit indigenous resources. But if England had taken a bold initiative in abolishing the trade in 1807, the actual emancipation of slaves-that is, the nullification of ownership-came more slowly. The English abolished slavery in their colonies-mainly the West Indies-only in 1834, though soon replaced it in the large plantations by importing indentured laborers from Asia. The French, who had abolished the trade in 1789 during the Revolution, had to wait until 1848 to catch up with the English. Even then, however, a great deal of illegal slave trading continued, and a major plantation economy in the southern United States made it an ongoing issue in international politics.

Politics and Culture of the Early Restoration

The influence of Restoration politics on art may be traced in the late work of artists discussed in my previous volumes and in that of the rising younger generation caught between the imperatives of subsistence and independence. Most of the issues taken up by the Congress of Vienna, as well as its ideological solutions on territorial division, the containment of the revolutionary spirit, the privileging of legitimacy, the contradictions of slavery and colonization, find their way in various forms into the art and literature of the period. Most striking is the manifestation of violence, flowing from the successive shocks of the Revolution, Napoleon, and the reaction, not to mention the frightening effects of the industrial transformation. These events gave rise to a new sense of the horrific that gripped progressives, far more convulsive and intense than anything visualized in the preceding period.


Excerpted from Art in an Age of Counterrevolution 1815-1848 by Albert Boime Copyright © 2004 by The University of Chicago. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

1. The Congress of Vienna: Conceptualizing Counterrevolution
2. Restoration Bliss: The Nazarenes
3. Restoration Horror: Part I
4. Restoration Horror: Part II
5. Charles X: French Absolutism's Last Stand
6. The Counterrevolution of the July Monarchy: An Umbrella Organization, 1830-1848
7. Fractures in the Juste Milieu
8. The Counterrevolutionary Origins of Photography and Modern Landscape Painting
9. The Counterrevolution in America: A Comparison
10. England and the Transition: Romanticism to Realism
Photo Credits
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