From Millet to Leger: Essays in Social Art History

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A pre-eminent scholar of nineteenth- and twentieth-century French art, Robert L. Herbert has written extensively on aspects of this subject during his long career. This book brings together some of his most important essays, works that discuss the artistic and social issues that lie behind the surfaces of notable prints and paintings by such artists as Millet, Courbet, Daubigny, Monet, Pissarro, Signac, Delaunay, Leger, and Ernst. In a preface prepared for this volume, Herbert explains that these essays are linked by a focus on the relation of art to the urban-industrial revolution. The first three essays explore how artists in the second half of the nineteenth century were attracted to images of rural life and landscape as a reaction to growing industrialization and urbanization, at the same time creating new techniques and pictorial devices whose radical inventions opposed the dominant forms and subjects of academic art. Four essays then address issues of overt social and political opposition among artists, demonstrating that these oppositions were in fact embraced within modernist capitalism as correctives to outmoded traditions. The concluding essays center on Leger and the period from 1910 to 1925, in which there was a sudden acceptance of industrial imagery and the creation of forms that expressed the dynamism and fragmentation of modern culture. Written in a lively and accessible style, this book will appeal to students, scholars, and lovers of French art.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
A compilation of Herbert's articles, published between 1960 and the mid-1990s, this book offers a valuable survey of the social inclinations of modernists and their 19th-century forebears. Consciously eschewing postmodern theorizing, Herbert (humanities, emeritus, Mount Holyoke; Seurat: Drawings and Paintings) carefully reconstructs each era's political climate and approaches paintings with careful attention to how period viewers would have understood them. From a lucid explanation of Primitivism to a well-plotted account of the Machine Aesthetic and its gendered implications, Herbert traces the essential issues of modern art history. Along the way, he determines the social import of an emphasis on decorative expression in the works of the Impressionists, examines veiled Socialist sympathies in Courbet's portraits, and persuasively repositions L ger from presumed abstract formalist to social realist. While he focuses primarily on French Modernism, Herbert provides ample discourse on the impact of Socialist artistic developments in other nations, such as Russia, Switzerland, and Germany. Collectively, his essays effectively capture the cyclic rhythms of intellectual patricide, the socially and politically motivated rolls and swells of aesthetics that drive culture ever forward. Written in light, accessible prose, and illustrated with 30 black-and-white and 26 color images, this volume is recommended for both public and academic libraries.-Savannah Schroll, formerly with Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300097061
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 7.76 (w) x 10.50 (h) x 0.87 (d)

Table of Contents

Author's Note
1 Industry in the Changing Landscape from Daubigny to Monet 1
2 City vs. Country: The Rural Image in French Painting from Millet to Gauguin 23
3 Peasants and "Primitivism" 49
4 Courbet's Mere Gregoire and Beranger 67
5 The Decorative and the Natural in Monet's Cathedrals 79
6 Impressionism, Originality, and Laissez-Faire 91
7 Artists and Anarchism: Unpublished Letters of Pissarro, Signac, and Others 99
8 Leger's Le Grand Dejeuner 115
9 Leger, the Renaissance, and "Primitivism" 143
10 The Arrival of the Machine: Modernist Art in Europe, 1910-1925 153
Appendices 174
Notes 179
Principal Writings by Robert L. Herbert 200
Photograph Credits 202
Index 203
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