Modern Women and Parisian Consumer Culture in Impressionist Painting

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Overview

This book examines the encounter between Impressionist painting and Parisian consumer culture. Its analysis of Impressionist paintings depicting women as consumers, producers, or sellers in sites such as the millinery boutique, theater, opera, café-concert and market revises our understanding of the representation of women in Impressionist painting, from women¹s exclusion from modernity to their inclusion in its public spaces, and from the privileging of the male gaze to a plurality of gazes. Ruth E. Iskin demonstrates that Impressionist painting addresses and represents women in active roles, and not only as objects on display, and probes the complex relationship between the Parisienne, French fashion, and national identity. She analyzes Impressionist representations of commodity displays and of signs of consumer culture such as advertising and shop fronts in views of Paris. Incorporating a wide range of nineteenth-century literary and visual sources, Iskin situates Impressionist painting in the culture of consumption and suggests new ways of understanding the art and culture of nineteenth-century Paris. Ruth E. Iskin holds a PhD from UCLA. She has received the Andrew W. Mellon fellowship at the Penn Humanities Forum. Her publications include essays in The Art Bulletin, Discourse, and Nineteenth-Century Contexts. She teaches art history and visual culture at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Ruth E. Iskin wonderfully excavates the broad visual culture that emerged from consumerism in the second half of the nineteenth century in Paris and its deep connection to women’s arrival in the public sphere. Iskin’s keen eye, guided by excellent historical contextualization, leads the reader to see how Impressionist art was bathed in the commercial ethos of its era and did not always stand in an oppositional relationship to it. She brings new insights to such much-discussed paintings as A Bar at the Folies-Bergère and Degas’ Women on the Terrace of a Café in the Evening. While respecting certain stylistic differences between the Impressionists and such artists as Gervex and Chéret, she makes a superb case for discussing these image-makers, who literally walked the same city streets. This book superbly demonstrates the value of seeing the history of art refracted through the lens of the broader visual culture in which it developed."
--Vanessa R. Schwartz, Professor of History and Art History, University of Southern California. Author, It’s So French! Hollywood, Paris and the Making of Cosmopolitan Film Culture and Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in fin-de-siècle Paris

"Impressionist painting and Parisian consumer culture are both identified with the emergence of the “New” or modern city of the 1860s and 1870s. Ruth E. Iskin’s book offers a comprehensive, nuanced and persuasive account of the intersection and mutual dependency between the two in shaping the visual culture of the time. An important book which sheds new light on modern formations of gender, fashion, consumption, art and national identity."
--Whitney Chadwick, Author, Women, Art, and Society

"With a clear, elegant prose style, Ruth E. Iskin attends to details of social history as she analyzes the development of impressionist pictorial themes and figural types that captured for art the lived reality and the projected ideals of late-nineteenth-century Parisian society. This is a remarkably informative book, especially with regard to impressionist images of women, … so central to the advanced art of the era."
--Richard Shiff, the Effie Marie Cain Regents Chair in Art, The University of Texas at Austin. Author, Cézanne and the End of Impressionism

"This is a wide-ranging, interesting and often original book. Its central argument is that Impressionist painting not only engaged with consumer culture but functioned as an agent in the shift towards its modern ubiquity."
--Robert Lethbridge, Journal of European Studies 2008

"There is plenty to engage with in Iskin's analysis of late nineteenth-century consumer culture and its explicit or implicit manifestation in the works of Manet and the Impressionists. With contributions made at the levels of both background context and analysis of key works, the book is a welcome addition to the literature in this area and has something to offer readers who are new to, or well acquainted with, the field of French avant-garde painting of the late nineteenth century.
--Kathryn Brown, University of Kent, Canterbury United Kingdom

“This ambitious and revisionist book is sure to generate reappraisals of the Impressionist movement, the oeuvre of its individual artists and women’s place in the public sphere of the late nineteenth century.”
--Heather Belnap Jensen, French Studies, Spring, 2009

“Ruth E. Iskin explores the complicated relationship between Impressionist paintings and the burgeoning Parisian consumer culture in which they were created, writing about fine artists and their fascination with the mass-made object. She charts the evolution of a symbiotic relationship between commercial and fine art, in which we can also situate Marcel Duchamp’s readymades of the 1910s, and which arguably reached its ultimate conclusion in Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Cans paintings of the early 1960s. Iskin challenges us to find new ways of understanding Impressionist paintings and in particular the complex relationship between women and consumer culture that they construct… This book would be of interest to anyone interested in or studying art history, social history, or gender issues in the nineteenth century. Iskin succeeds in adding new angles to the discussion in an already-crowded area of academic discourse… Iskin’s study excels in making us rethink traditional gender paradigms of the late-nineteenth-century Parisian visual market.”
--Kiri Bloom, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, no. 7, October, 2008.

“This is a thought-provoking book that introduces many new ideas and makes new connections… It is an important resource for scholars of social, cultural, and art history as well as gender studies of the nineteenth century, while the extensive notes and works cited sections will be a valuable asset for studies of all types of consumer culture in Paris.”
--Charlene Garfinkle, H-Women, H-Net Reviews. March, 2009.

“Ruth Iskin’s book has an ambitious goal: to re-establish the links between consumer culture and avantgarde art in late-nineteenth-century France… The author’s impressive parade of primary sources forces a new engagement with the works discussed – no small feat considering the existing wealth of scholarship on Impressionism, which includes her own work.”
--Natasha Ruiz-Gómez, University of Essex The ArtBook, vol. 16, no. 1

“Iskin's well-researched work is a significant contribution to Impressionist studies. Her argument is clear and convincing, through both its practical nature and the wealth of support provided through primary sources and the paintings themselves. Moreover, her work strengthens our understanding of the daily life of nineteenth-century Parisians, making it easier to imagine the actual streets, stores, and exhibitions through which Impressionists moved. As Iskin demonstrates, these painters witnessed the rapid development of mass consumption, and knowing this development is critical to understanding the visual stimuli of the modern world with which Impressionist painters engaged.”
-Francesca Bavuso, Arizona State University Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, vol. 8, no. 1, Spring 2009

“This is a wide-ranging, interesting and often original book. For specialist ‘consumers’ of nineteenth-century culture, this book is a compulsory purchase.”
–-Journal of European Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521840804
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/2006
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 298
  • Product dimensions: 7.28 (w) x 10.24 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Ruth E. Iskin holds a PhD from the University of California, Los Angeles. She has received the Andrew W. Mellon fellowship at the Penn Humanities Forum. Her publications include essays in The Art Bulletin, Discourse and Nineteenth-Century Contexts. She teaches art history and visual culture at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.
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Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Impressionism, consumer culture and modern women; 2. Selling, seduction, and soliciting the eye: Manet's Bar at the Folies-Bergère; 3. Degas's dazzling hat shops and artisanal atelier: consumers, milliners and saleswomen, 1882–1910; 4. Inconspicuous subversion: Parisian consumer culture in 1870s city views; 5. Nature and marketplace: Zola, Pissarro, and Caillebotte; 6. The chic Parisienne: a national brand of French fashion and femininity.
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