The Troubled Republic: Visual Culture and Social Debate in France, 1889-1900

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Overview

Fin-de-siècle France was a period of unrest, with strikes, demonstrations, and anarchist terrorism reflecting deep social and political differences. Yet at the same time, this decade produced a vibrant visual culture—monumental sculpture, mural decoration, avant-garde painting, posters, illustrations, and photography—much of which was used to articulate France’s ideological arguments. This fascinating book shows how four key issues in social debate were treated by contemporary artists.

Richard Thomson begins by exploring disquieting attitudes toward the body and sexuality that resulted from France’s concerns about national decadence after its defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. He then considers how artists depicted crowds and represented public discomfort about mass unrest. Next he discusses religious imagery during a decade when the Catholic Church was attempting to come to terms with Republicanism. And finally he addresses the question of revenge against Germany for the annexation of Alsace-Lorraine, showing that it was kept alive in contemporary art.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Through the long lens of history, the final decade of 19th-century France seems remote indeed, but Thomson (fine art, Edinburgh Univ., Scotland) explores this era with insight and clarity. Surveying the tensions between art and public life, he declares four major issues: the body and its sexuality, the crowd and its cycles of violence, religion vs. secularism, and particularly important for France, the nagging wound from the loss of Alsace-Lorraine to Germany in 1871. In addition to its easily readable text, the book is heavily and attractively illustrated (paintings, sculpture, photographs, architecture, advertisements), with many images rarely seen in print. Their juxtaposition suits the author's twofold intent: to show that the visual art of the period connects to its social turmoil and that la belle poque is worth investigating in detail, even today. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Ilene Skeen, Hunter Coll., New York Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300104653
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 3/11/2005
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 268
  • Product dimensions: 8.58 (w) x 11.10 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Meet the Author

Richard Thomson is Watson Gordon Professor of Fine Art at Edinburgh University.

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Table of Contents

1 Public health and private desire : exploring modernity and the erotic 19
2 Picturing and policing the crowd 79
3 The religious debate : representing faith, defining modernity 117
4 'Always think about it; never discuss it' : imagery and the idea of revanche 169
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