Highlighting the work of major painters such as David, Girodet, Gerard, Ingres, and Delacroix and sculptors such as Houdon and Pajou, David to Delacroix reveals how these artists offered innovative reinterpretations of myth while incorporating contemporaneous and revolutionary discoveries in the disciplines of anatomy, biology, physiology, psychology, and medicine. The interplay among these disciplines, Johnson argues, led to a reexamination by visual artists of the historical and intellectual structures of myth, its social and psychological dimensions, and its construction as a vital means of understanding the self and the individual's role in society. This confluence is studied in depth for the first time here, and each chapter includes rich examples chosen from the vast number of mythological representations of the period. While focused on mythical subjects, French Romantic artists, Johnson argues, were creating increasingly modern modes of interpreting and meditating on culture and the human condition.
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This impressively documented, interdisciplinary work will be an invaluable introduction to late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century art. Dorothy Johnson explains with eloquence, insight, and lucidity why mythological art was placed at the top of the genre hierarchy, and she sets its aesthetic and intellectual achievements into the context of the natural sciences and psychology as well as literature, archaeology, and historiography.Beth S. Wright, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Delacroix