An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art  book cover
1st Edition

An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art

ISBN 9780415780728
Published February 22, 2011 by Routledge
464 Pages

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Book Description

Using the tools of the "new" art history (feminism, Marxism, social context, etc.) An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art offers a richly textured, yet clear and logical, introduction to nineteenth-century art and culture. This textbook will provide readers with a basic historical framework of the period and the critical tools for interpreting and situating new and unfamiliar works of art.

Michelle Facos goes beyond existing histories of nineteenth-century art, which often focus solely on France, Britain, and the United States, to incorporate artists and artworks from Scandinavia, Germany, and Eastern Europe.

The book expertly balances its coverage of trends and individual artworks: where the salient trends are clear, trend-setting works are highlighted, and the complexity of the period is respected by situating all works in their proper social and historical context. In this way, the student reader achieves a more nuanced understanding of the way in which the story of nineteenth-century art is the story of the ways in which artists and society grappled with the problem of modernity.

Key pedagogical features include:

  • Data boxes provide statistics, timelines, charts, and historical information about the period to further situate artworks.
  • Text boxes highlight extracts from original sources, citing the ideas of artists and their contemporaries, including historians, philosophers, critics, and theorists, to place artists and works in the broader context of aesthetic, cultural, intellectual, social, and political conditions in which artists were working.
  • Beautifully illustrated with over 250 color images.
  • Margin notes and glossary definitions.
  • Online resources at with access to a wealth of information, including original documents pertaining to artworks discussed in the textbook, contemporary criticism, timelines and maps to enrich your understanding of the period and allow for further comparison and exploration.

Chapters take a thematic approach combined within an overarching chronology and more detailed discussions of individual works are always put in the context of the broader social picture, thus providing students with a sense of art history as a controversial and alive arena of study.

Michelle Facos teaches art history at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research explores the changing relationship between artists and society since the Enlightenment and issues of identity. Prior publications include Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination: Swedish Painting of the 1890s (1998), Art, Culture and National Identity in Fin-de-Siècle Europe, co-edited with Sharon Hirsh (2003), and Symbolist Art in Context (2009).

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements  Illustrations  Introduction  1. A Time of Transition  2. Classical Influences and Radical Transformations  3. Re-presenting Contemporary History  4. Romanticism  5. Shifting Focus: Art and the Natural World  6. Colonialism, Imperialism, Orientalism  7. New Audiences, New Approaches  8. Photography as Fact and Fine Art  9. Realism and the Urban Poor  10. Imagined Communities: Views of Peasant Life  11. Crisis in the Academy  12. Impressionism  13. Symbolism  14. Individualism and Collectivism  Epilogue: Looking Toward the Twentieth-Century  Bibliography  Glossary  Index

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Michelle Facos teaches art history at Indiana University, Bloomington. Her research explores the changing relationship between artists and society since the Enlightenment and issues of identity. Prior publications include Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination: Swedish Painting of the 1890s (1998), Art, Culture and National Identity in Fin-de-Siècle Europe, co-edited with Sharon Hirsh (2003), and Symbolist Art in Context (2009).


"Finally, an updated delightfully usable survey of 19th century art is available. The text is clearly written, jargon free yet conceptually informed, and clearly organized. Facos expands areas that are sparsely covered in other surveys, for example history of photography, women in art, and landscape as a genre. The boxes with primary sources the easy access on-line extension of the text are ideal ways to open up complex issues and elegantly facilitate open-ended class-room discussion." Lucy Bowditch, The College of Saint Rose, Albany, USA

"This fresh survey of nineteenth century art provides a welcome new perspective. Redressing a long overdue imbalance, artistic developments in America, Britain, Eastern Europe, Germany and Scandinavia are set beside the familiar story of French art, enriching our understanding of the historical context. The many insights and discoveries in this text make it useful to anyone interested in this fundamental era of modern art." Jeffery Howe, Boston College, USA

"This is an excellent textbook for students of nineteenth-century art. Facos's synthesis ranges widely across the countries and genres of nineteenth-century Europe. The emphasis on Paris, characteristic of many other such textbooks, is modified by broadening horizons to include developments in Germany, Britain, Scandinavia, Italy and central Europe. The traditional modernist narrative is displaced by an open-textured historical approach in which the diversity of art production is brought to life in its own context and understood on its own terms. The book is cogent in its broad outlines while also offering compelling readings of individual case-studies that will awaken the interest and curiosity of students. An impressive achievement." Dr Nina Lübbren, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, UK

"European and American art of the nineteenth century cannot be understood apart from the social and cultural conditions of the day. Michelle Facos recognizes this, explaining the significance of the visual arts of this tumultuous century in relation to such historical forces as the Industrial Revolution, urbanization, the nascent women’s movement, nationalism, imperialism, and colonization. Facos’s rich contextualization of artistic production is supported by judiciously chosen excerpts from primary sources along with useful graphs and sidebar explanations of various techniques. Arts institutions, too, receive particular attention, with helpful discussions of various academies, artists’ organizations, and exhibition venues. Even with this attention to historical context, Facos never takes her eyes off the real focus of the book: the painting, sculpture, and graphic arts produced in Europe and North America between the 1750 and 1900. Her close analyses of individual artworks note the persistence of long-standing aesthetic traditions while also illuminating the relevance of artistic innovation. Well-chosen color reproductions accompany these analyses.

Especially noteworthy is Facos’s insistence that the designation "nineteenth-century art" encompasses more than French and British works with the occasional nod to American contributions. Her account also integrates informative discussions of the visual arts of Russia, Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Sweden, Poland, Serbia, and Hungary as well as the art of the German states. For instance, to well-known artists’ colonies in Brittany, Facos familiarizes readers with the important sites of Worpswede and Skagen.

Written in clear, jargon-free prose, An Introduction to Nineteenth-Century Art offers students an accessible yet lively account of the visual arts in Europe and North America during this century. " Elizabeth Mansfield, New York University, USA

"This is an engaging and stimulating analysis of art in the ‘long nineteenth-century’. Beginning its narrative in the later eighteenth-century, the book offers a view of art which is clear and consistent but never simplistic or reductive. Michelle Facos manages a neat trick of being simultaneously nuanced and subtle, yet also direct and transparent. Thus, in discussing one of the central themes of mid-nineteenth century painting, the imagery of rural labourers, the ambiguity found across the range of works dealing with the subject is fully acknowledged. The images of workers are allowed to be both heroic and threatening, and their contemporary meaning both reassuring and concurrently confusing. They are shown to be represented in techniques both academically conservative and radically innovative. The complex variety of ways in which an image can relate to its contemporary world, through subject, technique, embedded narrative, genre, fashion and more are all discussed in a relaxed and confident manner which never allows the complexity to become confusion.

The author returns to her central theme of exploring the richness and diversity of nineteenth-century art regularly throughout the text and anchors the range of works and ideas discussed in a narrative which insists on the particularity of an artist’s experience as central to true understanding of the work he/she produced. That insistence on context comes across clearly in the use of discrete excerpts of original sources strategically cited throughout the main text. Thus Rousseau is conjoined with Courbet, Burke with Stubbs, Marx with Daumier. Even more regularly occurring are invitations to further explore the works discussed via a variety of resources collected together on a website hosted by the publisher, and devoted to introducing readers to a larger range of material than is possible in a published volume. Interested readers can access maps which will locate all sites mentioned in the text, or can delve more deeply into an individual artist’s sources, or a work’s critical reception, or a variety of modern analyses of a particular image. All this offers added value but it only succeeds because Facos’ analysis is intellectually sound, refreshingly direct and engagingly readable. I enjoyed this book. John Morrison, University of Aberdeen, UK