Nature and the Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France: The Art of Emile Gallé and the Ecole de Nancy, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Nature and the Nation in Fin-de-Siècle France

The Art of Emile Gallé and the Ecole de Nancy, 1st Edition

By Jessica M. Dandona


214 pages | 8 Color Illus. | 46 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781472462619
pub: 2017-06-23
eBook (VitalSource) : 9781315176116
pub: 2017-06-14
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By the time of his death in 1904, critics, arts reformers, and government officials were near universal in their praise of Art Nouveau designer Emile Gallé (1846–1904), whose works they described as the essence of French design. Many even went so far as to argue that the artist’s creations could reinvigorate France’s fading arts industries and help restore its economic prosperity by defining a modern style to represent the nation. For fin-de-siècle viewers, Gallé’s works constituted powerful reflections on the idea of national belonging, modernity, and the role of the arts in political engagement. While existing scholarship has largely focused on the artist’s innovative technical processes, a close analysis of Gallé’s works brings to light the surprisingly complex ways in which his fragile creations were imbricated in the political turmoil that characterized fin-de-siècle France. Examining Gallé’s works inspired by Japanese art, his patriotically inflected designs for the Universal Exposition of 1889, his artistic manifesto in support of Dreyfus created in 1900, and finally, his late works that explore the concept of evolution, this book reveals how Gallé returns again and again to the question of national identity as the central issue in his work.


"This fascinating book takes a new look at the artist, arguing his success in redefining 'Frenchness' through his ability to translate the nation into visual form that rendered it legible, all the while keeping away from nationalist rhetoric."


"Dandona has done a masterful job of identifying and interpreting archival materials, and she demonstrates consummate skill at interpreting the art works not only through documentation and historical context, but also through careful looking. …It’s a 'must-read' for anyone interested in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century French culture."

--Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide

Table of Contents


List of figures



Object nation: The role of the decorative arts in defining a modern style for France

Chapter One

Carved into the flesh of France: Gallé and the Franco-Prussian War

Chapter Two

Clear water: Japonisme, nature, and the formation of a national style

Chapter Three

Gallé and Dreyfus: A Republican vision

Chapter Four

One for all or all for one? Gallé and the Ecole de Nancy

Conclusion: A fragile legacy

Works cited


About the Author

Jessica M. Dandona is Associate Professor of Liberal Arts at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. She earned her PhD in the History of Art from the University of California at Berkeley. Recent publications include contributions to Picturing Evolution and Extinction (2016) and to Place and Locality in Modern France (2014).

About the Series

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting, 1700-1950

The Histories of Material Culture and Collecting provides a forum for the broad study of object acquisition and collecting practices in their global dimensions from 1700 to 1950. The series seeks to illuminate the intersections between material culture studies, art history, and the history of collecting. It takes as its starting point the idea that objects both contributed to the formation of knowledge in the past and likewise contribute to our understanding of the past today. The human relationship to objects has proven a rich field of scholarly inquiry, with much recent scholarship either anthropological or sociological rather than art historical in perspective. Underpinning this series is the idea that the physical nature of objects contributes substantially to their social meanings, and therefore that the visual, tactile, and sensual dimensions of objects are critical to their interpretation. This series therefore seeks to bridge anthropology and art history, sociology and aesthetics. It encompasses the following areas of concern: 1. Material culture in its broadest dimension, including the high arts of painting and sculpture, the decorative arts (furniture, ceramics, metalwork, etc.), and everyday objects of all kinds. 2. Collecting practices, be they institutionalized activities associated with museums, governmental authorities, and religious entities, or collecting done by individuals and social groups. 3. The role of objects in defining self, community, and difference in an increasingly international and globalized world, with cross-cultural exchange and travel the central modes of object transfer. 4. Objects as constitutive of historical narratives, be they devised by historical figures seeking to understand their past or in the form of modern scholarly narratives. The series publishes interdisciplinary and comparative research on objects that addresses one or more of these perspectives and includes monographs, thematic studies, and edited volumes of essays.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / General
ART / Criticism & Theory
ART / European
ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)
ART / Art & Politics
HISTORY / Europe / France
HISTORY / Modern / 19th Century
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Political Ideologies / Nationalism