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 GallĂ© (1846â€“1904), whose works they described as the essence of French design. Many even went so far as to argue that the artistâ€™s creations could reinvigorate Franceâ€™s fading arts industries and help restore its economic prosperity by defining a modern style to represent the nation. For fin-de-siĂ¨cle viewers, GallĂ©â€™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 artistâ€™s innovative technical processes, a close analysis of GallĂ©â€™s works brings to light the surprisingly complex ways in which his fragile creations were imbricated in the political turmoil that characterized fin-de-siĂ¨cle France. Examining GallĂ©â€™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 GallĂ© returns again and again to the question of national identity as the central issue in his work.
Table of Contents
List of figures
Object nation: The role of the decorative arts in defining a modern style for France
Carved into the flesh of France: GallĂ© and the Franco-Prussian War
Clear water: Japonisme, nature, and the formation of a national style
GallĂ© and Dreyfus: A Republican vision
One for all or all for one? GallĂ© and the Ecole de Nancy
Conclusion: A fragile legacy
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).
"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. ...Itâ€™s a 'must-read' for anyone interested in late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century French culture."
--Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide