Painting and Narrative in France, from Poussin to Gauguin: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Painting and Narrative in France, from Poussin to Gauguin

1st Edition

Edited by Peter Cooke, Nina Lübbren


218 pages | 44 B/W Illus.

Purchasing Options:$ = USD
Paperback: 9780367200275
pub: 2019-05-23
Hardback: 9781472440105
pub: 2016-06-16

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Before Modernism, narrative painting was one of the most acclaimed and challenging modes of picture-making in Western art, yet by the early twentieth century storytelling had all but disappeared from ambitious art. France was a key player in both the dramatic rise and the controversial demise of narrative art. This is the first book to analyse French painting in relation to narrative, from Poussin in the early seventeenth to Gauguin in the late nineteenth century. Thirteen original essays shed light on key moments and aspects of narrative and French painting through the study of artists such as Nicolas Poussin, Charles Le Brun, Jacques-Louis David, Paul Delaroche, Gustave Moreau, and Paul Gauguin. Using a range of theoretical perspectives, the authors study key issues such as temporality, theatricality, word-and-image relations, the narrative function of inanimate objects, the role played by viewers, and the ways in which visual narrative has been bound up with history painting. The book offers a fresh look at familiar material, as well as studying some little-known works of art, and reveals the centrality and complexity of narrative in French painting over the course of three centuries.


'The introduction […] is a model of its kind; no better overview could have been written of the characteristics of narrative painting and of how critics have construed it from the time of Lessing onwards. It sparkles with ideas about the fundamental nature and complexity of narrative and will become required reading for anyone with a serious interest in French history painting. This high standard is continued in the following thirteeen essays […].' (Simon Lee, The Burlington Magazine, September 2018)

Table of Contents


List of Figures vii

Notes on Contributors xii

Acknowledgements xv

Introduction: Narrativity and (French) Painting

Peter Cooke and Nina Lübbren

Section I

Ancien Régime

1 Units of Vision and Narrative Structures: Upon Reading Poussin’s Manna

Claudine Mitchell

2 Figures of Narration in the Context of a Painted Cycle: The North Bays of the Grande Galerie at Versailles

Marianne Cojannot-Le Blanc

3 The Crisis of Narration in Eighteenth-century French History Painting

Susanna Caviglia

4 Obscure, Capricious and Bizarre: Neoclassical Painting and the Choice of Subject

Mark Ledbury


Restoration and July Monarchy

5 Delacroix and ‘The Work of the Reader’

Beth S. Wright

6 Narrative and History in Léopold Robert’s Arrival of the Harvesters in the Pontine Marshes

Richard Wrigley

7 Narrative Strategies in Paul Delaroche’s Assassination of the Duc de Guise

Patricia Smyth


Second Empire and Third Republic

8 Eloquent Objects: Gérôme, Laurens and the Art of Inanimate Narration

Nina Lübbren

9 Tyrannical Inopportunity: Gustave Moreau’s Anti-narrative Strategies

Scott C. Allan

10 Theatricality Versus Anti-Theatricality: Narrative Techniques in French History Painting (1850−1900)

Pierre Sérié

11 The Conflicted Status of Narrative in the Art of Paul Gauguin

Belinda Thomson


Key Issues of Pictorial Narrative

12 Narrativity, Temporality and Allegorisation, from Poussin to Moreau

Peter Cooke

13 Towards a Study of Narration in Painting: The Early Modern Period

Étienne Jollet


About the Editors

Peter Cooke is Senior Lecturer in French Studies at the University of Manchester, UK. His most recent book is Gustave Moreau: History Painting, Spirituality and Symbolism.

Nina Lübbren is Art Historian and Principal Lecturer in Film Studies, and Deputy Head of Department of English, Communication, Film and Media, Anglia Ruskin University, UK.

About the Series

Studies in Art Historiography

Studies in Art Historiography
The aim of this series is to support and promote the study of the history and practice of art historical writing focussing on its institutional and conceptual foundations, from the past to the present day in all areas and all periods. Besides addressing the major innovators of the past it also encourages re-thinking ways in which the subject may be written in the future. It ignores the disciplinary boundaries imposed by the Anglophone expression 'art history' and allows and encourages the full range of enquiry that encompasses the visual arts in its broadest sense as well as topics falling within archaeology, anthropology, ethnography and other specialist disciplines and approaches. It welcomes contributions from young and established scholars and is aimed at building an expanded audience for what has hitherto been a much specialised topic of investigation. It complements the work of the Journal of Art Historiography.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
ART / History / Baroque & Rococo