Painting and Narrative in France, from Poussin to Gauguin  book cover
1st Edition

Painting and Narrative in France, from Poussin to Gauguin

ISBN 9781472440105
Published June 14, 2016 by Routledge
234 Pages 44 B/W Illustrations

USD $180.00

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Book Description

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.

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


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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.


" As long as art is made for storytelling creatures, it is by telling good stories about it that we will understand it best, and this fine book contributes to that humanistic practice." - Andrei Pop, University of Chicago