The Artist and the State, 1777–1855: The Politics of Universal History in British and French Painting, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Artist and the State, 1777–1855

The Politics of Universal History in British and French Painting, 1st Edition

By Daniel R. Guernsey


270 pages

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The Artist and the State, 1777-1855: The Politics of Universal History in British & French Painting is the first book-length study to examine political uses of 'universal history', or the philosophy of history, in European art from 1777 to 1855. Daniel R. Guernsey discusses a range of mural paintings and sculptural works produced in England and France between the American Revolution and the Universal Exposition of 1855, comparing the ways artists such as James Barry, Eugène Delacroix, Paul Chenavard, David d'Angers, and Gustave Courbet expressed linear or cyclical histories of progress and decline. By considering the work of these important European artists together, he reveals not only the rich artistic interaction that took place between England and France - as well as Germany - at this time, but also how the notion of 'universal history' was to become a major preoccupation in the work of these individual artists, each one participating in shaping a highly significant mode of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century political art.


'This deeply researched, original book maps cultural exchanges among French and British artists through history paintings. Guernsey convincingly argues for profound cross-geographical connections rarely explored in much scholarship that is too often limited to one country.' Julie F. Codell, Arizona State University, author of The Victorian Artist (2003)

’As a piece of intellectual history, Guernsey’s work makes a genuine contribution, deepening our understanding of the ideological nuances of well-known but still perplexing works. His source material is wide-ranging, his grasp of it impressive, and his choice of textual sources is generally convincing and historically justified. …Guernsey’s four case studies, particularly that on Delacroix, make significant and original contributions to the literature devoted to each artist, and, taken together, elaborate a sophisticated and thought-provoking thesis.’

’Daniel Guernsey's ambitious, meticulously researched study examines the political uses of universal history in European art from 1777 to 1855. … Although the individual artists and works that Guernsey investigates have been quite thoroughly studied within a national context, what distinguishes this book is its transnational and comparative approach and its focus on the rich artistic crosscurrents and exchanges between England and France in the years between the American Revolution and the 1855 Exposition.’ Clio

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction; Universal history and Protestant dissent in 18th-century England: James Barry's The Progress of Human Knowledge and Culture, 1777-1784; Degenerate civilization in France: Eugène Delacroix's library murals in the Palais Bourbon, 1838-1847; Universal history and the French left: Paul Chenavard's Social Palingenesis, 1848-1851; Rousseau's Emile and social palingenesis in Gustave Courbet's The Painters Studio, 1855; Epilogue: the legacy of universal history; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

Daniel R. Guernsey is Associate Professor of Art History at Florida International University, USA.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / European