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The Spell of the Barricade: Art and Politics in France, 1830-1852


This dissertation is about barricades and image production in the 1830s and `40s. It comprises three chapters, each of which centers on a single work of art: Auguste Préault's Tuerie (1834), Ernest Meissonier's Souvenir de guerre civile (1849-1850), and Honoré Daumier's L'Émeute (c. 1848-1852). Together, the three chapters describe how the barricade oriented the period's multiple, often contradictory conceptions of class, revolution, history, and art. A new grammar of democratic politics took shape in the `30s and `40s, and it was one in which the street figured as both the site and medium of social transformation. Some would say, as I do, that the barricade was the 19th century's most poignant and meaningful "symbolic form." It was also the most enchanting.

Triumph is rare in these pages; tragedy sets their key. They turn on Préault's bas-relief, the political re-entrenchments of 1833-1834, horror, defeat, and disillusion rather than, say, the affirmative image of the barricade Eugène Delacroix's La Liberté guidant le peuple is often thought to have engendered; the uncertainties, ambivalences, and violence of artistic production in times of radical disintegration anchor their pivot. Not infrequently, they emphasize paintings, lithographs, and sculptures that evoke the barricade only in its absence. Yet while this dissertation reconfigures the image-map formerly in place, it does so not in pursuit of greater comprehensiveness - with the hope, as it were, of producing a total picture - but to capture something of the dividedness and fragmentariness that the barricade asserts even as it prefigures a world in which reconciliation is possible. Much was at stake in the `30s and `40s, and this dissertation aims to sharpen our sense of the true diversity and depth of the contemporary response, both to the limbo of the July Monarchy and the "dark times" (Brecht's phrase) after June 1848.

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