"A crisis in historical representation unfolded in French visual culture in the first half of the nineteenth century, reaching its climax at the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855, when artists and critics alike came to a troubling realization: depictions of past heroes that had once held exceptional influence over their viewers now left the public indifferent. This book shows that underneath this crisis was a mounting demand for empirical observation in art, and an emergent modern epistemology that posited the past as foundational and yet inaccessible to the physically and historically specific individual. Since neither the painter nor the viewer could have actually experienced a bygone historical incident as it unfolded, was history painting even feasible in modern times? When historical representation seemed all but impossible to critics and artists of various hues, Gerome came up with a momentous solution. A small group of paintings constitute the focus of this provocative study on the artist's early work, whose pivotal role in Gerome's oeuvre as well as in the broader history of modernization of art have been so far unrecognized in art historical scholarship. In these, the artist charted a new roadmap for the art of painting in response to the modern sensibility of history."--Cover page 4.
1. The Paris Universal Exhibition of 1855 and the crisis of grand history painting -- 2. Heroism in modern times: Duel after the masquerade -- 3. Art as science: from l'idéal grec to the great family of humankind -- 4. The César paintings: project for a new tragic art -- 5. Coda: layers of the past: from painting to polychrome sculpture
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