The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society

By Linda Nochlin | Go to book overview

gory," recently published in a special issue of the Art Institute of Chicago's Museum Studies devoted to the painting,13 originated as the result of a conjunction of relatively unrelated circumstances. I had been reading the work of the critical theorist Ernst Bloch--The Principle of Hope and The Utopian Function of Art and Literature--in conjunction with a long study of Courbet's allegorical masterpiece The Painter's Studio I was preparing for the Brooklyn Museum's exhibition of that artist's work. Shortly after I had finished the Courbet piece, I was asked by the School of the Chicago Art Institute to give the first lecture in the Norma U. Lifton Memorial Series and to choose a topic related to a work in the collection of the Art Institute itself. It took me no time at all to settle on La Grande Jatte, a painting that had always interested me, as had Seurat's oeuvre in general. As I sat down to write my lecture, somewhere in the back of my mind a memory stirred of Bloch's interpretation of the painting as the representation of a kind of late nineteenth-century suburban hell, "more Hades than Sunday," "a landscape of painted suicide." How different this was from the conventional representation of La Grande Jatte as a nostalgic scene of enjoyable recreation on the banks of the Seine! And how much more in tune with the actual details of Seurat's innovative canvas. Repeated viewing confirmed this dark and politically charged interpretation of the painting, a reading against the grain of most prevailing art-historical wisdom. Once again, it seemed to me precisely in the formal construction of the work, the so-called "aesthetic" choices made by Seurat, that its political implications were inscribed, its significance as the pictorial critique of a specific historical and social situation was located.


Notes
1.
Meyer Schapiro, "Courbet and Popular Imagery: An Essay on Realism and Naiveté", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 4, pp. 164-191.
2.
Lisa Tickner, "Feminism, Art History, and Sexual Difference", Genders, no. 3 (Fall 1988), p. 92.
3.
Peter Bürger, Theory of the Avant-Garde, trans. M. Shaw, Minneapolis, University of Minnesota Press, 1984. The study first appeared in German in 1974.

-xxiii-

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The Politics of Vision: Essays on Nineteenth-Century Art and Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Acknowledgments x
  • Introduction xii
  • Notes xxiii
  • 1- The Invention of the Avant-Garde: France, 1830-1880 1
  • Notes 17
  • 2- Courbet, Oller, and a Sense Of Place: the Regional, The Provincial, and the Picturesque In 19th-Century Art 19
  • Notes 32
  • 3- The Imaginary Orient 33
  • Notes 57
  • 4- Camille Pissarro: The Unassuming Eye 60
  • Notes 74
  • 5- Manet's Masked Ball at the Opera 75
  • Notes 92
  • 6- Van Gogh, Renouard, And The Weavers' Crisis in Lyons 95
  • 7- Léon Frédéric And The Stages of a Worker's Life 120
  • Notes 139
  • 8- Degas and the Dreyfus Affair: A Portrait of the Artist As an Anti-Semite. 141
  • Notes 164
  • 9- Seurat's La Grande Jatte: An Anti-Utopian Allegory 170
  • Notes 190
  • Index 194
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