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Outlines & Highlights for 19th - Century Art by Rosenblum & Janson,
About Nineteenth-Century Art
Two decades have passed since the first publication of this book in 1984; and in that time, our knowledge of nineteenth-century art has made countless quantum leaps. For one, there is the often overwhelming quantity of new information that monographs and exhibition catalogues have brought us, a bounty that is reflected in this new edition's updated bibliography. But there is also the constant changing of viewpoints from which the nineteenth century can be seen. Many issues began to loom large. Feminists made us aware of the hundreds of nineteenth-century women artists who seemed to be buried forever but who deserved resurrection. And feminists also made us look differently at how women fitted into the various social structures implied by the roles they play in nineteenth-century paintings. For a century that witnessed one dehumanizing crisis after another—slavery, factory life, slums, famine, desperate migrations of workers—it also became necessary to come to grips with the ways in which artists confronted or concealed these painful truths. There were, comparably, new questions about the issues of nationalism and imperialism, which required a new reading of the way in which Western artists generated patriotic fervor or confronted the problem of depicting people and cultures remote from their own. And a waning of modernism's inherited hostility to academic art opened yet another huge vista, demanding reconsideration of hundreds of painters who had been thrown into the dustbin of history. Moreover, the welling interest in photography similarly fostered new ways of looking at those nineteenth-century painters whose hyper-realism had once disqualified them from the category of respectable art.
About the Revised and Updated Edition
Revising and republishing a historical survey now twenty years old entailed, among other things, a reconsideration of how old- or new-fashioned the text would be today. The answer, of course, should be left to the readers, young or old; but this author, at least, has his own strong opinions. As for the section on sculpture, written by the late H.W lanson, this was, in fact, the first survey that approached the subject in a democratic way, rejecting the earlier twentieth-century's exclusive focus on an underpopulated pantheon of great sculptors, from Canova to Rodin, and exploring a multitude of lesser figures from both sides of the Atlantic and from all parts of Europe. Inherited standards of what was boring, silly, or ugly in nineteenth-century sculpture were swept away in favor of fresh readings of this vast, unstudied body of work. Pointing forward, not backwards, this survey laid many of the foundations of books and exhibitions to come. It now stands as a pioneering work for charting new maps in the ongoing explorations of nineteenth-century sculpture, and this revision benefits from the inclusion of additional illustrations to accompany Janson's original text. Thanks go to Pamela Potter-Hennessey for her advice and suggested changes to the text, which have helped to enhance the links between painting and sculpture in the nineteenth century.
As for the section on painting, in retrospect, this also seems future-oriented, not only in its interpretations but in its selection of works. There are, for instance, far more works by women than had ever before appeared in a comparable survey; and the social roles of women in the nineteenth century, whether as ideal mothers, adulteresses, prostitutes, or mythical temptresses, were emphasized. Grinding poverty, class structures, social reforms were also viewed as essential to understanding the period, much as the rapidly changing image of the ruler, whether king, empress, or president, was seen in its role as mirroring political history. Academic art, vilified by almost all earlier surveys, was for the first time given its due, looked at with an eye to integrating it with the acknowledged masters of modern painting instead of using it as a foil for the avant-garde. And for the first time in an international survey, American painting was treated together with its European counterparts, and an African-American painter made his textbook debut. This reach for less familiar material also extended far beyond the conventional Francocentric confines. Not only were European artists from countries as far afield as Portugal, Russia, Denmark, and Hungary part of this new United Nations of painters, but even artists from Canada, Mexico, and Australia appeared for the first time in a general history of nineteenth-century art. In short, in 1984 this survey was a path-breaker, pointing to many new directions that have become ever more relevant to the early twenty-first century.
Publishing this revised edition has provided the happy possibility of correcting not only the kind of error that gives authors sleepless nights, but of offering new information about many of the works discussed. Moreover, this updated edition has allowed me not only to add several paintings by artists whose reputations have soared since 1984 (Boilly and Hammershoi), but also many illustrated references to the history of photography, from Nadar to Strindberg, which I hope will clarify both the range and variety of this new medium as well as the ways in which it may now be seen as an essential part of the history of nineteenth-century painting. My greatest wish is that this new edition will continue to offer an open-minded guide to the endless possibilities of seeing and interpreting nineteenth-century art.
For the rejuvenation of this book, I must offer four different kinds of gratitude. One, to Sarah Touborg, of Prentice Hall, who first asked me what I thought about bringing things up to date, and then set the wheels in motion. Two, to Jessica Spencer, of Laurence King, who with endless patience and humor, held my hand throughout the arduous process of reconfiguring text and illustration and checking the new text word by word. Three, to Ariel Plotek, who brought the long bibliography, now twenty years old, to the state of the art. And four, to Jason Rosenfeld, who, in boxed inserts, contributed an ongoing selection of fresh critical anthologies that mirror the changing historical responses to specific works discussed in the text. Without their contributions, this book could never have been steered ahead into the twenty-first century.
Robert Rosenblum, New York, February 2004
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