Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century France

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9780691059464: Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century France
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In Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century France, Greg Thomas sets forth a new ecological model of landscape painting, in which the process of art is seen to mimic the creative processes silently at work in the environment around us. Developing an aesthetics of place with implications for the entirety of nineteenth-century art, Thomas focuses specifically and with engaging exactitude on the landscapes of Barbizon painter Théodore Rousseau. These paintings--dreams of nature as a web of life in which human beings occupy a peripheral role--overwhelmed Rousseau's contemporaries with their novel light effects, original perspective, and "sheer profusion of visual sensation." While Baudelaire considered them superior to even Corot's works, they baffled art critics and have never fit convincingly into the received categories of naturalism, "pre-Impressionism," or modernism.


Surveying Rousseau's whole career and presenting the first English translations of his writings, Thomas analyzes the artist's political beliefs and record as a pioneer conservationist. He also traces alterations in a number of the French sites that Rousseau depicted, most notably the royal forest of Fontainebleau. Through an interdisciplinary approach, the author reinterprets Rousseau's paintings as embodiments of a new way of seeing the world, a new sense of the deep interconnectedness between the human and natural worlds that coincided with the earliest formulations of modern ecological thought. With over eighty illustrations, Art and Ecology in Nineteenth-Century France offers readers the considerable pleasure of rediscovering one of the most important and most neglected painters of the nineteenth century.

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"This is a highly significant contribution to the study of 19th-century French art. Certainly this is the most original, most compelling, most suggestive, and most informative account yet written of mid-19th-century French landscape painting....Art and Ecology in 19th-Century France brings an entirely new conception to this field, and to the most important figure within it--Theodore Rousseau."--Jeremy Strick, Director, Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles

About the Author:

Greg Thomas is a specialist in the history of 19th-century European art. He received his Ph.D. in art history from Harvard University in 1995 and is currently an Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong.

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Thomas, Greg
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