Patriotism and neo-classicism : the 'historical revival' in French and English painting and sculpture, 1746-1800
The aim of this thesis is to explore the links between historicism and patriotism in French and English painting and sculpture From 1748 to 1800. It argues that the reaction to Rococo hedonism took the Form of an 'historical revival' to rejuvenate European culture and society by a return to an heroic morality for the individual and the community. While artists generally Followed historians and poets in their choice of themes, they managed to produce images that defined and diffused the exemplary heroic virtues, and to endow different periods of history with tangibility and verisimilitude. While patriotic sentiments antedated the artistic 'historical revival', the latter was important in enlarging and deepening that patriotism to include an historical ethnic nationalism. Part I of the thesis uses a quantitative approach to analyse the numbers,types, themes and dates of 'history' paintings and sculptures exhibited at the Paris Salons and London Academies until 1800, revealing that, though 'history' works are in a clear minority in relation to 'non-public' genres of art, they, and their heroic cults, Form an influential and distinguished segment of French and English art of the period. Part II analyses in depth the main historical themes within some basic moral categories of the period to reveal both the common moral framework, and the vital stylistic and iconographical differences, ofFrench and English art. Part III charts the emergence of different styles for different historical periods, and some of the differences between a more literary English medievalism and a more historical French classicism. Finally, the role of key art critics and theorists reveals that while the French sought to revive an earlier era of national and artistic grandeur, their English counterparts, riding the crest of a wave of national glory, sought to enhance it by founding a native school of history painting and sculpture; but both encouraged artists to pursue the ideal of moral historicism avant Winckelmann, backed by their respective states and Academies, and so give deeper historical and ethnic content to a swelling civic patriotism.