Painters and Public Life in Eighteenth-Century Paris

Thomas E. Crow

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This original book examines how the ambitions of artists in eighteenth-century France were affected by public opinions about the arts—the tastes of the art critics, of the state, and of the crowds who visited art salons. Among the many artists whose work is discussed and portrayed are Watteau, Greuze, and David.

“One of the most important books on its subject to have appeared in the last 20 years or so. Indeed, it is probably going to make an impact on art history in general and may well come to be considered one of the ‘classics’ of our discipline.”—Linda Nochlin, Art in America 

"This is an example of the social history of art as it should be written, by someone with a deep and extensive knowledge of both subjects. . . . [Crow's] book is as important for those who want to understand the French Revolution as for historians of French painting."—Norman Hampson, History

"This is without any question the most impressive and stimulating study of eighteenth-century French art that has appeared in recent times.  Its great strength and virtue is that is essays an interpretation of its subject that is firmly and subtly grounded in the social and the political. . . . It should transform our perception and, especially, the teaching of the period. . . . An inspirational bench mark."—Richard Wrigley, Art History

"The most comprehensive and valuable study of art and public life in that era now in print."—William Olander, New York Times Book Review

"An extraordinarily intelligent and wide-ranging consideration of the politics of painting in France from the time of the foundation of the Academy in 1648." —Alastair Laing, Country Life

"I believe that Thomas Crow's Painters And Public Life In Eighteenth-Century France is one of the most important books on its subject to have appeared in the last 20 years or so. Indeed, it is probably going to make an impact on art history in general and may well come to be considered one of the 'classics' of our discipline." —Linda Nochlin, Art in America

"A masterful account of the rise of an art public in the modern sense in response to the annual (and later biennial) 'Salons' of the French Academy. . . . Crow provides a remarkable rich narrative of the institution of Salon exhibitions, which began officially as a public spectacle in 1737. . . . (Crow's) story . . . makes fascinating reading and will have a long life as an art history text." —Kenneth Baker, San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle

"Crow traces the effect of art on public and vice-versa, with an analysis of the power and authority exercised by the State and Academy over which, and in which way, painting was exhibited. . . . It provides an interesting insight into the role of painters and their public during this period." —The Antique Collector

"An extremely thoughtful and well researched text, which is an important contribution to the literature." —Philip Conisbee, Watteau Society Bulletin

"This is without any question the most impressive and stimulating study of eighteenth-century French art that has appeared in recent times.  Its great strength and virtue is that is essays an interpretation of its subject that is firmly and subtly grounded in the social and the political. . . . It should transform our perception and, especially, the teaching of the period. . . . An inspirational bench mark."—Richard Wrigley, Art History

"The product of meticulous and often imaginative research, this monograph is one of the few most important recent studies of eighteenth-century French painting."—Nancy S. Reinhardt, Art Documentation

"In a book that is scholarly yet entertaining, a cast of seemingly thousands and an abundance of details are brought together to tell a story with all the fascination and inexorability of high drama." —Dr. Jill Finsten, Rotunda

"An example of the social history of art as it should be written, by someone with a deep and extensive knowledge of both subjects which preserves him from the superficial assumptions and generalisations with which the genre is so often plagued. . . . He has done us all a great service by providing us all with so much ammunition for argument and his book is as important for those who want to understand the French Revolution as for historians of French painting." —Norman Hampston, History

"Gives us a very great deal and is undoubtedly a contribution of the highest interest to the history of the period." —John Sweetman, Royal Society of Arts

"An art history book that is as good on the history (the Salon, the growth of public opinion) as on the paintings."—The Times (selection of the literary editor)

"The book is especially rich in establishing imaginative links between art and artistic opinion and the social, political, and intellectual developments of the age."—Robert M. Isherwood, American Historical Review

"This is both a scholarly and an enthralling book. . . . Professor Crow's book is one of the very few to relate a painting style to the society in which it came into being in a more than trivial or obvious way.  It is a real achievement."—Marian Hobson, Journal of European Studies

"It makes major contributions to the study of a still grossly under-researched period."—Thomas Puttfarken, Burlington Magazine 

"A provocative, well-researched book on an interesting topic."—Christian Science Monitor

"A systematic exploration of a familiar period from a new point of view. The result is a rich and provocative treatment of the art of the French Old Regime from the founding of the Academy of Painting to the Revolution."—Tomothy J. McNiven, Arts Education Review of Books

"I believe that Crow's book offers a methodological breakthrough:  a materialist semiotics of art. . . . It is truly impressive for its massive recovery of repressed cultural meanings in the best intellectual traditions of the Frankfurt school."—Ewa Lajer-Burcharth, Critical Texts

"Winner of the 1986 Mitchell Prize for Artistry, this entertaining, pertinently detailed narrative is a good example of the so-called New Art History at its best. The dissection and discussion of the work of individual artists is related to the political social and cultural milieux in which they worked, and includes audience, patrons, critics and public exhibitions.  The interplay between presentation, production, public and private taste is brilliantly analyzed."—Sunday Times

"In this attractively produced and plentifully illustrated volume, Crow's perceptive analysis of works by a wide range of painters has resulted in a brilliant fusion of art criticism with social history. He has produced what is undoubtedly a major contribution to the history of French culture."—Geoffrey Bremner, British Journal for 18th Century Studies

Winner of the College Art Association’s Charles Rufus Morey Prize

Winner of the 1986 Eric Mitchell Prize
ISBN: 9780300037647
Publication Date: September 10, 1987
296 pages, 7 3/4 x 10 1/4
150 b/w + 8 color illus.
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