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234 × 156 mm
240 pages
186 illustrations, 30 in colour
22 Feb 2008
Picturing History

Visualizing the Revolution Politics and Pictorial Arts in Late Eighteenth-Century France Rolf Reichardt, Hubertus Kohle

Translated by Corinne Attwood

The French Revolution was marked by a wealth of imagery and visual symbolism that inspired the masses to fight for freedom. Visualizing the Revolution surveys the rich and multifaceted visual culture of this time, exploring its creation and how it conveyed the new revolutionary sensibilities of the era.

Unlike most studies of art of the French Revolution, Visualizing the Revolution embraces a wide range of artistic genres - including prints, architecture, painting and sculpture - and also draws on archival documents and other historical literature to investigate the period's aesthetic concerns. Reichardt and Kohle break new ground in methodology and interpretative practice as they trace the intricate web of connections between these various historical artifacts and argue for the central place of the arts in the transmission of ideas and the political manipulation of the populace - both educated and illiterate. Visualizing the Revolution translates the provocatively new visual language revealed in these artworks and writings and reveals how its emphasis on metaphor, allegory and symbolism transformed French mass visual culture.

An innovative and well-illustrated study, Visualizing the Revolution is a valuable new contribution to scholarship on the French Revolution and the history of French art.

‘To truly “visualize the Revolution,” as the authors of this fascinating book maintain, requires a study of the images found in the caricatures and pamphlets of the penny press. Indeed, Reichardt and Kohle argue that such quotidian illustrations, often made days after the event, are a more authentic reflection of the revolution’s artistic culture than studio painting, which, owing to the rush of circumstances, often remained unfinished . . . The amassing of this unfamiliar trove, the decipherment of often-arcane examples, and the analysis of their relation to revolutionary discourse are the major contributions of this study. Highly recommended.’ – Choice

‘the most original and thought-provoking analysis yet seen of revolutionary prints.’ – Journal of Modern History

‘As a subtitle Politics and the Pictorial Arts hardly does justice to the breadth of Rolf Reichardt and Hubertus Kohle’s sweeping review of Revolutionary visual culture. From the opening account of the procession that accompanied Voltaire’s remains to the Panthéon in July 1791 to the conclusion's remarks on Revolutionary board games, Visualizing the Revolution adopts an admirably encyclopaedic approach to its subject. Describing the Revolution as a ‘multi-media’ event, the authors go well beyond the purely pictorial to embrace everything from Revolutionary ritual, architecture and artefacts to the politics of the Salon and the eighteenth-century’s aesthetic debates . . . an impressively wide-ranging and assured work.’– French History

‘the book navigates admirably between the dynamics of the Revolution and the vast array of objects that “visualized” them. Historians and art historians alike of eighteenth-century France will no doubt receive the volume as a welcome contribution to the field and, perhaps most of all, as a pedagogical resource.’ - CAA Reviews

‘The book’s exquisite production value - with 187 illustrations, 46 in color - its luxuriously heavy paper stock, and extensive bibliography make this volume a must for anyone seeking new insights into the pictorial culture of 1789-99 . . . unmarred by jargon, and following a lucid and well organized structure . . . Conceptually original and consistently interesting, Visualizing the Revolution is destined to become a classic.’ - Eighteenth Century Studies

'a new contribution and approach . . . this publication is a useful step in understanding not only the changes in printmaking at the end of the eighteenth century, but also the complex discourse surrounding it.’ – Print Quarterly

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Rolf Reichardt is Head of the French Research Collection at the University Library of Mainz.

Hubertus Kohle is Professor of Art History at the University of Munich and the author of many books.