The Work of Art

Plein Air Painting and Artistic Identity in Nineteenth-Century France

Anthea Callen

The Work of Art

Anthea Callen

Distributed for Reaktion Books

256 pages | 120 color plates, 60 halftones | 7 1/2 x 9 4/5
Cloth $50.00 ISBN: 9781780233550 Published June 2015 For sale in North and South America only
In The Work of Art, Anthea Callen analyzes the self-portraits, portraits of fellow artists, photographs, prints, and studio images of prominent nineteenth-century French Impressionist painters, exploring the emergence of modern artistic identity and its relation to the idea of creative work. Landscape painting in general, she argues, and the “plein air” oil sketch in particular were the key drivers of change in artistic practice in the nineteenth century—leading to the Impressionist revolution.
           
Putting the work of artists from Courbet and Cézanne to Pissaro under a microscope, Callen examines modes of self-representation and painting methods, paying particular attention to the painters’ touch and mark-making. Using innovative methods of analysis, she provides new and intriguing ways of understanding material practice within its historical moment and the cultural meanings it generates. Richly illustrated with 180 color and black-and-white images, The Work of Art offers fresh insights into the development of avant-garde French painting and the concept of the modern artist.
Contents
Introduction
1. The Origins of Plein-air Painting to 1850
2. Maître Courbet: The Worker—Painter
3. Cézanne, Pissarro and Knife Painting
4. Colour: The Material and the Ephemeral
 
References
Bibliography
Acknowledgements
Photo Acknowledgements
Index
Review Quotes
Richard Shiff, University of Texas at Austin
“Callen, probably more than anyone else working on nineteenth-century painting today, is able to combine an artist’s experience of studio practice with an art historian’s rigorous use of documentation. Her work is immensely valuable for its combination of sensitive visual observation and scrupulous attention to details of historical fact. . . . This book is a major accomplishment.”
Choice
“Callen’s book is a fascinating exploration of the material practices of French outdoor landscape painters in the nineteenth century. Focusing on hardware, including folding seats, paint boxes, backpacks, palette knives, brushes, and newly available tube paints, Callen argues that this often overlooked dimension of the work of the outdoor landscape painter is crucial for understanding how plein air painting took form. Her discussion includes the class associations of painter’s smocks and trowels, as well as the gender restrictions of what was an almost exclusively masculine practice. The book is organized into four richly illustrated and carefully researched chapters. Readers first encounter the early techniques and procedures of practitioners of plein air landscape sketching, including Pierre-Henri de Valenciennes and Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, before moving to the coarse-grained and materialist concerns of Gustav Courbet, Camille Pissarro, and Paul Cézanne. The text concludes with a fascinating discussion of the neo-Impressionist landscapes of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac and their relationship to the traditional craft practices of needlework, embroidery, and weaving. Callen’s presentation and analysis of the hardware available to outdoor landscape painters contributes an important new dimension to the broader understanding of nineteenth-century French painting. . . . Highly recommended.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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