Paper $52.00 ISBN: 9780226109572 Published March 2005
Cloth $94.00 ISBN: 9780226109510 Published July 2002

Paris in Despair

Art and Everyday Life under Siege (1870-1871)

Hollis Clayson

Paris in Despair

Hollis Clayson

520 pages | 472 pages, 36 color plates, 181 halftones | 8-1/2 x 9-1/4 | © 2002
Paper $52.00 ISBN: 9780226109572 Published March 2005
Cloth $94.00 ISBN: 9780226109510 Published July 2002
The siege of Paris by Prussians in the fall and winter of 1870 and 1871 turned the city upside down, radically altering its appearance, social structure, and mood. As Hollis Clayson demonstrates in Paris in Despair, the siege took an especially heavy toll on the city’s artists, forcing them out of the spaces and routines of their insular prewar lives and thrusting them onto the ramparts (as many became soldiers).

But the crisis did not halt artistic production, as some have suggested. In fact, Clayson argues that the siege actually encouraged innovation, fostering changed attitudes and new approaches to representation among a wide variety of artists as they made art out of their individual experiences of adversity and change—art that has not previously been considered within the context of the siege. Clayson focuses especially on Rosa Bonheur, Edgar Degas, Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguière, Edouard Manet, and Henri Regnault, but she also covers a host of other artists, including Ernest Barrias, Gustave Courbet, Edouard Detaille, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Albert Robida, and James Tissot. Paris in Despair includes more than two hundred color and black-and-white images of works by these artists and others, many never before published.

Using the visual arts as an interpretive lens, Clayson illuminates the wide range of issues at play during the siege and thereafter, including questions of political and cultural identity, artistic masculinity and femininity, public versus private space, everyday life and modernity, and gender and class roles in military and civilian society. For anyone concerned with these issues, or with nineteenth-century French art in general, Paris in Despair will be a landmark work.
List of Illustrations
I. Paris Under Siege
1. The War, the Artists, and the History of Art
2. The Binant Series and the Wartime Everyday
II. Trapped: The City Transformed
3. Claustrophobia: La Ville Lumière Goes Dark
4. Everyone’s a Soldier?
5. Gender and Allegory in Flux
6. The Food Crisis
III. The Artists’ War
Introduction: The Horizon of Response
7. Gustave Courbet Saves the Louvre
8. Edouard Manet: Restless Modernism
9. Henri Regnault: Wartime Orientalism
10. Jean-Alexandre-Joseph Falguère: Sculpting Resistance
11. Rose Bonheur: A Manly Animalier Soldiering On
12. Edgar Degas: Portraiture and Empathy
IV. Commemorating the Siege in the Aftermath of the Paris Commune
13. La Place de la Concorde in War and Peace
14. Two Retrospective Concours
V. Conclusion
15. Summing Up
Review Quotes
Robert Tombs | Times Literary Supplement

"Important and original . . . A beautifully produced (and reasonably priced) book, whose illustrations--more than 200--are the substance of the argument rather than mere decoration.  Clayson’s outstanding strength is that she combines the painstaking technical expertise of the art historian with the broad perspectives of an accomplished social and political historian.  This is a much rarer combination than one might wish."

Robert L. Herbert | New York Review of Books

“[Clayson] uses current methods of cultural history and feminist theory that look behind battles, monuments, and leading politicians in order to evoke the everyday lives of women, children, and men as they were transformed by war and siege. . . . The best part of Clayson’s study is her demonstration that the domestic duties of women were transformed into public service and that, as a result, women generally became heroically identified with the wartime state. As she points out, this central engagement of women with matters of life and death subsequently created the militant and collective consciousness of women in the Commune.”

Ronald C. Rosbottom | French Review

“The numerous illustrations . . . and dozens of anecdotes that highlight what happens to a large, smug, wealthy, and internationally familiar urban center suddenly constrained by catastrophe . . . will leave a vivid impression on readers.”

Gay L. Gullickson | International History Review

“Clayson establishes the intellectual and disciplinary context of her study and breaks new ground.  The book is a magisterial work and historians and art historians alike will find it pleasurable and mandatory reading.”

Patricia Tilburg | CAA Reviews
"The fusion of this focus on artitic agency with a meticulously researched social history of art during the siege of Paris enables Clayton . . . to reap a hefty reward: a richly drawn and revealing study that moves seamlessly between biography, cultural history, and art history, vividly exposing the historical characters and vie quotidienne of the Prussian siege. . . . An important contribuiton not only to the history of nineteenth-century French art, but to the history of France tout court."."
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