19th Century Art

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The Second Industrial Revolution influenced art and artists as much as it altered economic, political, and social rhythms
of the late 19th century. Witt termed it "...the most important event in the history of the human race." (327)
Scientific discoveries and technological advances in materials produced a new confidence, as well as a belief in progress.
Contrary to the predictions of the gloomy economists of the Manchester School, the standard of living and wages both rose.

The United States fell in love with industry and experienced a spurt of dynamic self-confidence in the scond half of the 19th century,
symbolized by the completion of the Trans-Continental Railroad in 1869. The love affair with machines and machinery
was evident in the 1893 Chicago Exposition (for more, see below.)

In Britain, the industrial leader, people stood in awe, in 1851, at the Crystal Palace,
"which they viewed as a marvel of engineering and a symbol of an optimistic age of
technological achievement" (Witt 347). Artists painted or etched it, photographers
snapped pictures of it:

The Crystal Palace

< http://soa.syr.edu/faculty/bcoleman/ARC523/lectures/523.Crystal.Palace.images.html >

Queen Victoria opened it in a gala celebration, and it triggered "copy cat" expositions:

The French Revolution and the 2nd Industrial Revolution continued to
cast their spell over 19th century Europe. In his efforts to modernize
and beautify Paris, Napoleon III widened the boulevards and destroyed woking class housing (no more "furtniture out/barricades up.) The architect, Henri Labrouste, designed the still impressive Bibliotheque Nationale and the Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve, recently (2013) featured in an exhibit at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
Image of Bibliotheque Ste. Genevieve to your right. Visit the link to see a slide show of the Bibliotheque Nationale.

image source Wikimedia Commons
For more images of Napoleon III's Paris, visit link
or Read an article about [ Napoleon and the Imperial Style ]

Napoleon III commissioned Baron Haussman to redesign Paris and make it
into a modern city worthy of Bonaparte. French photographer Charles Marville
photographed the city before its demolition/renovation.
< http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bV24AmYI-jU >


In the harsh new world of Realpolitik, after the Crimean War,
nationalists went to war to achieve their long-suppressed dreams for national
liberation and unification. Italy and Germany were united by 1867. The Franco-
Prussian War (1870) dramatically altered the balance of power, destroyed the Second Empire
of Napoleon III, and ushered in the Third Republic. Its early crises of bloodshed
and civil war rocked France to its foundations (and influenced the art to come.)
It is
worth emphasizing here that Prussia's industrial might almost pre-determined the war's outcome,
though clearly the French did not (and would not necessarily) agree.


As you know from lecture and Kagan, defeats in the Franco-Prussian War and the unbelievably violent suppression of the Paris Commune left scars on the Third Republic, which jeopardized its survival. The then famous but now forgotten artist, Jean-Louis-Ernest Meissonier, produced an epic canvas memorializing heroic French troops defending their tricolor. Alas, the Prussians bombed and starved Paris into submission. To add insult to injury, Bismarck staged a victory parade of 30,000 triumphant Prussians through the Arc de Triomph, down the Champs -Élysées. Meissonier took extraordinary pains to make this painting--as well as his others--as realistic as possible. His characteristic heroic and meticulous style would soon give way to new artistic genres. Scarcely mentioned in art history books today, he was the most famous artist in Europe in the 1860s. (If you go to the Cantor, you may see a portrait of Leland Stanford commissioned and painted by Meissonier.)

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Louis-Ernest_Meissonier>


The workers of Paris refused to stomach the hated Prussians or the cowardly regime that accepted Bismarck's draconian terms. Hundreds protested and hauled cannon up the heights of Montmartre. Naming themselves Communards in honor of the radical Paris commune that led the Septembre Massacres and toppled the monarchy in 1792, they re-adopted the old republican calendar and replaced the tricolor with the red flag of revolution. Civil war erupted in Paris culminating in the horror of La Semaine Sanglante (The Bloody Week) as the Communards went down to defeat before the disciplined onslaught of regular troops. Reprisals were ferocious: perhaps as many as 10,000 were executed with thousands more deported. France could hardly believe the slaughter. In 1873, the Assembly commissioned the construction of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré Coeur) to commemorate the more than 50,000 who gave their lives on both sides in the bloody commune.

< http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacre_Coeur>

The Third Republic thus produced two startling and distinctingly different architectural wonders
to celebrate its survival, its sacrifices, its technological and industrial prowess--Sacré Coeur
(above) and the Eiffel Tower (below)

France showcased its industrial achievements and commemorated the centiennial of the French Revolution in 1889. The design of the Eiffel Tower, by Gustave Eiffel, was chosen in a competition comprising 700 entries for the Paris World's Fair. It was a monumental and controversial achievement in its day. Eminent members of the artistic community, such as Meissonier, Maupassant, and Gounod, protested the erection of "'...the useless and monstrous Eiffel Tower'" (Barry 49).

image source < http://nomm.com/monuments1.html >

According to Joseph Barry, Eiffel was a "transitional designer...constructor of the first practical wind tunnel, pioneer designer of the huge sluices of the Panama Canal, builder of metal bridges (49). He designed the internal wrought-iron framework that supported Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty, a gift to the United States from France in 1886. Over the preceding decade, Eiffel had made quite a name for himself in the construction industry, especially of bridges. While the government of the Third Republic was eager for a monument to celebrate the Revolution and recovery from the Franco-Prussian War, it only gave Eiffel 7,000,000 francs (1/5 of the cost,) for its construction; he had to raise the rest himself. The Eiffel Tower soars to an impressive 1,052 feet; not a single life was lost during its construction! (52). Visitors to the Paris Exhibition paid their 5 francs to climb to the first level, and within a few months, Eiffel paid his creditors.

image source < http://www.majesticsuntours.com/images/Eiffel-Tower.jpg >
When the United States planned to celebrate the 400th anniversary of America's discovery in 1892, the planners of the Columbian Exposition in Chicago wanted to "out-Eiffel Eiffel." They chose for their symbolic edifice a design by Pittsburgh bridge builder, George Ferris--the world's first Ferris Wheel. In Chicago after the Great Fire, the development of reinforced concrete and improvements in steel enabled architects and engineers to innovate in as startling ways as their contemporary artists, composers, and writers. Otis' invention of the elevator made the phenomenon of the skyscraper both a possibility and a reality. George Ferris' Ferris Wheel was as stunning in its way as the Eiffel Tower was in its. If you want to know more about the Ferris Wheel, visit (see link below) Vienna's Wiener Riesenrad in the Prater Park was constructed in 1897-1898 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the reign of King-Emperor Franz Josef.

http://inventors.about.com/gi/dynamic/offsite.htm?site=http://www.clpgh.org/exhibit/neighborhoods/northside/nor%5Fn105b.html >

Take a look (left) at Chicago in 1893 and its business/industrial area as "the windy city" prepared to welcome foreign and domestic guests to the Great Columbian Exposition. An interesting historical novel on the Exposition is Erik Larson's The Devil and the White City.

appreciation to Philip Zelikow and Coursera, "The World since 1760"
courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Look right for the Palace of Mechanic Arts at the Chicago Exposition. The scale is almost unimaginable!

courtesy Wikimedia Commons

And finally, take a look at this machine, called a dynamo, and check out its relationship to the human figure (bottom left) No wonder there was almost a worship of the Machine Age!

courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Continue to wend your way through the 19th Century Art website to see the reaction
of artists to the Generation of Materialism, as some historians called the period
from 1870-the Great War.

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Barry, Joseph. "Eiffel: versatile engineer-builder of towering talents." [sic] Smithsonian. April, 1972.

King, Ross. The Judgment of Paris. New York: Walker and Co., 2006.