Journal Article

French neo-classical artists and their collections

David A. Wisner

in Journal of the History of Collections

Volume 24, issue 2, pages 231-242
Published in print July 2012 | ISSN: 0954-6650
Published online May 2011 | e-ISSN: 1477-8564 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jhc/fhr015
French neo-classical artists and their collections

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Artists in modern times have often also been prolific collectors of note. We sometimes fix upon the more famous, such as Reynolds or Degas, perhaps in order to illustrate the subtleties of their own art. But what of a cohort or school of artists, some famous, others less well known? Can anything new be learned about an artistic style or artistic practices from the study of their shared collecting habits? More fundamentally, what does collecting at this level reveal about the ‘commerce’ of artworks in a given historical period? The following essay uses sales catalogues and other supporting evidence to examine the collections of French neo-classical artists working in Paris and in the French provinces in the period roughly from 1780 to 1830, in part to understand the daily realities of artistic life in late-eighteenth-century France, and in part to shed light on the inner history of that historical style. The period is a critical one in the history of Western art, as many of the characteristically modern features of the public sphere – auctions, criticism, museums, and so on – were intimately connected with the fate of the neo-classical movement.

Journal Article.  9395 words. 

Subjects: Exhibition Catalogues and Specific Collections ; History of Art ; Social and Cultural History

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