The Absolute Bourgeois

The Absolute Bourgeois

Artists and Politics in France 1848-1851

  1. T. J. Clark
  • ISBN 9780500272466
  • 23.90 x 16.70 cm
  • Paperback
  • 224pp
  • 109 Illustrations, 10 in colour
  • First published 1982
‘Among the very few really amusing and serious discussions of art and politics’ – Observer
‘Well written and highly absorbing’ — The Times
‘A marvellous and compelling book, which deserves to be read with care by all concerned with art, politics and society’ — Art Review

First published in 1973 The Absolute Bourgeois rapidly became an art-historical classic. Along with its companion volume Image of the People: Gustave Courbet and the 1848 Revolution it shows how powerful art-historical writing can be when closely allied to a detailed study of the political and philosophical background of a period.

Although it covers a short time span – the years immediately after the 1848 Revolution in France – it examines the painting and print-making of a handful of artists trying to come to terms with a changing political world.

Daumier and Millet are central, particularly in their dealings with the new State’s art patronage machine. Delacroix figures as a painter and diarist, in agonized withdrawal from the possibility of change, haunted by his own Liberty Guiding the People. Baudelaire is depicted, after a moment of tortured political involvement in the first months of the Republic, as the great poet of post-revolutionary despair.

Immensely readable, this is a powerful evocation of a time when, as Clark says, ‘art and politics could not escape each other’.