French Arts – 19th Century

Until well into the 19th century, French art was caught between classicism and romantic currents. The classicist outlook, pushed back in the Rococo, broke through again with the French Revolution.


The representatives of the so-called revolutionary architecture, C.-N. Ledoux and É.-L. Boullée, reduced the designs to basic geometric elements. Only a few of her designs were realized (Rotonde by La Vilette, Paris, by Ledoux, 1784–89). Chalgrincarried on the tradition of classicism (Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, Paris, 1806 ff.). C. Percier and P. F. L. Fontaine created the Empire style, which particularly focused on furniture and interior design (extension and interior decoration of Malmaison Castle, 1802 ff.), But also on large building projects (Rue de Rivoli, Paris, 1801 ff.; Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, ibid, 1806-08; both by Percier and Fontaine). The Restoration, July Monarchy and the Second Empire favored historicism, which revived stylistic elements from all epochs; many architects worked at the same time as restorers of old monuments, such as E. Viollet-le-Duc, who also emerged as an architectural theorist. C. Garnier’s Grand Opéra in Paris (1861–75) is a splendid neo-baroque building. Check to see more about France and other countries in the world.

Father Abadie the Younger built the Sacré-Cœur church in Paris (1874 ff.) In a medieval-Byzantine style. The redevelopment of Paris by G. E. Haussmann during his tenure as prefect (1853–70) had serious consequences. The implementation of his conception of wide traffic arteries, which fell victim to historical building fabric to a large extent, became the model for subsequent urban planning. From the middle of the century, the iron construction technique adopted from England was used and further developed. Pioneers were v. a. H. Labrouste (Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Paris, 1843–50) and J. I. Hittorf (Buildings of the Champs-Élysées, 1839; Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Paris, 1824–44; Gare du Nord, ibid, 1861–65) as V. Baltard (Paris market halls, 1852–59). G. Eiffel already used steel supports for the Eiffel Tower built for the 1889 World’s Fair.


In the 19th century, sculpture passed on the classicistic-realistic style. Thematic innovations found space in particular in the architectural relief. P.-J. David d’Angers, who mainly dealt with monumental free sculpture (Monument des Grand Condé, Versailles, Musée historique, 1817–27), also created the allegorical gable relief of the Panthéon (1830–37). F. Rude became famous with his relief at the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (“Exodus of the volunteers of 1792”, 1833–36). L. Barye emerged as an animal sculptor, as did E. Frémiet, who further developed the traditional type of equestrian statue. J.-B. Carpeaux combined baroque movement elements with romantic pathos in his sculptures (“The Dance”, for the facade of the Paris Opera, 1866–69; today Paris, Louvre). F. A. Bartholdi provided the designs for the Statue of Liberty in New York (erected in 1886). The painters H. Daumier, E. Degas and A. Renoir were also active in sculpting. A highlight is represented by the works of A. Rodin, who ushered in a new phase in European sculpture (“The Citizens of Calais”, 1884 ff.; Calais). His lively surface treatment, which focuses on the effects of light and shadow, creates a painterly impressionistic effect.


In the 19th century, too, France produced a great wealth of painting and graphics. To David’s pupils included u. A. F. Gérard, who was particularly valued as a portraitist, and J.-A. Gros, who, like his teacher, glorified the person and deeds ofNapoleon I. P.-P. Under the influence of the Italian Renaissance, Prud’hon softened the severity of classicist forms and thus became a forerunner of French Romanticism, which was introduced by T. Géricault (“Raft of Medusa”, 1818/19; Paris, Louvre) and in the works of E. Delacroix reached its climax (“Massacre of Chios”, 1824; ibid).

It signified the victory of color over drawing and was bitterly opposed by J. A. D. Ingres, who continued the classicist tradition beyond the middle of the century (“The Turkish Bath”, 1862; Paris, Musée d’Orsay). His student T. Chassériau developed a synthesis of both directions in his portraits and murals. The disputes over the means of artistic design document the growing claim to autonomy of painting, which has been relieved of its traditional function of representation by photography. The illustrator G. Doré was one of the most important draftsmen and graphic artists of the 19th century; he was followed by R. Bresdin, who was misunderstood at the time, and C. Méryon. As a caricaturist and lithographer, Daumier excelled his contemporaries Grandville and P. Gavarni. The painters of the Barbizon School, which formed after 1835, to which a. C. Corot, T. Rousseau, C. F. Daubigny and at times also J.-F. Millet, with their “intimate landscapes” painted in front of nature, were forerunners of the Impressionists. G. Courbet, the main exponent of realism, guided by social revolutionary ideas (“Burial in Ornans”, 1849; Paris, Musée d’Orsay), with his conception of art encountered resistance from academies, the public and art critics, who also rejected the impressionism that prevailed in the second half of the 19th century. Determined by the aim of capturing fleeting natural moods, this offered a new treatment of light and color impressions, perspective and image detail. His representatives included É. Manet, E. Degas, C. Monet, A. Renoir, A. Sisley, and C. Pissarro.


Her focus in the 19th century was on portraiture (F. T. Nadar), landscape (G. Le Gray, the brothers Louis-Auguste Bisson [* 1814, † 1876] and Auguste-Rosalie Bisson [* 1826, †) 1900]) and architectural photography (H. Bayard, C. Marville, Henri Le Secq [* 1818, † 1882], Éduard-Denis Baldus [* 1820, † 1882] and E. Atget). É.-J. Marey experimented with the photographic capture of motion sequences.

French Arts - 19th Century