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La peinture d’Histoire en France sous le Second Empire libéral (1860-1870)

Abstract : Prestigious genre, heir to a long tradition, the history painting experiences multiple evolutions throughout the 19th century. Under the Second Empire, for a long time a regime marked by its "black legend", the genre still remained to be defined. Its characteristics fix it deeply in its century, while conferring it an originality : an emanation of the history painting and its transformations in the first half of the century, a precursor of its reformulation under the Third Republic, the history painting under the Second Empire is marked by its singularity. The study of the representations of history painted between 1860 and 1870 is revealing there. Straightaway, the correlation between the creations and the term of "history painting" raises questions. Indeed, while remaining in a classic subject (history), these "paintings on historic subject" get closer alternately to the genre painting and the historic genre, and are contaminated by the realism and the interest in the local colour. If the academic expression of "history painting" still suits for the painting of battle, the latter is also touched by the modernity and transformed into military painting. The approach of the painters of historic subjects presents recurrences. An important preparatory work, on texts, sources, even archaeological discoveries, is put in the service of positivist reconstructions of the events, in order to raise the interest of the public. The choice of the subjects varies according to the intentions: educate the spectator, show an idealised past used as directory of moving scenes, or develop an ideology. Beyond the historicist dimension of education about the national past, these pieces of art show a certain state of the historic thought, the main currents of ideas that influenced the painters. Moreover, the latter convey and spread a conception of history that reaches the contemporary through the press and the illustration, and so they contribute to build the image that will be anchored in the memory. A traditional mean of propaganda and "manufacturing" of the power, the history painting raises the question of the cultural practices of the government of the Second Empire. The instrumentalisation of the image by the State is real, but is restricted to the paintings of battle and of the imperial splendour. Napoleon III, in his acquisition policy, adapts himself to the creations more than he generates them. On the other hand, he exercises an indirect influence: the staging of his person, the imperial couple and its tastes in history, offer a series of themes exploited by the painters. The painting of historic subject is not instrumentalised within the framework of the envois of the State. The local elites play an essential role in the development of this genre: municipalities and Learned societies, town councillors and scholars encourage creations on national or local history. The representation of the history between 1860 and 1870 reveals the essential place of history, in its erudite and popular aspects, on a national and local scale, inspired by the feeling of attachment to the "small homeland" as well as the nation.
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Submitted on : Tuesday, January 2, 2018 - 2:35:18 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, March 24, 2020 - 10:41:08 AM
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Oriane Hébert. La peinture d’Histoire en France sous le Second Empire libéral (1860-1870). Histoire. Université Blaise Pascal - Clermont-Ferrand II, 2016. Français. ⟨NNT : 2016CLF20016⟩. ⟨tel-01674242v2⟩

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