From the European revolutions of 1848 through the Italian independence movement, the American Civil War, and the French Commune, the era Albert Boime explores in this fourth volume of his epic series was, in a word, transformative. The period, which gave rise to such luminaries as Karl Marx and Charles Darwin, was also characterized by civic upheaval, quantum leaps in science and technology, and the increasing secularization of intellectual pursuits and ordinary life. In a sweeping narrative that adds critical depth to a key epoch in modern art’s history, Art in an Age of Civil Struggle shows how this turbulent social environment served as an incubator for the mid-nineteenth century’s most important artists and writers.
Tracing the various movements of realism through the major metropolitan centers of Europe and America, Boime strikingly evokes the milieus that shaped the lives and works of Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Émile Zola, Honoré Daumier, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, and the earliest photographers, among countless others. In doing so, he spearheads a powerful new way of reassessing how art emerges from the welter of cultural and political events and the artist’s struggle to interpret his surroundings. Boime supports this multifaceted approach with a wealth of illustrations and written sources that demonstrate the intimate links between visual culture and social change. Culminating at the transition to impressionism, Art in an Age of Civil Struggle makes historical sense of a movement that paved the way for avant-garde aesthetics and, more broadly, of how a particular style emerges at a particular moment.