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Sarah Hibbert and Richard Wrigley, eds. 2014. Art, Theatre, and Opera in Paris, 1750-1850: Exchanges and Tensions

Doe, Julia

The eleven essays in this volume were produced for an interdisciplinary conference, “Correspondances: Exchanges and Tensions between Art, Theatre, and Opera in France, c. 1750–1850,” held at the National Gallery, London in the spring of 2010. This event coincided with an exhibition of the history paintings of Paul Delaroche. The artist’s purportedly “theatrical”
style, and longstanding engagement with the theater more broadly, serve as a fitting starting point for a series of explorations of the interplay between the visual arts and the Parisian stage during the late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth centuries.

That relationships between artistic media flourished during these years is a scholarly commonplace, as the editors of the collection, Sarah Hibberd and Richard Wrigley, readily admit. They insist, however, (and rightly so) that a framework for interrogating these networks of exchange remains critically underdeveloped. The tasks set forth for these essays, then, are both lofty and laudable: the authors aim to establish new models for examining the points of contact between artists and artistic forms and to more precisely identify “which ideas and images were crossing over, how this occurred, and to what effect” (9). In so doing, they are able to shed light on several larger themes relevant to the study of painting, music, and drama during this period. First, the collection provides fresh insight into persistent questions of genre—so crucial to the production and reception of the arts in France—examining how well (or how problematically) hierarchical divisions might be mapped across media, and probing how the subversion of these boundaries might be imbued with resonances of wider sociopolitical meaning. Moreover, through their generous topical and chronological scope, the contributions to this volume address issues of aesthetic continuity and rupture, seeking to untangle how and when different media were affected by the various institutional restructurings of the turbulent Revolutionary and post-Revolutionary years.

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October 23, 2018
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