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Neo-Impressionism and the Search for Solid…

Neo-Impressionism and the Search for Solid Ground: Art, Science, and…

by John G. Hutton

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A specialist would understand immediately what this book concerns, but a few words here might suggest why a non-specialist reader would enjoy this nominally academic study. In the period between the fall of the Paris Commune and the turn to the Twentieth Century, French society experienced changes more radical than in any other comparable period. No one could be oblivious to the challenges of science, expanding industry, religious crises, and imperialism -- to name only a few. French artists, as a group already more politicized than their opposite numbers in any other country, explored radical political options on the Left and the Right -- though Professor Hutton wisely limited his study to the former -- and often attempted to correlate their artistic projects and techniques with their political activities, in several celebrated instances being prosecuted for their efforts. The politics of such great painters as Pissarro and Signac are well-known, but what makes Hutton's study so vigorous is his detailed knowledge and discussion of some of the many lesser-known artists who seemed never to tire of defining and debating (and occasionally denouncing) everything and everybody, and engaging in these conflicts with a passion which would be almost incomprehensible in the art world of today. Readers who know John Milner's book ART, WAR AND REVOLUTION would find this a fine companion-piece.
Honestly, this book is ill-served by its dry academic title. One understands why it had to be this way, given the conventional wisdom (ha!) of academic publishing, but it sadly conceals the fact that this is a great read. It's a lively account of a time long-vanished when people took their art, their science, and their politics much more seriously than they seem to do now, or at-least to have done so on an intellectual level worthy of a supposedly rational species. That being conceded, the time and culture under discussion created many of the very terms and concepts which we continue to use to this day. Important reading for the scholar-specialist, fun reading for almost anybody else. ( )
  HarryMacDonald | Jul 4, 2012 |
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