Art and industry in France in the 19th century

Caraion, Marta. Les philosophes de la vapeur et des allumettes chimiques” : littérature, sciences et industrie en 1855, Genève, Librairie Droz, 2008.

In the three sections of this anthology, Marta Caraion brings together a series of texts which contributed to the debate on the relationship between art and industry in France in the 19th century. These texts include the preface to Maxime Du Camp’s Les Champs Modernes, as well as several poems from the same collection; articles from the literary journal Revue de Paris; and essays written by central intellectual figures of the time. Marta Caraion’s introduction to the anthology contextualises the debate, and retraces its origins and its evolution. By doing so, she places particular emphasis on two events which took place in 1855: the publication of Du Camp’s collection of poems, with a preface in which the author develops a conception of art that embraces industrial progress and moves away from both antique models and the principle of art for art’s sake; the second event is the Universal Exhibition which took place in Paris. On this occasion, visitors showed enthusiasm for the technological inventions that were exhibited the same way as artistic creations. Marta Caraion then draws a picture of the reactions triggered by the event within intellectual circles, from the ones who celebrated it to those who pointed out the dangers of an intrusion of material progress in art. 

A more detailed review of the book was published in French Studies, Volume 64, Issue 1, 1 January 2010, Pages 93–94, https://doi.org/10.1093/fs/knp228.


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