Publications

2019
Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting
Alsdorf, Bridget. Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting. A&Aeportal of Yale University Press, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

E-book of 2012 print edition.

Focusing on the art of Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) and his colleagues Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Frédéric Bazille, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Fellow Men argues for the importance of the group as a defining subject of nineteenth-century French painting. Through close readings of some of the most ambitious paintings of the realist and impressionist generation, Bridget Alsdorf offers new insights into how French painters understood the shifting boundaries of their social world, and reveals the fragile masculine bonds that made up the avant-garde.

A dedicated realist who veered between extremes of sociability and hermetic isolation, Fantin-Latour painted group dynamics over the course of two decades, from 1864 to 1885. This was a period of dramatic change in French history and art — events like the Paris Commune and the rise and fall of impressionism raised serious doubts about the power of collectivism in art and life. Fantin-Latour’s monumental group portraits, and related works by his friends and colleagues from the 1850s through the 1880s, represent varied visions of collective identity and test the limits of association as both a social and an artistic pursuit. By examining the bonds and frictions that animated their social circles, Fantin-Latour and his cohorts developed a new pictorial language for the modern group: one of fragmentation, exclusion, and willful withdrawal into interior space that nonetheless presented individuality as radically relational.

"Bridget Alsdorf's external evidence persuades that all is not as solid as it seems in these monumental mementos. But her internal evidence -- scholarly, exact and closely argued -- is clinching. When the critics of the day examined these non-touching, non-connecting, non-smiling assemblages of uncollegiate colleagues, what they mostly complained about -- beyond Fantin's egotism and the group's self-promotion -- was the pictures' lack of formal unity. Alsdorf convincingly argues that this lack of interaction between the figures, far from being a formal failing, is the very subject of the painting. What Fantin is interested in, and what he represents in paint, is the individual's internal negotiation with the group." 

-Julian Barnes, London Review of Books, 11 April 2013

 

At the Royal Academy: Félix Vallotton
Alsdorf, Bridget. “At the Royal Academy: Félix Vallotton.” The London Review of Books, 2019, September 26. Publisher's Version
Les badauds à la baraque de la Goulue
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Les badauds à la baraque de la Goulue.” In Toulouse-Lautrec: Résolument moderne. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Essay for an exhibition at the Galeries nationales du Grand Palais, Paris, 7 Oct. 2019 - 27 Jan. 2020
The Nineteenth Century (Part Two)
Alsdorf, Bridget, and Marnin Young, ed.The Nineteenth Century (Part Two).” nonsite, no. 27 (2019). Publisher's VersionAbstract
Manet's Fleurs du mal
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Manet's Fleurs du mal.” In Manet and Modern Beauty - The Artist's Last Years. Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract
Essay for an exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Getty Museum, 2019
2017
Painting the Femme Peintre
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Painting the Femme Peintre.” In Women Artists in Paris, 1850-1900, 25-39. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017. Publisher's Version PFP.pdf
2016
Review of James Herbert, Brushstroke and Emergence: Courbet, Impressionism, Picasso
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Review of James Herbert, Brushstroke and Emergence: Courbet, Impressionism, Picasso.” Critical Inquiry (2016). Publisher's Version CIR.pdf
Coude à coude: Au Coin de table de Fantin-Latour
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Coude à coude: Au Coin de table de Fantin-Latour.” In Fantin-Latour (1836-1904): À Fleur de peau, 32-39. Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2016. CAC.pdf
Hammershøi's Either/Or
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Hammershøi's Either/Or.” Critical Inquiry 42, no. 2 (2016): 268-305.Abstract

The Danish painter Vilhelm Hammershøi (1864-1916) is best known for his austere interior scenes representing his private apartments in Copenhagen. This essay examines these works through the lens of Søren Kierkegaard’s aesthetics and philosophy of choice in Either/Or: A Fragment of Life (1843), drawing on two sections, in particular, that illuminate the artist’s view of domestic life: “Shadowgraphs” from Part 1 and “The Aesthetic Validity of Marriage” from Part 2. My central argument is that the intense inwardness of Hammershøi’s art is fundamentally philosophical, demonstrating a Kierkegaardian vision of mind that is existential in temperYet contra Kierkegaard these interiors show that visual art can capture something of a person’s inner life as well as the aesthetics of marriage by embracing the repetitive rigor of painting as a medium.

HAM.pdf
2015
Utrillo: Picturing the Picturesque
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Utrillo: Picturing the Picturesque.” In Suzanne Valadon, Maurice Utrillo, André Utter: 12, rue Cortot. Paris: Somogy, 2015. UTRE.pdf UTRF.pdf
Félix Vallotton's Murderous Life
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Félix Vallotton's Murderous Life.” The Art Bulletin 97, no. 2 (2015): 210-228.Abstract

In 1907 the Franco-Swiss artist Félix Vallotton wrote La Vie meurtrière (The Murderous Life), a mock-autobiographical novel with striking tropological connections to his fin-de-siècle prints. This essay explores those connections, arguing that Vallotton developed a unique visual language in both image and text for the relationship between sight and social responsibility. The Paris crowd scenes that first established his artistic reputation attest to the largely unrecognized significance of the gawker (le badaud) as a modern type, a figure for the attractions and fraught ethics of urban spectatorship that is distinct from the far more studied flâneur.

VMF.pdf
2014
Nineteenth-Century France Now: Art, Technology, Culture
Alsdorf, Bridget, ed.Nineteenth-Century France Now: Art, Technology, Culture.” nonsite 14 (2014). Publisher's VersionAbstract

In this issue, nonsite features new work on 19th-century French art and visual culture, from telegraphy to lithography, Orientalists to Post-Impressionists, Manet to Degas. Edited by Bridget Alsdorf.

Richard Taws, “When I was a Telegrapher”

It is to the afterlife of optical telegraphy that this article turns, less to trace a linear technical history characterized by patterns of evolution and decay, rupture and regress, than to suggest that visuality continued to inflect the subject of telegraphy in France after the 1850s, and to draw out some of the ways in which telegraphy provided a means of conceptualizing the historical meaning of diverse media. As the century progressed, the emergence of other media with an ability to conjure the past—most notably photography, in its various forms—did not lead to a decline in telegraphic metaphors: rather, it gave them new life.

Marnin Young, “Capital in the Nineteenth Century: Edgar Degas’s Portraits at the Stock Exchange in 1879”

What did Degas intend by choosing to depict these men, at this location, murkily performing a “clandestine commerce”? Or more precisely what kind of financial transaction are they performing, and with what significance for a beholder of the work at the time? Ultimately, the argument will turn on whether the painting’s representation of their business dealing can be understood without a more precise accounting of its location. It will also hinge on the historical retrieval of the nature and significance of finance capitalism at the moment of the painting’s production in 1879.

Bridget Alsdorf, “Bonnard’s Sidewalk Theater”

Bonnard produced over one hundred paintings and prints in the 1890s that capture the bustling pace and brisk energy of Paris. He later referred to this subject as “the theater of the everyday,” and it is his particular vision of this sidewalk theater, and the viewer’s involvement in it, that I will investigate here, with particular attention to how his engagement with new media mattered to developing this vision. Playing off the chromatic constraints of lithography and echoing concurrent developments in early cinema, Bonnard shuttles the viewer between foreground and background, intimate proximity and distance. In so doing he explores the duality of the street as a disorienting amalgam of schematic backdrops and looming intrusions into our personal space, both seemingly captured at the limits of our visual field.

Marc Gotlieb, “How Orientalist Painters Die”

Orientalist painters left the world under varied circumstances – violent, painful, peaceful, or in ways simply unknown, in other words just like anyone else. And yet the basic argument of this essay is that how Orientalists died is not only an empirical but discursive question. From this latter perspective, their manner of passing would be mediated across a rich poetics of mortality whose shape and texture these remarks explore.

Gülru Çakmak, “Gérôme, Rodin, and Sculpture’s Interior”

As they reconsidered the role of surface and depth in art, both Gérôme and Rodin took their cue from, and attempted to reinvigorate, earlier theories about the contiguity between the exterior and the interior in sculpture. In the process, both stumbled upon a new approach to facture. If there is an aura to be talked about in this new facture, it is not one of immediacy, but of an invisible interior. The resulting works imagine grounds that are highly charged as interfaces—between the present moment inhabited by the viewer, and the past buried below.

Susan Siegfried, “Portraits of Fantasy, Portraits of Fashion”

Here we have a dynamic, not only of a new image culture of fashion and its free-wheeling play with different genres and image forms, but also of the operations of a new phase of capitalist development gaining ground in the early nineteenth century – particularly with regard to the development, production, and distribution of semi-luxury consumer commodities. 

Nancy Locke, “Visible Specters, Images from the Atmosphere”

We need to look more specifically at the kinds of formal effects typical of photography at mid-century in order to see Manet’s profound engagement with this new image paradigm. We also need to think about the photograph as an image whose source was not human, but optical and mechanical, and thus mysterious. Like Balzac, Manet was primarily concerned with the human, social world, but in Manet’s case, the ommatophore of the camera—the automatism of an eye on a stalk—has a greater presence than we have previously acknowledged.

Bonnard's Sidewalk Theater
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Bonnard's Sidewalk Theater.” nonsite 14 (2014): 1-35. Publisher's Version BST.pdf
Cyprien Gaillard: Blowing Off Steam
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Cyprien Gaillard: Blowing Off Steam.” Parkett 94 (2014): 238-249. CGP.pdf
Manet’s Quarrel with Impressionism
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Manet’s Quarrel with Impressionism.” In Cézanne and the Modern: Masterpieces of European Art from the Pearlman Collection. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014. MPC.pdf
Review of Patricia Leighten, The Liberation of Painting: Modernism and Anarchism in Avant-Guerre Paris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013)
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Review of Patricia Leighten, The Liberation of Painting: Modernism and Anarchism in Avant-Guerre Paris (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).” Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide Spring (2014). Publisher's Version PLR.pdf
2013
The Art of Association
Alsdorf, Bridget. “The Art of Association.” Berfrois 24 Oct. (2013). Publisher's Version BER.pdf
Review of The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists, eds. Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010)
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Review of The Studio Reader: On the Space of Artists, eds. Mary Jane Jacob and Michelle Grabner (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010).” The Art Bulletin 95, no. 2 (2013): 334-337. SRR.pdf

	Vallotton’s Theater of Death
Alsdorf, Bridget. “ Vallotton’s Theater of Death .” In The Avant-Gardes of Fin-de-Siècle Paris: Signac, Bonnard, Redon, and Their Contemporaries. Ed. Vivien Greene. New York: The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 2013.
2012
Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting
Alsdorf, Bridget. Fellow Men: Fantin-Latour and the Problem of the Group in Nineteenth-Century French Painting. Princeton, NJ, and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2012.Abstract

Focusing on the art of Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904) and his colleagues Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Frédéric Bazille, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Fellow Men argues for the importance of the group as a defining subject of nineteenth-century French painting. Through close readings of some of the most ambitious paintings of the realist and impressionist generation, Bridget Alsdorf offers new insights into how French painters understood the shifting boundaries of their social world, and reveals the fragile masculine bonds that made up the avant-garde.

A dedicated realist who veered between extremes of sociability and hermetic isolation, Fantin-Latour painted group dynamics over the course of two decades, from 1864 to 1885. This was a period of dramatic change in French history and art--events like the Paris Commune and the rise and fall of impressionism raised serious doubts about the power of collectivism in art and life. Fantin-Latour's monumental group portraits, and related works by his friends and colleagues from the 1850s through the 1880s, represent varied visions of collective identity and test the limits of association as both a social and an artistic pursuit. By examining the bonds and frictions that animated their social circles, Fantin-Latour and his cohorts developed a new pictorial language for the modern group: one of fragmentation, exclusion, and willful withdrawal into interior space that nonetheless presented individuality as radically relational.

"Bridget Alsdorf's external evidence persuades that all is not as solid as it seems in these monumental mementos. But her internal evidence -- scholarly, exact and closely argued -- is clinching. When the critics of the day examined these non-touching, non-connecting, non-smiling assemblages of uncollegiate colleagues, what they mostly complained about -- beyond Fantin's egotism and the group's self-promotion -- was the pictures' lack of formal unity. Alsdorf convincingly argues that this lack of interaction between the figures, far from being a formal failing, is the very subject of the painting. What Fantin is interested in, and what he represents in paint, is the individual's internal negotiation with the group." 

-Julian Barnes, London Review of Books, 11 April 2013

 

Introduction.pdf Julian Barnes LRB Review.pdf Neil McWilliam CAA Review.pdf Anne Leonard NCFS Review.pdf Rachel Sloan Burlington Review.pdf Emmer NCAW Review.pdf Guégan Le Monde Review.pdf
2011
Fantin’s Failed Toast to Truth
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Fantin’s Failed Toast to Truth.” The Getty Research Journal 3 (2011): 53-70.Abstract

In 1865 Henri Fantin-Latour exhibited his second large-scale group portrait at the Paris Salon to a disastrous reception. The Toast! Homage to Truth was a terrible failure not only in the public’s eye, but also in Fantin’s own; he destroyed the painting soon after the exhibition closed. Scholars are left to wonder how shocking the painting actually was, but there are many clues – in the form of sketches and correspondence – to the problems Fantin encountered while developing this collective tribute to “Truth.” In particular, the problem was how to represent a vision of truth that was both individual and collective, both personal to Fantin and translatable to the public (or at the very least, to the group he painted). Ultimately, The Toast! Homage to Truth is a case study in a central problem surrounding group portraiture in the mid-nineteenth-century: the problem of reconciling modern notions of artistic individuality with the dream of collectivity that undergirds the genre. This essay investigates that problem by looking at several of the many surviving drawings for The Toast!, including a previously unknown and illuminating sketch in the collection of the Getty Research Institute.

GRJ.pdf
2010
Interior Landscapes: Metaphor and Meaning in Cézanne’s Late Still Lifes
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Interior Landscapes: Metaphor and Meaning in Cézanne’s Late Still Lifes.” Word & Image 26 (2010): 314-23.Abstract

The prevailing understanding of Cézanne’s still lifes remains decidedly formalist and phenomenological, focused on composition, the nature of perception, and the physical process of applying paint. With the exception of the psychoanalytic proposal that his apples have an erotic subtext, the subjects of Cézanne’s still lifes are deemed insignificant beyond matters of form. Such an approach is hard pressed to evaluate his use of pictorial metaphors – in particular, metaphors of landscape that make his still lifes into microcosmic worlds. In several key works of the 1890s, Cézanne’s metaphoric manipulation of shape, scale, and indoor space offers a window onto his conception of the studio as an expansive alternative to the bourgeois interior. This essay explores the modernity and materialism of Cézanne’s landscape metaphors, and their potential to extend the meaning of his still lifes beyond the realm of perception.

ILC.pdf
La fraternité des individus: les portraits de groupe de Degas
Alsdorf, Bridget. “La fraternité des individus: les portraits de groupe de Degas.” 48/14: La Revue du Musée d’Orsay 30 (2010): 30-43. D48.pdf
2009
Femininity and Animality: Portraits of a Lady Exposed
Alsdorf, Bridget. “Femininity and Animality: Portraits of a Lady Exposed.” In Andrea Hornick: Recent Work, 1460-1865. New York: David Krut Projects, 2009. Publisher's VersionAbstract

For her first solo show at David Krut Projects, Andrea Hornick has reimagined portraits of upper class women of society spanning four centuries, re-conceiving images of women made and commissioned by men. Painting in oil using traditional techniques, Hornick has reproduced a series of canonical masterpieces ruptured by the insertion of animals; the portrait genre so central to the oeuvre and the livelihood of the Old Master painters is here reproduced, re-imagined, and made relevant to the present.

Her strategy is a kind of inverse appropriation, inserting contemporary ideas and images into the art of the past, and thereby interrupting rather than uprooting the aura of the painted object. The resulting rich paintings are startling for their skill and realism alone, scintillating and surprising on the walls of a contemporary art gallery in Chlesea.

Hornick's quick wit is evident in her renaming of the works and her marrying of a special animal to each sitter. Hardly the lords of the animal kingdom - a donkey, a snail, a cuttlefish - these creatures render ridiculous the modes of female representation that have barely changed through the ages. The animals are at once protective and totemic, sexually menacing and predatory. In Fashionable Goose Accompanies Flighty Mistress For Late Afternoon Stroll, Hornick brushes in the dark feathers and form of a goose into the plumes of Rubens' "Chapeau de Paille" portrait (c.1620). A giant majestic moth masks the porcelain features of Ingres' fashion victim, Madame Moitessier (1865) in Woman Who Wears the Face of Her Clothes' Worst Enemy and Whose Reflection Betrays Her Beauty Ideal. As Bridget Alsdorf observes, "The moth's placement suggests an elaborate costume for a masquerade - a popular event in Moitessier's high-society milieu - and encapsulates the dilemma of fashion as a feminine tool: fashion hides as much as it reveals; it is a form of oppression as much as self-expression."

Hornick encourages the stilled atmosphere of a portrait gallery of old with taciturn sitters from different times regarding us from the walls, each with a unique carved frame underlining the status of medium, genre and sitter. This post-feminist project is about women looking back at the history of art; she copies the old masters as a rite of passage, while claiming them for new historical trajectories through her anamorphic insertions.

ANDREA HORNICK : RECENT WORK 1460 - 1865 is accompanied by a new David Krut Publication available at the gallery, with contributing essays by Bridget Alsdorf and Anne Higgonet.

FAH.pdf

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