Associate 2018-19

David O'Brien

Art History

Portrait of Napolean
Paul Delaroche, Napoléon Bonaparte abdicated in Fontainebleau, 1845, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig

The Cult of Napoleon and French Visual Culture, 1815-1848

Professor O’Brien’s new book project will investigate representations of Napoleon Bonaparte and his times in the visual culture of the Restoration (1815-1830) and the July Monarchy (1830-1848). Napoleonic themes dominated French visual culture in this period, combining history, memory, politics, art, and entertainment in strikingly new ways. This book will interpret the Napoleonic images and objects not only as reinterpretations of the recent past and responses to contemporaneous social and political issues, but also as the products of new modes of visual culture spawned by new technologies, new markets, and new viewing practices. This analysis will include the fine arts but also extends to new or recently invented media such as lithography, panoramas, and mass-produced trinkets, as well as to the full range of vernacular visual media, including such things as advertisements, cheap woodcuts, book illustrations, handicrafts, and wax museums. Professor O’Brien will focus on five prominent themes: the revival of republican versions of Napoleon; Napoleon as an imperfect human being; an ever-tightening association of masculinity, nationality, and militarism in depictions of ordinary Napoleonic soldiers; the varying, emergent strategies for representing the suffering and trauma engendered by the experience of war; and the transferal of religious modes of representation to Napoleon and his life.