Monash University Publishing | Contacts Page
Monash University Publishing: Advancing knowledge

The Spirit of Secular Art

Chapter 7

Mechanical reproduction

Robert Nelson

A film by the Luxembourg artist Antoine Prum, Mondo veneziano,1 features the beautiful Italian town, captured with cameras roving majestically over the echoing courts, which are grand and intimate at the same time. This is the backdrop for two artists, a theorist and a curator to debate the fortunes of art. They meet in loggias, argue across bridges, harangue from a cherry picker, and compare notes over coffee. Each speaks from a script, full of the ingenious jargon of the high-arts press.

Venice, la Serenissima, is unsettled by the inevitable tensions of the Biennale—which seems to be imminent, as if in the air, like the damp—as the national camps assemble their agendas and try to represent them as morally or aesthetically supreme. So Prum’s protagonists are identified as German, Russian and American, all countries with historical antagonisms, archaic grounds for hatred, now played out in the refined language of art debate.

Their clashing perspectives erupt, it seems, in a gory world of fantasy, where—inspired by chilly stillness and silence—they take to one another with pick, rifle, surgery and crucifixion. These acts are separated throughout the film as premeditated rituals. After the executions, the victims return as before, apparently allegorizing the cyclical and liturgical nature of sacrifices in art. The host (or slain lamb) is also the butcher and priest. Somehow you can’t dismiss this film as sensational or capriciously indulgent. The production values are high, with the filming (in 35 mm) managed with exquisite light, movement of perspective, economical sound and action. The conversations are grand, urgent, impatient, smug, sardonic; and the oscillating moods of their interchange are captured with Shakespearean mixtures of humour and gravity.

In Prum’s film, the world has descended on Venice with poisoned competitiveness and ruthless ambition. The global contestants extract one another’s innards and eat the sacred meat of the slaughtered expressionist, the critical theorist or the situationist, to sustain the next life of art. The contribution of the one to the other is seen in sacrificial terms; and some of the dialogue invokes ritual as an integral element in art. For some of the interlocutors, the agenda is thoroughly Marxist and materialist; but it makes no difference in the end because, once in the sacred citadel of art, their behaviour is structurally identical to that of the Romantic egotist, lustful for for a redemptive killing of the order that they seek to displace. It is a great insight on Prum’s part.

The artist or theorist kills the immediate source of inspiration, alienating a font of sustenance that he or she might once have absorbed. The lamb is the artist or theorist that you might have been, killed by your own hand in the hope of transcending the barriers of style, positionality and content. This reflects on a pattern that becomes increasingly common, as the artist hacks off the artificfially disowned, a part of the tradition forsworn through a pitiless impatience with limitations. The destiny of Courbet’s materialism prefigured this; and the motif of ideological probity twisting itself into pious execution continues in contemporary Venice every two years, with spiritual blood-lettings on every day in the intervals.

*     *     *

Courbet’s determination to achieve objectivity in his pictures drew him to the great new visual technology of the industrial period, photography. Many of his paintings from the middle of the nineteenth century have a photographic appearance. Some have tell-tale signs of a photographic source, such as the light in Young Women From the Village of 1852.2 It is one of the earliest paintings to document the sharpness of shadows in sunlight, an effect which painters in the western tradition for the most part have studiously avoided, for the sharpness of shadows inhibits the rendering of volumes by means of tonal and chromatic gradation, for centuries the prowess of all good painters. But the camera is not informed of such niceties. It registers the shadows as sharp if the sun is out and a form is split midway over any kind of edge or even sharper curvature. Such are the characteristics in Courbet’s painting: the rocks have a sedimentary stratification with many sharp edges; all the shadows fall with crisp mineral accents and the rounded fulsomeness of previous landscape is abandoned.

The same is true of the women in the picture carrying parasols. The women deliberately screen themselves from the bright sky with umbrellas; the shade which the umbrellas cast is crisp and sudden. Meanwhile, the illumination of the shaded faces is gently effected by backlighting, that is, by the flush of reflected light bouncing off the broadly lit clothes and ground. A person who is not screened from the direct glare of the sky is subject to a light-source which is unusual—even unknown—in the history of art: vertical light. If painters ever looked at forms in broad daylight they would have rejected them as unsuitable for painting. Broad daylight (which includes an overcast sky) does not flatter the beauty of the vertical human form, for it deposits shadows underneath the forms rather than to the side. There is an unceremonious dollop of shadow under the nose, a gash or an elongated hole for a mouth, and black caverns for the eye-socket, plunging the expressive magic of the eye into the gloom. The chin hugs the face from below with a beard-like wadding of shade, reaching down the neck to the clavicle; and, in the nude, the region from the bottom of the belly to the genitals is obscured by an inky mat of shadows.

Artists from the baroque to the academic tradition of the first half of the nineteenth century possessed techniques for showing light in any circumstances. They could easily have represented anything under the open sky; but they chose not to. The reason is that the human body is presented in an unflattering way when the light falls from above. When photography first began showing forms in natural light, the results would undoubtedly have seemed somewhat inartistic. It would take some time for photography to develop lighting systems (or sensitive photographic plates capable of capturing an indoor sitter in front of a window, as in baroque portraiture) to use the more oblique lighting of the tradition of painting. With the consciousness of a photograph as a careful manipulation of light and chemical treatments which purposefully represents a person or object, photography became an art. It has been honoured with that status, more or less begrudgingly, from the middle of the nineteenth century to today.3

At face value, photography seems a perfect expression of the materialist values of nineteenth-century progress. Photography is mechanized and saves labour. In its potentially undiscriminating attention to all visibilia, photography also reflects the free movement of money to address all goods and services regardless of their symbolic character: photography registers the shape and shade of things in a transferable way, because a camera can be pointed at a prince, a mendicant, a rat, a temple or a slum: it can show illustrious achievements, abject squalor, the erotic body and the mutilated body. It also seems more democratic than traditional media. Proficiency in photography and figurative painting requires uncommon skill and decades of training; but the prerequisites for photography (not necessarily good artistic photography) are simpler. Through a technical series of procedures, a photograph can be taken by anyone with a modicum of visual intelligence; whereas the art of figurative painting—whether academic or romantic—requires many years of diligent training. A convincing illusionistic painting takes many months to produce whereas a photograph (even counting the time setting up, shooting, developing and printing) may be produced in a lot less. A person wanting a portrait no longer had to sit for weeks in front of a painter—risking, in the result, the inaccurate or unflattering personal inflexions of the artist’s inspiration, malice or ineptitude—but could now sit for an hour in the assurance that an accurate and credible result would ensue.

With its greater convenience and speed, photography seemed ready to make painting obsolete, in the same way that rail freight had made the system of barges and canals redundant. In some areas, a kind of artistic redundancy did occur; but they are fairly marginal. The most notable is miniature portrait painting. This specialization is painstakingly difficult and results in a form of art which does not enjoy enormous status, perhaps a reputation unfairly related to the size of the object, as the miniature was placed inside a pendant or locket and worn as jewellery. Furthermore, many of the qualities of painting which are most esteemed are discouraged by the tiny scale and, if nevertheless executed with vivacity and gestural strokes, the stylistic virtues are likely to remain concealed to all but experts. Meanwhile, what painting did with great inconvenience, photography did with special distinction. From the times when the resolution of photographs was not high, a miniature could be depended upon to concentrate the information to a point of great sharpness. Making things small is a task that photography can perform with particular ease. It is not surprising, therefore, that the once-flourishing art of the miniature portrait dwindled drastically in the second half of the nineteenth century, almost to the point of extinction that we know today.

For the rest, photography posed no threat to painting. Any celebratory image to hang on the wall of a public interior had to be painted. In domestic interiors, which photographs rapidly penetrated, similar points can be made in regard to placement and scale. The photograph took some time to ascend from small frames propped up on little stands upon sideboards to the greater axial address and authority of large image on wall. It is not just a question of status and snobbery. It may be related to ancestral prejudices against the ‘cheapness’ of the industrial image; but there are other issues of taste and sensitivity to materials which deserve sympathetic attention. First, there is a technical fact: photography did not produce pictures in colour. They were confined to black-and-white. They could be hand-coloured but the results are somewhat quaint; and the whole air of magic sophistication of the photograph is somehow undermined by an unhappy labour of colouring-in. In many instances, the results are clumsy. For example, skin tones are impossible to ‘get right’ unless the artist is prepared to balance warm earth colours with cool ones. It is a painter’s vocation, not a photographer’s. If the work of hand-colouring has such sophistication that it can comprehend the subtleties of flesh timbres, it is effectively a form of painting which negates the process and materials—the very genius—of photography. But what it takes to assemble the colours to act out the quality of the volumes leads to more fundamental aspects of the difference between photography and painting.

Second, painting confesses by gestural brushmarks the consecutive nature of its construction; and this habit of building up the surface and the illusion is congruent with all other aspects of the built environment in which the painting is situated. A house is assembled brick by brick; the floor is hammered together from separate planks resting upon joists and so on; even the apparently uniform plaster work, though smoothly evened out, is applied by consecutive actions and is subsequently worked over by careful muscular actions; and in any case, the plaster of the wall is just one articulated component between the skirtings and cornices which frame it below and above. Everything in the house is crafted by actions which follow one another. The painting on the wall belongs in its innermost conception to this order of labour and construction. Each feature is separately pored over and analysed in a perceptual link between a motif and the manipulation of the paint; everything is articulated by the brush, spelt out in a series of gestures which distinguish themselves by chromatic inflexion in order to show a certain aspect of a volume. In today’s avant garde, the process of perceptual painting—as opposed to photography—is sometimes pejoratively described as fetishistic crafted mark-making; but this stigma undervalues the ceremony of perceptual recognition which a painting enacts when it enumerates the separate aspects of the spaces and volumes of its motif in a stepwise series of brushstrokes. Ideally, the brushstrokes are not exaggeratedly present for their own sake (and hence perhaps correctly charged for being reified and fetishistic) but as a trace of the stepwise figuring of the intellect as it finds its way around all the forms in a series of coherent spatial relationships. Photography, meanwhile, creates all motifs simultaneously. They are all apprehended in the same instant; and in the development and printing process, all aspects of a scene are treated with the same commitment on the surface. There is no basis for any textural variation and, if the surface were puckered by different rhythms here or there, the photograph would be considered to have been adulterated.

Third, the gestation of a painting—like its execution—is not a simultaneous affair but is rooted in a drawing process. The painter does not commence with a field (as through a view-finder) but begins with a blank sheet of paper. A core of form develops as a notion of a motif is pursued and, especially when the motif is partly imaginary, the nascent drawing supplies the artist with the cues to grope further for the ideal form and clinch the desired purpose. There is no obvious counterpart for this organic method of developing a composition in photography. The technique in photography is essentially lens-based rather than drawing-based. Even when the photographer is assembling a constructed image (that is, a display of objects and people pre-arranged to form a narrative or allegory or tableau vivant) the square or rectangle of the camera acts as a pictorial quantum which has to be filled with motifs. Of course there are many ways partially to overcome the limits of the viewfinder. The photographer Oscar Rejlander already created a large allegory of The Two Ways of Life composed of several negatives.4 But in essence, the process of photography avoids the dynamic gestation of lines in the drawing process to create a composition.

Photography as a process can be described as ‘a roving rectangle in search of a motif’.5 The camera is predisposed to see so much and no more, depending on its distance from a motif. The photographer walks around the world looking for things to put inside the rectangle, changing position to accommodate the best viewpoint, to eliminate the useless information and contain the entropic randomness of the gaze; for once you hold a camera to your eye, you notice the way that any given view defaults to visual chaos in the superabundance of available detail. The nomadic and scavenging character of photography makes for an art of great complexity; but it is essentially different from the constructed technologies of the past and, in spite of the two media sharing certain axioms of perspective, it is hardly surprising that they look very different from one another. Photography is immediately recognizable for what it is. There is very little confusion between photography and painting. A split-second glance at either will normally let you form an accurate judgement about which it is. When there is confusion about whether the art work is a painting or a photograph, it is usually the case of a painting looking like a photograph (as in the photorealist painting of the 1970s) rather than a photograph looking like a painting (with the exception of pictorialists like Edward Steichen in the early twentieth century).

It makes sense, therefore, that photography never posed a threat to painting but it did pose a threat to the media which historically anticipate it as mechanical reproduction, especially engraving, etching and the relatively recent art of lithography. The rationale of printmaking was mechanical reproduction, contemporary with the birth of the printed book in the Renaissance; lithography followed, appropriately, to serve the greater demand and print-runs for mass media. But even with printmaking, photography only made incursions on the drawn image qua journalism. Images intended for reportage would eventually be exclusively photographic; and the drawn picture, with its lesser reputation for objectivity, would—with the exception of cartoons—rapidly recede from journals and newspapers. Any images involving rhetorical exaggeration were left to the hand-drawn media, just as the case remains today in the witty genre of political cartoons. And for obvious reasons: it is not possible to manipulate photographs to the extent of cartoons, much less engage fantasy of personifications tumbling out of the sky or transforming themselves into other objects. As the rest of the tradition of hand-drawn images withdrew from the capitalist press, printmaking would paradoxically gain in prestige as an art form. The art of printmaking (not a term in use before the twentieth century) ascended to the status of high art, full of relish in fantasy and poetic imagination. Printmaking would particularly suit the literary flair of the Symbolist movement, a form of late Romanticism characterized by a self-conscious feeling of spiritual decadence in the face of mainstream materialism. The often morbid but lyrical preoccupations of the Symbolists seemed exquisitely refined and precious when impressed upon paper, the medium of poetry, which lacks assertive monumentality and classical spatial authority. But of the Symbolists more later.

Photography began its trajectory toward visual dominance when it interacted with print-media. The photograph as object upon the wall grew enormously but not to the extent of displacing painting or printmaking. The photographic portrait had great popularity but, again, not to the extent of diminishing the appeal of the painted portrait. In sheer quantity, though, the pre-eminence of photography was apparent from early times, prefiguring the situation today in which most images are generated through lenses, even if the recording of the visual information is electronic rather than chemical. Only a tiny proportion is produced manually. Painting has retained its prestige partly due to natural uniqueness, its rarity and the assumed difficulty of its production. Photographs, on the other hand, are reproducible and easy to generate. Of course certain photographs may be harder to produce than certain paintings; but let that pass.

The dichotomy of painting and photography was topical (and is still topical) not just because of the natural competitive instincts of practitioners. Artists of a certain medium have always vied with those of another medium, the most famous case being the duel between sculptors and painters during the Renaissance, a competition to which the Italians attached the name paragone. The contrast of photography and painting is structurally different because it is based on the historical priority of one medium, painting, whose visuality initially determined many of the aesthetic ambitions of photographic artists. The dichotomy would have been topical had there been no antagonism or chauvinism among swaggering artists. The quest for photographers was either to find an autonomous aesthetic which was in some sense unrelated to the mainstream tradition of painting or to graft a useful and artistic dimension onto a pre-existing tradition of painting, to adapt rather than to forswear. In this sense, though a photographer could be naive and know little of the painting collections in the museums, the relation between photography and painting is inherent in the profession of the new art.

Some intrepid photographers sought unusual subject matter or bizarre viewpoints which appeared (a) to create a new visuality and (b) attain the uniqueness of painting, hence perhaps artistic prestige. An example is the aerial photography of Nadar using a hot air balloon to take the photographer above ground and to bring the horizon down in the conspectus of the lens. No one had ever seen Paris represented from the air before. The old representational technologies of oil painting would not have allowed the view to be seized on a brief trip above the rooftops. The excitement of the new medium was fabulous. But for all that, the example is telling. We still admire what Nadar did and cannot deny that he helped create a new visuality.6 But the extraordinary novelty of the vision does not automatically confer upon the image the prestige of even an ordinary landscape painting. The aerial topography of Paris is more likely to stir the soul on account of historical or archaeological information concerning architecture and town-planning than anything deeply aesthetic.

The best shots, so to speak, of photographers risked confirming what any pictorial chauvinist might have imagined about photography: that it is mechanical, a means of recording mere visual fact, a soulless exercise in lugubrious black-and-white for the visual mortification of living and lived-with objects. In spite of the excitement which attends every new and imaginative photographic image, there is a sense that au fond photography lacks something which the other arts have at their innermost core, namely a sacramental status, an artistic interaction with a motif by which the artist demonstrates a kind of reverent devotion, a gestural worship with carefully layered sacrificial connotations. A beautiful photograph can be taken by a total cynic; there seems nothing about that mechanical process which requires a deep inquiry into the sensory and emotional or spiritual relationship with a motif. The photographer has limited resources with which to demonstrate pious fondness for a motif; there is no caressing, no touching nor contact of any kind, no tactile homage nor caring veneration. The language of painting, with its copious repetition of patting actions, is a physical demonstration of wilful choices by which the paint submits to an active intellectual recognition of how the object looks and behaves; in its ritual dimensions, painting is powerfully celebratory. There is no corresponding physical and sacramental level in the language of photography.

Not surprisingly, many photographers took advantage of those aspects of the conventions of painting which lend themselves equally to photography. Photographic portraiture, for example, would be conceived to resemble painted portraiture. In the case of the English photographer Julia Margaret Cameron, certain sitters—such as the poet Lord Alfred Tennyson—would agree to pose in robes in order to resemble types from the tradition of painting, in Tennyson’s case, a Renaissance monk.7 In other works, she would contrive a beautiful woman and small boy to sit in Renaissance clothing in order to rehearse the archetype of Madonna and child in Renaissance painting. The beauty and seduction of such works are difficult to describe. They are sentimental but in a powerful way. From the first glimpse of Cameron’s Blessing and Blessed (a composition of mother and son based on the Virgin and Child archetype), you are in no doubt that you are looking at a photograph and not a painting.8 The art is not in the deception. It is another form of homage, a new act of reverence which confesses its materialism, its absence of metaphysical pretensions, its unabashed position of contemporary ordinariness and bourgeois domesticity. The photograph does not begin with a Platonic idea or sketch of a heavenly intuition but with a person and her child. You are in no doubt that you are looking at a woman of the nineteenth century and her child. The boy has a frame which had never been recognized by painters: the shoulders are relatively broad and, perhaps on account of the posture, the space between them is slightly concave across the thorax. The lozenge-like shape of the boy’s head and his look of bewilderment would never have been comprehended in the art of painting. The specificity of photography is inherently unidealized. It is the opposite of the ‘artificial’ constructive language of painting which somehow celebrates a form even when it does not conform to stereotypical canons of beauty, as in Dutch art of the seventeenth century. Photography observes the oddness of everyone and everything. The only way to make it ideal is to enforce a rigidly exclusive determination to photograph only the world’s most stereotypically beautiful models, as in the fashion photography of contemporary popular magazines. And even then, the sense of accident and incidence is impossible to expunge from the glossy page. In fact the desirable accident is zealously sought by the photographer who will spend scores of expensive medium-format film strips in order to chase a more inspired moment. But with all that, even the most successful fashion shots are not immortal images beheld in the imagination as perfect and unadulterated ideas and then translated, as if by magic, through the artist’s powers of synthesis. They may be pre-conceived and staged in advance; but they are only found on the day when it appears that the model ought to whisk the head this way or that while beckoning seductively to an industrial accessory. But let us leave the unedifying visuality of the twentieth century to its proper place.

The fascination in Cameron’s work is that it does not strain to produce heavenly archetypes. Through the imagination of an art-lover well versed in the construction of pictures, the heavenly archetypes are all readily available and predisposed toward a photographic outcome. Cameron has only to suggest these archetypes to her sitters and their lending of themselves to the shared idea represents something touchingly quaint and naively ritualistic. The result is something never seen in the history of art. What you witness is not the advent of a vision of the Virgin and Child—say—but the performance of two people who are trying to stage the presence of the Virgin and Child. It is the record of a cultural happening quite distinct from anything produced by a paintbrush and it is not without a sacramental dimension.

Cameron is noteworthy for several artistic qualities. In spite of the theatricality of her images, her portraits can only be described as sensitive; her sitters seem delicate and sensitive, too; and her representations of children are exquisite, perhaps because of the natural delicacy of children. The recognition of the physique and behaviour of children is a nineteenth-century achievement owing everything to photography. Children’s bodies are both bonier and pudgier than adult bodies. The peculiar distribution of weight for each age group, the corresponding proportions and behaviour, are accurately registered by a patient photographer (though the photography of children is not easy!). It would be impossible to correlate the appropriate shape, look and action unless the artist performed a recording process very similar to photography. It would be an impossible research project for a painter to undertake. Besides, painters have their own ideas; they tend not to be so scrupulous about the facts but seek the expression of what they want to see. There are few incentives but major obstacles to overcome for a painter depicting children.

But Cameron’s photography of children is not remarkable purely on technical grounds. It is not merely that, like other photographers such as Lewis Carroll, she has given us an accurate record of the appearance of children.9 Her images show the special intimacy of photography, what you could call the conversational sacraments of the art. In photographing children, you have to maintain a conversation; you have to propose everything very sweetly and encourage the child to act appropriately but ‘naturally’ as well, not to be stiff or so self-conscious and withdrawn that the result inhibits expression. Or if the child is shy and you want to recorded it, the expression must still seem spontaneous and not a result of anxiety from the photographic session itself. The special grace of the event of formal photographic portraiture is a kind of baptism or confirmation in light and conversation.

The conversational background to photographic portraiture and allegories is arguably seen at its most sacramental in the least pious of all genres, namely erotic photography and even pornography. The ethical calibre of the art form is problematic, for there is a powerful feminist case against the exploitation of women as sex-objects in any art form; and pornography more frequently shows naked women than naked men and therefore more often serves the sexual gratification of men than women. But these scruples concerning equality should not prejudice the evaluation of a whole genre which is capable of addressing itself to sexual difference and not merely to the mainstream exploitation of women by men. For example, there are scores of explicit photographs of women spanking one another’s bare bottoms with all manner of whips (Jeux des dames cruelles) which seem to be addressed to female fantasy rather than male fantasy. The expression of diverse sexual preferences and perversity tends to be personally titillating and socially embarrassing; but for all our concern about the correctness and taste of such imagery, it must be taken seriously as yet another dimension of the photographic proliferation of difference, resulting in the new visual expression of hitherto unacknowledged psychological conditions.

But let us not get caught up in the rightness or otherwise of pornographic extremes. Erotic photography occurs because (a) there is demand for it and (b) a photographer obtains the agreement of a model to stage his or her nakedness in front of the lens. In this ritual, the status of the model changes from the ‘formal prop’—which models were in the academies, that is, beautiful or interesting specimens of flesh and bone for classical drawing—to people who have agreed to allow the lens to visit their intimacy and record the reality of their body.10 Photography records the person not as the idea of a person but as the identity of the individual. Even when the face is hidden, you are conscious that the model really was there, was not an embellished figment of an artist’s imagination but really did have those forms and disposed them in such a way. Erotic photography is not necessarily explicit sexually but it is always explicit about a person acting in front of a lens. A photographer can idealize with lighting and so on; but the image remains the permanent record of the light at a certain time in a studio which reflected from a specific person’s body.

Photographic erotica presents itself with greater immediacy than painted or drawn erotica. You are always looking at the moment in a ritualistic sequence during which the model stripped and struck the pose. Erotic imagery often has a pretext of narrative—even something so trivial as ‘taking a bath’—to make the display of flesh seem less gratuitous; but in the case of photography, the narrative does not default to the ostensible scene (whatever it is supposed to be) but is hijacked by the palpitations of the model on being exposed to the lens for all the world to see. This ritualistic performance which really did happen—unlike the bath, say—is full of erotic tension of its own and probably offers a superior erotic fantasy to any titillating confection invented by the photographer. Because the person is a specific individual, a prolonged study of the image induces you to think that you know him or her. You are implicated in the intimacy of the moment. In disrobing, the model loses all modesty and, like virginity once lost, this sacrificed modesty can never be recovered. Once the naked body is submitted to the lens, it is exposed to all gazes for posterity and can never enjoy its former chastity again. The erotic photograph is the sacrificial image of the nineteenth century.

If nineteenth-century pornographic photography seems in better taste than its twentieth-century counterparts, it is because the personal presence of the individual is somewhat dulled and abstracted by the certain knowledge that the person has been dead for a century. The individual is present in the picture but rather like a ghost, a sign of a being who once was a specific person but so long ago now that the immediacy of his or her presence is no longer felt. Now that the nakedness of the model is archaeological, the erotic thrills of staging it in front of the predatory lens acquire a secondary aesthetic dimension which paradoxically relates them to mortality and makes the sacrifice of modesty seem almost tragic. The abstraction of the model’s personal presence through time is analogous to the abstraction of the model’s physical presence in the process of painting.

The major effect of the new medium upon the old medium is positive rather than negative. Instead of displacing the art of painting, the new medium sought new outlets and found new subject matter or new views of old subject matter. This flowed to painting. Photography has an extraordinary poignancy in discovering sights, realities hitherto unseen by painters or anyone else. The new visuality of the photograph relates to its relative lack of interference. Viewers were confronted with the great variety of appearances in humans, interiors and outdoor scenes. The almost accidental convergence of motifs was first registered in photography, where the representation of a human would simultaneously record a bill-board, a street-light and a wagon, objects that a painter would never have included, perhaps because of their compositional complexity, perhaps because they entailed extra work in rendering them, perhaps because they were unfamiliar, perhaps just because of their contemporaneity which seemed out of place in a painting. Before long, painting of a ‘conservative’ kind filled up with detail.

Even painters of a staunchly classical disposition reveal the influence of the new visuality. An example is the enviably successful academician William Bouguereau, a painter of antique domestic subjects, heroic scenes, bacchanals, religious pictures and other histories.11 Bouguereau was also inclined to a fashionable kind of allegorized portraiture, something long cultivated in painting but also seen in the photography of Julia Margaret Cameron and others. Bouguereau’s figures have an unusual individuality; many of them are far from the classical ideal which the artist studied and knew well how to replicate in any circumstance. In Bouguereau there are people with big chins, large lips, darkly shaded eyes; his children have the slightly larger knees in proportion to the flesh of the thigh and shank; they have a variety of flirtatious gestures—all very correctly observed—revealing an extraordinary sympathy for the sensuality of childhood, even to the point of risking a paedophilic air. There is frequently a light source from above, which causes deep shadows in the eyes and requires backlighting to reveal the forms. Bouguereau never lets the overhead light diminish the definition of forms; his control is legendary and, perhaps as a final sign of virtuosity, he allows the flat lighting of an overcast day to inform his pictures, requiring the most masterful variations of tone and colour to spell out the volumes in the absence of a more powerfully directional light source. Strong shade is reserved for the volumes close to their edge. It is a cue directly provided by photographs, but assimilated by a painter in full command of his own medium through decades of drawing.

Bouguereau is by no means alone in adapting the photographic information and lighting. Other masters like Gerôme and Leighton, Alma-Tadema and numerous others show the influence of photography in a late classical tradition, an influence which is scarcely ever narrated in standard texts.12 The reason for the neglect of this influence upon classical painting is that the Academy is framed by modernist art historians as fundamentally conservative, the archetype of the reactionary, the necessary antagonist of the avant garde, deeply entrenched in the habits of the past, resisting technical and iconographic progress, disavowing modernity and clutching to the discipline of drawing as the imitative basis of art. It is a grotesque distortion of the truth; for although the academic classicists remained attached to the discipline of drawing as the imitative basis of art—and very legitimately—they were by no means recreating Poussin’s vision or Le Brun’s vision from over a century earlier but were richly informed by the visuality of the industrial period. Their work is as much a faithful record of the values of the period as any avant-garde work.

Meanwhile, the famous cases of the influence of photography upon painting are the impressionists. The historical emphasis on the impressionists is understandable. Not only did artists like Degas, Manet, Monet, Morrisot, Pissarro and Renoir, absorb further elements of the new photographic visuality but their subject matter is accordingly contemporary. No Greeks or Romans walk their boulevards or haunt their gazebos; they are all Parisian citizens enjoying the leisure which their relatively privileged bourgeois occupations afford. For social historians, impressionist painting almost functions like photography, for it reveals what people did, how they dressed, how they related, how they paraded their children, how they interacted or adopted a certain abstracted day-dreaminess in a busy city location. The mood of a public bar or a back-stage chat among junior ballerinas is discovered and celebrated in a vivacious way that even exceeds the immediacy of photography.

The means by which the artists composed and applied their paint also owe much to photography. The famous habit of cropping a scene is perhaps the most striking. In Manet’s Boating of 1874, for example, the sail and gunwale of the little yacht are cut off by the edge of the painting; and all attention is drawn to the insouciant couple as they are lulled by the gentle movement in a kind of trance.13 You have a strong sense of the roving rectangle of the camera, looking from a fixed vantage point at a certain distance and seeking to fill up the available area with the optimum information. The integrity of the boat as either a form or a vessel is nigh irrelevant. The scene and the moment are ‘suspended’ in the arbitrary cutting of the frame, just as in a photograph. The same habit of composition can be seen in countless images by Degas and Monet and others, in which the form of a person or object is arbitrarily chopped off by the frame as either the person moves out of the frame or the object just happens to be sitting on the divide, in the manner of photography.

And just as photography records movement in a peculiar way—either catching movement ‘on the hop’ if the exposure is very rapid or blurring the object if the exposure is a little slower—so the paintings of the impressionists insinuate dash and scatter in the rendering of fleeting objects and people. The definition of things begins to fail. Objects and people are no longer circumscribed by a drawn delineation; they are registered as patches of colour which suggest the dynamism or elasticity of an object in movement rather than its exact volume. And even without movement, the painting allows its motifs to become indistinct on the basis that the eye does not really see a great deal of detail when it rapidly scans a scene from a distance. Testimony is found in the camera which has a limited depth of field and can only focus on objects within a certain range; and in any case, objects in the distance are weakened in their definition because of the foggy atmosphere. Painters often deliberately sought the disruption of architectonic definition by atmospheric muffling, as in Monet’s studies of the Gare St Lazare, in which the steam of the trains clouds the clarity of the calculated forms of industrial engineering.14

True to the new optical cues of photography, the impressionist painters were not interested in space as such. If there is space in the viewfinder (as in a street scene), it will be registered by the general laws of perspective; but no special expression of the spatial relationship between objects is possible. The field of the camera is objective in that sense; for the film simply registers the light, not the form. It has no understanding of volume but records the intensity of light in a wholly unprejudiced and undemonstrative way. The impressionists similarly conceived their paintings in a kind of grid of unaccented brushstrokes, each registering the intensity and colour of light at a certain point in the field. They do not demonstrate, as in the baroque tradition, how the form wraps around its outline or how the shadow feels its way across a table. Everything is seen in patches, unrelated, unbiased and mobile. Painters would actively renounce their previous appreciation of ‘building’ the volumes in the old tradition of drawing; the drawing-knowledge would only inhibit the equality of the pitter-patter in the chromatic registration of light. Of course, by the nature of figurative painting, various items are delineated by a drawing process; but the habit of assembling form does not comply with wilful sympathy for the form but places appropriate tones and colours with ‘optical disinterest’, that is, professing no special interest for the spatial character of the form per se. The impressionists by and large disliked mixing their colours on the canvas. They did not enjoy carving one colour into another. Each stroke was independent and consecutive, not negotiable and not informed by a notion of space.

And so impressionist painting takes on a certain stylistic autonomy from the spatial order of the world. The palette was no longer arranged to provide the stable tertiary mixtures suitable for tonal modelling but was renovated in what painters call a divided palette, that is, organized as separated, relatively unmixed contrasting constellations. The picture would reflect this in its rapidity of contrasts, frequently bouncing between complementary colours and acquiring a new and impressive radiance. The architecture of things is lost but a new rhapsodic lyricism is gained. Painters often went out of their way to find spaceless motifs in order to be able to hang their paint upon it without the interference of a powerful illusion. It is the case with Monet’s famous series of Rouen Cathedral or the Poplars.15 The bulk of things is dismissed in favour of an overall tremor of chromatic patches.

But while the gestural and compositional basis of impressionism owes its ‘optical disinterest’ to the new visuality of photography, the resulting two-dimensional skin of contrast and complementary sparkle is a purely painterly discovery quite unrelated to the uniform film of black-and-white photography. The expression of the medium itself had never been more acute. The slapping of dabs of paint on the canvas is demonstrative; the effects of contrasting colours are emphatic and the genius of the painting as a two-dimensional surface begins to assert its autonomy. All impressionist paintings are figurative—none is abstract—yet the window has frosted: the vista is vague and heady; the enthusiasm for defining things has fallen out of the retinal project and the vivacity of atmospheric and evocative paint overtakes the expectations of spatial definition in the long tradition of western picture-making. With impressionism, painting as an autonomous rhapsodic mark-making lullaby, in hedonistic search of a neutral but lyrical pretext, has arrived. The qualities of the picture plane (the surface that you could slap with the hand) have precedence over the perceptual calibre of the illusion. And it follows that the formal qualities of the picture plane also have precedence over any symbolic or narrative characteristics. Indeed, they are inconspicuous, receding to atmospheric evocations of a loose and general kind.

Whereas Symbolist artists were at that very time constructing elaborate ciphers of psychological conditions with profound spiritual ambitions, impressionist painters were content with the ambient dab, spreading general optical happiness over the leisure haunts of the middle classes. Between the high-minded social agenda of Realism and the awesome psychological inwardness of Symbolism, the art of the impressionists seems to many viewers rather light-weight, barely serious in its seduction by sweet paint and sweet subject matter. But this criticism ignores the sacramental disposition of the movement, its devotion to an optical consciousness which functions like a hallowed screen, filtering the chaotic visual information of the industrial world into an abstracted atmospheric charm. impressionist painting may well be hedonistic and can be denounced for lacking a critical ideological basis; but its contribution to the history of ideas is to translate the potentially destructive logic of photographic visuality (the roving rectangle with fuzzing and cropping and weak spatial expression) into a discipline of chromatic arguments proper to the autonomous painted surface itself. It finds a new ideal, the ideal of painting: through the practice of registering the independent quanta of light emanating from a motif, the prestigious independence of the painting itself is asserted. A merely mechanical impulse is translated into a high aesthetic, a zone of lyrical and contemplative absorption. Never was the transformation of the mechanical to the spiritual so seamless.

On a perceptual level, impressionism lacks ‘guts’ but its formal flatness is congruent with a major direction of modernism in design. Especially in the last decade of the nineteenth century, graphic design emerges with an extraordinary self-confidence and commitment to its own resources. The design of advertisements and posters for most of the nineteenth century had been based on bordered windows framing illusionistic images in a context of copy (the word designers use for printed text). In the stylishness of the fin de siècle, the architectonic separation of these elements seemed pompous, bookish, busy and unimaginative. Popular artists and designers like Toulouse Lautrec created a whole new visuality again, running copy over images, with extensive flat local colour in all motifs, so that the images read as signs, matching the flat elements of letter-forms which were crafted loosely by hand for greater agreement with the flamboyancy of the drawing. There was no architectonic sense of articulation of copy versus illustration by means of borders and so on but an organic marriage of all elements in a surface lyricism. Typically, in the case of Toulouse Lautrec, the rhapsodically freakish rhythms of the spontaneous design would support the concept being advertised, an entertainment event, a leg-show, a comic performance, extroverted, bizarre, hedonistic.16

The common source for the flatness of impressionism, graphic design and Symbolist painting and printmaking has sometimes been identified as Japanese prints, whose conventions did not contain the perspectival systems of western illustration. In the case of graphic design, the added factor of suitability for printing must be considered. In the case of impressionism, photography is also a factor. But in all cases, and particularly with Symbolism, the breach with the conventions of western illusionism was integral to a new claim for artistic freedom. Artists repudiated the systematic nature of illusionistic drawing; they disliked its submission to empirical reason and spatial order. They sought other pictorial effects: rhapsody in the case of impressionism, strikingness and eclat in the case of graphic design and inner clairvoyance in the case of Symbolism.

Symbolists are not united by a style. Some, like Gustave Moreau, had a pale academic manner; others, like Odilon Redon, seem to have deliberately weakened their drawing with incoherent combinations of bleeds, spidery lines and foul-biting; others again, like Paul Gauguin, engaged a radical language of flat local colour within cloisonnist outlines; and emotive distortion was engaged by artists like Edvard Munch. What they share is a spiritual quest to find icons of superior consciousness either in the supernatural or inner feeling and fantasy; they share a rejection of materialism and identify the impressionists with scientific positivism. The anti-empirical dimension of the movement was strongly advocated by theorists, such as Albert Aurier, who attacked the physical sciences as ‘bastards’ and sought art as a haven for the promotion of abstract ideas to the spiritual.17 And on the other hand, theorists who enjoyed Realism and impressionism considered Symbolism decadent, ‘a retrograde movement’, in the words of Emile Zola, the eloquent champion of Manet who could not relate to the Symbolist love of riddles and enigmas.18

But the Symbolists were anything but retrograde. They had little interest in physical realities such as sunshine or weekend resorts or boulevards; but more than the impressionists, they redefined the role of art toward the direction of modernism: they favoured a disembodied representation of rather spaceless presences, avoiding an assertive expression of the physicality of things and invoking instead a higher order of spiritual logic by means of mystical archetypes. And with the Symbolists, the archetype of the artist becomes self-consciously spiritual but in opposition to the institutional. The artist, like his or her subject matter, was alienated, able to identify neither with the power of capital nor its materialist Marxist critique. The artist became an ideologically neutral outsider, structurally committed to the celebration of unsettling fantasy, seductive evil, the bitter power of erotic compulsion, a whole arsenal of mortal anxieties, sadism and deadly women. The movement has been seen as misogynistic but it is more than that; it is misanthropic, able to entertain only those instincts which end in the ritual undoing of people.

In dealing with mortality, the Symbolists are interested in a death by neither noble causes (such as heroes suffer in tragedy) nor accidental causes. The undoing of the human has to conspire around a principle of exotic evil; the morbidness must be insidiously engraved in the psyche in order to have the appropriately aesthetic intonation. There have never been so many sphinxes (Moreau, Knopff), Salomes (Moreau, Lévy-Dhurmer, Beardsley, von Stuck), Sirens (Klimt), Medusas (Knopff) and personifications of Death (Redon, Munch, Böcklin, Gauguin, Rops), sinister love-making (Klinger, Munch) and Sin and Perversity (von Stuck, Delville). But perhaps the major Leitmotiv of the culture is inner transport, the dream which shuts out external awareness and proposes the fulfilment of inner meditation, the closed eyes of reverie or the trance-like stare of the hypnotized (Moreau, Delville, Redon, Gauguin and the early Mondrian). The abstracted eyes are the simplest common sign of transcendence; but it is a transport to the spiritual which renounces conventional religion as much as it denounces the materialism of the capitalist world. The vehicle for spiritual transport is the fantasy which brings up unconscious chimeras, perhaps archaic cultural archetypes from mythology, perhaps personal figments, in all events the part of the psyche least contained by reason and least explained by science or theology or any traditional academic discipline. The via regia to the unconscious for Symbolist artists is obsession. It is the culture from which Freud emerged in Vienna at the end of the nineteenth century, already publishing The Interpretation of Dreams (Die Traumdeutung) in 1900.

But the genius of Freud was to place such expressions of the unconscious in the framework of the dominant empirical materialism of science, to see psychological processes in a material economy of dynamic forces and energies.19 That is a whole further story. The symbolists did not go so far and would never have exchanged their artistic birthright—that priestly claim to spiritual clairvoyance—for a tough materialism which ultimately discredits the spiritual pretensions of art and religion. Apart from reservations by skeptics like Zola, Symbolist artists were positioned exactly where they wanted to be: the inheritors of the privilege of spiritual transcendence, proprietors of intimate and immediate contact with mythical archetypes, irresponsible songsters of obsession, prophets of terminal introversion, indulging in pessimism and the spectacle of evil with aesthetic relish.

More than any of the artistic movements of the nineteenth century, the Symbolists mark the critical stage in the subservience of the spiritual to the aesthetic which forms the egocentric basis of modernism. Symbolism is a movement which submits all institutional aspects of the spiritual—developed prehistorically in myth and encoded through liturgy and sacrifice—to personal fancy larded with an artistic rhetoric of inner depth. The aspirations for art to transcend this nasty material world and reach a plane of higher consciousness were undoubtedly genuine; and the vocation of art as an other worldliness and spiritual seduction was not normally professed in bad faith. But in the process of cultivating the higher symbolic levels, a conflation of spiritual powers was uncritically induced upon art; and the art whose aesthetic was not informed by a host of spiritual conceits seemed merely decorative or mechanical.

Ironically, the other-worldly aspirations of symbolism licenced a range of styles which were highly decorative, because suggesting the ether, the vaporous au delà, the vague depths; drawing was pursued for its rhythmic character rather than analysis; spaces dissolve and the discipline of constructing volumes flagged amid rhapsodic transports. Many visual clichés arose and were obviously regarded as very stylish. The other-worldly aspirations of symbolism also explain how colour came to be applied in arbitrary zones, achieving an almost autonomous presence as a single entity rather than an integral component of the perceptual description of a volume. Arbitrary colour—referred to later as the liberation of colour—was assigned to parts of an image because of the intrinsic symbolic value imputed to the colour; for the feeling among artists like Gauguin was that colour, by its own associations, could suggest concepts around a motif, hence adding both to the supposed symbolic argument and to the strange other-worldly appearance of the work.20

When the spiritual passes so inextricably into the aesthetic it gains a new inscrutability. Any claims can be made for the spiritual intentions and calibre of a work and they can never be referred to the authority of tradition; for symbols are used intuitively and there is no external authority for their correctness. Any reasoning is self-referential and contained in the work; but the work is contrived so as not to yield an obvious interpretation (for it is not structured upon a coherent vision shared by anyone beyond the artist) but to constitute a mystery. The intention, in fact, is to create mystery. Symbolism is not an art by which painters use symbols to denote qualities—as in the Renaissance—but to relish the enigmatic resonance of the symbols and archetypes which the semiotic patrimony leaves at their disposal.

The artist does not have a good idea of the meaning of the work; the spectator does not know what the work adds up to; but, as their common hope is to be seduced by mystery, the hermetic insularity of the project is very functional. It is better that the work is wholly ambiguous, for then it can be a receptacle for abstracted spirituality, that is, a spirituality without shared belief. The aesthetic of enigmas was the great commodity of the unauthorized spirituality of the end of the nineteenth century. In the severe face of materialism, poets and intellectuals wanted to believe in a spiritual dimension of existence; but the spiritual authorities of the past had lost persuasiveness and could not supply the necessary faith. The peregrine spirituality of the age had to be aestheticized and free; it could support nothing dogmatic but anything mysterious in its open-endedness. The picture which aims to seduce by invoking spiritual ghosts, not to bring them back to life but to subsume their archaic potency within a rhapsodic aesthetic, is the last sacrament of art in the nineteenth century. It sets up the structural paradigm of art in the age of modernism.


1     Exhibited in the Venice Biennale, 2005, of 30 minutes duration. The introductory paragraphs are grafted from my article “Brilliant Fantasy Worlds Capture Travesties in Motion” (Nelson 2007).

2     Gustave Courbet, Young Women From the Village, 1852, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

3     See the catalogue entry by Childs (1999, 25–33), a lucid survey of the begrudging and other attitudes to photography amongst painters and artists from the year 1839 (when the new medium of photography was made accessible to the public), and through the nineteenth century.

4     Oscar Rejlander, The Two Ways of Life, 1857, albumen print, George Eastman House, Rochester, NY. For an excellent technical account of Rejlander’s combination print, and the allegorical content of the resultant tableau, see Crawford (1979, 53–56).

5     Personal communication from my friend and colleague at Monash University, Geoffrey Dupree.

6     See the account of Nadar’s achievement that links his documentary photographs of Paris with the modernity’s cults of the city and of death, in Rice (1988, 156–171).

7     Julia Margaret Cameron, Alfred Tennyson, 1865, albumen print, Overstone Album, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. For the range and variety of Cameron’s portrait studies of Tennyson, see Cox and Ford (2003, 354–358). Amongst the artist’s male subjects, the portrait painter George Frederic Watts and the poet laureate “are in many ways Cameron’s most important sitters” (291).

8     Julia Margaret Cameron, Blessing and Blessed, 1865, albumen print, Overstone Album, J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles.

9     On the concept and cult of childhood as rendered in the photographs of Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson), see Nickel (2002, 55–72). Produced to a high quality, this exhibition catalogue includes individual commentaries for each of the plates reproduced.

10    Certainly this distinction regarding the status of the model is also a matter of the frame and context bestowed on the image. From an art-historical perspective, see, for example, Garb (1998, 54–79), whose study was well attuned to ways in which the photographs in the early twentieth-century French monthly La Culture Physique, and other magazines, could simultaneously serve those formal, aesthetic purposes associated with academic art, and a wider audience for erotic nude photography. See also McCauley (1994, 105–194).

11    For an overview of Bouguereau’s career, see the catalogue of the important Bouguereau exhibition of 1984–1985 organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Art (d’Argencourt et al. 1984).

12    On Alma-Tadema’s extensive photographic archive, see Pohlmann (1996, 111–124). As well demonstrated by this catalogue, more recently, art museums themselves have helped to motivate a serious re-appraisal of nineteenth-century classical painters and their vast bodies of work.

13    Édouard Manet, Boating, 1874, oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

14    See J. Wilson-Bareau, Manet, Monet, and the Gare Saint-Lazare (Washington and New Haven, 1998).

15    Claude Monet painted over thirty canvases of the façade of Rouen Cathedral during the 1890s. The following examples all pertain to the collection of the Musée d’Orsay, Paris: The Portal (Grey Weather), 1894, oil on canvas; Rouen Cathedral (The Portal and the Tour d’Albane, Morning Effect), 1894, oil on canvas; Rouen Cathedral (The Portal, Harmony in Blue), 1894, oil on canvas; Rouen Cathedral (The Portal and the Tour d’Albane in the Sunlight), 1894, oil on canvas.

16    Bunbury (2004, 35–39) gives a compact discussion of the Parisian cafés-concerts ‘scene’ as stimulus to Toulouse-Lautrec’s style, in the exhibition catalogue From Paris With Love: The Graphic Arts in France 1880s–1950s.

17    A nuanced characterization of attitudes and trends in late nineteenth-century symbolist art criticism can be found in Marlais (1992).

18    Emile Zola’s essay “Une nouvelle manière en peinture: Edouard Manet,” was first published in the Revue du dix-neuvième siècle on January 1, 1867. For an analysis of this text, and of its role in shaping subsequent art historical treatments of Manet’s modernism, see Armstrong (2002, 31–47).

19    See Gamwell (2000, 13–25). This exhibition and book project on the realm of dreams as a source for twentieth-century science and art was undertaken to commemorate the centennial of the publication of Freud’s now classic work.

20    The French painter, designer, and writer Maurice Denis theorized the Symbolist movement in its own day; in 1890 he published an article that became a manifesto for Symbolism. It opened with the following resonant claim: “Remember that a painting—before being a charger, a nude woman, or one anecdote or another—is essentially a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order.” See Clement (1996, 443–444, 471).


d’Argencourt, L., in collaboration with Walker, M. S. 1984. William Bouguereau, 1825–1905. Montreal: Montreal Museum Of Fine Arts. [Exhibition catalogue.]

Armstrong, C. 2002. “A New Manner in Painting: Emile Zola on Manet”. In Manet Manette. New Haven: Yale University Press. 31–47.

Bunbury, A. 2004. From Paris With Love: The Graphic Arts in France 1880s–1950s. Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria. [Exhibition catalogue.]

Childs, E. C. 1999. “The Photographic Muse”. In The Artist and the Camera- Degas to Picasso, edited by Kosinski, D. New Haven: Yale University Press. 25–33. [Exhibition catalogue.]

Clement, R. T. 1996. Four French Symbolists: A Sourcebook on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Maurice Denis. Art Reference Collection 20. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Cox J.; Ford, C. 2003. Julia Margaret Cameron: The Complete Photographs. Los Angeles: Getty Trust Publications, J. Paul Getty Museum.

Crawford, W. 1979. The Keepers of Light; A History and Working Guide to Early Photographic Processes. Dobbs Ferry, New York: Morgan and Morgan.

Gamwell, L., ed. 2000. Dreams 1900–2000: Science, Art, and the Unconscious Mind. Cornell Studies in the History of Psychiatry. Binghamton: Cornell University Press.

Garb, T. 1998. “Modelling the Male Body: Physical Culture, Photography and the Classical Ideal”. In Bodies of Modernity: Figure and Flesh in Fin-de-Siècle France. London: Thames & Hudson Ltd. 54–79.

McCauley, E. A. 1994. “Braquehais and the Photographic Nude”. In Industrial Madness: Commercial Photography in Paris, 1848–1871. New Haven: Yale University Press. 105–194.

Marlais, M. A. 1992. Conservative Echoes in Fin-de-Siècle Parisian Art Criticism. University Park, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press.

Nelson, R. 2007. “Brilliant Fantasy Worlds Capture Travesties in Motion”. The Age. 30 May, p. 17.

Nickel, D. R. 2002. “Ducks That Lie in Tempests”. In Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll. New Haven: Yale University Press. 55–72.

Pohlmann, U. 1996. “Alma-Tadema and Photography”. In Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema 1836–1912, edited by Becker E., et al. New York: Rizzoli. 111–124.

Rice, S. 1988. “Souvenirs”. Art in America 76: 156–171.

Zola, E. 1867. “Une nouvelle manière en peinture: Edouard Manet”. Revue du dix-neuvième siècle, 1 January.

Cite this chapter as: Nelson, Robert. 2007. ‘Mechanical reproduction’. The Spirit of Secular Art: A History of the Sacramental Roots of Contemporary Artistic Values. Melbourne: Monash University ePress. pp. 7.17.17.

The Spirit of Secular Art

   by Robert Nelson