Staging the Artist: Performance and the Self-Portrait from Realism to Expressionism

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Restoring the role of theatrical performance as both subject and trope in the aesthetics of self-representation, Staging the Artist questions how nineteenth-century French and Belgian artists self-consciously fashioned their identities through their art and writings. This emphasis on performance allows for a new understanding of the processes of self-fashioning which underlie self-representation in word and image. Claire Moran offers new interpretations of works by major nineteenth-century figures such as Paul Gauguin and Edgar Degas, and addresses the neglected topic of the function of theatre in the development of modern visual art. Incarnating Baudelaire's metaphor of the artist as an actor ever-conscious of his role, the artists discussed "Courbet, Ensor and Van Gogh, among others" employed theatre as both a thematic source and formal inspiration in their painting, writings and social behaviour. Moran argues that what renders this visual, literary and social performance modern is its self-consciousness, which in turn serves as a model with which to challenge pictorial convention. This book suggests that tracing modern performance and artistic identity to the nineteenth century provides a greater understanding not only of the significance of theatre in the development of modern art, but also highlights the self-conscious staging inherent to modern artistic identity.
Review (2018) in NCFS by Caroline Ferraris-Besso, Gettysburg College: 'In Staging the Artist: Performance and the Self-Portrait from Realism to Impressionism, Moran marshals less studied materials, such as letters or Gauguin’s memoirs, Avant et après. Juxtaposing them with careful analyses of a great number of paintings and images, she demonstrates not only the keen eye of an art historian, but also admirable close reading skills. At the onset of her convincingly argued and well-illustrated study, Moran aptly uses the term “visual autofiction” (17) to qualify some of the works by Courbet, Gauguin, and Ensor she studies. Staging the Artist will therefore appeal to a variety of scholars, in particular those interested in autobiography studies and those concerned with visual culture, from the nineteenth to the twentieth-first century where the aftermath of the self-staging initiated by those three painters continues to be felt more than ever.'
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages192
ISBN (Print)978-1-4094-2775-9
Publication statusPublished - 15 Dec 2016


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