"The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt" by John Barrell

The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt "The Body of the Politic" John Barrell

Publication date:
26 Apr 1995
Yale University Press
378 pages: 241 x 159mm
26 b-w illus.


What is the function of painting in a commercial society?  John Barrell discusses how British artists and writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, William Blake, and James Barry attempted to answer this question. His provocative and illuminating book offers a new perspective on both art criticism and eighteenth-century British culture.

"A fine example of the new left-wing art history, which is bound to set the cat among the Walpolean pigeons."?Andrew Graham-Dixon, Listener             

"A learned book, and the issues it raises are still very much with us."?Marina Warner, Independent

"The most weighty contribution to scholarship Barrell has yet produced. Whether or not one accepts his detailed arguments, or relishes his attempts to link Reynolds, Barry, Blake, Fuseli and Hazlitt as participants in a shared debate on the public function of art, the work undeniably constitutes a major re-appraisal of these critics. Barrell has excavated the subtextual geology of implication in their work to deeper levels than any previous commentator, and has pursued their ideas more fully and perniciously."?Pat Rogers, Times Literary Supplement

"This is a book that will generously enable other discussions and other topics by virtue of its own precise, striking and enlightening singlemindedness."?John Dixon Hunt, Times Higher Education Supplement

"A major contribution to the study of British aesthetic of the period."?Choice

"A major contribution to studies in art theory and to the relationship of art theory and society."?John Sunderland, British Book News

"I have learned as much from this book as from any work of art history I know."?Thomas Crow, London Review of Books

"John Barrell has paid five painters (Reynolds, Barry, Fuseli, Haydon and Blake) the compliment of taking their writings on the theory of art seriously."?Peter Campbell, New Society

"For anyone interested in every turn and twist of thought in the discourse of Reynolds, Barry, and Fuseli this book will make the sociopolitical dimension of Royal Academy thought, as opposed to practice . . . very clear."?Ronald Paulson, New Republic

"[This] cogently argued dissertation is both illuminating, and strangely timely. It is a clearly written work, its prose limpid and unconvoluted."?Bernard Denvir, Artist

"Brilliant, original, and strongly argued. . . . the book is an extraordinary achievement, and I doubt we will read eighteenth-century art criticism in the same way any longer."?Robert Folkenflik, Studies in English Literature

"The Political Theory of Painting from Reynolds to Hazlitt represents the most important contribution that John Barrell has yet made to the study of the history of British art."?David H. Solkin, Burlington Magazine

"A learned book, and the issues it raises are still very much with us."?Marina Warner, Independent

"It is one of the virtues of Barrell's book that it lays before us a body of material that, once seen, seems always to have been there."?Eighteenth-Century Studies <!--no reviews given on copy but page of review may be missing--> "Barrell offers his audience an analysis of eighteenth-century art theory as it was set within the landscape of contemporary political theory. Traversing the two fields of academic study, art history and political theory, is an ambitious project. . . . Barrell's combination of these two fields of knowledge and scholarship creates the possibility of perceiving the eighteenth-century anew. . . . His text breaks new ground."?Pamela Divinsky, Oxford Art Journal