The Industrial Revolution: Changing Art and the Economy in Nineteenth Century France



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The industrial revolution marked the beginning of modern society. It allowed for more efficiency in production, greater output, and general economic growth. But industrialization affected a number of industries, and among them was the art industry. Artists benefited from mass production with the invention of portable paint tubes, which allowed them to take their craft outside of their studio, and ultimately provided the opportunity for artists to depict different subject matters in their work–a departure from the neoclassical style. Given the timing of the evolution of art supplies and the shift in artistic subject matter, I wondered whether the economic effects of France’s industrial revolution were able to influence art. In order to understand how depicted subject matter changed, I turned to the Paris Salon catalogs that recorded the artwork exhibited throughout 19th century Paris. I digitized the 1865 Paris Salon catalog and compiled it with categorizations made by Jon Whiteley and digitized by Diana Greenwald. I recorded the artist’s name, gender, and birthplace, along with their Salon entry number, the title of the painting, and who the artist apprenticed to, if applicable. From there I divided the artists by birthplace into two groups: Parisians and non-Parisians, to determine if artists born in Paris, who were exposed to more urbanization and modernity, chose to paint more urban or rural scenes in art. This project takes an economic approach to examine how industrialization influenced art. More specifically, I focus on the question of how the subject matter being depicted in the 1865 Paris Salon exhibition was impacted by the industrial revolution. Were Parisian artists able to paint more rural or urban scenes? Is it possible industrialization influenced the scenes painters depict? My argument is deeply rooted in economic history, the art history data I have collected, and the intersection between the two. The interdisciplinary work has been a phenomenal exploration of combining quantitative and creative disciplines to determine how the art world hinges on the economy and its developments.