David to Delacroix

The Rise of Romantic Mythology

By Dorothy Johnson

260 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 color and 100 b&w illus. , notes, bibl., index

  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-0-8078-7775-3
    Published: February 2011
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-8353-7
    Published: February 2011

Bettie Allison Rand Lectures in Art History

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Awards & distinctions

A 2011 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

In this beautifully illustrated study of intellectual and art history, Dorothy Johnson explores the representation of classical myths by renowned French artists in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, demonstrating the extraordinary influence of the natural sciences and psychology on artistic depiction of myth.

Highlighting the work of major painters such as David, Girodet, Gérard, Ingres, and Delacroix and sculptors such as Houdon and Pajou, David to Delacroix reveals how these artists offered innovative reinterpretations of myth while incorporating contemporaneous and revolutionary discoveries in the disciplines of anatomy, biology, physiology, psychology, and medicine. The interplay among these disciplines, Johnson argues, led to a reexamination by visual artists of the historical and intellectual structures of myth, its social and psychological dimensions, and its construction as a vital means of understanding the self and the individual's role in society. This confluence is studied in depth for the first time here, and each chapter includes rich examples chosen from the vast number of mythological representations of the period. While focused on mythical subjects, French Romantic artists, Johnson argues, were creating increasingly modern modes of interpreting and meditating on culture and the human condition.

About the Author

Dorothy Johnson is Roy J. Carver Professor of Art History at the University of Iowa.
For more information about Dorothy Johnson, visit the Author Page.


“This book is well-written and sheds new light on the subject of mythology in French Romantic art.”--Art-Libraries Society of North America

“A superb contribution. Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through researchers/faculty.” --Choice

“A stimulating and enjoyable experience.”--European Review of History

"Delivers a persuasive invitation to scholars to revisit late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century mythological art, a corpus of material too often neglected."--Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide

"This well-written book of outstanding scholarship will be a major contribution to early modern art history and of deep interest to a wide variety of historians and humanists. It is deeply researched, profoundly well considered, and cogently argued."--Christopher M. S. Johns, Vanderbilt University

"This impressively documented, interdisciplinary work will be an invaluable introduction to late eighteenth-century and early nineteenth-century art. Dorothy Johnson explains with eloquence, insight, and lucidity why mythological art was placed at the top of the genre hierarchy, and she sets its aesthetic and intellectual achievements into the context of the natural sciences and psychology as well as literature, archaeology, and historiography."--Beth S. Wright, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Delacroix