From civic to ethnic classicism: the cult of the Greek body in late nineteenth-century French society and art

Leoussi, Athena
December 2009
International Journal of the Classical Tradition;Dec2009, Vol. 16 Issue 3/4, p393
Academic Journal
The ancient Greek cult of the body became the focus of a classical revival in France during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Classical civilisation, whose gravitational centre was perceived, during the 1880s, as the perfection of the body in a Mediterranean climate, was re-claimed in France as a French "golden age", an inheritance from Greek ancestors. This ethno-classicism which called for national regeneration through return to the "authentic" French self and its Mediterranean home, was combined with a Catholic revival under conditions of military defeat. The essay sets the work of Cézanne and Renoir in the context of the two revivals, classical and Catholic, and shows the ways in which their "classicism" gave Impressionism order and solidity and re-moulded the modern body into a strong, healthy, and, at the same time, pious body.


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