As the French empire collapsed between 1812 and 1815, artists throughout Europe were left uncertain and adrift. The final abdication of Emperor Napoleon, clearing the way for a restored monarchy, profoundly unsettled prevailing national, religious, and social boundaries. In Restoration, Thomas Crow combines a sweeping view of European art centers — Rome, Paris, London, Madrid, Brussels, and Vienna — with a close-up look at pivotal artists, including Antonio Canova, Jacques-Louis David, Théodore Géricault, Francisco Goya, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, Thomas Lawrence, and forgotten but meteoric painters François-Joseph Navez and Antoine Jean-Baptiste Thomas.
Whether directly or indirectly, all were joined in a newly international network, from which changing artistic priorities and possibilities emerged out of the ruins of the old.
Crow examines how artists of this period faced dramatic circumstances, from political condemnation and difficult diplomatic missions to a catastrophic episode of climate change.
Navigating ever-changing pressures, they invented creative ways of incorporating critical events and significant historical actors into fresh artistic works. Crow discusses, among many topics, David’s art and influence during exile, Géricault’s odyssey through outcast Rome and Ingres’s drive to reconcile religious art with contemporary mentalities, the titled victors over Napoleon all sitting for portraits by Lawrence, and the campaign to restore art objects expropriated by the French from Italy, prefiguring the restitution controversies of our own time.