IAS Book Launch: Consuming Painting

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Allison Deutsch (Birkbeck). Respondents: Mechthild Fend (Goethe Universität Frankfurt) & Richard Taws (UCL). Chair: Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen.

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We are delighted to welcome Allison Deutsch (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, History of Art, Birkbeck) for the launch of her book Consuming Painting: Food and the Feminine in Impressionist Paris. Mechthild Fend (History of Art, Goethe Universität Frankfurt) and Richard Taws (History of Art, UCL) will provide responses.

In Consuming Painting, Allison Deutsch challenges the pervasive view that Impressionism was above all about visual experience. Focusing on the language of food and consumption as it was used by such prominent critics as Baudelaire and Zola, she writes new histories for familiar works by Manet, Monet, Caillebotte and Pissarro and creates fresh possibilities for experiencing and interpreting them.

Examining the culinary metaphors that the most influential critics used to express their attraction or disgust toward painting, Deutsch rethinks French modern-life painting in relation to the visceral reactions that these works evoked in their earliest publics. Writers posed viewing as analogous to ingestion and used comparisons to food to describe the appearance of paint and the painter’s process. The food metaphors they chose were aligned with specific female types, such as red meat for sexualised female flesh, confections for fashionably made-up women, and hearty vegetables for agricultural labourers. These culinary figures of speech, Deutsch argues, provide important insights into both the fabrication of the feminine and the construction of masculinity in nineteenth-century France. Consuming Painting exposes the social politics at stake in the deeply gendered metaphors of sense and sensation.

Please find Allison Deutsch’s book here.

Names of Participants: Allison Deutsch, Richard Taws, Mechthild Fend

Mechthild Fend has taken on a Chair in History of Art at Goethe Universität Frankfurt after teaching at UCL for fourteen years. She specialises in French eighteenth- and nineteenth-century art. Her most recent monograph is Fleshing out Surfaces. Skin in French Art and Medicine, 1650-1850 (2017) and she is currently working on a book project on The Pathological Image.

Richard Taws is Reader in the History of Art Department at UCL. He is the author of The Politics of the Provisional: Art and Ephemera in Revolutionary France (Penn State University Press, 2013), and has written widely on 18th- and 19th-century French visual culture. He is currently completing a book about art and telegraphy in the nineteenth century. Time, Media, and Visuality in Post-Revolutionary France, edited with Iris Moon, will be published by Bloomsbury in July.

Allison Deutsch is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow in the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London. A specialist in nineteenth-century French painting, she received her BA from Williams College and her PhD from University College London. Prior to joining Birkbeck, she held a Junior Research Fellowship at UCL’s Institute of Advanced Studies, where she completed the manuscript for Consuming Painting: Food and the Feminine in Impressionist Paris (Penn State University Press, 2021).

All welcome. Link to join the event will be sent one hour before the event.

This talk forms part of the IAS five-year anniversary festival on the theme of ‘Alternative Epistemologies’.

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