Fighting for the page : Balzac, Grandville and the power of images, 1830-1848
MetadataShow full item record
The July Monarchy witnessed an influx of images, as improvements in printing and engraving and the introduction of lithography facilitated the production and combination of images and text. Used as a marketing and a pedagogical tool for the growing literate population, the image permeated the press, literature, advertising, schoolbooks and shop windows, destabilizing the historic hegemony of the word. Indeed, writers now found themselves sharing both the market and the pages of their novels with illustrators and caricaturists. Representative of this shift, Honoré de Balzac lamented the popularity of illustrated books, denigrating J. J. Grandville’s Les Scènes de la vie privée et publique des animaux (1840-1842) as a visual bêtise. Yet, as the author notes, Les Animaux sold a reported 25,000 copies, making it one of the bestsellers of the 1840s. Grandville’s work and Balzac’s dismissal testify to illustration’s market stronghold and the ensuing rivalry between writer and illustrator. Drawing on the theoretical work of Pierre Bourdieu, this dissertation examines the collaboration and competition between Balzac and Grandville, investigating their commentary on the role of word, image, writer and illustrator in terms of the larger economic and aesthetic struggles within the nineteenthcentury field of cultural production. Chapter 1 reads the artists’ early works against the backdrop of the popularization of the press and the book. Chapter 2 looks at Balzac’s reviews of Grandville and their joint portrait of le rentier in Les Français peints par eux-mêmes (1840-1842), outlining the writer’s competition with caricature. Chapter 3 pairs Les Animaux with Balzac’s nascent La Comédie humaine (1842-1848), charting Grandville’s revision of the rules of illustration and Balzac’s own text. Chapter 4 reviews the first edition of La Comédie humaine, focusing on its illustration and Balzac’s fictional caricaturist-illustrator as dual means to contain the artist and the image within the author’s framework. Concluding with Grandville’s Un Autre monde (1844), Chapter 5 explores the artist’s break with illustration and his efforts to establish a hybrid visual-verbal language that defies the period’s aesthetic boundaries. Throughout the analysis, Balzac and Grandville serve as paradigmatic examples of writer and illustrator and the emerging power of images.