Module Details

AR206-5-FY-CO: Picturing Paris: The Capital Of The Nineteenth Century

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Year: 2017/18
Department: Art History and Theory
Essex credit: 30
ECTS credit: 15
Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students: Yes
Full Year Module Available to Study Abroad / Exchange Students for a Single Term: Yes
Outside Option: Yes

Supervisor: Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gomez
Teaching Staff: Natasha Ruiz-Gómez
Contact details: Jan Butler, Second and Final Year Administrator email:

Module is taught during the following terms
Autumn Spring Summer

Module Description

Module Outline (updated September 2014)

Between the Revolution and the Second World War, Paris emerged as the most influential progenitor of modern cultural ideas in the West. This module provides an introduction to the material culture of nineteenth-century Paris which, in the words of the German cultural critic Walter Benjamin, was simply THE capital of the nineteenth century. We will explore the construction of Paris as the quintessentially modern city, the material realities as well as the representations and rich mythologies that prevail. We will roam the streets, salons and cafés and encounter the people who lived there. We will consider the invention of the flâneur, discuss whether the flâneuse also roamed the boulevards, and examine the practices of the avant-garde. We will explore the massive urban transformations that took place and new building types that emerged, such as the arcades, railway stations and department stores, while carefully considering the ways in which the physical reconfiguration of Paris was inextricably bound to its intellectual and artistic life. We will scrutinise paintings, sculptures and buildings, as well as popular prints and the brand-new medium of photography. Throughout the module, we will ask what made Paris modern and revolutionary and how successful have the myriad attempts been to picture and write the legendary capital of modernity. In short, the module will seek to examine how Paris became the cultural hub of the West during this 150-year period.

The aims of this module are:

to provide students with a grounding in French urban material culture of the late eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries;
to elucidate the role of art and architecture in the formation of urban identity;
to develop skills of visual and conceptual analysis for concepts of considerable critical difficulty;
to encourage debate about the place of art and architecture in society.

Learning and Teaching Methods

20 x 2 hour seminars. Weeks 8 and 21 are Reading Weeks. Revision in summer term.

2 x Gallery visit


50 per cent Coursework Mark, 50 per cent Exam Mark


Two essays of 4000 words each, counting equally towards the final coursework mark. (see School Undergraduate Handbook and full module description on ORB from September for further details).

Exam Duration and Period

3:00 during Summer Examination period.

Other information

This module is also suitable for EU Studies students.


  • Brief bibliography (updated March 2014)
  • Baudelaire, Charles, Art in Paris, 1845-1862: salons and other exhibitions, translated and edited by Jonathan Mayne, 2nd ed., Oxford, : Phaidon, 1981
  • Benjamin, Walter, The Arcades Project, Cambridge, Mass., : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1999.
  • Clark, T. J., The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the art of Manet and his followers, rev. ed., London, : Thames & Hudson, 1999.
  • Clayson, Hollis, Paris in despair : art and everyday life under siege, 1870-71, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.
  • Harvey, David, Paris: capital of modernity, New York: Routledge, 2006.
  • Rice, Shelley, Parisian views, Cambridge, Mass., : MIT Press, c1997.

Further information