What We Are Reading Today: Restoration by Thomas Crow

Updated 28 October 2018
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What We Are Reading Today: Restoration by Thomas Crow

  • Thomas Crow examines how artists of this period faced dramatic circumstances, from political condemnation and difficult diplomatic missions to a catastrophic episode of climate change

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.


What We Are Reading Today: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman

Updated 21 April 2019
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What We Are Reading Today: Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe by Sheri Berman

In Democracy and Dictatorship in Europe, Sheri Berman traces the long history of democracy in its cradle, Europe. 

In her study of European political development over more than 200 years, Berman, a professor of political science at Barnard, shows that the story of democracy in Europe is complicated. 

“The ultimate goal, she believes, is liberal democracy, with elections, respect for the rule of law, individual liberties and minority rights. But that is a rare, and hard-won, achievement. A step forward is often followed by a step back,”  said Max Strasser in a review published in The New York Times.

“This may seem a bit obvious to anyone familiar with the broad outlines of European history, but Berman makes the case clearly and convincingly. Moreover, at a moment when hyperventilating over the decline of democracy has grown into a veritable intellectual industry, her long-view approach comes across as appealingly sober,” Strasser added.