Imitating the Inimitable: The Afterlife of Michelangelo Buonarroti in French Romantic Painting
Allan Doyle received his PhD in Art History from Princeton University in 2016. He is a specialist in modern European art and has published on topics ranging from early nineteenth-century French painting, to contemporary photography. His research has been supported by fellowships from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Mellon Foundation, and the Social Sciences Research Council of Canada. His work has appeared in publications from the Getty Research Institute and the University of Dartmouth Press.
Taking Eugène Delacroix’s 1837 declaration of Michelangelo to be the “father of modern art” seriously, “Imitating the Inimitable: The Afterlife of Michelangelo Buonarroti in French Romantic Painting,” examines the use of the Florentine master as an archetypal model of the modern artist. During the nineteenth century, Michelangelo was used by a network of critics, administrators, and artists to embody the irreconcilable demands of tradition, on the one hand, and a new market-driven taste for originality, on the other. It was precisely his vexed relation to tradition that allowed the artist to signify both the continuity guaranteed by the emulation of old masters and the interruptive force of market-driven novelty demanded of the modern artist. Examining his paradoxical status within aesthetic discourse, this analysis of Michelangelo’s Romantic afterlife reconstructs the ways in which he simultaneously functioned as an object of both identification and disavowal for French artists such as Horace Vernet, Jean-Dominique Ingres, and Jean-Léon Gérôme.