Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

ART_HIST_101: First-year Seminar: Art & the French Revolution, 1789-1815 (Winter 23: Dowad)

Subject Specialist

Profile Photo
Cara List
Art Collection
Deering Library, 3rd Floor
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL 60208

Art Library Assistant

Perry Nigro

Drop-in Office Hours:
Monday 1-2PM  Kresge Cafe
Wednesday 2-3PM  Kresge Cafe


Course Description

The French Revolution is widely considered one of the triumphant origins of modern liberal democracy, epitomized by its famous motto: “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity.” However, the realities are far more complex (and far less idealistic). The French Republic confronted crisis after crisis as it struggled to integrate the working classes, women, immigrants, and racial and religious minorities into the body politic. France’s colonies and the hundreds of thousands of slaves whose labor secured French wealth posed additional challenges to the Revolution’s utopian project, ultimately paving the way for the expansion of French imperialism under Napoleon Bonaparte.
This first-year seminar examines the significant roles played by art and architecture in producing French citizens and representing Revolutionary values. In addition to canonical artists and architects of the period, such as Jacques-Louis David, Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, and Étienne-Louis Boullée, this course also examines popular visual and material culture, including political cartoons, festivals, and costumes. Students will learn how to describe and analyze a wide range of cultural objects, and apply those skills to understand how artworks can intervene in revolutionary conditions to shape political and social realities.

Jacques Louis David
Death of Marat
63 3/4 x 49 in
Musée Royaux des Beaux-Arts, Brussels