This thesis presents an analysis of the way in which northern French cathedrals
were represented and understood by artists between 1870 and 1914. The period
chosen is of particular interest because of its agitated religious and political context,
making a Catholic building such as a cathedral an embodiment of the struggles
between church and state under the Third Republic.
The issues dealt with in this thesis start with the role played by the representation
of French cathedrals in the context of the Annee Terrible of 1870-1871. The analysis
of a number of representations from varied sources demonstrates the importance of
the notion of nationalism when considering the cathedrals between the FrancoPrussian War and the beginning of World War One. This issue of nationalism is dealt
with further with educational material on cathedrals used during the Third Republic.
The religious and spiritual side of the cathedral is examined through a range of
visual documents presenting images from Catholic painters as well as through the
connection established between the Church and the State during the Ralliement.
A specific focus is given to painters Camille Pissarro and Maximilien Luce,
whose representations of cathedrals need to be assessed in terms of their strong
anarchist views. This examination demonstrates how anarchism and religious
buildings such as cathedrals could work together in images towards the promotion of
the anarchist ideal.
Two case studies also allow for a greater depth of understanding of the messages
carried by cathedrals between 1870 and 1914. Many artists represented the cathedral
churches of Rouen and Paris, and an analysis of these images brings out the range of
ideas which can be associated with cathedrals in the visual arts.
The French cathedral was an essential figure of the visual arts between 1870 and
1914 because of its power of suggestion. It was in turn a Catholic church, a
nationalist emblem, an anarchist symbol, and a motif utilised by artists to experiment
with new pictorial ideas. Between 1870 and 1914 it took on significant new artistic
and political dimensions.