Another Way to Consider Absorption: Anxiety about Domesticity in the Salon Paintings of Chardin and Greuze
Andrew, Amara K
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This thesis investigates the contemporary social issues that contributed to the proliferation of the absorptive theme discussed by Michael Fried in Absorption and Theatricality. Fried’s focus upon Diderot’s Salon critiques as the central manner in understanding absorption in the works of Greuze and Chardin created between 1730 and 1770 provides a singular viewpoint into the otherwise rich and complicated social history of these paintings. As religion and the monarchy were no longer looked upon to fulfill the needs of a culturally acceptable source of morality in an evolving France, both English and French philosophers, like Locke and Rousseau, sought to create the new social contract. The sentimental family functioned both ideologically and realistically as the new model for social cohesion. In their respective works, Sarah Maza and Carol Duncan propose alternative reasons as to why the theme of the woman or family within a domestic interior existed and proliferated in eighteenth-century French painting. As a majority of the paintings of Greuze and Chardin display absorption in relation to women and the sentimental family within a domestic interior, contemporary social issues and the anxieties attached to them should be considered including: the cultural emphasis on the family; ideologies regarding the necessity of sentimentality and morality in society in relation to women; and the metamorphosis of the domestic interior from a shared, public space to one of privacy and intimacy.