AN EVANSTON LITERARY FESTIVAL EVENT
"The City of Light." For many, these four words instantly conjure late 19th-century Paris and the garish colors of Toulouse-Lautrec’s iconic posters, or the Eiffel Tower’s nightly show of sparkling electric lights that has now come to exemplify our fantasies of Parisian nightlife. Though we reflect longingly on such scenes, in Illuminated Paris, Hollis Clayson shows that there’s more to these clichés than meets the eye. In this richly illustrated book, she traces the dramatic evolution of lighting in Paris and how artists responded to the shifting visual and cultural scenes that resulted from these technologies, revealing turn-of-the-century concerns about modernization, as electric lighting came to represent the harsh glare of rapidly accelerating social change. At the same time, in part thanks to American artists visiting the city, these works of art also produced our enduring romantic view of Parisian glamour and its Belle Époque.
Hollis (Holly) Clayson, Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern, is a historian of modern art who specializes in 19th-century Europe, especially France, and transatlantic exchanges between France and the U.S. Her books include,Painted Love: Prostitution in French Art of the Impressionist Era, and Paris in Despair: Art and Everyday Life Under Siege (1870-71), as well as a co-edited book (with André Dombrowski), Is Paris Still the Capital of the Nineteenth Century? Essays on Art and Modernity, 1850-1900.