My dissertation, tentatively titled ‘The bleus and the blancs: Political Division, Compromise, and the French Revolution at the 1889 Exposition Universelle’, explores the revolutionary-themed paintings on display in the Decennial exhibition celebrating the past decade of art against the backdrop of a tense political election. The event, a spectacle heralding France’s "progress,” was criticized at the time on the left for insufficiently celebrating the legacy of French Revolution. This paper is a portion of my chapter on royalism at the 1889 Decennial art exhibition at the world’s fair, focused on the martyr cult of the western French royalist leader, Charette. Nearly one hundred years after his execution, he appeared at the Decennial in the form of Julien Le Blant’s acclaimed 1883 painting The Execution of Charette. This painting provides a case-study for thinking about the political mobilization of past trauma. A 1969 interview with Charette’s descendants who owned the painting was aptly subtitled “In the west of traditions, 1793 was yesterday” and it speaks to simmering resentment against the political descendants of the Revolution with modern repercussions. With this paper, I analyze paintings aligned with royalist ideology to probe the legacy of the French founding myth of the Revolution and the modern relevance of the politics of memory.
Keywords: royalism, Charette, French revolution, 1889 Exposition Universelle, Julien Le Blant