New Book | The Silhouette

Posted in books by Editor on September 25, 2016

From Bloomsbury:

Georges Vigarello, The Silhouette: From the 18th Century to the Present Day, translated by Augusta Dorr (London: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2016), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-1474244657, £30 / $45.

9781474244657From bone-crushing corsets to modern ‘slimming’ creams, our preoccupation with the silhouette has shaped centuries of fashion and culture. The contours of the body can convey everything from physical health and beauty to social class—and both men and women have long sought to mold and reshape them, often with alarming and even dangerous results.

Tracing the history of the silhouette from its birth in 18th-century portrait sketches, this engrossing book takes the reader on a journey through 250 years of a cultural obsession. From Hogarth’s ‘line of beauty’ to the advent of nude photography, from the crinoline to the Dior suit and the early bathing costume, The Silhouette reveals how the shape of the body has become an eloquent symbol of status, sexuality and the aspirational quest for physical and moral ‘perfection’. Drawing on numerous textual and visual resources, leading scholar Georges Vigarello anatomizes a fixation with the human form which has shaped not just our bodies but our very identities. With over 120 color images, The Silhouette is a remarkable resource for scholars, students, and fashion-lovers alike.

Georges Vigarello is a historian and sociologist. He is Research Director at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris, France. He has published widely on topics ranging from Concepts of Cleanliness (Cambridge) and The History of Rape: Sexual Violence in France from the Sixteenth to the Twentieth Century (Polity) to The Metamorphoses of Fat: A History of Obesity (Columbia).

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I | A New Word, a New Line
The Invention of the Word ‘Silhouette’ (18th century)
The Art of ‘Silhouetting
From Shaded Faces to Shaded Figures

II | From the Mezzotint to the Romantic Aesthetic
The Enlightenment and the Emergence of Morphology
Before the ‘Silhouette’: Early Incarnations
The Quest for Detail: The Triumph of the ‘Full-Length’ Profile Portrait
The Complex and Curious Realm of the Shadow
The Romantic Perspective

III | Innovations in Graphic Art
A Process Expands: Press and Image
A Word Expands: Physical and Moral Significance
The Silhouette: A Social ‘Museum’ in the 19th Century
The ‘Invention’ of Morphology
The Silhouette: an Academic Approach
The Silhouette and Fashion in the Romantic Era
A Wealth of Creativity in Graphic Art
From the Press to the Poster

IV | The Art of Expression
Photography and Figures in Motion
The Female Contour: from Slender to Erotic
The Nude Becomes ‘Commonplace’
The Honing of the Female Form
A Growing Personal Imperative
The Honing of the Male Form
The Theme of Decline
The Quest to Classify
The Tragic Danger of ‘Race’
The Realms of Expression and Information
Between Curves and Muscles
The Emergence of Psychology: The Dawn of a Cult?

V | The Contemporary Silhouette
Radical Changes in the Figure
The Challenge of Identity
The Silhouette: The Mastery and Weakness of the Body


Photographic credits



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