Illustrating National History

This chapter focuses on historical paintings produced in Europe and the Americas between the late eighteenth and the early twentieth century. Burke treats artists as historians and examines their work as a contribution to the “nationalization of the past” and thus to the spread of national consciousness, whether as propaganda, education or a mixture of the two. Six modes for the representation of the heroes, heroines and major events of the past are examined: epic, tragic, realistic, critical, anecdotal and finally allegorical. The author considers not only the patrons of these works but also the wider public that could view the paintings in public galleries or in reproductions such as engravings, including the illustrations in history textbooks for the use of schools.