Misère The Visual Representation of Misery in the 19th Century

Linda Nochlin


In Misere, famed art historian Linda Nochlin reveals how, in the new form of civilization produced by the Industrial Revolution, in which the phenomenal growth of wealth occurred alongside an expansion of squalor, writers and artists of the nineteenth century used their craft to come to terms with what were often new and unprecedented social, material, and psychological circumstances.

Nochlin charts the phenomenon of misery as it was represented in the popular and fine arts of the nineteenth century. Examining work by some of the great intellects of the era—including Dickens, Carlyle, Engels, Hugo, Buret, Disraeli, and de Tocqueville—as well as relative unknowns who were searching for ways to depict new realities, Nochlin draws from a range of sources that include paintings, prints, newspaper illustrations, photography, and a variety of texts: from the account of a day in the life of an eight- year- old mine worker girl to the foundational texts of the field such as Friedrich Engels’s The Condition of the Working Class in England.


Inspired in part by the broadening gap between rich and poor in the U.S., this succinct and insightful book makes 19th-century social injustice uncannily relevant today… Nochlin illuminates the largely unexplored field of 19th-century drawings, paintings, and photography [and examines] pathos-laden images, from simple illustrations that ran in newspapers to paintings by such artists as Goya, Degas, and Van Gogh.

— Publishers Weekly


Linda Nochlin


Linda Nochlin is Lila Acheson Wallace Professor of Modern Art Emerita at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. Her publications include The Body in Pieces; Women, Art and Power; The Politics of Vision; Representing Women; Courbet; and Women Artists. Her essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?” is considered one of the most influential texts in modern art history.