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Gustave Doré and the Modern Biblical Imagination

Gustave Doré and the Modern Biblical Imagination explores the role of biblical imagery in modernity through the lens of Gustave Doré (1832-83), whose work is among the most reproduced and adapted scriptural imagery in the history of Judeo-Christianity. First published in France in late 1865, Doré's Bible illustrations received widespread critical acclaim among both religious and lay audiences, and the next several decades saw unprecedented dissemination of the images on an international scale. In 1868, the Doré Gallery opened in London, featuring monumental religious paintings that drew 2.5 million visitors over the course of a quarter-century; when the gallery's holdings travelled to the United States in 1892, exhibitions at venues like the Art Institute of Chicago drew record crowds. The United States saw the most creative appropriations of Doré's images among a plethora of media, from prayer cards and magic lantern slides to massive stained-glass windows and the spectacular epic films of Cecile B. DeMille.

This book repositions biblical imagery at the center of modernity, an era that has often been defined through a process of secularization, and argues that Doré's biblical imagery negotiated the challenges of visualizing the Bible for modern audiences in both sacred and secular contexts. A set of texts whose veracity and authority were under unprecedented scrutiny in this period, the Bible was at the center of a range of historical, theological, and cultural debates. Gustave Doré is at the nexus of these narratives, as his work established the most pervasive visual language for biblical imagery in the past two and a half centuries, and constitutes the means by which the Bible has persistently been translated visually.