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: Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898) was a towering figure in late-19th-century France. Arguably the country's greatest public painter, he created murals that decorated museums in Amiens, Rouen and Lyons as well as major buildings in Paris - most notably the Pantheon, the Sorbonne and the city hall. Critics from the political right, left and centre, the avant-garde, the Academy, and the state all agreed on the importance of Puvis's murals. Avant-garde artists greatly admired and drew from his work. There was much controversy, however, over the meaning of these murals. This illustrated work is a full-length examination of Puvis's murals and their critical reception during the artist's lifetime. Jennifer Shaw explains that Puvis's paintings were imagined to embody a vision of France. Although his regional images, allegories of the French heritage, and evocations of the nation as an embracing motherland were all part of a grand tradition of public art, Puvis's painting style was more closely aligned with the avant-garde. Rather than providing a specific narrative or allegory of France, Puvis's murals provoked viewers to experience their own fantasies of Frenchness; rather than using the close brushwork favoured by most of his contemporaries, Puvis used large flat areas of colour to render his subjects. Shaw argues that Puvis was the only painter of the period to unite the traditions of public art and modernist form. Her analysis of Puvis's art underlines his importance to the history of modernism; and her examination of the public response to his art should illuminate debates about art, subjectivity and national identity in fin de siecle France.