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2 June – 7 October 2012
10am–5pm daily, until 9pm Wednesdays
NGV International, 180 St Kilda Road

Age of Enlightenment

The eighteenth century was marked by the emergence of new ideas and philosophies that underpinned the ideals of the French Revolution... Read more

The Old Regime

King Louis XVI ruled France from the palace at Versailles, where court had been established to keep the nobles close to discourage subversive plotting.... Read more


The Third Estate and the people of France generally loved their King, believing that he upheld the best interests of his people, and blamed instead the nobility and clergy for their problems.... Read more

A New Society

After the fall of the Bastille in July 1789, the National Assembly (changed to the National Constituent Assembly) sought to regain order and instituted a number of reforms.... Read more

The Rise of Napoleon

The Directory became the new government of France after the Convention created a new constitution establishing a bicameral parliament.... Read more

Revolution to Empire

The eighteenth century brought radical change to Western civilization, most especially in France where the impetus for change came from a number of sources: a growing over-taxed, powerless middle class; an impoverished lower class (the majority of the population comprising peasants and workers); and an intelligentsia who sought to redefine the understanding of human nature and society based on reason (their deliberations constitute the Enlightenment).

Growing discontent resulted in the Storming of the Bastille on July 14 1789 and subsequent overthrow of the Monarchy. Feudal rule gave way to government by Constitution and the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen.

Following the Revolution, the newly formed succession of governments needed to demonstrate a break with the past by establishing a new visual language that would signal the ideals of the new order. They looked to Ancient Rome whose republican values provided austere and elegant examples applicable to posters and porcelain, furniture and fashion.