Document Type


Date of Degree

Spring 2016

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Interdisciplinary Studies

First Advisor

Guentner, Wendelin Ann

Second Advisor

Johnson, Dorothy

First Committee Member

Scullion, Rosemarie

Second Committee Member

Hochstrasser, Julie

Third Committee Member

Adcock, Craig E.

Fourth Committee Member

Brown, Matthew P.


The purpose of this dissertation is to present a clear characterization and history of the painter’s book in France, and distinguish the genre from other book arts; to examine the works as inseparable objects through bibliographic, auratic, and site-specific theory; and to explore specific instances that illuminate the socio-cultural context and historic era of the work, and the necessary interdependence of image-text. Painter’s book projects are novels, poems, plays, and short compilations, with original prints by an artist whose principal medium is other than graphic, published by a gallery owner or small publishing house in an artisanal format, and in a small edition under 501 examples. A painter’s book is meant to be experienced through space and time, where the act of reading-viewing while turning pages synthesizes the concurrent arts. Many images from painter’s book projects are reconstituted as independent graphic works for sale, and I argue that the books must remain intact.

In the first chapter, I argue, through theories of bibliographic code, Benjamin’s concept of aura, and site-specific artwork, that the purpose, understanding, and experience of the painter’s book is corrupted and lost when the artwork is removed from its original location. In Chapter Two, I explore two genres of the book, the illustrated and artist’s books, explain why the painter’s book cannot be considered an illustrated or artist’s book, and provide evidence that delineates the genres through specific examples, research, analysis, and hermeneutical consideration. I explore what constitutes the painter’s book in Chapter Three, and suggest the name of the genre be accepted and adopted as painter’s book in English. I also indicate precedents and the history of the painter’s book, and give succinct characteristics for the genre. Through specific examples in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries I demonstrate how the painter’s book reflects modern historical processes, and how this literary-arts genre helped shape cultural discourses in the final two chapters.

This project will bring awareness to a genre whose very name has been misconstrued and mislabeled, whose works tell a tale of collaboration and harmonious expression in literary and visual form, whose individual instances inform the reader-viewer of important cultural, societal, and historical moments, and whose perpetuation is in danger.


Art, Book, French, Graphic Arts, Literature, Modern


xii, 330 pages


Includes bibliographical references.


Copyright © 2016 Natalie Jane Allen Benson