What is the function of painting in a commercial society? John Barrell discusses how British artists and writers of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, including Sir Joshua Reynolds, William Blake, and James Barry, attempted to answer this question. His provocative and illuminating book offers a new perspective on both art criticism and eighteenth-century British culture. 'I have learned as much from this book as from any work of art history I know.' Thomas Crow, London Review of Books 'Traversing two fields of academic study, art history and political theory, is an ambitious project. Barrell's combination of these two fields of knowledge and scholarship creates the possibility of perceiving the eighteenth century anew ... His text breaks new ground.' Pamela Divinsky, Oxford Art Journal 'Brilliant, original, and strongly argued ... The book is an extraordinary achievement, and I doubt we will read eighteenth-century art criticism in the same way any longer.' Robert Folkenflik, Studies in English Literature John Barrell is professor of English and Related Studies at the University of York.