Champfleury (1821-1889), the prominent French nineteenth-century art critic, is renowned for his role in establishing a French realist school of art and as the champion of Gustave Courbet. Yet the extent to which his realism grows out of his deep and abiding interest in popular art has been neglected. At a time of radical disagreement about the historical, political and social role of popular culture, Champfleury creates a distinctive understanding of the art of the people. Investigating the interplay between the meaning or spirit of popular art, and its formal qualities, Champfleury’s interpretation is primarily art historical. His approach forms the basis of a realist manifesto for the high art of his period. Closely analysing his work on imagery, songs, ceramics, caricature and pantomime, this book places Champfleury’s approach to popular art in the context of the work of contemporary writers, historians, artists and folklorists.