Symbolism (art)

For an account of the more general meaning of the word symbolism, see symbolism.

Symbolism was a late nineteenth century art movement of French and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts.

La mort du fossoyeur by Carlos Schwabe is a visual compendium of Symbolist motifs.  Death and angels, pristine snow, and the dramatic poses of the characters all express Symbolist longings for transfiguration "anywhere, out of the world."
La mort du fossoyeur by Carlos Schwabe is a visual compendium of Symbolist motifs. Death and angels, pristine snow, and the dramatic poses of the characters all express Symbolist longings for transfiguration "anywhere, out of the world."
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Precursors and origins

French Symbolism was in large part a reaction against Naturalism and Realism, movements which attempted to capture reality in its particularity. Symbolist movement poetry has been said by some to begin with the influential series of poems Les Fleurs du Mal (The Flowers of Evil) by Charles Baudelaire, although work by poets such as Gérard de Nerval and Arthur Rimbaud were also highly significant in this respect. Symbolism represents an outgrowth of the more gothic and darker sides of Romanticism; but where Romanticism was impetuous and rebellious, Symbolism was static and hieratic. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images.

Symbolism as a movement

Symbolists believed that art should aim to capture more absolute truths which could only be accessed by indirect methods. Thus, they wrote in a highly metaphorical and suggestive manner, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning. The Symbolist manifesto was published in 1886 by Jean Moréas. Moréas announced that Symbolism was hostile to "plain meanings, declamations, false sentimentality and matter-of-fact description," and that its goal instead was to "clothe the Ideal in a perceptible form" whose: "goal was not in itself, but whose sole purpose was to express the Ideal:"

In this art, scenes from nature, human activities, and all other real world phenomena will not be described for their own sake; here, they are perceptible surfaces created to represent their esoteric affinities with the primordial Ideals.

But perhaps of the several attempts at defining the essence of Symbolism, none was more influential than Paul Verlaine's 1884 publication of a series of essays on Tristan Corbière, Arthur Rimbaud, and Stephane Mallarmé, each of whom Verlaine numbered among the poètes maudits, "accursed poets."

Verlaine argued that in their individual and very different ways, each of these hitherto neglected poets found genius a curse; it isolated them from their contemporaries, and as a result these poets were not at all concerned to avoid hermeticism and idiosyncratic writing styles. In this conception of genius and the role of the poet, Verlaine referred obliquely to the aesthetics of Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism, who held that the purpose of art was to provide a temporary refuge from the world of blind strife of the will.

Schopenhauer's aesthetics reflected shared concerns with the Symbolist programme; they both tended to look to Art as a contemplative refuge from the world of strife and Will. From this desire for an artistic refuge from the world, the Symbolists took characteristic themes of mysticism and otherworldliness, a keen sense of mortality, and a sense of the malign power of sexuality. Mallarmé's poem Les fenêtres expresses all of these themes clearly. A dying man in a hospital bed, seeking escape from the pain and dreariness of his physical surroundings, turns toward his window; turns away in disgust from:

. . . . l'homme a l'âme dure
Vautré dans le bonheur, où ses seuls appétits
Mangent, et qui s'entête à chercher cette ordure
Pour l'offrir à la femme allaitant ses petits,
("the hard-souled man, wallowing in happiness, where only his appetites feed, and who insists on seeking out this filth to offer to his female suckling his children")

and in contrast, he exclaims:

Je me mire et me vois ange! Et je meurs, et j'aime
-Que la vitre soit l'art, soit la mysticité -
A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème,
Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté!
("I marvel at myself, I seem an angel! and I die, and I love --- whether the glass might be art, or mysticism --- to be reborn, bearing my dream as a diadem, under that former sky where Beauty once flourished.")

The Symbolist movement has frequently been confused with Decadence. Several young writers were derisively referred to in the press as "decadent" in the mid 1880s. Jean Moréas' manifesto was largely a response to this polemic. A few of these writers embraced the term while most avoided it. Although the esthetics of Symbolism and Decadence can be seen as overlapping in some areas, the two remain distinct.

In other media

Symbolism in literature is distinct from Symbolism in art although the two overlapped on a number of points. There were several, rather dissimilar, groups of Symbolist painters and visual artists, among whom Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Henri Fantin-Latour, Edvard Munch, Félicien Rops, and Jan Toorop were numbered. Symbolism in painting had an even larger geographical reach than Symbolism in poetry, reaching several Russian artists, as well as figures such as Elihu Vedder in the United States. Auguste Rodin is sometimes considered a Symbolist in sculpture.

Khnopff: The Caress
Khnopff: The Caress

Symbolism had some influence in music as well. Many Symbolist writers and critics were early enthusiasts for the music of Richard Wagner, a fellow student of Schopenhauer. The Symbolist aesthetic had a deep impact on the works of Claude Debussy. His choice of libretti, texts, and themes come almost exclusively from the Symbolist canon: in particular, compositions such as his settings of Cinq poèmes de Baudelaire, various art songs on poems by Verlaine, the opera Pelléas et Mélisande with a libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck, and his unfinished sketches that illustrate two Poe stories, The Devil in the Belfry and The Fall of the House of Usher, all indicate that Debussy was profoundly influenced by Symbolist themes and tastes. His best known work, the Prélude à 'L'après-midi d'un faune, was inspired by a poem by Mallarmé, L'après-midi d'un faune. Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire takes its text from German translations of the Symbolist poems by Albert Giraud, showing a link between German expressionism and Symbolism.

Symbolism's cult of the static and hieratic adapted less well to narrative fiction than it did to poetry. Joris-Karl Huysmans' 1884 novel À rebours (English title: Against the Grain) contained many themes which became associated with the Symbolist esthetic. This novel in which very little happens is a catalogue of the tastes and inner life of Des Esseintes, an eccentric, reclusive antihero. The novel was imitated by Oscar Wilde in several passages of The Picture of Dorian Gray. Paul Adam was the most prolific and most representative author of Symbolist novels. Les Demoiselles Goubert co-written with Jean Moréas in 1886 is an important transitional work between Naturalism and Symbolism. Few Symbolists used this form. One exception is Gustave Kahn who published Le Roi fou in 1896. Other fiction that is sometimes considered Symbolist is the cynical misanthropic (and especially, misogynistic) tales of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly. Gabriele d'Annunzio wrote his first novels in the Symbolist vein.


In the English speaking world, the closest counterpart to Symbolism was Aestheticism; the Pre-Raphaelites, also, were contemporaries of the earlier Symbolists, and have much in common with them. Symbolism had a significant influence on Modernism and its traces can be seen in a number of modernist artists, including T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Conrad Aiken, and William Butler Yeats in the anglophone tradition and Rubén Darío in Hispanic letters. The early poems of Guillaume Apollinaire have strong affinities with Symbolism.

As the movement was losing its forward movement in France, after the turn of the twentieth century it became a major force in Russian poetry. The Russian Symbolist movement was the starting point of the careers of major figures such as Andrei Bely, Alexander Blok, and Marina Tsvetaeva.

The Symbolist painters were an important influence on expressionism and surrealism in painting, two movements which descend directly from Symbolism proper. The harlequins, paupers, and clowns of Pablo Picasso's "blue period" show the influence of Symbolism, and especially of Puvis de Chavannes. In Belgium, where Symbolism had penetrated deeply, so much so that it came to be thought of as a national style, the static strangeness of painters like René Magritte can be seen as a direct continuation of Symbolism. The work of some Symbolist visual artists directly impacted the curvilinear forms of art nouveau.

Many early motion pictures, also, contain a good deal of Symbolist visual imagery and themes in their staging, set designs, and imagery. The films of German Expressionism owe a great deal to Symbolist imagery. The virginal "good girls" seen in the films of D. W. Griffith, and the silent movie "bad girls" portrayed by Theda Bara, both show the continuing influence of Symbolist imagery, as do the Babylonian scenes from Griffith's Intolerance. Symbolist imagery lived on longest in the horror film; as late as 1932, a horror film such as Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr shows the obvious influence of Symbolist imagery; parts of the film resemble tableau vivant re-creations of the early paintings of Edvard Munch.

Some precursors to Symbolism

Symbolist authors

English language authors that influenced, or were influenced by Symbolism include:

See also: Symbolist painters

External link

Le Manifeste du Symbolisme ( by Jean Moréas (in French)


  • Balakian, Anna, The Symbolist Movement: a critical appraisal. Random House, 1967
  • Delvaille, Bernard, La poésie symboliste: anthologie. ISBN 2221501616
  • Houston, John Porter and Houston, Mona Tobin, French Symbolist Poetry: an anthology. ISBN 0253202507
  • Jullian, Philippe, The Symbolists. ISBN 0714817392
  • Praz, Mario, The Romantic Agony. ISBN 019281061

Category:Literary movements

Literary movements


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Category:Art movements

An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a period of time.

Art movements seem to be a nearly exclusively Western art phenomenon. The term refers to tendencies in visual art and architecture, sometimes literature. In music it is more common to speak about genres and styles instead. See also cultural movement, a term with a broader connotation.

For more information, please see the main article about Art movements.


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Category:Cultural movements

A cultural movement is a change in the way a number of different disciplines approach their work. This embodies all art forms, the sciences, and philosophies.

For more information, please see the main article about Cultural movements.


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French literature

French literature is literature written in the French language; and especially, literature written in French by citizens of France; see Francophone Literature for literature written in French by citizens of other nations.

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Although the French people are of mixed origin, having Celtic and Germanic as well as Roman strains in their composition, it is the Roman that has counted most. The French language itself may be regarded as a modern form of Latin. The Latin genius, as it has often been called, has seemed to hover over the development of the French culture and determine its destinies. It has bestowed upon the French people their love of order, clarity and reasonableness, their instinctive avoidance of extremes--the very qualities which are most conspicuous in their literature. In all artistic matters the French are essentially conservative, despite the fact that they have often been initiators of new movements.

The French have always taken ideas and aesthetic matters seriously. Their literature is therefore the best from which to study literary movements. For that reason and because of its long and illustrious history and its influence on other literatures, French literature occupies, as it were, a central position.

The French have sometimes characterized themselves as possessing the esprit gaulois--the Gallic spirit, meaning by that a light-hearted gayety, a tendency to mock, and a refusal to take life or men too seriously. This Gallic spirit can indeed be detected all through French literature. Nevertheless, there is a fundamental earnestness in the French outlook which foreigners have too frequently been prone to overlook. As a matter of fact, most of the great French writers do not markedly display this so-called Gallic spirit.

It will be impossible in such a brief sketch as this to do justice to so rich a literature. Many important names will have to be omitted. To most foreigners, especially those of English speech, French prose with its clearness, rapidity, and grace seems superior to French poetry. The French themselves would dissent vigorously from such a judgment. Their poetry, they claim, has cadences which the outsider cannot sufficiently detect; it has all the delicacy for which its sister, French prose, is so justly renowned; and, if the poetry seems to the foreigner to be rhetorical, that is in accordance with French tradition and is acceptable to French taste.

The Middle Ages produce varied types

The earliest French literature dates from the eleventh century. The Song of Roland, of unknown authorship, may be looked upon as the national epic of France, comparable with Beowulf in England and The Song of the Nibelungs in Germany. It is one of many chansons de gestes, or song of exploits, the subjects of which were taken, as in the Song of Roland, from the stories current about Charlemagne (742-814), or else from the legend of King Arthur. The chief writer of Arthurian epics, which are filled with the spirit of chivalry and courtly love, was Chrétien de Troyes (twelfth century), the most famous of French narrative poets in the Middle Ages. Courtly love was also the principal theme of the troubadours, the lyric poets of Provence in southern France, who were more distinguished for their ingenuity and artificiality than for anything distinctively personal. It is not until the end of the Middle Ages that we encounter a really great lyric poet in the person of François Villon (1431-1465?), a vagabond who had the merit of putting his heart and his life into his verse.

French prose in the Middle Ages was employed mainly in chronicles and history. There is, however, an anonymous story from the twelfth century called Aucassin and Nicolette, which is quite charming in an unpretentious way.

The drama in France, as in other countries in Europe, was in origin the offspring of the Church, though the two were destined much later to become bitter foes. The earliest plays were simply dramatizations of the ritual, particularly that connected with Christmas and Easter. When the plays were transferred from the church to the open air and French was substituted for Latin, the drama inevitably developed along lines of its own. Farces of a realistic, humorous, and even coarse type became popular. In these, as well as in the fabliaux, short narrative poems, we encounter the earliest expression of the Gallic spirit which finds nothing too sacred for satire.

The 16th century receives the impulse of the Renaissance

The Renaissance came to France in the reign of Francis I (1515-1547). The final disruption of feudalism, the introduction of the printing press, and the discovery of Italian culture were amongst the most important causes. It looked for a time as if the Protestant Reformation would also permeate the country, but by the end of the century the French people had definitely decided to remain Catholic. In literature the influence of the Renaissance was in the direction of classicism. A group of writers known as the Pléiade published a manifesto in 1550 which laid down the program of the school. Pierre de Ronsard (1524-1585), the leading poet of the movement, was a genuine lyricist in his shorter verses. Poetic tragedies were written, carefully observing the unities of plot, time, and place, and this type of play was to flourish in France unchallenged for nearly three hundred years.

But the greatest French writers of the sixteenth century used prose. François Rabelais (1490?-1553) wrote long, formless works in the manner of fiction; his best known work is Gargantua and Pantagruel. The subject manner is grotesquely extravagant, the language is coarse and sometimes filthy, but beneath the buffoonery there is a strong undercurrent of keen satire, for Rabelais was an earnest and independent thinker. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592), by contrast, is mature and staid, wishing to reflect on his experiences rather than live exuberantly. He is the first great essayist of modern times.

French culture of the Classical Period dominates Europe

France became thoroughly centralized in the seventeenth century, and the establishment of the French Academy, the most famous of all literary institutions, in 1635 led to the further centralization of culture. Classicism of the strictest kind was taught by Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux (1636-1711), whose didactic poem, The Art of Poetry, laid down laws of composition which were considered infallible.

French classicism taught the dependence of modern literature upon the ancients. The poet should avoid eccentricities and keep steadily to what is natural and reasonable. Strict rules were enjoined for verse forms and especially for the tragedy. It was within the framework of these limitations that the greatest period of French literature expressed itself. This is the Classical Period, which coincides with the long reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715). France was beyond question the leading country in Europe, both politically and culturally. In government, religion, and literature the note of authority was confidently sounded. But the classical ideas of order, clarity, sense of proportion, and good taste were, and still are, congenial to the French mind. Pierre Corneille (1606-1684) and Jean Racine (1639-1699) wrote their great poetic tragedies in conformity with these ideals, the former dealing chiefly with the conflicts that arise out of honour, and the latter with those proceeding from love. The theologian and orator Jacques-Benigne Bossuet (1627-1704) seemed to embody the spirit of authority, though posterity has accorded more attention to another religious writer, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), who, besides being a profound thinker, is perhaps the greatest master of French prose. The less austere side of the Great Age is represented by Molière (1622-1673), the writer of the most delightful comedies of modern times, and by Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695), whose fables in verse all French children learn. François de la Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) was a master of prose maxims, a form which the French have cultivated with special success.

Literature in the Classical Period was essentially aristocratic in its outlook. It was a product of the capital and the court, and its appeal was consequently limited pretty much to the cultivated few. With the diffusion of education, the widening of social sympathies, and the multiplication of interests that have taken place since then, this restricted outlook now necessarily appears as a grave shortcoming. Nevertheless, an understanding of the spirit of the Great Age and an appreciation of its masterpieces is still considered by the French to be the hall mark of true culture.

The 18th century: an age of reason

The eighteenth century, particularly that portion of it between the death of Louis XIV in 1715 and the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789, stands in startling contrast to the Great Age. It is the period of prose and reason, the period also of general ideas, many of which were to prove destructive to existing institutions of church and state. Its spirit was critical, sceptical, and innovating. Ideas of liberty, toleration, humanitarianism, equality, and progress were advocated increasingly.

Some of these ideas came from England, whose intellectual influence on France was of decisive importance during these years. The most characteristic literature of the century was of the nature of propaganda and was designed to make war on authority, dogma, and tradition. The leading writers of this "philosophic party," as it was called, were Montesquieu, Voltaire, and Diderot. Charles de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu (1689-1755) satirized many of the institutions and social customs of his country and praised the English constitution.

Voltaire (1694-1778) attacked bigotry and superstition, and championed the victims of religious persecution and of political injustice. More than any other man he embodies the spirit of the age of reason. But most of his voluminous writings were too much concerned with questions of his own day to endure permanently. Only his letters and a few of his tales are now much read.

Denis Diderot (1713-1784) was the director-in-chief of the famous Encyclopédie, which was designed both as a storehouse of information and as an arsenal of weapons to attack ignorance, superstition, and intolerance. In purely literary matters the taste of the age was still classical. Voltaire's poetic tragedies, for instance, were modelled largely on those of Corneille and Racine. Diderot was more of an innovator. His plays, in particular, testify to the ever-increasing importance and power of the middle class.

Pierre de Marivaux (1688-1763), in the earlier part of the century, and Pierre Beaumarchais (1732-1799), in the latter half, carried on the tradition of good comedy writing. Other works of pure literature unconnected with propaganda are such novels as Alain-René Le Sage's Gil Blas (1715) and l'Abbé Prévost's Manon Lescaut (1731). Toward the close of the century the poet Marie-Joseph de Chénier (1762-1794) sounded the first note of authentic lyricism that had been heard in France for many decades.

But the most significant writer of France during the eighteenth century was not Voltaire but the Swiss-born Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778). He taught the essential goodness of human nature, the rightness of our instincts, and the corruption of civilised institutions. He was the man of feeling in an age when intellect was worshipped. He was a reformer of education, an inspirer of revolutionary ideas in government and economics, and in literature a forerunner of romanticism. He has probably had more influence on ideas than any other man of the eighteenth century.

The Romantic Movement: a revolt against classicism

Between the outbreak of the French Revolution in 1789 and the final overthrow of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815, the minds of Frenchmen were turned chiefly to outward events. Otherwise the full force of the Romantic Movement which was sweeping over Europe might have been felt earlier in France.

Romanticism, however, has ideals diametrically opposed to French classicism. In so far as it stands for the exaltation of emotions above reason and of the individual above society, it is not wholly suited to the French mind. It made its first appearance in the stories of François-René de Chateaubriand (1768-1848) and in Madame de Staël's interpretation of Germany as the land of romantic ideals. It found expression also in the sentimental poetry of Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1868).

But the real battle of romanticism in France was fought regarding poetic tragedy. The production of Victor Hugo's Hernani in 1830 marked the triumph of the movement. The dramatic unities of time and place were abolished and metrical freedom was won. Victor Hugo (1802-1885) was the outstanding genius of the Romantic School and its recognized leader. He was prolific alike in poetry, drama, and fiction, but is regarded now as supreme only in lyric poetry.

Other poets associated with the movement were the austere and pessimistic Alfred de Vigny (1799-1863), Théophile Gautier (1811-1872), a pagan devotee of beauty and art, and Alfred de Musset (1810-1857), who best exemplifies romantic melancholy. All three also wrote novels and short stories, and de Musset won a belated success with his plays. Alexandre Dumas, père (1802-1870) wrote The Three Musketeers and other romances which have gained world fame.

Prosper Mérimée (1803-1870) was a master of shorter fiction. The most famous woman writer of France, who adopted the pseudonym of George Sand (1804-1876), is seen at her best in her peasant stories. Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve (1804-1869), the greatest of all French literary critics, showed romantic expansiveness in his hospitality to all ideas and in his unfailing endeavour to understand and interpret authors rather than to judge them.

By the middle of the nineteenth century romanticism had spent its force. It had opened fresh sources of inspiration by freeing the individual from artificial rules and conventions. It had revivified all branches of literature, but it undoubtedly left its richest legacy in poetry. Foreign influences played a big part in this renewal, especially those of Shakespeare, Sir Walter Scott, and Byron.

Realism develops along with science and industrialism

Romanticism was followed by realism, the attempt to depict life as it is. This was partly due to a reaction against the extravagances of romanticism, but it was also in large measure the result of the development of science and the and the growth of industrialism and commerce.

The prevailing temper in literature was now its concern with actuality. Honoré de Balzac (1799-1850) was the most prominent representative of realism in fiction. His Human Comedy (La Comédie humaine), as he called his vast collection of novels, was the most ambitious scheme ever devised by a writer of fiction--nothing less than a complete contemporary history of his countrymen. Realism appeared also in the prose dramas of the Alexandre Dumas fils and of Augier.

An attempt to be objective and scientific was made even in poetry by the group of writers known as the Parnassians, the most distinguished of whom was Leconte de Lisle (1818-1894).

The realists as a rule saw life without illusions and were apt to dwell on its more depressing and sordid aspects. This tendency appears in an intensified degree in the morbid poetry of Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), who stands somewhat apart from other writers of his day, but who was destined to have a great influence on the next generation.

Realism becomes intensified as naturalism

With the growth of the scientific outlook, realism deepened into naturalism, which regards man as simply a part of nature to be explained by purely physical laws. Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893) supplied much of the philosophy of naturalism. He believed that every human being was determined by the forces of heredity and environment and by the time in which he lived. Naturalism is represented in Gustave Flaubert's great novel Madame Bovary (1857), in the short stories of Guy de Maupassant (1850-1893), and in the fiction of Emile Zola (1840-1902). The stories of Alphonse Daudet (1840-1897), on the other hand, display a more moderate sort of realism. The influence of certain Scandinavian and Russian writers gave an added impulse to the naturalistic movement.

Symbolism again emphasizes mood and emotion

Inevitably there was a reaction against the pessimism and brutality of naturalism. A movement known as symbolism appeared in poetry. It seems in some respects like a revival under a changed form of the spirit of romanticism. The procedure was to use subtle suggestion instead of precise statement, to evoke moods and feelings by the magic of words and the cadence of verse. Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) Paul Verlaine (1844-1896) were the two most gifted and popular of the symbolist poets. The movement is also represented in prose by the Belgian Maurice Maeterlinck (1862-1949), who wrote in French. The symbolist movement has been responsible for much metrical experimentation and for many varieties of "free verse." As a consequence, French poetry is by no means as strictly traditional in form as it once was.

Pre-World-War I French literature shows rich variety

The immense popular success of the poetic dramas of Edmond Rostand (1896-1918), especially Cyrano de Bergerac in 1897, made it seem for a time as if another romantic movement were on the way. But this expectation was not fulfilled. In fact, French literature around the turn of the century was eclectic, with all kinds of tendencies represented, but with no single one dominant for any great length of time. Anatole France (1844-1924) was for many years the leading author. He employed fiction chiefly as a convenient vehicle for his ideas about men and things. One of his masters in thinking was the eminent scholar Renan (1823-1892), an intellectual influence of the first importance on educated Frenchmen of his day. Both Renan and Anatole France were convinced that absolute truth was forever beyond human reach and that consequently all questions should be regarded from many sides. In particular, the scepticism of the younger man seemed universal, sparing neither theology, nor philosophy, nor science. In more recent years, there has been a reaction against this "dilettantism," by which the French mean playing with ideas without reaching firm conclusions. Literature today sounds a more positive note in matters of religion, ethics, and politics.

French literature since World-War I

Contemporary French literature affords the spectacle of many talented writers whose average of excellence is high, but of whom few are outstanding above the others. Fiction, drama, poetry, and criticism are all cultivated; no form is neglected. Without attempting to appraise present reputations or to forecast future trends, we may safely say of such a literature that it shows every sign of continued vitality and growth.

Among the developments of French literature in the 1950s is the experimental Nouveau roman ("new novel").

Fine examples include

Literary criticism


See also

Théophile Gautier

Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier (August 31, 1811 - October 23, 1872) was a well known French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist and literary critic.

He was born in Tarbes in the Hautes-Pyrénées departement, in the southwestern region of France, and he went to Paris as a small child. He had an idea of becoming a painter, but his inclinations turned him in the direction of poetry, and these ambitions were furthered on meeting Victor Hugo. He also received help from Honoré de Balzac, who gave him work at the Chronique de Paris.

Gautier belonged, along with the poet Charles Baudelaire and Dr. Jacques-Joseph Moreau, and many other literary and intellectual figures of the day, to a club dedicated to experimenting with drugs, principally hashish, called the Club des Hashischins. In an article published in Revue des Deux Mondes in 1846, Gautier detailed their experiments.

He visited Spain in 1840 in the wake of the civil war then being waged. He made a living from journalism although he found the work 'humiliating', seeking and finding escape in travel and poetry. He is remembered for the quote: "Imagination is the one weapon in the war against reality."

Theophile Gautier died on October 23, 1872 and was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris, France.


Realism is commonly defined as a concern for fact or reality and rejection of the impractical and visionary. However, the term realism is used, with varying meanings, in several of the liberal arts; particularly painting, literature, and philosophy. It is also used in international relations.

In the visual arts and literature, realism is a mid-19th century movement, which started in France. The realists sought to render everyday characters, situations, dilemmas, and events; all in an "accurate" (or realistic) manner. Realism began as a reaction to romanticism, in which subjects were treated idealistically. Realists tended to discard theatrical drama and classical forms of art to depict commonplace or 'realistic' themes.

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Realism in literature

Realism is associated with a rejection of fantasy, mythology, and highly complex (and, therefore, implausible) plots. Instead, a realist novel will tend to concentrate on 'ordinary people', and feature stories either based on, or similar to, real events. Realists also tend to avoid the linguistic experimentalism of, say, a James Joyce, in favour of prose that doesn't draw attention to itself, and presents the story as clearly as possible.

The movement is anticipated by the work of the French author Stendhal, but the "father" of realism is generally thought to be Honoré de Balzac. His Comédie Humaine is a panoramic view of 19th-century France in over 70 novels. Gustave Flaubert clearly defined the movement with his brilliant novel of the bourgeois Madame Bovary: this is in some ways the paradigmatic realist novel. Balzac and especially Flaubert influenced to a high degree the later realists and naturalists. It should be noted that Realism was an international affair: so in France there was Guy de Maupassant, but we should not forget the Irishman George Moore, in England George Eliot, the great Portugese novelist Eça de Queirós, the Spaniard Benito Pérez Galdós, the Italian Alessandro Manzoni and others. However some believe the Russian Leo Tolstoy was the greatest of all the Realists. There was also a similar movement in drama, associated with Ibsen and the early work of George Bernard Shaw.

Realism was followed, in France, by the Naturalism (literature) associated with Emile Zola. Naturalism was a much more programmatic and theory led movement, which argued that literature should model itself as much as possible on the natural sciences. The novel was to become a sort of fictional case study, similar to (non-fictional) case studies in sociology. However it should be noted that there is much overlap between the two movements, with some writers being termed naturalists and/or realists by different critics.

By 1890, many began to reject realism and naturalism, thinking them too external and superficial. Modified versions, however, were employed by such authors as Thomas Hardy, who realistically presented extreme pessimism, and Henry James, who sought to understand his characters psychologically.

At the turn of the 20th century, realism as a dominant movement in France gave way to symbolism and neo-romanticism. However, the Realist tradition carried on much longer in The United States. John Steinbeck and Theodore Dreiser were classic 20th century American Realists.

See also: magical realism, surrealism

Realism in visual arts

See also: Gustave Courbet, Edouard Manet, Winslow Homer, Barbizon school, fantastic realism.

Realism in philosophy

Confusingly, various philosophically unrelated positions, in some cases diametrically opposed ones, are termed "realism." In large measure this depends on which debates are active at the time, and may be encouraged by the fact that a philosophical position often looks stronger if you attach the word "real" to it.

The oldest use of the term comes from Medieval interpretations of Greek philosophy. Here "realism" is contrasted with "conceptualism" and "nominalism". This can be called "realism about universals." Universals are terms or properties that can be applied to many things, rather than denoting a single specific individual--for example, red, beauty, five, or dog, as opposed to Socrates or Athens. Realism holds that these universals really exist, independently and somehow prior to the world; it is associated with Plato. Conceptualism holds that they exist, but only insofar as they are instantiated in specific things; they do not exist separately. Nominalism holds that universals do not "exist" at all; they are no more than words we use to describe specific objects, they do not name anything. This particular dispute over realism is largely moot in contemporary philosophy, and has been for centuries.

In another sense realism is contrasted with both idealism and materialism and considered synonymous with weak dualism. In still a third, and very contemporary sense realism is contrasted with anti-realism.

Both these disputes are often carried out relative to some specific area: one might, for example, be a realist about physical matter but an anti-realist about ethics.

Increasingly these last disputes, too, are rejected as misleading, and some philosophers prefer to call the kind of realism espoused there "metaphyiscal realism," and eschew the whole debate in favour of simple "naturalism" or "natural realism", which is not so much a theory as the position that these debates are ill-conceived if not incoherent, and that there is no more to deciding what is really real than simply taking our words at face value.

See also: legal realism, scientific realism, naive realism, socialist realism, philosophical skepticism, technorealism

Realism in social science

Closely linked to realism in philosophy, is realism in research. Realist researchers believe that since they are attempting to describe the real world they have to be cautious about how they do so. Typically realists use qualitative research methods. In this sense, realism is opposed to positivism, which tends towards quantitative method.

Realism in music

A style of composition or singing which attempts to imitate the accents of natural speech. Used by 19th century Russian composer, Modest Mussorgsky.

See also: sprechstimme

Realism in international relations

See international relations.

Realism in Computer and Video games

A degree of similitude of the simulation to the real world. Most gamers and developers attach great importance to the increasing realism of games. This notion is sometimes attacked by a minority of gamers, who argue that developers do not spend enough time and resources on improving the gameplay.


This article focuses on the cultural movement labeled 'modernism' or 'the modern movement'. See also: Modernism (Roman Catholicism) or Modernist Christianity; Modernismo for specific art movement(s) in Spain and Catalonia.

"Just as the ancients drew the inspiration for their arts from the world of we should draw ours from the mechanized environment we have created."
Antonio Sant'Elia's Manifesto of Futurist Architecture (1914)
Le Corbusier's "Villa Savoye", 1929-30: such uncompromising modernism, rejected by individual house-buyers, confined modernist architecture essentially to an official and corporate equivalent of a "court style"
Le Corbusier's "Villa Savoye", 1929-30: such uncompromising modernism, rejected by individual house-buyers, confined modernist architecture essentially to an official and corporate equivalent of a "court style"

The modern movement was rooted in the idea that "traditional" forms of art, literature, social organization and daily life had become outdated, and that it was therefore essential to sweep them aside and reinvent culture. It encouraged the idea of re-examination of every aspect of existence, from commerce to philosophy, with the goal of finding that which was "holding back" progress, and replacing it with new, and therefore better, ways of reaching the same end. In essence, the Modern Movement argued that the new realities of the 20th century were permanent and immament, and that people should adapt to their world view to accept that what was new was also good and beautiful.

Modernism in the cultural historical sense is generally defined as the new artistic and literary styles that emerged in the decades before 1914 as artists rebelled against the late 19th century norms of depiction and literary form, in an attempt to present what they regarded as a more emotionally true picture of how people really feel and think.

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Historical outline

Precursors to modernism

The first half of the 19th century for Europe was marked by a series of turbulent wars and revolutions, which gradually formed into a series of ideas and doctrines now identified as Romanticism, which focused on individual subjective experience, the supremacy of "Nature" as the standard subject for art, revolutionary or radical extensions of expression, and individual liberty. By mid-century, however, a synthesis of these ideas, and stable governing forms had emerged. Called by various names, this synthesis was rooted in the idea that what was "real" dominated over what was subjective. Exemplified by Otto von Bismarck's realpolitik, philosophical ideas such as positivism and cultural norms now described by the word Victorian.

Core to this synthesis, however, was the importance of institutions, common assumptions and frames of reference. These drew their support from religious norms found in Christianity, scientific norms found in classical physics and doctrines which asserted that depiction of the basic external reality from an objective standpoint was possible. Cultural critics and historians label this set of doctrines Realism, though this term is not universal. In philosophy, the rationalist and positivist movements established a primacy of reason and system.

Against this current were a series of ideas. Some were direct continuations of Romantic schools of thought. Notable were the agrarian and revivalist movements in plastic arts and poetry (e.g. the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the philosopher John Ruskin). Rationalism also drew responses from the anti-rationalists in philosophy. In particular, Hegel's dialectic view of civilization and history drew responses from Friedrich Nietzsche and Søren Kierkegaard, who was a major precursor to Existentialism. Additionally, Sigmund Freud offered a view of subjective states that involved a subconscious mind full of primal impulses and counterbalancing restrictions, and Carl Jung would combine Freud's doctrine of the subconscious with a belief in natural essence to stipulate a collective unconscious that was full of basic typologies that the conscious mind fought or embraced. All of these separate reactions together, however, offered a challenge to any comfortable ideas of certainty derived by civilization, history, or pure reason.

Two schools originating in France would have particular impact. The first was Impressionism, a school of painting which was initially focused on work done, not in studios, but in the "plain air". They argued that human beings do not see objects, but instead see light itself. The school gathered adherents, and despite deep internal divisions among its leading practitioners, became increasingly influential. Initially rejected from the most important commercial show of the time - the government sponsored Paris Salon (Emperor Napoleon III created the "Salon des rejects," which displayed all of the paintings rejected by the Paris Salon). While most were in standard styles, but by inferior artists, the work of Manet attracted tremendous attention, and opened commercial doors to the movement.

The second school was Symbolism, marked by a belief that language is expressly symbolic in its nature, and that poetry and writing should follow whichever connection the sheer sound and texture of the words create. The poet Stéphane Mallarmé would be of particular importance to what would occur afterward.

At the same time social, political, and economic forces were at work which would eventually be used as the basis to argue for a radically different kind of art and thinking.

Chief among these was industrialization, which produced buildings such as the Eiffel Tower that broke all previous limitations on how tall man-made objects could be, and at the same time offered a radically different environment in urban life. The miseries of industrial urbanity, and the possibilities created by scientific examination of subjects would be crucial in the series of changes which would shake European civilization, which, at that point, regarded itself as having a continuous and progressive line of development from the Renaissance.

The breadth of the changes can be seen in how many disciplines are described, in their pre-20th century form, as being "classical", including physics, economics, and arts such as ballet.

The beginning of modernism 1890–1910

Initially the movement can be described as a rejection of tradition, and a tendency to face problems from a fresh perspective based on current ideas and techniques. Thus Gustav Mahler considered himself a "modern" composer and Gustave Flaubert made his famous remark that "It is essential to be thoroughly modern in one's tastes." The rejection of tradition by the Impressionist movement makes it one of the first artistic movements to be seen, in retrospect, as a modern movement. In literature the symbolist movement would have a tremendous influence on the development of the Modernism, because of its focus on sensation. Philosophically, the break with tradition by Nietzsche and Freud provides a key underpinning of the movement going forward: to begin again from first principles, abandoning previous definitions and systems. This wave of the movement generally stayed within late 19th century norms of presentation; often its practitioners regarded themselves as reformers rather than revolutionaries.

Beginning in the 1890s and with increasing force afterwards, a strand of thinking began to assert that it was necessary to push aside previous norms entirely, and instead of merely revising past knowledge in light of current techniques, it would be necessary to make more thorough changes. The movement in art paralleled such developments as the Theory of Relativity in physics; the increasing integration of internal combustion and industrialization; and the rise of social sciences in public policy. In the first fifteen years of the twentieth century a series of writers, thinkers, and artists made the break with traditional means of organizing literature, painting, and music - again, in parallel to the change in organizational methods in other fields. The argument was that if the nature of reality itself was in question, and the restrictions which, it was felt, had been in place around human activity were falling, then art too, would have to radically change.

The landmarks include Arnold Schoenberg's atonal ending to his Second String Quartet in 1906, the abstract paintings of Wassily Kandinsky starting in 1903 and culminating with the founding of the Blue Rider group in Munich, and the rise of cubism from the work of Picasso and Georges Braque in 1908.

Powerfully influential in this wave of modernity were the theories of Freud, who argued that the mind had a basic and fundamental structure, and that subjective experience was based on the interplay of the parts of the mind. All subjective reality was based, according to Freud's ideas, on the play of basic drives and instincts, through which the outside world was perceived. This represented a break with the past, in that previously it was believed that external and absolute reality could impress itself on an individual, as, for example, in John Locke's tabula rasa doctrine.

However, the modern movement was not merely defined by its avant garde but also by a reforming trend within previous artistic norms. This search for simplification of diction was found in the work of Joseph Conrad. The pressures of communication, transportation and more rapid scientific development began placing a premium on architectural styles which were cheaper to build and less ornamented, and on writing which was shorter, clearer, and easier to read. The rise of cinema and "moving pictures" in the first decade of the twentieth century gave the modern movement an artform which was uniquely its own, and again, created a direct connection between the perceived need to extend the "progressive" tradition of the late nineteenth century, even if this conflicted with then established norms.

This wave of the modern movement broke with the past in the first decade of the twentieth century, and tried to redefine various artforms in a radical manner. Leading lights within the literary wing of this movement include Virginia Woolf, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, Guillaume Apollinaire, Joseph Conrad, Marcel Proust, Gertrude Stein, Wyndham Lewis, H.D., Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, and Franz Kafka. Composers such as Schoenberg and Stravinsky represent modernism in music. Artists such as Gustav Klimt, Picasso, Matisse, Mondrian, and the Surrealists represent the visual arts, while architects and designers such as Le Corbusier Walter Gropius and Mies van der Rohe brought modernist ideas into everyday urban life. Several figures outside of artistic modernism were influenced by artistic ideas, for example John Maynard Keynes was friends with Woolf and other writers of the Bloomsbury group.

The explosion of modernism 1910–1930

On the eve of World War I, a growing tension and unease with the social order began to break through - seen in the Russian Revolution of 1905, the increasing agitation of "radical" parties, and an increasing number of works which either radically simplified or rejected previous practice. In 1913, Igor Stravinsky, working for Sergei Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, composed Rite of Spring for a ballet that depicted human sacrifice.

This led to the development of what was (posthumously) termed 'Modernism' which is, simply the rejection of (or movement beyond) simple Realism in literature and art, and the rejection of (or alteration of) tonality in music. In the 19th century, artists had tended to believe in 'progress' (i.e. moral progress) (the so-called Whig view of History), and the importance of the artist's contributing positively to the values of society. So for example, writers like Dickens and Tolstoy, painters like Turner, and musicians like Brahms were not 'radicals' or 'Bohemians', but were instead valued members of society who produced social critiques of society (when they did) from a conventionally 'liberal' or 'socialist' viewpoint.

However, from the 1870s onwards, this view was increasingly called into question. Writers like Wagner and Ibsen had been reviled for their own critiques of contemporary civilisation. Increasingly it began to be seen that the values of the artist and those of society were different, or even antithetical. Moreover, there were new views of philosophy which called into question the previous (perhaps slightly complacent) optimism. Nietzsche championed a process philosophy, in which processes and forces (specifically the 'will to power') were more important than facts or things. Similarly the writings of Henri Bergson became increasingly influential, who also championed the vital 'life force' over static conceptions of reality. Again, the writings of Freud (although his works were not at all well known until after World War One) discussed the importance of unconscious forces on cognition. What united all these writers was a romantic distrust of Enlightenment Rationality. Instead they championed (or, in case of Freud, attempted to explain) irrational thought processes. Uncoincidentally, this also coincided with a new wave of interest in the occult, spiritualism and a general rejection of the scientific worldview.

A seeming exception to this trend was to be found in Futurism. In 1909, a manifesto was published in the Le Figaro, and rapidly a group of painters: Giacomo Balla, Umberto Boccioni, Carlo Carrà, Luigi Russolo, and Gino Severini co-signed The Manifesto of Futurist Painting. Such manifestos were modeled on the famous "Communist Manifesto" of the previous century, and were meant to provoke and gather followers, even as they put forward principles and ideas. However, Futurism was strongly influenced by Bergson and Nietzsche, and it should be seen as part of the general trend of Modernist irrationalism, even while using the jargon and rhetoric of technology.

It must be stressed that until 1914 Modernist philosopy and art was to the taste of only a tiny minority of the intelligentsia, and that, before the invention of modern electronics, it was extremely difficult for most people to even access Modernist Art. Modernist polemics (etc.) were largely confined to 'little magazines' (like The New Age in the UK) with tiny circulations. Modernist primitivism and pessimism was not representative of the Edwardian Weltschmerz, which was more inclined towards a neo-Victorian faith in progress and liberal optimism.

However, World War One changed all that. First, the fantastic failure of the previous status quo seemed self-evident to a generation which had seen millions die fighting over scraps of earth - prior to the war, it had been argued that no one would fight such a war, since the cost was too high. Second, the introduction of a machine age into life seemed obvious - machine warfare became a touchstone of the ultimate reality. Finally, the immensely traumatic nature of the experience made both critical and subjective strands of the modern movement basic assumptions: Realism seemed to be bankrupt when faced with the fundamentally fantastic nature of trench warfare - as exemplified by books such as Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Moreover, the view that Mankind was making slow and steady moral progress came to seem ridiculous in the face of the senseless slaughter of the Great War.

Thus in the 1920s and increasingly after, modernism, which had been such a minority taste before the war, increasingly came to define the age. There was a subtle, but important, shift from the earlier phase: in the beginning the movement was by individuals who were part of the establishment, or wished to join the establishment. However, increasingly, the tone became one of individuals who were trying to replace the older hierarchy with one based on new ideas, norms, and methods. By 1930, modernism had won a place in the establishment, including the political and artistic establishment.

Ironically, by the time it was being accepted, Modernism itself had changed. There was a general reaction in the 1920s against the pre-1918 Modernism (which one might term 'Ultra-Modernism') which emphasised extreme revolt against all previous styles, and had, as perhaps its most paradigmatic movement, Dada. Some writers felt that this revolt against Rationality had helped to lead to the Great War. Therefore there was a move back towards control, self-restraint, and an urge to re-engage with society. Examples of this approach include Stravinsky's neoclassical style of composition, the "International style" of Bauhaus, Schoenberg's Serialism, the New Objectivity in German painting, and so on.

However, it must be remembered that these concepts and movements were often in competition with each other, and even in direct conflict. Within modernity there were disputes about the importance of the public, the relationship of art to audience, and the role of art in society. Rather than a lockstep organization, it is better to see modernism as taking a series of responses to the situation as it was understood, and the attempt to wrestle universal principles from it.

Modernism's second generation (1930-1945)

By 1930, modernism had entered popular culture with "The Jazz Age" and the increasing urbanization of populations, it had begun making systematic challenges to previous art and ideas, and was beginning to be looked to as the source for ideas to deal with the host of challenges faced in that particular historical moment. Modernism was, by this point, increasingly, represented in academia and was developing a self-conscious theory of its own importance. The Modernism of the 1930's then increasingly begins to focus on the realities of there being a popular culture which was not derrived from high culture, but instead from its own realities, particularly of mass production. Modern ideas in art were also increasingly used in commercials and logos. The famous London Underground logo is an early example of the need for clear, easily recognizable and memorable visual symbols.

Another strong influence at this time was Marxism. After the generally primitivistic/irrationalist aspect of pre-world war one Modernism (which more or less precluded any serious political commitment) and the passively reactionary neoclassicism of the 1920s (as represented most famously by T.S. Eliot), the rise of Fascism, the Great Depression, and the march to war helped to radicalise a generation. Bertolt Brecht, Auden, and the philosophers Gramsci and Walter Benjamin are perhaps the most famous examplers of this Modernist Marxism.

It must be stressed that this move to the left only happened to certain artists in a highly specific political situation. There is no particular reason to associate Modernism with 'the left' and, in fact, many Modernists were explicitly right wing (for example, Wyndham Lewis, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot and many others).

Modernism's reception and controversy

The most controversial aspect of the modern movement was, and remains, its rejection of tradition, both in organization, and in the immediate experience of the work. If there is a fundamental idea of modernism it is that spiritual existence should conform to outside pressures, and that art and human activity should, and could, be molded to do this. This dismissal of tradition also involved the rejection of conventional expectations: hence modernism often stresses freedom of expression, experimentation, radicalism, and primitivism. In many art forms this often meant startling and alienating audiences with bizarre and unpredictable effects. Hence the strange and disturbing combinations of motifs in Surrealism, or the use of extreme dissonance in modernist music. In literature this often involved the rejection of intelligible plots or characterisation in novels, or the creation of poetry that defied clear interpretation.

Many modernists believed that by rejecting tradition they could discover radically new ways of making art. Schoenberg believed that by ignoring traditional tonal harmony, the hierarchical system of organizing works of music which had guided music making for at least a century and a half, and perhaps long, he had discovered a wholly new way of organizing sound, based in the use of twelve-note rows (See Twelve-tone technique). This became known as serial music by the post-war period. Abstract artists, taking as their examples the Impressionists, as well as Paul Cézanne and Edvard Munch, began with the assumption that color and shape formed the essential characteristics of art, not the depiction of the natural world. Wassily Kandinsky, Piet Mondrian, and Kazimir Malevich all believed in redefining art as the arrangement of pure colour. The use of photography, which had rendered much of the representational function of visual art obsolete, strongly affected this particular aspect of modernism. However, these artists also believed that by rejecting the depiction of material objects they helped art move from a materialist to a spiritualist phase of development.

Other modernists, especially those involved in design, had more pragmatic views. Modernist architects and designers believed that new technology rendered old styles of building obsolete. Le Corbusier (born Charles-Edouard Jeanneret) thought that buildings should function as "machines for living in", analogous to cars, which he saw as machines for travelling in. Just as cars had replaced the horse, so modernist design should reject the old styles and structures inherited from Ancient Greece or from the Middle Ages. Following this machine aesthetic, modernist designers typically reject decorative motifs in design, preferring to emphasise the materials used and pure geometrical forms. The skyscraper, such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Seagram Building in New York (19561958), became the archetypal modernist building. Modernist design of houses and furniture also typically emphasised simplicity and clarity of form, open-plan interiors, and the absence of clutter. Modernism reversed the 19th century relationship of public and private: in the 19th century, public buildings were horizontally expansive for a variety of technical reasons, and private buildings emphasized verticality - to fit more private space on more and more limited land. Where as in the 20th century, public buildings became vertically oriented, and private buildings became organized horizontally. Many aspects of modernist design still persist within the mainstream of contemporary architecture today, though its previous dogmatism has given way to a more playful use of decoration, historical quotation, and spatial drama.

In other arts such pragmatic considerations were less important. In literature and visual art some modernists sought to defy expectations mainly in order to make their art more vivid, or to force the audience to take the trouble to question their own preconceptions. This aspect of modernism has often seemed a reaction to consumer culture, which developed in Europe and North America in the late 19th century. Whereas most manufacturers try to make products that will be marketable by appealing to preferences and prejudices, high modernists rejected such consumerist attitudes in order to undermine conventional thinking. The art critic Clement Greenberg expounded this theory of modernism in his essay Avant Garde and Kitsch. Greenberg labelled the products of consumer culture "kitsch", because their design aimed simply to have maximum appeal, with any difficult features removed. For Greenberg, modernism thus formed a reaction against the development of such examples of modern consumer culture as commercial popular music, Hollywood, and advertising. Greenberg associated this with a revolutionary rejection of capitalism.

Many modernists did see themselves as part of a revolutionary culture - one that included political revolution. However, many rejected conventional politics as well as artistic conventions, believing that a revolution of consciousness had greater importance than a change in political structures. Many modernists saw themselves as apolitical, only concerned with revolutionizing their own field of endeavour. Others, such as T. S. Eliot, rejected mass popular culture from a conservative position. Indeed one can argue that modernism in literature and art functioned to sustain an elite culture which excluded the majority of the population.

Because of its emphasis on individual freedom and expression, and its emphasis on the individual, many modern artists ran afoul of totalitarian governments, many of which saw traditionalism in the arts as an important prop to their political power. Two of the most famous examples are the Soviet Communist government rejected modernism on the grounds of alleged elitism; and the Nazi government in Germany deemed it narcissistic and nonsensical. The Nazis exhibited modernist paintings alongside works by the mentally ill in an exhibition entitled Degenerate art. Accusations of "formalism" could lead to the end of a career, or worse. For this reason many modernists of the post-war generation felt that they were the most important bulwark against totalitarianism, the "canary in the coal mine", whose repression by a government or other group with supposed authority represented a warning that individual liberties were being threatened.

In fact, modernism flourished mainly in consumer/capitalist societies, despite the fact that its proponents often rejected consumerism itself. However, modernism began to merge with consumer culture after World War II, especially during the 1960s. In Britain, a youth sub-culture even called itself "modernists", though usually shortened to Mods. In popular music, Bob Dylan combined folk music traditions with modernist verse, adopting literary devices derived from Eliot and others. The Beatles also developed along these lines, even creating atonal and other modernist musical effects in their later albums. Musicians such as Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart proved even more experimental. Modernist devices also started to appear in popular cinema, and later on in music videos. Modernist design also began to enter the mainstream of popular culture, as simplified and stylized forms became popular, often associated with dreams of a space age high-tech future.

This merging of consumer and modernist culture led to a radical transformation of the meaning of "modernism" itself. Firstly, it implied that a movement based on the rejection of tradition had become a tradition of its own. Secondly, it demonstrated that the distinction between elite modernist and mass consumerist culture had lost its precision. Some writers declared that modernism had become so institutionalized that it was now "post avant garde", indicating that it had lost its power as a revolutionary movement. Many have interpreted this transformation as the beginning of the phase that became known as Postmodernism. For others, such as, for example, art critic Robert Hughes, postmodernism represents an extension of modernism.

One deep element of modernism has been alienation, either of the individual from self, or from society, or from the "natural" basis of existence. For this reason there have been repeated "anti-modern" or "counter-modern" movements, which seek to emphasize holism, connection and spirituality as being remedies or antidotes to modernism. Such movements see Modernism as reductionist, and therefore subject to the failure to see systematic and emergent effects. Many Modernists came to this viewpoint, for example Paul Hindemith in his late turn towards mysticism. Writers such as Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth, in Culture Creatives, Fredrick Turner in A Culture of Hope and Lester Brown in Plan B, have articulated a critique of the basic idea of modernism itself: that individual creative expression should conform to the realities of technology, and instead that individual creativity should make every day life more emotionally acceptable.

In some fields the effects of modernism have remained stronger and more persistent than in others. Visual art has made the most complete break with its past. Most major capital cities have museums devoted to 'Modern Art' as distinct from post-Renaissance art (circa 1400 to circa 1900). Examples include the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Such galleries (and popular attitudes) make no distinction between modernist and postmodernist phases, seeing both as developments within 'Modern Art'.

Modernism outside the west

Many trends outside of western culture have been described as modern, modernist, or modernistic. Examples include Gamelan gong kebyar.

See also

External links



Generally speaking, expressionism is a tendency in any art form (painting, literature, film, architecture and so on) to distort reality for emotional effect. Additionally, the term often implies emotional angst - the number of cheerful expressionist works is relatively small.

In this general sense, painters such as Mathias Grünewald and El Greco can be called expressionist, though in practice, the term is applied mainly to 20th century works.

The term was coined by Czech art historian Antonin Matějček in 1910 as the opposite of impressionism: "An Expressionist wishes, above all, to express himself [sic]....[An Expressionist rejects] immediate perception and builds on more complex psychic structures....Impressions and mental images pass through his soul as through a filter which rids them of all substantial accretions to produce their clear essence [...and] are assimilated and condense into more general forms, into types, which he transcribes through simple short-hand formulae and symbols." (Gordon, 1987)

Some of the movement's leading painters in the early 20th century were:

There were a number of Expressionist groups in painting, including the Blaue Reiter and Die Brücke. Later in the 20th century, the movement influenced a large number of other artists, including the so-called abstract expressionists.

Expressionism is also found in other art forms - the novels of Franz Kafka are often described as expressionist, for example, and there was a concentrated Expressionist movement in early 20th century German theatre centred around Georg Kaiser and Ernst Toller. In music, Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg both wrote pieces described as expressionist (Schoenberg also made expressionist paintings).

In architecture, the work of Eric Mendelsohn comes under this category. An important building by him under this style is the Einstein Tower in Potsdam, Germany. There is an organic quality to buildings using this approach.

Some sculptors also used this style, as for example Ernst Barlach.

There was also an expressionist movement in film, often referred to as German Expressionism: see expressionism (film).


  • Antonin Matějček cited in Gordon, Donald E. (1987). Expressionism: Art and Ideas, p.175. New Haven: Yale University Press.


Surrealism is a movement for the liberation of the mind that emphasizes the critical and imaginative powers of the unconscious. Often misinterpreted as an artistic movement, it has transformed visual art, writing, film, music, and political thought, not to mention everyday life. Surrealism was initially started by André Breton and gained further momentum with the inclusion of Salvador Dalí. Surrealism remains an active movement today.

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The term surrealism was coined by Guillaume Apollinaire to describe the Jean Cocteau/Erik Satie/Pablo Picasso/Léonide Massine collaboration Parade (1917) in the program notes: "From this new alliance, for until now stage sets and costumes on one side and choreography on the other had only a sham bond between them, there has come about, in Parade, a kind of super-realism (sur-réalisme), in which I see the starting point of a series of manifestations of this new spirit (esprit nouveau)."

While related to Dada, from which many of its initial members came, surrealism is significantly broader in scope. As Dada was a negative response to the First World War, surrealism possesses a more positive view that the world can be changed and transformed into a fertile crescent of freedom, love, and poetry.

André Breton's Surrealist Manifesto of 1924 and the publication of the magazine La Révolution Surréaliste ("The Surrealist Revolution") marked the beginning of the movement as a public agitation. In the manifesto of 1924 Breton defines surrealism as "pure psychic automatism" with automatism being spontaneous creative production without conscious moral or aesthetic self-censorship. By Breton's admission, however, as well as by the subsequent development of the movement, this was a definition capable of considerable expansion. Breton also wrote the following dictionary and encyclopedia definitions:

  • "SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, or in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.
  • ENCYCLOPEDIA. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life."
René Magritte's "The Betrayal of Images" (1928-9)
René Magritte's "The Betrayal of Images" (1928-9)

Breton and Philippe Soupault wrote the first automatic book, Les Champs Magnetiques, in 1919. Later, automatic drawing was developed by André Masson, and automatic drawing and painting, as well as other automatist methods, such as decalcomania, frottage, fumage, grattage and parsemage became significant parts of surrealist practice. (Automatism was later adapted to the computer.) Many of the popular artists in Paris throughout the 1920s and 1930s were surrealists, including René Magritte, Joan Miró, Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí, Alberto Giacometti, Valentine Hugo, Meret Oppenheim, Man Ray, and Yves Tanguy. Games such as the exquisite corpse also assumed a great importance in surrealism. Although sometimes considered exclusively French, surrealism was in fact international from the beginning, with both the Belgian and Czech groups developing early; the Czech group continues uninterrupted to this day. In fact, some of the most significant surrealist theorists and the most radical of surrealist methods have hailed from countries other than France. For example, the technique of cubomania was invented by Romanian surrealist Gherasim Luca.

In popular culture, particularly in the United States of America, surrealism is probably most often associated with the paintings of Salvador Dalí. Dalí was active in surrealism from 1929 to 1936, and gave the movement what he called the Paranoiac-critical method, which was well received at the time. From the late 1930s on most members of the movement have found Dalí's painting to have had little significance for surrealism, and Dalí to have moved further and further away from the movement. (However, there have been some, such as André Thirion, who have taken a more measured view.)

The 1960s saw a dramatic expansion of surrealism with the founding of The West Coast Surrealist Group as recognized by Andre Breton's personal assistant Jose Pierre and also The Surrealist Movement in the United States, and surrealist groups around the world, including many in areas in which surrealism had not previously existed, such as the Surrealist Group of Pakistan.

While surrealism is typically associated with the arts, it has been said to transcend them; surrealism has had an impact in many other fields. In this sense, surrealism is not specifically the privilege of self-identified "surrealists" or those sanctioned by Breton, rather, it refers to a range of creative acts of revolt and efforts to liberate the imagination. In addition to Surrealist ideas finding their genesis in the ideas of Hegel, Marx and Freud, surrealism being inherently dynamic and claims to be dialectic in its thought, surrealist groups have also drawn on sources as seemingly diverse as Bugs Bunny, comic strips, the obscure poet Samuel Greenberg and the hobo writer and humourist T-Bone Slim. One might say that surrealist strands may be found in movements such as Free Jazz (Don Cherry, Sun Ra, etc.) and even in the daily lives of people in confrontation with limiting social conditions. Thought of as the effort of humanity to liberate the imagination as an act of insurrection against society, surrealism dates back to, or finds precedents in, the alchemists, possibly Dante, various heretical groups, Hieronymus Bosch, Marquis de Sade, Charles Fourier, Comte de Lautreamont and Arthur Rimbaud. Some people believe that "Non-western" cultures also provide a continued source of inspiration for surrealist activity because some may strike up a better balance between instrumental reason and the imagination in flight than Western culture.

Some artists, such as H.R. Giger in Europe, who won an Academy Award for his stage set, and who also designed the "creature," in the movie Alien, have been popularly called "surrealists," though Giger is a visionary artist and does not claim to be surrealist. The Society for the Art of Imagination has come in for particularly bitter criticism from the surrealist movement (although this criticism has been characterized by at least one anonymous individual as coming from "the Marxists [sic] surrealist groups, who maintain small contingents worldwide;" he has also pointed out what he considers the hypocrisy of any surrealist criticism of the Society for the Art of Imagination given that Kathleen Fox designed the cover of issue 4 of the bulletin of the Groupe de Paris du Mouvement Surrealiste, S.U.RR... and also participated in the 2003 "Brave Destiny"[1] ( show at the Williamsburg Art & Historical Center, which was criticised by a number of surrealists in a tract entitled "Craven Destiny." However, though some presented "Brave Destiny" as the largest-ever exhibit of surrealist artists, the show was officially billed as exhibiting "Surrealism, Surreal/Conceptual, Visionary, Fantastic, Symbolism, Magic Realism, the Vienna School, Neuve Invention, Outsider, Naive, the Macabre, Grotesque and Singulier Art."

Surrealist music

Although Breton initially responded rather negatively to the subject of music with his essay "Silence is Golden," later surrealists have been interested in, and found parallels to surrealism in, the improvisation of jazz (as alluded to above), and the blues (surrealists such as Paul Garon have written articles and full-length books on the subject). Jazz and blues musicians have occasionally reciprocated this interest; for example, the 1976 World Surrealist Exhibition included such performances. (Surrealists have also analysed reggae and, later, rap, and some rock bands such as The Psychedelic Furs.) In addition to musicians who have been influenced by surrealism (including some minor influence in rock -- the title of the 1967 psychedelic Jefferson Airplane album Surrealistic Pillow was obviously inspired by the movement, and some people claim that Frank Zappa's 1969 album Uncle Meat was a "surrealist record" -- particularly hardcore), such as the experimental group Nurse with Wound (whose album title "Chance meeting on a dissecting table of a sewing machine and umbrella" is taken from a line in Lautreamont's "Maldoror"), surrealist music has included such explorations as those of Hal Rammel.

Surrealist film

Surrealist films such as Un Chien Andalou and L'Age D'Or by Luis Buñuel have also been produced.

Surrealist and film theorist Robert Benayoun has written books on Tex Avery, Woody Allen, Buster Keaton and the Marx Brothers.

Some have described David Lynch as a surrealist filmmaker. He has never participated in the surrealist movement or in any surrealist activity, but there are arguably some aspects of many of his films that are of surrealist interest.

Surrealist television

Some have found the television series The Prisoner to be of surrealist interest.

Related reading

  • André Breton, "Conversations: The Autobiography of Surrealism" (Gallimard 1952) (Paragon House English rev. ed. 1993). ISBN 1569249709.
  • "What is Surrealism?: Selected Writings of André Breton" (edited and with an Introduction by Franklin Rosemont). ISBN 0873488229.
  • André Breton, "Manifestoes of Surrealism" containing the 1st, 2nd and introduction to a possible 3rd Manifesto, and in addition the novel "The Soluble Fish" and political aspects of the surrealist movement. ISBN 0472179004.
  • Surrealist Subversions: The Surrealist Movement in the United States (edited with an introduction by Ron Sakolsky). ISBN 1570271224.
  • Gerard Durozoi, History of the Surrealist Movement (translated by Alison Anderson, University of Chicago Press). ISBN 0226174115.
  • Rosemont, Franklin, Surrealism and Its Popular Accomplices. San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books (1980). ISBN 087286121X.
  • Brotchie, Alastair and Gooding, Mel, eds. A Book of Surrealist Games. Berkeley, CA: Shambhala (1995). ISBN 1570620849.

See also


  • Guillaume Appollinaire (1917, 1991). "Program Note for Parade", printed in Oeuvres en prose complètes, 2:865-866, Pierre Caizergues and Michel Décaudin, eds. Paris: Éditions Gallimard.
  • André Breton. The Abridged Dictionary of Surrealism, reprinted in:
    • Marguerite Bonnet, ed. (1988). Oeuvres complètes, 1:328. Paris: Éditions Gallimard.

External links

Philosophy of language

There are 2 subcategories to this category.

Articles in category "Philosophy of language"

There are 13 articles in this category.









Ordinary language philosophy

Ordinary language philosophy is less a philosophical doctrine or school than it is a loose network of approaches to traditional philosophical problems. These approaches typically involve eschewing philosophical "theories" in favour of close attention to the details of the use of everyday, "ordinary" language. They are generally associated with the works of J. L. Austin, Gilbert Ryle and with the later work of Ludwig Wittgenstein. The name comes from the contrast between these approaches and the earlier approaches that had been dominant in analytic philosophy, and are now sometimes called Ideal language philosophy.


Early analytic philosophy had a less positive view of ordinary language. Bertrand Russell tended to dismiss language as being of little philosophical significance, and ordinary language as just being too confused to help solve metaphysical and epistemological problems. Frege, the Vienna Circle (especially Rudolf Carnap), the young Wittgenstein, and W. V. Quine, all attempted to improve upon it, in particular using the resources of modern logic. Wittgenstein's view in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus more or less agreed with Russell that language ought to be reformulated so as to be unambiguous, so as to accurately represent the world, so that we could better deal with the questions of philosophy.

The sea-change brought on by Wittgenstein's work in the 1930s centred largely around the idea that there is nothing wrong with ordinary language as it stands, and that many traditional philosophical problems were only illusions brought on by misunderstandings about language and related subjects. The former idea led to rejecting the approaches of earlier analytic philosophy--arguably, of any earlier philosophy--and the latter led to replacing them with the contemplation of language in its normal use, in order to "dissolve" the appearance of philosophical problems, rather than attempt to solve them. Ordinary language philosophy, also called linguistic philosophy is thus sometimes taken as an extension of, and sometimes as an alternative to, analytic philosophy.

Although heavily influenced by Wittgenstein and his students at Cambridge, ordinary language analysis largely flourished and developed at Oxford in the 1940s, under Austin and Gilbert Ryle, and was quite widespread for a time before declining rapidly in popularity in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is now not uncommon to hear that "ordinary language philosophy is dead." Wittgenstein is perhaps the only one among the major figures in this vein to retain anything like the reputation he had at that time.

Central Ideas

Wittgenstein held that the meanings of words reside in their ordinary uses, and that that is why philosophers trip over words taken in abstraction. The metaphysicians can go home and relax now. From England came the idea that philosophy has got into trouble by trying to understand words outside of the context of their use in ordinary language (see contextualism).

For example, what is reality? Philosophers have treated it as a noun denoting something that has certain properties. For thousands of years, they have debated those properties. Ordinary Language philosophy would instead look at how we use the word "reality." (Note: Willful oversimplification follows...) We say, "In reality...", but we don't mean that there is some special dimension of being. What we really mean is, "What I just told you only sounded right. Now I'm about to tell you the truth." That is, "in reality" is a bit like "however." And, "The reality of the matter is ..." serves a similar function in setting the listener's expectations. Further, when we talk about a "real gun", we aren't making a metaphysical statement of Platonic proportions; we are merely opposing this gun to a toy gun, pretend gun, imaginary gun, etc. The controversy really begins when ordinary language philosophers apply the same levelling tendency to questions such as 'What is Truth?' or 'What is Consciousness?'. Again, philosophers in this school would insist that we cannot assume that (for example) 'Truth' 'is' a 'thing' (in the same sense that tables and chairs are 'things'), which the word 'truth' represents. Instead, we must look at the differing ways in which the words 'truth' and 'conscious' actually function in ordinary language. We may well discover, after investigation, that there is no single entity ('truth') to which the word truth corresponds, something Wittgenstein attempts to get across via his concept of a 'family resemblance' (see Philosophical Investigations). Therefore ordinary language philosophers tend to be anti-essentialist. Of course, this was and is a very controversial viewpoint.

Important names in the Ordinary Language school include: John Wisdom, Gilbert Ryle and Peter Strawson.

Art history

Art history usually refers to the history of the visual arts. Although ideas about the definition of art have changed over the years, the field of art history attempts to categorize changes in art throughout time and better understand how art shapes and is shaped by the outlooks and creative impulses of its practitioners. Although many think of Art history as purely the study of European art history, the subject encompasses all art, from the megaliths of Western Europe to the paintings of the Tang dynasty in China.

For more information, please see the main article about Art history.


There are 12 subcategories to this category.










Articles in "Art history"

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Decadence was the name given, first by hostile critics, and then triumphantly adopted by some writers themselves, to a number of late nineteenth century fin de siècle writers associated with Symbolism or the Aesthetic movement.

Decadant artists:

The idea of decadence refers to the supposed decline of a society because of moral weakness. The favourite example of this is ancient Rome, where, the story has it, a great empire was laid low by wicked emperors like Nero. Few bother to mention that Rome collapsed after generations of Christian rule. The really naughty emperors (Nero, Caligula, etc) were often hundreds of years before the end of the empire. The concept of decadence dates from the eighteenth century, especially from Montesquieu. It was taken up by critics as a term of abuse after Desire Nisard used it against Victor Hugo and Romanticism in general. A later generation of Romantics, such as Theophile Gautier and Charles Baudelaire took the word as a badge of pride, as a sign of their rejection of what they saw as banal "progress." In the 1880s a group of French writers referred to themselves as decadents. The classic novel from this group is Joris-Karl Huysmans' Against Nature. As a literary movement decadence is now regarded as a transition between Romanticism and Modernism. For further information see Richard Gilman's Decadence: The Strange Life of an Epithet, or Matei Calinescu's Five Faces of Modernity. For a guide to literary decadence, see Mario Praz's The Romantic Agony.

Contemporary political controversy over decadence

Vladimir Lenin continued and extended the use of the word "decadence" in his theory of imperialism to refer to economic matters underlying political manifestations. According to Lenin, capitalism had reached its highest stage and could no longer provide for general development of society. He expected reduced vigor in economic activity and a growth in unhealthy economic phenomenon, because society was ripe for socialist revolution in the West. Politically, World War I proved the decadent nature of the advanced capitalist countries to Lenin, that capitalism had reached the stage where it would destroy its own prior achievements more than it would advance.

Followers of Trotsky have split over the extent to which to uphold Lenin as against Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. However, followers of Stalin have generally defended the "decadence" thesis of Lenin's theory of imperialism against Trotskyists. Trotskyists tend to stress that capitalism in the West is still progressive and marching forward technologically with the steady accumulation of capital. Followers of Lenin such as Stalin and Mao have argued that there is nothing left for imperialism to do but die, because it has nothing progressive to contribute anymore.

One who directly opposed the idea of decadence as expressed by Lenin was Jose Ortega y Gassett in The Revolt of the Masses (1930). He argued that the "mass man" had the notion of material progress and scientific advance deeply inculcated to the extent that it was an expectation. He also argued that contemporary progress was opposite the true decadence of the Roman Empire.


(Redirected from Aesthetic movement)

The Aesthetic movement is a loosely defined movement in art and literature in later nineteenth century Britain. Generally speaking, it represents the same tendencies that Symbolism or Decadence stood for in France, and may be considered the English branch of the same movement. It belongs to the anti-Victorian reaction and had post-Romantic roots. It took place in the late Victorian period from around 1868 to 1901, and is generally considered to have ended with the trial of Oscar Wilde.

The English decadent writers were deeply influenced by Walter Pater and his essays published in 1867-1868, in which he stated that life had to be lived intensely, following an ideal of beauty. Decadent writers used the slogan, coined by the philosopher Victor Cousin and promoted by Théophile Gautier in France, "Art for Art's Sake" (L'art pour l'art) and asserted that there was no connection between art and morality.

The artists and writers of the Aesthetic Movement tended to hold that the Arts should provide refined sensuous pleasure, rather than convey moral or sentimental messages. As a consequence they did not accept John Ruskin and Matthew Arnold's utilitarian conception of art as something moral or useful. Instead they believed that Art does not have any didactic purpose, it need only be beautiful. The Aesthetes developed the cult of beauty which they considered the basic factor in art. Life should copy Art, they asserted. The main characteristics of the movement were: suggestion rather than statement, sensuality, massive use of symbols,and synaesthetic effects - that is, correspondence between words, colors, and music.

Aestheticism had its forerunners in John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley, and among the Pre-Raphaelites. In Britain the best representatives were Oscar Wilde and Algernon Charles Swinburne, both influenced by the French Symbolists. Artists associated with the Aesthetic Movement include James McNeill Whistler and Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Writers include Oscar Wilde. The movement had an influence on interior design. 'Aesthetic' interiors were characterised by the use of such things as peacock feathers and blue-and-white china. This aspect of the movement was satirised in Punch magazine, and in Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta "Patience".

Édouard Manet

(Redirected from Edouard Manet)
Édouard Manet (portrait by Nadar)
Édouard Manet (portrait by Nadar)

Édouard Manet (January 23, 1832 - April 30, 1883) was a noted French painter. One of the first nineteenth-century artists to approach modern-life subjects, his works bridged the gap between realism and Impressionism.

Édouard Manet was born in Paris, France; his mother, Eugénie-Desirée Fournier, was the goddaughter of a Swedish prince, and his father, Auguste Manet, was a French judge. He wanted Édouard to also pursue a career in law, but Édouard wanted a career in the arts. His uncle, Charles Fournier, encouraged him to pursue painting seriously; he often took young Édouard to exhibitions at the Louvre.

From 1850 to 1856, after failing his naval examinations, Manet went to study under academic painter Thomas Couture. He would copy the Old Masters in the Louvre in his spare time. He spent some time visiting Germany, Italy and the Netherlands, during which he absorbed the influences of the Dutch painter Frans Hals and the Spanish artists Diego Velasquez and Francisco José de Goya.

Manet, in imitation of the current style of Realism initiated by Gustave Courbet, painted many everyday subjects like beggars, cafés, bullfights, and other events and scenery. He produced very few religious, mythological, or historical paintings.

One of Manet's most famous paintings at this time is Le déjeuner sur l'herbe ("The Lunch on the Grass"). The Salon refused to exhibit it in 1863 but he exhibited it at the Salon des Refusés ("Exhibition of Refused Works") later in the year. Its juxtaposition of dressed men and a nude woman was controversial, as was its abbreviated sketch-like style - an innovation that distinguished Manet from Courbet. However, Manet's composition derived from Marcantonio Raimondi's engraving The judgment of Paris (c. 1510) after a drawing by Raphael. Manet was taking respected works by Renaissance artists and updating them, a practice he also adopted in Olympia (1863), a nude portrayed in a style that recalled the early studio photographs of the day, but which was based on Titian's Venus of Urbino (1538).

The roughly-painted style and 'photographic' lighting in these works was seen as specifically modern, and as a challenge to the Renaissance works Manet updated. Manet consistently believed that modern artists should seek to exhibit at the Salon rather than abandon it. He became friends with the Impressionists Edgar Degas, Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, Paul Cézanne, and Camille Pissarro in part through his sister-in-law Berthe Morisot, who was a member of the group. His own work had influenced and anticipated the Impressionist style. However, Manet resisted involvement in Impressionist exhibitions, partly because he did not wish to be seen as the representative of a group identity, and partly because of his disapproval of their opposition to the Salon system. Nevertheless, when Manet was excluded from the International exhibition of 1867, he set up his own exhibition.

Manet's Tomb at Passy Cemetery.
Manet's Tomb at Passy Cemetery.

However, he was influenced by the Impressionists, especially by Monet, and to an extent Morisot. Manet was influenced to use lighter colors. Nevertheless he retained his distinctive use of blocks of black, uncharacteristic of other Impressionists. He painted many plein air studies - paintings created outdoors - but always returned to what he considered serious work in the studio.

Throughout his life, though resisted by art critics, Manet had many champions. He knew Zola, who supported him publicly in the press, and Mallarmé, as well as Baudelaire, who had challenged him to depict life as it was. He in turn made many sketchings of them.

In 1881, under pressure from his friend Antonin Proust, Édouard Manet was awarded the Legion of Honor by the French government. His last major work, Le Bar aux Folies-Bergère ("A Bar at the Folies-Bergère"), was painted in 1881-2. It was exhibited at the Salon that same year.

Manet died of untreated syphilis, which caused him much pain and partial paralysis from locomotor ataxia in his late days. His left foot was amputated because of gangrene eleven days before he died.

He died in Paris in 1883 and is buried in the Cimetière de Passy, Paris, France.

In recent years, the price for his works exceeded US$26 million.

The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama
"The Battle of the Kearsarge and the Alabama"
Edouard Manet: A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882)
Edouard Manet: A Bar at the Folies-Bergère (1882)

Charles Baudelaire

(Redirected from Charles-Pierre Baudelaire)
Charles Baudelaire
Charles Baudelaire

Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821August 31, 1867) was one of the most influential French poets. He was also an important critic and translator.

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Life and work

Baudelaire was born in Paris. His father, who was a civil servant in good position and an amateur artist, died in 1827, and in the following year his mother married a lieutenant colonel named Aupick, who was afterwards an ambassador of France at various courts. Baudelaire was educated at Lyons and at the Collège Louis-Ie-Grand in Paris. On faking his degree in 1839 he determined to enter on a literary career, and during the next two years pursued a very irregular way of life, which led his guardians, in 1841, to send him on a voyage to India. When he returned to Paris, after less than a year's absence, he was of age; but in a year or two his extravagance threatened to exhaust his small patrimony, and his family obtained a decree to place his property in trust.

His salons of 1845 and 1846 attracted immediate attention by the boldness with which he propounded many views then novel, but have since been generally accepted. He took part with the revolutionaries in 1848, and for some years interested himself in republican politics, but his permanent convictions were aristocratic and Catholic. Baudelaire was a slow and fastidious worker, and it was not until 1857 that he produced his first and famous volume of poems, ' 'Fleurs du mal' '. Some of these had already appeared in the ' 'Revue des deux mondes' ', when they were published by Baudelaire's friend Auguste Poulet Malassis, who had inherited a printing business at Alencon. The consummate art displayed in these verses was appreciated by a limited public, but general attention was caught by the perverse selection of morbid subjects, and the book became a by-word for unwholesomeness among conventional critics. Victor Hugo, writing to the poet, said ' 'Vous dotez le ciel de l'art d'un rayon macabre, vous créez un frisson nouveau' '. Baudelaire, his publisher, and the printer were successfully prosecuted for offending against public morals. In the prefatory poem of "Les fleurs du mal" Baudelaire accuses his readers of being as guilty of sins and lies as the poet:

... If rape or arson, poison, or the knife
Has wove no pleasing patterns in the stuff
Of this drab canvas we accept as life--
It is because we are not bold enough!
(Roy Campbell's translation)

Six of the poems were suppressed, but printed later as ' 'Les Epaves' ' (Brussels, 1866). Another edition of the ' 'Fleurs du mal' ', without these poems, but with considerable additions, appeared in 1861.

His other works include ' 'Petits Poèmes en prose' '; a series of art criticisms published in the ' 'Pays, Exposition universelle' '; studies on Gustave Flaubert (in Lartisge, 18th of October 1857); on Théophile Gautier (' 'Revue contemporaine' ', September 1858); valuable notices contributed to Eugene Crepet's ' 'Poètes francais' '; ' 'Les Paradis artificiels: opium et haschisch' ' (1860); ' 'Un Dernier Chapitre de l'histoire des oeuvres de Balzac' ' (1880), originally an article entitled ' 'Comment on paye ses dettes quand on a du genie' ', in which his criticism turns against his friends Honoré de Balzac, Théophile Gautier, and Gerard de Nerval.

Baudelaire had learnt English in his childhood, and had found some of his favorite reading in the English Satanic romances, such as Lewis' ' 'The Monk' '. In 1846 - 1847 he became acquainted with the works of Edgar Allan Poe, in which he discovered romances and poems which had, he said, long existed in his own brain, but had never taken shape. From this time till 1865 he was largely occupied with his version of Poe's works, producing masterpieces of the art of translation, in ' 'Histoires extraordinaires' ' (1852), ' 'Nouvelles Histoires exlraordinaires' ' (1857), ' 'Adventures d'Arthur Gordon Pym' ' (see ' 'The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym' '), ' 'Eureka' ', and ' 'Histoires grotesques et sériouses' ' (1865). Two essays on Poe are to be found in his ' 'Oeuvres complètes' ' (vols. v. and vi.).

Meanwhile his financial difficulties grew upon him. He was involved in the failure of Poulet Malassis in 1861, and in 1864 he left Paris for Belgium, partly in the vain hope of disposing of his copyrights. He had for many years a liaison with a colored woman, whom he helped to the end of his life in spite of her gross conduct. He had recourse to opium, and in Brussels he began to drink to excess. Paralysis followed, and the last two years of his life were spent in ' 'maisons de santé' ' in Brussels and in Paris, where he died on the 31st of August 1867. Many of his works were published after his death.

He is buried in the Cimetière du Montparnasse, Paris.


Baudelaire is one of the most famous decadent poets, but before the 20th century, when his work underwent considerable re-evaluation, he was generally considered by many to be merely a drug addict and a very vulgar author. His importance among serious literary critics and writers was, however, rarely in dispute. He was one of the first to recognise and to commend Poe's literary worth, and was also a noted art critic.

Baudelaire's confrontation of depression with the consumption of drugs such as opium, hashish and alcohol, influenced several future generations of depressed people. Many of his poems were influenced by his interest in ' 'les correspondances' ', or synaesthesia. Synaesthesia is the mixing of the senses, that is, the ability to smell colors or see sounds. He wrote several poems about the subject itself, such as ' 'Correspondances' ', and used imagery and symbolism based on the experiences of synaesthesiacs. In general, Baudelaire was a sensualist, in love with sensations, and he tried to experience them and express them in abundance.

He was claimed by Andre Breton as a surrealist.

Baudelaire was affected by bipolar disorder, commonly known as manic depression.


Online texts

Wikiquote has a collection of quotations by or about Charles Baudelaire.
Wikisource has original works written by or about Charles Baudelaire.

in French

in English

External links

This article incorporates text from the public domain 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica