Developments in the 19th Century



 




Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


 





SYMBOLISM

in

FRANCE




(Between Romanticism and Expressionism)



 

 

 


C o n t e n t s:
 
Symbolism in France  
 
Synthetism Pont-Aven school
Intimism Nabis
Fauvism  
 
collections:
Aman-Jean Edmond  Anquetin Louis
Bernard Emile Bonnard Pierre
Carriere Eugene Claudel Camille
Denis Maurice Derain Andre
Dongen Kees van Dufy Raoul
Fantin-Latour Henri Filiger Charles
Gauguin Paul Hawkins Louis  
Jacquemin Jeanne   Lacombe Georges
Levy-Dhurmer Lucien Maillol Aristide
Matisse Henri Marquet Albert
Maurin Charless Maxence Edgar
Moreau Gustaves   Mossa Gustave Adolphe 
Osbert Alphonce Point Armand 
Puvis de Chavannes Pierre  Ranson Paul
Redon Odilon Rodin Auguste
Rouault Georges Rousseau Henri
Roussel Ker Xaviers Seon Alexandre
Serusier Paul Vallotton Felix
Vlaminck Maurice
 
Vuillard Edouard
 
 




 

His influence is perceptible in the work and theories of various artists. Its first theoretical formulation was given by Maurice Denis, when, in the late 1880s, he defined a painting as "a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order". He had taken the idea from his friend Paul Serusier, who had it from Paul Gauguin; he, in his turn, owed it (as we shall see) to the young Emile Bernard. Symbolism, thus defined, opens the way to abstraction, as Serusier's painting The Talisman first showed. Indeed, the major pioneers of abstraction, Kandinsky, Malevich, Kupka and Mondrian all began their careers as Symbolist painters.

 
Criticism and art history have, on occasion, bestowed a high status on the precursors of a movement later deemed significant. This is a notion that should be handled with the utmost care; it suggests that art progresses in the same way as science, one discovery becoming possible thanks to an earlier one, whose sole importance was its pioneering role. Unlike science, art does not "progress". It adapts to changing social relationships and modes of production and registers transformations in everyday life and in the representation of the world. As the circumstances of life and the way it is perceived change, so old forms come to seem irrelevant and new forms are needed. An artist does not make a "discovery" in the sense that scientists do. But he does discover a "means". Thanks to this "means", he can avoid repeating the familiar forms derived from an obsolete conception of the world; he can once more touch upon the heart of the matter.

The eighth of nine children of a poor insurance salesman, Carriere was brought up in Strasbourg, where he received his initial training in art at the Ecole Municipale de Dessin as part of his apprenticeship in commercial lithography. In 1868, while briefly employed as a lithographer, he visited Paris and was so inspired by the paintings of Rubens in the Louvre that he resolved to become an artist. His studies under Alexandre Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts were interrupted by the Franco–Prussian War (1870–71), during which he was taken prisoner. In 1872–3 he worked in the studio of Jules Cheret. In 1878 he participated in the Salon for the first time, but his work went unnoticed. The following year he ended his studies under Cabanel, married and moved briefly to London where he saw and admired the works of Turner. Success eluded him for a number of years after he returned to Paris and he was forced to find occasional employment, usually with printers, until as late as 1889, to support his growing family. Between 1880 and 1885 his brother Ernest (1858–1908), a ceramicist, arranged part-time work for him at the Sèvres porcelain factory. There he met Auguste Rodin who became and remained an extremely close friend.
 
Paul Serusier.
The Talisman.
1888
Musee d'Orsay, Paris
 

 

 




Jeanne Jacquemin

(see collection)




The Painful and Glorious Clown

     
 
 


Carriere Eugene

(see collection)
Eugene Carriere
La Peinture
  Eugene Carriere
The Contemplator
 
 
   
 Thus Emile Bernard understood the expressive power of colour treated as a unified plane (with greater intensity than in Puvis de Chavannes). But Bernard communicated his intuition to Paul Gauguin, and it was Gauguin who took it to its logical conclusion and to its highest pitch of intensity. Symbolism thus tends to include all those artists who were not primarily concerned with a so-called "realistic" representation of the world. It also includes artists such as the Belgians Jean Delville and Leon Frederic, the occult idealism of whose subject matter clearly designates them as Symbolist despite their overtly academic style. But the most convincing Symbolists are those who, like Gustaves Moreau, may be classified as such for both the form and content of their work.

 
Moreau's manner was initially academic, but underwent a slow transformation to encompass surprising audacities of impasto and colour. This may not prevent us from thinking it mannered and precious. Odilon Redon aptly defined it as "the art of a bachelor". Yet it is worth noting that, during the few years late in his life when he taught at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Moreau's pupils included Georges Rouault, Henri Matisse  and Albert Marquet.
 
Albert Marquet.
Andre Rouveyre.
1904
 
His work is narrative; he was occasionally driven to deny, in tones of disabused weariness, that he was a "literary" artist. But biblical or mythological subjects do not, in themselves, make a painting Symbolist. Moreau fits into this category because he chose subjects which gave expression to the fantasies - one might almost say psychodrama - of sexual roles and identity that characterise his age. He did this by depicting figures like Salome, but also by the surprising and almost invariable androgyny of his male subjects.

Symbolism thus touched upon the fantasies of the age as it did upon the realm of dreams, though the latter was by no means its exclusive preserve, dreams having been a favourite subject of the Romantics. But the Symbolist dream had lost the confident elan of Romanticism; it had become more enigmatic, more perverse.

The most striking characteristic of Symbolist artists is their withdrawal into the realm of the imagination. It is the solitude of the dreamer, of one who, marooned on a desert island, tells stories to himself. It is the solipsistic solitude of one who is sure of nothing outside himself. Certain artists, like Fernand Khnopff, made a virtue of their solipsism. Others, like
Redon, sought a technique capable of rendering the elusive, enigmatic qualities of experience.

 It follows that our subject can be divided into a number of more or less overlapping circles. A significant part of Symbolist art is tinged with a religiosity of a Catholic, syncretic or esoteric kind. Symbolism also produced a certain mystique of art for art's sake, in the spirit of
James Abbott McNeill Whistler or Stephane Mallarme. Though these trends are, in theory, easy to distinguish, they tended in practice to mingle; the artists' needs were not so various as their styles, and their works frequently hung side by side in the salons. Finally, certain artists were Symbolists only for a certain period, while others remained so throughout their lives.

French sculptor Claudel is best known for her love affair with fellow artist Auguste Rodin, the basis for a late '80s French film starring Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Adjani. Ayral-Clause, a professor of French and the humanities at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, cites original documents and other research to argue that although Rodin is usually depicted as having abandoned a wimpy Camille, in fact Camille was so feisty and in-your-face (a necessity for a woman artist in a man's world) that he wound up running for cover to escape her "insults" once their 15-year-long affair was over. Camille went mad and spent her last 30 years in an asylum. Ayral-Clause's account of these events is clear, although sometimes marred by an artificial prose style with odd syntax: "Events that are denied at the time they occur are often brought back to life through letters or journals discovered later on." Art history students may be disappointed by the generalized comments about Claudel's artworks themselves (shown, along with photos, in 69 b&w illustrations), since the woman, rather than the artist, is in the limelight in this biography. By contrast, Ayral-Clause fully accepts Rodin as a great artist and great man, reserving criticism for Camille's brother, the far-right-wing poet and diplomat Paul Claudel, who ensured she was buried in a common grave for paupers despite the family's great wealth.

Camille Claudel
 

 


Camille Claudel


born Dec. 8, 1864, Villeneuve-sur-Fère, Fr.
died Oct. 19, 1943, Montdevergues asylum, Montfavet, near Avignon


French sculptor of whose work little remains and who for many years was best known as the mistress and muse of Auguste Rodin. She was also the sister of Paul Claudel, whose journals and memoirs provide much of the scant information available on his sister's life.

Between the ages of about 5 and 12, Camille Claudel was taught by the Sisters of Christian Doctrine. When the family moved to Nogent-sur-Seine, the educationof the Claudel children was continued by atutor. Camille had little formal education from that point on, but she read widely in her father's well-stocked library. By her teenage years she was already a remarkably gifted sculptor, and her abilities were recognized by other artists of the time. When in 1881 her father was once again transferred, he moved his family to Paris. There Camille entered the Colarossi Academy (now the Grande Chaumière) and met a lifelong friend, Jessie Lipscomb (later Elborne). Her first extant works are from this period.

Claudel and Rodin probably first met in 1883. Shortly thereafter she became his student, collaborator, model, and mistress. While continuing to work on her own pieces, she is believed to have contributed whole figures and parts of figures to Rodin's projects of that period, particularly to The Gates of Hell. She continued to live at home until 1888, when she moved to her own quarters near Rodin's studio at La Folie Neubourg. By 1892 her relationship with Rodin had begun to crumble, and by 1893 she was both living and working alone, though she continued to communicate with him until 1898. From this point on she worked ceaselessly, impoverished and increasingly reclusive. She continued to exhibit at recognized salons (the Salon d'Automne, the Salondes Indépendents) and at the Bing and Eugène Blot galleries,though just as often she would utterly destroy every piece ofwork in her studio. She became obsessed with Rodin's injustice to her and began to feel persecuted by him and his “gang.” Alienated from most human society, living at a great distance from Paul—the one family member close to her—her condition overwhelmed her. On March 10, 1913, she was committed by force to an asylum at Ville-Évrard. In September 1914 she was transferred to the asylum of Montdevergues, where she remained until her death.

(Encyclopedia Britannica)

 
Camille Claudel
The God Has Flown,
or The Imploring Woman.
1894-1905

Musee Rodin, Paris
 
 
Camille Claudel
The Age of Maturity. Destiny,
or Life.
1899-1913

Musee d'Orsay, Paris
 
 

Rodin


Auguste Rodin, who was born in Paris in 1840 and died in Meudon in 1917, was similar in age to many of the Impressionists. He was attracted and inspired by all the proposals and formal suggestions that came from their movement, but also by the newly emerging "ideiste" art - painting from the imagination. A highly gifted artist, who developed great skill as a sculptor. Rodin began his career under the sculptor Carrier Belleuse, working on the decoration of the Commercial Exchange in Brussels. His liberation from academism came through his study of Michelangelo on a trip to Italy in 1875. He was impressed by the epic nature of nude muscular figures and by the technique of "incompleteness". The creation of The Gates of Hell in 1880 revealed Rodin's search for a new, vital, and impassioned monumentality, with a Dionysian rhythm, in which the core of the sculpture seems to explode into the surrounding space and the figures appear to dissolve in the luminosity of the whole.
Rodin was mainly interested in the subject of movement. Although he was not a great theorist, it is clear from his thoughts on sculpture, collected by his students and his secretary, the poet Rainer Maria Rilke, that he believed in the need to overcome "closed form" and to "transfer inner feelings to muscular movements; give movement to express life". "The expression of life," he said, "can never be halted or frozen if it is to conserve the infinite flexibility of reality." The statues and groups that he created, both the famous monumental examples and smaller works such as the sensitive nude ballerina figures (Iris, Messenger of the Gods, 1890-91), are rarely calm and restful, even when action is not crucial. Rodin was accused by many artists and critics - including
Matisse, who visited him in 1906 and sought his advice in the medium - of neglecting the whole, of not achieving a compositional or sculptural synthesis, but rather of proceeding with an assembly of separate details, albeit each realized with the inspiration of genius. However, he continued with his research into the many-faceted and ever-changing profiles of an object, pursuing the organic vitality that seemed to animate the sculpture from within. A great modeller rather than a sculptor, Rodin found it very difficult to work in stone, so the job of translating his extraordinary inventions into marble was left to the skilful collaborators whom he had gathered around him: Emile-Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929), who worked as an assistant in his studio from 1893 to 1908, and Charles Despiau (1874-1946). Together with Aristide Maillol (1861-1944), they continued the debate into this new form of sculpture, by now free from academic mannerism and devoted to recapturing essential formal values derived from the relationships between mass and light and filled and empty space, and from the rhvthmic articulation of planes and lines. For Maillol this renewal process ranged from a return to the classical ideal forward to the neo-Hellenic plastic arts (he lived in Greece for a year and was inspired by the ancient statues). In contrast, Bourdelle, boosted by his Christian faith, reverted to medieval-inspired sculpture of simplified, robust, and heroic figures.


THE GREAT WORKS OF RODIN

Rodin's first sculptural assignment was the ornamental doors (The Gates of Hell) for the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, commissioned by the Ministry of Fine Arts in 1880. The narrative scenes, taken from Dante's Divine Comedy and from Ovid's Metamorphoses, comprised more than 186 figures in high and low relief, their dramatic passion reflected in the pained faces and exaggerated movements. The doors were never completed and were broken up into smaller sections; Bourdelle then reassembled them according to Rodin's elaborate scheme, producing four examples to be found today in museums in Paris, Zurich, Philadelphia, and Tokyo. Various motifs were taken by Rodin and enlarged in later elaborations — The Three Shadows (1880), The Kiss (1886), and The Thinker (1888) - the last being an enigmatic and symbolic meditation on human destiny. From 1884 to 1886 Rodin worked on the Burghers of Calais group, erected later in 1895. This was a realistic depiction of the six French citizens who during the Hundred Years' War offered to give their lives to King Edward III if he were to raise the siege on their, by then, destitute city. When Rodin was commissioned in 1885 to sculpt the funerary monument of Victor Hugo, destined for the Pantheon, he planned a group featuring the poet naked and pensive, accompanied by gesticulating Muses. This interpretation, not being sufficiently conventional, was rejected, and the work was not finished (albeit in an altered form) until 1909. when it was placed in the gardens of the Palais Royal. A similar fate befell the monument to Balzac, commissioned in 1883 by the Societe des Gens de Lettres and rejected by them following a discussion over its excessively free technique and its originality, deemed too superficial and inadequate in its portrayal of the subject. Cast in bronze after Rodin's death, it v. as placed in the Boulevard Raspail in 1939.

 
 
        

Rodin Auguste
 

(see collection)
 
Auguste-Rene Rodin
Eternal Idol
1889
Musee Rodin, Paris

 
 

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