I have mentioned Savrasov (1830 – 1897) in two earlier posts. In one of these posts, I combined a short discussion of the artist and a list of newspapers. I also wrote that Aleksey Savrasov was Isaac Levitan’s teacher and had been a member of the Peredvizhniki group. The Peredvizhniki (the Wanderers) group protested academic restrictions. I will add that, at the beginning of his career, Savrasov’s paintings were considered Romantic. The romantics expressed sentiment and individualism as their country entered its Industrial Age, William Blake‘s “dark, satanic mills.”
In Moscow, he and his wife entertained art lovers and art collectors, including Pavel Tretyakov, who gave his art gallery to Russia in 1892. At this time in his life, Savrasov had a fine and productive relationship with artist Vasily Perov. Savrasov helped Perov paint his Bird catcher and Hunters on Bivouac and Perov helped Savrasov paint the boat trackers in his Volga.
The International Exhibition in England
In 1662, Savrasov travelled to Europe to see England’s International Exhibition and also went to visit Switzerland. The lesson he drew from visiting the International Exhibition in England was that no academies could so promote an artist as an international exhibition. (See Aleksey Savrasov, Wiki2.org.)
Alcoholism and Death
In the late 1870s, after the death of this daughter, Savrasov became an alcoholic. No one could help. In 1882, he was dismissed from the MSPSA. The following line is very moving: “Only the doorkeeper of the MSPSA and Pavel Tretyakov, founder of the Tretyakov Gallery, were present at his funeral in 1897.” (See Aleksey Savrasov, Wiki2.org.)
Savrasov’s “The Rooks have returned” (1871) is considered one of his finest, if not his finest, painting. But so many of Savrasov’s paintings are masterpieces that saying one is the best is a genuine challenge.
For instance, “A Spring Day” (1873) is perfection and it touches us because it depicts the beginning of a season. Human beings have painted the seasons for a very long time and they have kept Books of Hours. Jean de France, duc de Berry‘s Très Riches Heuresdepicts each month of the year and its labour. Savrasov’ paintings often portray transitions and, therefore, renewal They show the end or beginning of a season, the end of winter, in particular. Seasons follow seasons eternally. Life rises again, irrepressibly.
Note that smoke comes out of the chimney of the first little brown homes. Until now, the Industrial Revolution, humans have protected themselves. We have dealt with the elements, found a refuge and built roads and fences. The pale green of trees in the background allows us to get a clear view of the disheveled trees burgeoning.
From the point of view of composition, “A Spring Day” has several golden sections. A golden section/ratio resembles an off-center crucifix. One of two lines, an horizontal and a vertical line, is longer than the other line. “A Spring Day” shows a long horizontal line that crosses a vertical line. The meeting point is a group trees. Perspective is achieved by the change in colouring from dark to pale. Moreover, there is a road, or vanishing point (le point de fuite). There is no flaw in the composition of “A Spring Day.”
The sky sits above a long arched line supported by small trees on the right and the bulkier houses on the left.
“A Spring Thaw,” the painting placed at the beginning of this post, combines diagonal and other lines. They are hints of Japonisme. Moreover, the colouring is very smooth.
Savrasov’s softens his landscapes as though each were a praise of nature and a prayer.
The Five may have been looked upon as lesser musicians by members of the musical establishment in Russia. For instance, Mily Balakirev did refuse appointments because he had little formal training. I spent the most important years of my life in academic establishments and have seen colleagues finding fault with other colleagues. So, the Russian Five may been ridiculed.
However, I would like to point out that Mikhail Glinka (1 June 1804 – 15 February 1857) respected Mily Balakirev (2 January 1837 – 29 May 1910), the leader of The Five, and that Tchaikovsky applauded Balakirev.
The Five took their lead from him Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka, who could be called the father of classical music in Russia. Moreover, Mily Balakirev befriended Glinka and they composed music together. When Glinka and Balakirev’s patron, Alexander Ulybyshev (Oulibicheff) (1794-1858) died, Balakirev lost support that was vital to him.
In other words, The Five did not oppose classical music. Their wish was to give Russian classical music its Slavic character. As we have seen, Rimsky-Korsakov sent Tchaikovsky ten fugues he had composed, which Tchaikovsky (7 May 1840 – 6 November 1893) examined and found “impeccable.” (See RELATED ARTICLE.)
As for Tchaikovsky himself, let us read:
“Tchaikovsky’s training set him on a path to reconcile what he had learned with the native musical practices to which he had been exposed from childhood. From this reconciliation he forged a personal but unmistakably Russian style—a task that did not prove easy.”
(See Tchaikovsky, Wiki2.org.)
God grant that our Slav guests may never forget today’s concert; God grant that they may forever preserve the memory of how much poetry, feeling, talent, and intelligence are possessed by the small but already mighty handful of Russian musicians.
Vladimir Stasov’s article was consecration for The Five and Slavic composer Alexander Dargomyzhsky. Their work now belonged to an all-Russian effort to express Russia’s distinct and distinguishable Slavic roots.
Similarly, the great Glinka, associated with Romanticism, recognized The Five. He and Balakirev composed The Lark.
It could be said that The Five were a baudelaireianfrisson nouveau: a new shudder. But were it not for The Five and Tchaikovsky, would classical music have inherited its internationally-acclaimed Russian répertoire?
Glinka drawn in the 1840s, portrait by Yanenko (Wiki2.org.)
On 14 July, I wanted to publish a post on Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863), one of two illegitimate sons fathered by Charles Maurice de Talleyrand Périgord (2 February 1754 – 17 May 1838) (2 February 1754 – 17 May 1838), but life took me to a second parking lot narrative. I am learning over and over again that planet Earth is not “the best of all possible worlds” (Voltaire’s Candide).
But let us first take a brief look at events, art, and life in 19th-century France.
The Duc de Morny and Eugène Delacroix: Half-Brothers
We have already met le duc de Morny (15–16 September 1811, Switzerland – 10 March 1865, Paris). He transformed the talented and beautiful Marie Duplessis (15 January 1824 – 3 February 1847) into Paris’ most prominent salonnière and courtesan. At that time in history, many marriages were arranged. In the aristocracy, lineage was a priority. Consequently, men took a mistress. The duc de Morny was born to Hortense de Beauharnais (10 April 1783 – 5 October 1837) and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord’s grandson. But Hortense, whose mother, Joséphine de Beauharnais, married Napoleon I, married Napoleon’s brother, Louis Bonaparte, king of Holland.
David, Delacroix, Ingres: Romanticism and Neoclassicism
Between 1792 and 1871, France was a Republic, twice; a Monarchy, twice; an Empire, twice, and it suffered a Second French Revolution, which took place in 1848. The 1848 French Revolution echoed various uprisings occurring in several European countries, some rooted in decisions made at the Congress of Vienna (November 1814 to June 1815), which ended the Napoleonic Wars, others reflecting national disasters, such as the Greek War of Independence. The Greek War of Independence inspired Delacroix, and Lord Byron (2 January 1788 – 19 April 1824). Lord Byron had in fact, become a militant who died of a fever he contracted at Missolonghi.
Jean-François Champollion (23 December 1790 – 4 March 1832), a French scholar, deciphered the Rosetta Stone’s Egyptian hieroglyphs. British polymath Thomas Young (13 June 1773 – 10 May 1829) had translated the Demotic script and had made some progress deciphering the Egyptian hieroglyphs. However, success evaded Young.
The stone, a rock stele, had been transported to the British Museum where it is still housed. The British had defeated the French at the above-mentioned Battle of the Nile, in 1801, led by the legendary Horatio Nelson. The Rosetta Stone was therefore a British acquisition.
Deciphering: phonetic or ideographic
A main obstacle to linguists deciphering a newly found language is whether or not the symbols of the language are phonetic (sounds) or ideographic (images). In the case of the Rosetta Stone, they were both phonetic and ideographic. The Egyptian hieroglyphs were also a paraphrase rather than a translation of the Ancient Greek script. His knowledge of Ancient Greek and progress in mastering Eastern languages helped Champollion decipher hieroglyphs. He published his results in 1822. Later in the decade, after visiting Egypt, Champollion published further findings.
Rosetta Stone (National Geographic)
The exotic has always fascinated artists and all manner of designers. Obelisks, not to be confused with Odalisques, were plentiful and were taken by ship to Europe, or, at times, made in Europe. I have often wondered whether or not Maelzel, who invented the modern metronome in 1815, was influenced by obelisks. Mechanical metronomes are shaped like elongated pyramids. The Washington Monument is an obelisk. Many are located in Rome, Italy. has (See List of obelisks in Rome, Wikipedia.)
The Lateran Obelisk, Rome (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The largest obelisk, the Lateran obelisk, is located in Rome. When it was transported from Alexandria to Rome, it weighed 455 tons and stood at 37.2 meters (122 feet) After its collapse, a higher obelisk was built: 45.7 meters (149.9 feet). The Lateran obelisk was made for the temple of Amun in Karnak. At the very top of the rebuilt obelisk stands a crucifix, which could explain the difference in height. Most Oriental obélisques were viewed as precious and pillaged. Obelisks had several destinations and smaller ones were used in the decorative arts. Many are engraved with names or very intricate bas-reliefs.
Obélisque de Paris, gravure (Photo credit: Le Point.fr)
Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863) was a Romantic painter as well as a lithographer. Lithographs are copies and therefore more affordable than an original painting. Movement is a main characteristic of Delacroix paintings and it suggests passion. The Romantics expressed their sentiments. Such paintings as the Massacre at Chios and the Death of Sardanapalus convey despair. The Massacre at Chios depicts Greek survivors of a massacre awaiting to be taken as prisoners or slaves. The enslavement of prisoners was a common fate after a victory and they could remain captives for many years, if a ransom were not paid. Before committing suicide, having suffered a final defeat, Sardanapalus has eunuchs kill his concubines.
It is said, however, that in real life Delacroix controlled his passions: reason over passion. He was with near certainty an illegitimate son of the very famous Talleyrand, a Prince and, arguably, the most powerful man in France. He was Napoleon’s éminence griseand may have orchestrated his defeat at Waterloo.Talleyrand is also the man behind the Congress of Vienna (1815), an event foretelling of such partitioning as the Sykes-Picot Agreement.
As for Delacroix, the leader of the French Romantics, his father protected him discreetly and promoted his career. After Talleyrand’s death, Delacroix was the protégé of the Duke of Morny, Talleyrand’s grandson.
Delacroix early in his career (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I intended to show the art of several Orientalists, one of whom is Delacroix who actually travelled to the Near East. My favourite orientalist is Jean-Léon Gérôme, but there are gems among Horace Vernet’s paintings and the artwork of other Orientalists. Orientalism crossed the English Channel and grew into an inspiration to members of the Aesthetic Movement, next to Japonism. The Orient became affordable as a decorative art.
In 2011, art critic Julia Cartwright exclaimed:
“There are lovely things at every turn, Persian potteries, hangings of every variety, cabinets and rugs. I fell in love with a sunflower paper at fourpence ha’penny a yard.”
Love to everyone♥
Massacre at Chios, 1824
Death of Sardanapalus, 1827
Arab Saddling his Horse, 1855
Arab Horses Fighting in a Stable,1860
Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi, 1826 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eugène Delacroix (13 August 1863) is one of the most accomplished artists associated with Romanticism. He was also one of the most prolific and versatile artists of the early nineteenth-century. Hence the breadth of his influence.
Delacroix is known mainly for his “Liberty Guiding the People” (1830), a painting that captures the “genius,” or essence, of Revolutions. However, although the video at the foot of this post presents “Liberty Guiding the People” and reveals a more intense Delacroix, I have assembled works that show other and, at times, seemingly simpler facets of Delacroix’s art.
The work featured at the top of this post is one of my favourites. It shows a drake, a Mandarin drake or mallard (canard mallard, canard colvert [green neck]).
Delacroix’s subject matter also consisted of flowers and studies of flowers, simple branches. Moreover, he travelled abroad seizing a less familiar beauty. The Romantics loved the exotic.
However, the art of this “Romantic” tends to override the notion of movements, which may of course be true of most great artists.
Photo credit: WikiArt.org (all images)
Please click on the lower part of each image to see its title. The pictures may be enlarged and viewed as a video (press escape to exit). I just discovered this WordPress feature.
Study of Flowers, 1845-1850
Two Branches with Leaves (pen, ink, watercolour)
House in a Grove (Bocage)
The Coast of Spain at Salabrena
Horse (Cheval) (watercolour)
For “The Cottage in a Grove,” 1838, Delacroix used a pen, chalk, and ink. “The Coast of Spain at Salabrena” is a watercolour, dated 1832. Delacroix’s “Study of Flowers” is a later work, executed between 1845 and 1850. “The Portrait of Turk in a Turban” (1826) was produced with pastels. For his magnificent tiger (below, 1830), Delacroix used a pencil and watercolours.
Portrait of a Turk in a Turban
Seated Arab in Tangier, 1832
Yet, we have Willibald von Gluck at the “clavecin” composing the score of his Armide (1831). This painting is a watercolour and “European.” A clavecin is a harpsichord. However, the instrument Gluck is using resembles my grandfather’s humble spinet, a type of harpsichord.
Willibald von Gluck at the clavecin composing the score of his Armide
Today is not a blogging day. But pictures are worth a thousand words, so I have used pictures to let you know that I am still blogging, but at a slower pace.
“This well-known and especially Romantic masterpiece was described by the historian John Lewis Gaddis as leaving a contradictory impression, ‘suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it. We see no face, so it’s impossible to know whether the prospect facing the young man is exhilarating, or terrifying, or both.’”[i](SeeCaspar David Friedrich,Wikipedia.)
Melancholy, by Edgar Degas, c. 1874 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Le Mal du Siècle
This duality, “mastery” and “insignificance,” could explain the malaise called le mal du siècle (the malady of the century), a term coined by poet Alfred de Musset (11 December 1810 – 2 May 1857) in La Confession d’un enfant du siècle (The Confession of a Child of the Century), an autobiography published in 1836. Moreover, France entered the nineteenth century after a radical revolution that turned into a bloodbath. Yet the nineteenth century in France was inaugurated by the military victories of Napoleon. The levée en masse,conscription, of 31 August 1793, had given Napoleon his grande armée.
Let’s take a closer look. Le mal du siècle[ii] is associated with François-René de Chateaubriand‘s René, a novella published separately in 1802, but also included, along with Atala (1801), in Chateaubriand’s Génie du Christianisme(The Genius of Christianity), published in 1802. It was also part of Les Natchez, a work written between 1793 and 1799, but not published until 1826. It is about René, a forelorn protagonist. Along with Atala (1801), it was conceived in America and written in Britain. Chateaubriand belonged to an aristocratic family and had to flee France during the French Revolution. He travelled to North-America, as did many émigrés, and then lived in England where he wrote abundantly. He left a superb narrative describing the Mississippi, the river he calls the Meschacebé and which he is unlikely to have seen.
René’s “mal du siècle”
René, the protagonist of René, is a sensitive young man who simply does not belong and whose mal is melancholy. The word melancholy all but summarizes “le mal du siècle,” also called “le vague des passions,” l’ennui (boredom), “spleen” (in Baudelaire). Chateaubriand has René say that he “lacked something to fill the void on his existence[:]” “Il me manquait quelque chose pour remplir l’abîme de monexistence[.]” René also says that man’s natural song is sad: “Le chantnaturel del’homme est triste.” In René’s opinion, “[o]ur heart is an incomplete instrument, a lyre missing strings” forcing us to express joy on the same tone as sighs:
“Notre cœur est un instrument incomplet, une lyre où il manque des cordes, et où nous sommes forcés de rendre les accents de la joie sur le ton consacré aux soupirs.” (René)
La théorie des climats
A reader of Montesquieu, Madame de Staël, the author of De l’Allemage (Germany), 1810-1813, theorizes that northerners are more prone to melancholy than people born and living in sunnier environments. This theory is called “la théorie des climats” and, although it is expressed by Montesquieu, Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu (18 January 1689 – 10 February 1755), an early representative of the French Enlightenment, it dates back to Greco-Roman antiquity. Madame de Staël’s northerners would be German-speaking people, the inhabitants of the British Isles and, perhaps, the people of Brittany, France, a Celtic nation. These northerners are Romanticism‘s better recruits.
Lamartine and Pascal
To a certain extent, René’s sadness is yet another expression of man’s duality. In “L’Homme” (Méditations poétiques, 1820), French poet Alphonse de Lamartine writes that “L’homme est un dieu tombé qui se souvient des cieux [.]” (Man is a fallen god who remembers heaven.) As Blaise Pascal (19 June 1623 – 19 August 1662) wrote, there is misère in the mortality of humans, but “grandeur” in the fact that humans know they will die. (Wo)man is a roseau pensant: a mere reed, but a thinking reed.
La grandeur de l’homme est grande en ce qu’il se connaît misérable; un arbre ne se connaît pas misérable.[iii]
(Man’s grandeur is immense in that he knows he is miserable [a mere mortal]; a tree doesn’t know it is miserable.)
But René also suffers from a profound sense of alienation from the world and is therefore considered Werther’s French counterpart. Johann Wolfgang Goethe‘s Werther is the protagonist of The Sorrows of Young Werther(Die Leiden des jungen Werthers), an epistolary novel published in 1774, a quarter of a century before Chateaubriand’s René.
Sturm und Drang
However, Werther has been associated, rightly or wrongly, with the Sturm und Drang movement (the late 1760s to the early 1780s). The Sturm und Drang (storm and stress) movement, named after a play by Friedrich Maximilian von Klinger (17 February 1752 – 25 February 1831), is characterized by the expression of “extremes of emotion,” and is not restricted to literature. It extends to music and the fine arts (examples are listed under Sturm und Drang, in Wikipedia).
The Sorrows of the Young Werther & René
Goethe (28 August 1749 – 22 March 1832); 1774 In Goethe’s Sorrows of the Young Werther, a bestseller, unrequited love or, love lost, often leads to melancholy, Werther falls in love with Lotte who is about to marry Albert, a man eleven years her senior. He therefore courts rejection. The plot is the classic love triangle. Lotte marries Albert and Werther commits suicide. Werther’s suicide is the expression of an “extreme of emotion.” He has invested his entire self in Lotte (see cathexis, Wikipedia).Chateaubriand (4 September 1768 – 4 July 1848); 1802
As for René, also a bestseller, there is no refuge for its protagonist’s melancholia. He visits the Natchez people in Louisiana, still a French colony, and travels to Scotland, the home Ossian. Ossian is an invented bard whose poetry is that of James MacPherson. René considers suicide, but finds a reprieve when he is joined by his sister Amélie, whom he loves. However, Amélie soon leaves him to enter a convent, her love for René being incestuous. René returns to America and is killed by a Natchez.Les Natchez can be considered an episode, or chapter, in the European discourse on the “Noble Savage.” However, Chateaubriand’s savage is not so noble.
There is no refuge for the Werthers and Renés. Romantics often perceived the world as mediocre and hostile which exacerbated the profound sadness called le mal du siècle. But romanticism can also be summarized as an age when sentiment prevailed over reason. It is a reaction against the Enlightenment. Beginning with René Descartes‘ (31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650) Discourse on Method(1637), reason had prevailed over sentiment.
The Reign of Sentiment
Therefore, it would seem to me that romanticism gives free rein to sentiment and subjectivity over reason. The reign of reason had been challenged by Blaise Pascal and otherwise assaulted, but it could be said that La Querelle des Bouffons, (The War of the Comic Actors) was reason’s major defeat (see Related Articles: Pergolesi). It is also a victory of the Modernes over the Anciens. Romantic authors and musicians revived the Medieval era, a Christian era. They sought their roots. The Brothers Grimm collected the folklore that gave German-speaking people their identity and Wagner gave them their glorious past.
Alfred de Musset by Charles Landelle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alfred de Musset: Confession d’un Enfant du siècle
At a deeper level, these “extremes of emotion” may be an expression of man’s duality or the human condition. “Siècle” means both century and the world, or the secular and the profane. In his Confession d’un enfantdu siècle, mentioned above, Alfred de Musset wrote that:
“Toute la maladie du siècle présent vient de deux causes : le peuple, qui a passé par 93 et par 1814, porte au cœur deux blessures. Tout ce qui était n’est plus ; tout ce qui sera n’est pas encore. Ne cherchez pas ailleurs le secret de nos maux.”
(The entire malady of the present century stems from two causes : the nation that lived through 93 [la terreur or the reign of terror] and 1814 [Napoleon’s defeat: the Battle of Paris] had its heart wounded twice. All there was is no longer; all that will be has yet to come. Seek nowhere else the secret of our ills.)
Such a definition applies to France, but the industrial revolution was no less traumatic than the French Revolution and Napoléon’s: defeat, i.e. 1814.
However, Werther is the victim of unrequited love, the world is not as it should be. As for René, he is at odds with a world that ended in the Terror of 1793-94: 93. However, Werther is the victim of unrequited love, the world is not as it should be. As for René, he is at odds with a world that ended in the Terror of 1793-94: 93. As an aristocrat, Chateaubriand had to flee France. He went to America, as did several émigrés. He then fought in the Army of Princes but was wounded, which forced him to live in England where he was not idle. He and madame de Staël all but invented French romanticism, she as a theorist and he as the finest writer of the early 19th century. All émigrés were amnestied[iv] by Napoleon on 27 April 1802, but Chateaubriand left England in May 1800, when some émigrés were also amnestied.
Humans have long been described or have described themselves as both tall and small. They combine a degree of “mastery” and “insignificance.” This theme underlies most of Western literature. John Milton‘s Paradise Lost tells that story. René’s mal du siècle, however, is also as described by Alfred de Musset. The French Revolution turned into the above-mentioned bloodbath: 93. The King was guillotined and its wealth was taken away from the Church. This was Talleyrand‘s[v] idea, a priest and a bishop. The vote took place on 10 October 1789. Priests fled to Britain.[vi] A new calendar was adopted. Yet, romanticism happened everywhere and, for many years, Madame de Staël‘s château at Coppet was its nucleus and Madame de Staël herself, a theorist of romanticism. Besides, the industrial revolution, a revolution greater than the French Revolution, was introducing the reign of machines that both empowered and lessened humankind, hence Weltshmerz, a term we oweJean-Paul Richter. Le mal du siècle may well be the birthplace ofl’absurde (see Absurdism, Wikipedia).
The world that followed the French Revolution was a new world, but it had kept many of the institutions of the Old World, or l’Ancien Régime. One of these institutions was the salon. The first known French salon was seventeenth-century Catherine de Rambouillet’s Chambre Bleue. Guests enjoyed making believe they were shepherds and shepherdesses and they wrote poems, at times very tricky ones. La Chambre bleuewas a magnet. Even Richelieu was inspired to visit.
In the eighteenth century, the Golden Age of the salon, the most famous was Madame Geoffrin‘s (June 1699 – 6 October 1777). Dignitaries visiting Paris were infinitely grateful for being invited. It was such a privilege, but salons were not as they had been in the seventeenth century. The French eighteenth century was the Age of Enlightenment, so ideas were discussed.
On Monday, Madame Geoffrin received artists and, on Wednesday, men of letters. Ideas were discussed, but never too seriously. That would have been a breach of etiquette. L’honnête hommeand the Encyclopédisteswere awitty group. All were treated to a fine meal. However, even at Madame Geoffrin‘s salon, love remained a favourite subject.
After and even during the French Revolution, except for the “Reign of Terror,” people, gentlemen mainly, flocked to salons such as Madame Récamier’s and Madame de Staël‘s. It is also at that time that François-René de Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël (22 April 1766 – 14 July 1817) inaugurated French Romanticism, a literary movement that gave primacy to sentiment.
Goethe‘s Sorrows of Young Werther (Die Leiden des jungen Werthers) was published in 1774, so France lagged behind both German and English Romanticism. François-René de Chateaubriand would soon publish René and Atala, novellas included in his Génie du christianisme, or Genius of Christianity(1802). It fact, although he is not included in David’s portrait of Madame Récamier, chances are Chateaubriand is looking at the “divine” Madame Récamier. In the early 1800’s, Chateaubriand was the most prominent author in France and Madame Récamier’s finest guest, but as he grew older, he lived like a recluse in a Paris apartment and visited one person only, Madame Récamier, Juliette.
As for Germaine de Staël, a prominent theorist of Romanticism, Napoleon often banished her from France, causing her to spend several years at Coppet, her family’s Swiss residence. She was the French-born daughter of Swiss and Protestant banker James Necker, Louis XVI’s director of finance. Finding a husband for Germaine was not easy. Her father did not want her to marry a Catholic. Although she lived in the company of men who were fascinated by her extraordinary intellectual gifts and charm, most could not be serious candidates because Frenchmen are Catholics. She therefore married baron Erik Magnus Staël von Holstein, a Swedish diplomat.
It could be said that Chateaubriand and Madame de Staël founded French Romanticism, a literary movement that spread to the fine arts and music. She is the author, among several books and treatises, of Delphine (1802)and Corinne (1807), novels.But her most fascinating work is De l’Allemagne, or Germany (1810-1813). It is, to a large extent, a manifesto of Western European Romanticism. She discussed L’Allemagne with her excellent friend and lover, Swiss-born novelist Benjamin Constant, or Henri-Benjamin Constant de Rebecque (25 October 1767 – 8 December 1830), a descendant of Huguenots (French Protestant Calvinists).
However, if French Romanticism has a manifesto, it is Victor Hugo‘s Préface de “Cromwell,” a play published in 1827. The 12-syllable noble verse, called l’alexandrin, had long been broken into two hémistiches of 6 syllables, or “pieds.” Victor Hugo used such alexandrins, but he also divided the 12-syllable verse into 3 groups of 4 syllables or “pieds.”
Je-mar-che-rai//les-yeux-fi-xés//sur-mes-pen-sées, 4 x 3 (3 trimètres)Sans-rien-voir-au de-hors,//sans-en-ten-dr’ au-cun-bruit, 6 x 2 (2 hémistiches)
Seul,-in-con-nu,//le-dos-cour-bé,//les-mains-croi-sées, 4 x 3
Trist’,-et-le-jour//pour-moi-se-ra//com-me-la-nuit. 4 x 3
from Hugo’s “Demain, dès l’aube…”
Hugo also brought back things medieval, which he did with Notre-Dame de Paris or The Hunch Back of Notre-Dame. Chateaubriand felt seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French literature was somewhat borrowed, which it was. French authors emulated the Anciens or Greco-Roman literature.
*our characters may not be at Café Procope, but they could have been
In cafés, however, men of letters discussed more freely. Cafés had become popular in the seventeenth century. Le Café Procope, established in 1686, has never closed shop except for occasional renovations.
During the French Revolution, Chateaubriand spent 10 years outside France. For one year he was in the United States and then joined anémigré army at Coblenz, Germany. By and large, years émigrés spent abroad were disruptive.
Madame de Staël enjoyed diplomatic immunity in Paris as the wife of Sweden’s ambassador to France. However she lived in England in 1893-1894 with her lover Louis de Narbonne, an émigré. She returned to Paris, via Coppet, her family’s Swiss residence, as soon as the Terreur was over, in the summer of 1794.
She was a successful salonnière under the Directoire (1795-1799), a government toppled by Napoleon’s 18 Brumaire, Year VIII (9 November 1799) coup d’État. She fared poorly under the Consulat, with Napoleon as first Consul. He banished her for nearly a decade but could not prevent her from thinking and writing. Coppet was a beehive. I still enjoy reading Madame de Staël’s De l’Allemagne.
The French Revolution deprived France of tens of thousands of its citizens. But, somehow, tens of thousands survived as did the institutions, salons and cafés, where they congregated to discuss such ideas as liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Aurelian Craiutu: Faces of Moderation: Mme de Staël’s Politics during the Directory
I have been trying to work, but I am not feeling well enough to do so. Therefore, please accept this lovely bouquet of flowers painted by one of France’s finest artists: Eugène Delacroix (26 April 1798 – 13 August 1863), rumored to be the illegitimate son of Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord (1754 – 1838), a French prince and one of the most enigmatic diplomats in the history of Europe.
My kindest regards to all of you,
Chopin, by Eugène Delacroix (Photo credit: Wikipaintings)
Eugène Delacroix (Romanticism)
0:20 – Liberty Leading the People 0:40 – Ovid Among the Skythen 0:50 – Frédéric Chopin (Unfinished) 1:00 – George Sand (Amandine Aurore Lucille Dupin – Unfinished) 1:15 – The Massacre of Chios 1:25 – The Barque of Dante 1:35 – Andromeda 1:55 – The Sultan of Morocco and His Entourage 2:05 – Tiger (Drawing) 2:15 – Aspasia (Drawing) 2:25 – Mounay ben Sultan 2:35 – Christ on the Lake of Gennesaret 2:45 – Tasso in the Madhouse 2:50 – Cleopatra and the Peasant 3:00 – An Arab Horseman at the Gallop 3:30 – The Death of Sardanapalus 3:35 – Greece on the Ruins of Missolonghi 3:45 – Girl Seated in a Cemetery 3:55 – Self-Portrait
Nocturne in E-Flat Major, Op. 9 No.2 Frédéric Chopin
1810 – 1849
Philip Scott Johnson