The French Romantics: Literature and the Visual Arts 1800–1840

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9781904449591: The French Romantics: Literature and the Visual Arts 1800–1840
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The Romantic Movement was a European phenomenon; a radically subjective approach to art, life, society and politics that placed a new emphasis on personal freedom, individualism and imagination. It was the breaking down of barriers between art and life, prose and poetry, music and words, words and images. This illuminating study focuses, on the interdependence of literature and the visual arts in France from 1800-1840, when the symbiotic relationship between writers and painters was at its closest.

David Wakefield traces the influences of literature on painting of the period, and examines the
problems of narrative, description and translation of one art form into another. He considers the writings of Madame de Staël (who played a crucial role in the evolution of the movement), especially her highly influential novel Corinne and the paintings inspired by it. The revival of the Catholic monarchist tradition is discussed in relation to the works of Chateaubriand, and the literary implications of the debate on Romanticism are summarized in a series of manifestoes by Stendhal, Victor Hugo and Musset. These ideas on contemporaneity – Classical versus Modern – are viewed in the context of the paintings at the famous Salon of 1824, where Constable confronted Delacroix and a host of lesser artists triggered off a lively but inconclusive debate on the nature of Romanticism.

Wakefield illuminates the influence of literature, especially Ossian, Byron and Scott on French Painting of the period. The final chapters study the role of painting and pictorial imagery in the French Romantic poets, seeking to trace and illustrate where possible the visual image behind the text. Rather than attempt a synthesis of Romanticism, Wakefield seeks to show the interplay between art and literature in a variety of aspects. The paintings and works of literature are viewed through the eyes of their contemporaries instead of imposing modern
criteria of selection. David Wakefield’s illuminating study on the is richly illustrated with works by artists such as Granet, Schnetz and Léopold Robert– all regarded highly by the poets of the day, only to fall into oblivion by the end of the nineteenth century.

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About the Author:

DAVID WAKEFIELD read Modern Languages at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He later studied History of Art at the Courtauld Institute and took a D.Phil in French Literature at Oxford. Since 1974 he has worked as a writer and lecturer, with a special interest in the relations between French art and literature. His publications include Stendhal and the Arts, Fragonard, Stendhal –The Promise of Happiness, A History of French Eighteenth-Century Painting and Boucher. He has contributed several articles on Proust, Chateaubriand and Stendhal to The Burlington Magazine, The Times, The Spectator and other journals.

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