The French Romantics: Literature and the Visual Arts 18001840 Review

The French Romantics: Literature and the Visual Arts 18001840
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The French Romantics: Literature and the Visual Arts 18001840 ReviewWakefield has not "tried to write a synthesis or general history of Romanticism" nor probe for the origins and definition of the term. Rather, he accepts the common understanding among scholars and lay persons that Romanticism was the dominating art style in France in the first part of the nineteenth century, as it was throughout Europe. From this given, he approaches "the relationship between the two style [of visual art and literature] from a variety of different angles" shedding light on the interplay between them. He does however make references to Rousseau, for example, coming in the mid eighteenth century and the French poet Baudelaire coming in the latter half of the 1800s to help shed light on Romanticism in the central French arts of painting and literature during the decades he focuses on.
French Romanticism of the period was comparatively restrained since writers and painters "rarely went to the extreme of denying their classical birthright altogether." "Considerably bolder in theory than in practice," most leading artists voiced respect and sometimes inspiration or guidance from classical Western art. Delacroix, for example, despite the turmoil in his subjects and florid depictions of them, was not revolutionary or democratic in temperament.
The illustrations of the period art on nearly every page demonstrate the variety of "angles" Wakefield perceives and illuminates in this handsomely-produced work that is part art book and part literary and social history.The French Romantics: Literature and the Visual Arts 18001840 OverviewThe 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 theproblems 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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