English Criticism and French Post-Impressionist Painting



P. G. Konody’s castigation of English francomania at the second Post-Impressionist exhibition in 1912 is a symptom of the powerful influence of France in the early years of this century. According to Cyrena Pondrom in her book The Road from Paris, French intellectual currents were far more extensive and important than those of any other foreign origin,2 and her view is supported by Eric Homberger in his essay ‘Modernists and Edwardians’.3 But the continuity of the French tradition is probably more a feature of literary life than of the world of art. In the middle decades of the nineteenth century the English had observed with interest developments in French art. Towards the end of the period an indifference had set in, and the English, priding themselves on their national tradition in painting, became actively hostile to French work of an experimental kind. When compared with the elaborate medievalism of Burne-Jones, the monumental symbolism of G. F. Watts or the statuesque classicism of Lord Leighton, French Impressionism appeared frothy and insubstantial and it took the full critical effort of R. A. M. Stevenson and D. S. MacColl to convince the English of the seriousness of the French enterprise. When MacColl’s Nineteenth Century Art was published in 1902 and the French dealer Durand-Ruel organised an extensive exhibition of late-nineteenth-century French art at the Grafton Galleries in 1905, the status of French Impressionism seemed secure.


Sunday Time Literary Life French Tradition Mental Derangement Imaginative Life 
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© Ceri Crossley and Ian Small 1988

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