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English Criticism and French Post-Impressionist Painting

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Abstract

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.

Keywords

Sunday Time Literary Life French Tradition Mental Derangement Imaginative Life 
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Notes

  1. 2.
    Cyrena A. Pondrom, The Road from Paris (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1974) pp. 1–8.Google Scholar
  2. 3.
    Eric Homberger, ‘Modernists and Edwardians’, in Ezra Pound: The London Years: 1908–1920, ed. Philip Grover (New York: AMS Press, 1978) pp. 1–14.Google Scholar
  3. 5.
    Frank Rutter, Art in my Time (London: Rich and Cowan, 1933) p. 111.Google Scholar
  4. 10.
    Virginia Woolf, ‘Mr Bennett and Mrs Brown’, in Collected Essays (London: Hogarth Press, 1966) I, 320.Google Scholar
  5. 11.
    Desmond MacCarthy, ‘The Post-Impressionists’, in Manet and the Post-Impressionists (London: Ballantyne, 1910) p. 7.Google Scholar
  6. 14.
    Benedict Nicolson, ‘Post-Impressionism and Roger Fry’, Burlington Magazine, 93 (1951) 12.Google Scholar
  7. 17.
    J. D. Fergusson, ‘The Autumn Salon’, Art News, 21 Oct 1909, p. 7. Fergusson had been familiar with Cézanne’s work since 1905 when he settled in Paris, and on one of the visits to Paris by his friend the painter S. J. Peploe, Fergusson took him to meet Picasso. See Margaret Morris, The Art of J. D. Fergusson (London: Blackie, 1974) p. 45.Google Scholar
  8. 18.
    Quoted in Wendy Baron, The Camden Town Group (London: Scolar Press, 1979) p. 12. Sickert exhibited ten paintings at the Salon d’Automne of 1906 — one more than Matisse in the exhibition and four more than both Vlaminck and Vallotton.Google Scholar
  9. 19.
    See John Rothenstein, ‘Spencer Gore’, in Modern English Painters (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1952) I, 196.Google Scholar
  10. 22.
    See Richard Shone, ‘The Friday Club’, Burlington Magazine, 117 (1975) 279–84.Google Scholar
  11. 23.
    C. R. W. Nevinson, Paint and Prejudice (London: Methuen, 1937) p. 9.Google Scholar
  12. 32.
    Maurice Denis, ‘Cézanne — 1’, tr. Roger Fry, Burlington Magazine, 16 (1910) 214.Google Scholar
  13. 33.
    Roger Fry, ‘The French Post-Impressionists’ (1912) in Vision and Design, ed. J. B. Bullen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1981) p. 169.Google Scholar
  14. 35.
    Lewis Hind, ‘The Consolations of an Injured Critic — V,’ Art Journal, n. s., 62 (1910) 193.Google Scholar
  15. 37.
    Julius Meier-Graefe, Modern Art: Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics, tr. Florence Simmonds and George W. Crystal (London: Heinemann, 1908) I, 269.Google Scholar
  16. 42.
    See Kate Flint (ed.), Impressionists in England: The Critical Reception (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1984) pp. 8–11.Google Scholar
  17. 47.
    Ebenezer Wake Cook, Anarchism in Art and Chaos in Criticism (London: Cassell, 1904) p. 79.Google Scholar
  18. 59.
    C. J. Holmes, Notes on the Post-Impressionist Painters (London: Philip Lee Warner, 1910) p. 10.Google Scholar
  19. 62.
    For an account of the problems which British artists had with Cézanne, see John Ingamells, ‘Cézanne in England’, British Journal of Aesthetics, 5 (1955) 341–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. 64.
    Frank Rutter, Revolution in Art (London: Art News Press, 1910) p. 56.Google Scholar
  21. 68.
    C. Lewis Hind, ‘The Movement in England: Epstein and Gill’ and ‘The Movement in England: Augustus John’, in The Post-Impressionists (London: Methuen, 1911) pp. 65–74.Google Scholar

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© Ceri Crossley and Ian Small 1988

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