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Pierre Puvis De Chavannes, Richard Wagner, and Émile Bernard: Composition and Meaning in the Late Nineteenth Century

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Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 63)

Abstract

Beginning around 1880, an uneasy feeling developed among certain artists that the Impressionist premises of immediacy and direct transcription of sense impressions had led to an artistic impasse.1 This unease significantly affected some younger painters, who felt that naturalism itself, which excluded those parts of the human experience that could not be seen, was the real problem. Among these younger painters was Émile Bernard, whose stated goal was to reveal spiritual meaning, “to catch the symbolism inherent in nature”2 rather than to reproduce sense impressions. Bernard had a brief, but developmentally important, flirtation with Seurat’s Chromoluminarism. Then he suddenly turned against it, and along with his friend Louis Anquetin, developed a new style, later labeled cloisonnisme.3 The visual vocabulary of cloisonnisme included large patches of color, arranged according to formal hue relationships. Of equal importance were simplified shapes, and strong black outlines derived, to some extent, from their close study of Japanese prints.4 However, as in writing, vocabulary alone cannot create meaningful structure, which depends on grammar and syntax. The visual equivalent of this is composition, the construction of, and relationships between, all the elements of the image.

Keywords

Late 19th Century Rhythmic Pattern Visual Vocabulary Music Drama Visual Rhythm 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Mark Roskill, Van Gogh, Gauguin and the Impressionist Circle (Greenwich, Conn: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1970 ), 11.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Émile Bernard as quoted in John Rewald, Post-Impressionism from van Gogh to Gauguin (New York: Museum of Modern Art [19561), 193.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rewald 50–51,64,191–194.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Rewald 72.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Émile Bernard, Breton Women in the Meadow, 1888. Oil on canvas, 28 3/4″ × 36 1/4″. Private Collection, France.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Émile Bernard, Buckwheat Harvesters, Pont-Aven, 1888. Oil on canvas, 29 1/4″ × 36″. Collection Josefowitz, Switzerland.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Rewald 193.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Roskill 103; Ziva Amishai-Maisels, Gauguin’s Religious Themes ( New York and London: Garland, 1985 ), 20.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Bernard as quoted in Rewald 193 [italics mine].Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Rewald 150.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Carl Dahlhaus, “Wagner (1) Richard §8: Aesthetics,” New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians 20 vols. (1980) 118; Marius Vachon, Un Maître de ce temps: Puvis de Chavannes (Paris: Société de l’Édition Artistique [1896 and 1900 ], 123–24, 149–150.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    While the length of Wagner’s music dramas is legendary, few realize the size of Puvis’ murals. One of the largest is Ave Picardia Nutrix, 1865. Oil and wax on canvas, 4.5m. × 17. 5m. Musée de Picardie, Amiens.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Summer, 1873. 11′ 5 3/4″ × 16′ 7 1/2″. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chartres.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Aimée Brown Price, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Contributions by Jon Whiteley and Genevieve Lacambre ( New York: Rizzoli, 1994 ), 98.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Price 14–15.Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Vincent van Gogh, Letters III, no. 614a, pp. 231–233 as quoted in Richard J. Wattenmaker, Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition [Exhibition] (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario [Oct. 24-Nov. 30, 1975], 112 [italics van Gogh’s]). This phrase is almost exactly repeated in another letter, van Gogh, Letters III, no. W22, p. 471, as Wattenmaker notes; 113.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    Price 256.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Stevens 196.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Rewald 163–165 for quote; 191–192 for friendship of Aurier and Bernard.Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Vincent van Gogh, The Complete Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, 3 vols. (1958) ( Boston: Little Brown, 1991 ), 590.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    MaryAnne Stevens, Emile Bernard 1868–1941: A Pioneer of Modern Art (Catalogue) ( Zwolle [the Netherlands]: Waanders Publishers, 1990 ), 16–17.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Rewald 195–96; Stevens 76.Google Scholar
  23. 23.
    Rewald 150ff.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Dahlhaus 117; for Puvis’ familiarity with Wagner’s music, Vachon 60–61.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    “The ‘orchestral melody’ of the music dramas, according to Wagner’s Schopenhauerian metaphysics of music, renders audible the ‘inmost essence’ concealed behind the visible phenomena of the events on the stage.” Dahlhaus 118.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Elisabeth Prelinger, “The Art of the Nabis from Symbolism to Modernism,” 81–134 in Patricia Boyer Eckert, ed., The Nabis and the Parisian Avant-Garde (Catalog) ( New Brunswick and London: Rutgers University Press, 1988 ), 106.Google Scholar
  27. 27.
    Teodor de Wyzewa in a lengthy excerpt from Teodor de Wyzewa, Nos Maîtres, Études et Portraits Littéraires (Paris, 1895 ), 153–158 in Martha Kapos, ed., The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, trans. Judith Landry ([China]: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993 ), 155–156.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Dahlhaus 117.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    It is quite natural that Wyzewa admired Puvis de Chavannes as a “Wagnerian painter.” Wyzewa’s linking of Puvis with Degas and Cézanne on the one hand and with Monet and Redon on the other (Rewald 150) indicates that innovative composition was as important in being a “Wagnerian Painter” as was otherworldly mistiness.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Il faut procéder par des oppositions adroitement amenées et toujours revêtues d ‘images qui appartiennent elles aussi au monde moral et au monde extérieur. Sur ce point Wagner est mon maître,” [trans. mine]. John A. Stuart. L ‘Art plus que nous: Correspondance d’Émile Bernard avec Milos Martin, 1908–1914 ( Grenoble: Service des Publications de l’Université des Sciences Societés de Grenoble, 1974 ), 69.Google Scholar
  31. 31.
    Rewald 193 n12.Google Scholar
  32. 32.
    Quoted by Linda Nochlin, “Symbolism and the Dialectics of Retreat,” 304–336 in Stephen E Eisenman et al, Nineteenth Century Art, A Critical History ( London: Thames and Hudson, 1994 ), 304.Google Scholar
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    Roskill 91–92.Google Scholar
  34. 34.
    Vincent van Gogh, The Sower, 1888. Oil on canvas, 25″1/4 x 31 7/8″. Rijksmuseum KröllerMüller, Otterlo. Vincent van Gogh, The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3 vols. (1958) (Boston: Little Brown, 1991) vol. 3, B 7 [7], 491–492.Google Scholar
  35. 35.
    Eugène Delacroix, Christ in the Boat on the Sea of Gennesaret, 1853. Oil on canvas, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Van Gogh B8 [11], 497.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    See note 13.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    But see Roskill 103.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Vincent van Gogh, Breton Women in the Meadow (after Émile Bernard), 1888. Watercolor, 18 3/4″ × 24 3/8″. Galleria Civica, Milan, Grassi Collection. Roskill 103.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Robert Rosenblum and H. W. Janson, 19th-Century Art ( Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Harry N. Abrams, 1984 ), 423.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    But see Amishai-Maisels 20.Google Scholar

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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2000

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