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Article

Rodolphe Rapetti

(b Paris, Dec 7, 1862; d Paris, Jan 1, 1920).

French writer and critic. His fictional work developed rapidly from a naturalist concept of the novel (e.g. Chair molle, Paris, 1885) to a symbolist one (e.g. Etre, Paris, 1888). As an art critic, he played an important role in the first years of Neo-Impressionism. The few pieces that he wrote between 1886 and 1889 placed him in the top rank of contemporary critics and were of considerable influence. He was less interested in analysing the theoretical bases of Neo-Impressionism than in deciphering their implications, stressing the relationship of this new method of painting to Symbolism. He felt that the use by Seurat and his followers of a body of scientific theories on which to base their art was not only an indication of their adherence to the modernity that pervaded the century but also revealed an underlying tendency towards abstraction. At the same time fundamental visual concepts or ‘preconceived sensorial notions’ that had served as the basis of western art were called into question. In this regard, the ‘pictorial concern to interpret the pure phenomenon’ corresponded to the aspiration towards synthesis that marked Symbolism and was ‘in close correlation to contemporary philosophy, biology and physics in denying the existence of objects, declaring matter to be the mere appearance of vibratory movement that is the source of our impressions, our sensations, our ideas’ (...

Article

[Pierre Urbain]

(b Paris, 1859; d Paris, 1937).

French writer and collector. He wrote for a number of journals including Le Figaro, Le Voltaire and L’Evénement. He was the first to use the term Neo-Impressionism in a French publication (L’Evénement, 10 Dec 1886) after its use by Félix Féneon in September in Art moderne in Brussels. His attitude to the emerging Neo-Impressionist movement was somewhat equivocal. In Paris (13 Aug 1888) he wrote of Seurat as ‘the man of great achievements who is in some danger of having the paternity of his own theory wrested from him by ill-informed critics or unscrupulous colleagues’. Although he admired Seurat, he had grave doubts about the effect of his theories on other artists, claiming (in the same article) that they had ‘spoilt some great talents, painters like Angrand and Signac’. His comments particularly infuriated Paul Signac and caused tension within the group. He also wrote on the work of the ...

Article

Juliet Simpson

(b Châteauroux, May 5, 1865; d Paris, Oct 5, 1892)

French writer and critic. He was educated at the lycée in Châteauroux where his father was a notary. After receiving his baccalauréat, in 1883 Aurier was encouraged to take up law and travel to Paris to begin his studies. Although he obtained his degree from the Faculté de Droit de Paris in 1888, he never practised law, since during 1886–8 he was drawn into a circle of Left Bank intellectuals. His career as an art critic began with his participation in Symbolist literary activities, and in 1886 he contributed poems and satirical short stories to A. Baju’s ‘petit-revue’, Le Décadent. Like contemporary decadents, Aurier was deeply influenced by Baudelaire, whose anti-naturalism and cult of the ‘dandy’ formed the basis of their outlook on life. Aurier’s first critical article, ‘Sensationnisme’, published in Le Décadent in November 1886, demonstrated his developing interest in subjectivist philosophy, in particular that of Arthur Schopenhauer, and contained the germ of his later views on art. He attacked the naturalists’ fidelity to objective truth and called for a more acute literature and art, which extracted the essence from life following the dictates of an individual temperament....

Article

(b Paris, April 9, 1821; d Paris, Aug 31, 1867).

French writer and critic. He was brought up to love painting and from a young age was interested in aesthetics and art criticism. This aspect of his work remained little known for years, but its quality and its importance for the development of his poetry and for the development of modernism were later recognized.

Baudelaire’s first piece of criticism, the somewhat timid Salon de 1845, was succeeded by the Salon de 1846 and articles on the Exposition Universelle of 1855 (Le Pays, Le Portefeuille). After he had achieved notoriety with the publication of his most important volume of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (Paris, 1857), he continued to write occasional pieces on the visual arts, for example on the ‘Salon de 1859’ (Revue française), and ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’ (a series in Figaro), which was a study of Constantin Guys, as well as articles on Delacroix, the painter who dominated all of Baudelaire’s writing on art. Initially these articles were not widely published....

Article

Charlotte Humphreys

[Bugayev, Boris (Nikolayevich)]

(b Moscow, Oct 26, 1880; d Moscow, Jan 8, 1934).

Russian writer. He was a leading theorist and poet of the Russian Symbolist movement. In Russia Symbolism embraced a whole idealistic philosophy, strongly influenced by the eschatological and mystical teachings of Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900) and by the belief, at the turn of the century, that Russia was on the threshold of a new era. The second generation of Russian Symbolist writers—Vyacheslav Ivanov, Aleksandr Blok and Andrey Bely—shared Solovyov’s Platonic concept that this world was merely a shadow of another, real, world to be intuitively divined and revealed by the poet. The anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner was a great influence on Bely; anthroposophy was to become an important component of the aesthetics of Russian Symbolism.

Music and rhythm were central to Bely’s lyrical works and theories. He defined music as the essence of reality, describing it as the absolute art form. Poetry was considered to be close to music because rhythm and sound were its prerequisites. Music acquired a deeper, mystical association for Bely, as a force linking the human and the divine and as an indication of universal harmony. His mystical and abstract approach to music, and his idea that the evocation of mood in art was more important than the representation of reality, were particularly relevant to the ...

Article

Belinda Thomson

(b Lille, April 28, 1868; d Paris, April 15, 1941).

French painter and writer. He was the son of a cloth merchant. Relations with his parents were never harmonious, and in 1884, against his father’s wishes, he enrolled as a student at the Atelier Cormon in Paris. There he became a close friend of Louis Anquetin and Toulouse-Lautrec. In suburban views of Asnières, where his parents lived, Bernard experimented with Impressionist and then Pointillist colour theory, in direct opposition to his master’s academic teaching; an argument with Fernand Cormon led to his expulsion from the studio in 1886. He made a walking tour of Normandy and Brittany that year, drawn to Gothic architecture and the simplicity of the carved Breton calvaries. In Concarneau he struck up a friendship with Claude-Emile Schuffenecker and met Gauguin briefly in Pont-Aven. During the winter Bernard met van Gogh and frequented the shop of the colour merchant Julien-François Tanguy, where he gained access to the little-known work of Cézanne....

Article

Charlotte Humphreys

(Aleksandrovich)

(b St Petersburg, Nov 28, 1880; d Petrograd [now St Petersburg], Aug 7, 1921).

Russian poet and critic. Italian Renaissance painting and the work of contemporary Russian and foreign artists of the modern school greatly influenced Blok’s poetry, which in turn was exceptionally suggestive for masters of the fine arts as well as for many Symbolist poets. Blok belonged to the second generation of Russian Symbolist poets, who saw literature as a powerful theurgic force, capable of revealing the true, ideal world through temporal symbols. Symbolism in Russia was strongly influenced by the mystical philosophy of Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900), who initiated the cult of the divine Sophia—the image of Eternal Woman as the soul of the universe and the link between the human and the divine. Blok reflected this cult in his Stikhi o prekrasnoy dame (‘Verses about the beautiful lady’). The beautiful lady whom Blok described is both a real woman and a transcendental figure, unattainable Beauty, the Ideal. She assumes an unearthly aspect, revealing herself to the poet in an atmosphere of dreams that are like fairy tales or medieval visions....

Article

Catherine Cooke

(Yakovlevich)

(b Moscow, 1873; d Moscow, Oct 9, 1924).

Russian poet and theorist. He is generally seen as the leader of the Russian Symbolist movement in non-visual arts, but he was also closely associated with Symbolist painters and graphic artists through the glossy journals that were mouthpieces for their synthesist philosophy. Thus during 1901–04 he contributed to the literary section of Mir iskusstva (‘World of Art’), and from 1904 to 1909 he was editor of Vesy (‘The scales’); in 1906–07 he wrote for Zolotoye runo (‘Golden fleece’) and during 1909–11 for Apollon, as well as for several literary journals. Becoming aware as a student of the growing ‘decadent’ trend in European poetry he set out consciously in 1893 to lead such a movement in Russia, publishing three small poetry collections in 1894–5 with a schoolfriend, A. Miropolsky-Lang. His translations of European poets such as Paul Verlaine initially brought him more respect than his early poems. Drawing heavily on formal and technical innovations abroad, Bryusov developed a theory of artistic synthesis that emphasized technical precision and control of form over mimetic or theosophical concerns. This attention to detail and emphasis on the aesthetic was symptomatic of the ‘first generation’ of Russian Symbolists, who, under the leadership of Bryusov and Konstantin Bal’mont (...

Article

Belinda Thomson

(b Granville, Nov 25, 1870; d Paris, Nov 13, 1943).

French painter, designer, printmaker and theorist. Although born in Normandy, Denis lived throughout his life in Saint-Germain-en-Laye, just west of Paris. He attended the Lycée Condorcet, Paris, where he met many of his future artistic contemporaries, then studied art simultaneously at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and at the Académie Julian (1888–90). Through fellow student Paul Sérusier, in 1888 he learnt of the innovative stylistic discoveries made that summer in Pont-Aven by Paul Gauguin and Emile Bernard. With Sérusier and a number of like-minded contemporaries at the Académie Julian—Pierre Bonnard, Paul Ranson, Henri-Gabriel Ibels and others—Denis found himself fundamentally opposed to the naturalism recommended by his academic teachers. They formed the Nabis, a secret artistic brotherhood dedicated to a form of pictorial Symbolism based loosely on the synthetic innovations of Gauguin and Bernard. Denis’s first article, ‘Définition du néo-traditionnisme’, published in Art et critique in 1890 (and republished in ...

Article

Rodolphe Rapetti

(b Turin, June 29, 1861; d Châtenay-Malabry, Feb 29, 1944).

French art critic, dealer and collector. After completing his education, he moved to Paris in 1881. A clerk in the War Ministry, he made a name for himself by writing for the numerous literary magazines of the period. In 1884 he was co-founder of the Revue Indépendante, and he swiftly became one of the dominant personalities in Symbolist circles, befriending a number of writers (he was a regular visitor to Mallarmé’s Tuesday gatherings) and artists, notably Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. A period of prodigious activity followed: he collaborated on magazines such as the Revue Wagnérienne, Le Symboliste and L’Art Moderne from Brussels, and he edited works by Arthur Rimbaud (1886, 1887), Jules Laforgue (1890) and Lautréamont (1890). As an art critic, by 1886 he was championing the work of his Neo-Impressionist friends, whose anarchist political views he shared. In 1892 he became editor of ...

Article

Franco Bernabei

(b Giacciano, nr Rovigo, Nov 16, 1884; d Padua, Oct 6, 1971).

Italian art historian and teacher. He was the first historian, in the modern sense, of Venetian art, although his interests extended to all aspects of European art, including Impressionism and contemporary art. He took his degree in literature at the University of Bologna and then specialized in the history of art at the Scuola di Specializzazione di Adolfo Venturi in Rome. In 1926 he held the chair of art history at the University of Florence and in 1929 at the University of Padua, where he remained until 1956 and founded a flourishing centre of scholarship. As Director, from 1954–71, of the Fondazione Giorgio Cini Istituto di Storia dell’Arte in Venice, he gave the institution an international reputation. His scholarly output was vast, in books and articles in specialist journals, and in 1947 he was president of the editorial board of Arte veneta. He wrote, among other things, on the relationship between the Veneto and Tuscany in the Renaissance and on Mantegna, Palladio, Giorgione and Veronese. He contributed to the discovery of a series of minor painters, and also to the reassessment of such artists as Francesco Guardi. He was also interested in architecture, to which he brought all the vitality and modernity of his taste, and worked on the origins of Venetian art, which he identified in the culture of Palaeo-Christian Ravenna....

Article

(b Milan, Oct 15, 1851; d Milan, Aug 4, 1920).

Italian painter, dealer, critic and collector of Hungarian origin. Around 1870 he frequented the circle of Scapigliati, Gli and in 1870–71 visited London. Grubicy’s acquaintance with the art galleries there inspired him to start his own gallery in Milan, specializing in the Scapigliati artists, particularly Tranquillo Cremona and later Daniele Ranzoni. After Cremona’s death in 1878, Grubicy extended his interest to younger Lombard artists, primarily Giovanni Segantini (whose Choir of S Antonio impressed him at the 1879 annual exhibition at the Brera, Milan), Emilio Longoni (1859–1932) and later Angelo Morbelli. Grubicy became Segantini’s dealer and they were in close collaboration from this time. Between 1882 and 1885 Grubicy was in the Low Countries and probably informed Segantini of Millet and The Hague school. During his visit Grubicy also began to draw (e.g. Housemaid Washing, 1884; Milan, Castello Sforzesco) and to paint (e.g. The Hague: My First Work, 1884...

Article

(b Amsterdam, Dec 4, 1868; d Bloemendaal, Dec 31, 1938).

Dutch painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer and stained-glass artist. He trained at the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam (1886–90), under the directorship of August Allebé. Having initially painted and drawn Impressionistic landscapes, he started working in the ’t Gooi region in 1892, where, influenced by Vincent van Gogh and Jan Toorop, he made a number of Symbolist drawings and lithographs. In 1896 he married the Dutch writer Henriette van der Schalk. They both devoted themselves to the recently founded Sociaal Democratische Arbeiders Partij. In the years up to c. 1900 Holst produced among other things a series of lithographs of political cartoons with socialist content, as well as serene landscapes and paintings of girls from the village of Huizen. His allegorical murals (1902; in situ), on topics such as ‘Industry’ or ‘Commerce’, in the new Koopmansbeurs in Amsterdam by H. P. Berlage (1876–1903), marked an important point in his career as his first opportunity to construct a monumental piece of work. Partly inspired by the murals in the town hall at ’s Hertogenbosch by Antoon Derkinderen, he developed a tight, stylized type of design, which he believed to be ideal for visually representing idealistic and exalted thoughts. In his murals (...

Article

Andreas Kreul

[Charles-Marie-Georges]

(b Paris, Feb 5, 1848; d Paris, May 12, 1907).

French writer and critic. His father, Victor-Godfried Huysmans, came from Breda in the Netherlands and worked in Paris as a lithographer and miniaturist. In 1866 Huysmans passed his baccalaureate, then worked temporarily in a humble position in the Ministry of the Interior. After enlisting in 1870 he was wounded during the Franco-Prussian War in 1870–71 and consequently withdrawn from the front line. He then began writing seriously and within the first few years produced Le Chant du départ (1871–3), Le Drageoir aux épices (1874–5) and Marthe (1876), a novel about a prostitute. He made several trips to Belgium during these years.

Huysmans’s most significant book was his novel A rebours (1884), which is often described as the most important example of French decadent literature (see Decadence and decline, §3). Using partly autobiographical material it follows the character Jean Des Esseintes, the last scion of a noble family, who increasingly yields to his leanings towards aestheticism. In the grip of boredom and disgust at the everyday world, Des Esseintes increasingly takes refuge in a world of his own, which depends on the aesthetic harmony of furnishings, food, the daily round, clothes, books, art and music. He can bear to see life and his surroundings only under the conditions that shield him from the other people and phenomena in the world. This alternative world is exaggerated to an almost pathological extent in that it is intended not only to embellish reality but also to replace it. This is promoted by administering precise quantities of drugs and by colour harmonies and orgies of scent in all the objects surrounding him. The character’s increasingly neurotic existence, which, much to his sorrow, always only anticipates the sought-after alternative world without ever achieving it, ends after talking to a doctor in his conversion to a new religious awareness that he seeks in strict adherence to Catholicism. ...

Article

(b Metz, Dec 21, 1859; d Paris, Sept 5, 1936).

French writer, theorist and critic. The family moved to Paris in 1870, during the Franco-Prussian War, and Kahn was then educated at the Ecole des Chartes and the Ecole des Langues Orientales. In 1879 he met Jules Laforgue and Stéphane Mallarmé and published his first ‘poèmes en prose’. After Charles Baudelaire, Mallarmé was the greatest influence on his poetry and artistic theories. From 1880 to 1884 he did his military service in North Africa and on his return to Paris he soon became involved in the world of literary symbolism. He ran several periodicals, including La Vogue and Le Symboliste in 1886, and the Revue indépendante in 1888. Kahn was a pioneer, though not the sole creator, of ‘free verse’, poetry free of conventional syntactic, metrical and other restrictions. In 1887 he published Les Palais nomades, the first collection of ‘free verse’ poetry.

In his article ‘Réponse des symbolistes’ (...

Article

(b Mâcon, July 9, 1867; d Paris, Aug 27, 1958).

French writer and critic. He studied law first in Dijon and from 1885 in Paris, where he worked first as a lawyer and then as a government official before devoting himself to literature. At the age of 15 he had already produced a journal called La Salade and in 1888 he became editor of the periodical La Cravache, which soon became an important forum for the Symbolists, with contributors such as Félix Fénéon, Joris-Karl Huysmans and Gustave Kahn. Paul Verlaine’s poem Parallèlement first appeared in it and much space was devoted to art criticism. By the following year, however, Lecomte and the Symbolists moved to the periodical La Vogue. Despite his association with the Symbolist writers and poets, his own preferences in the visual arts were mainly for Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist works. In 1890 his friend Fénéon, who ran the biographical pamphlet series Hommes d’aujourd’hui, decided to devote some issues to ...

Article

Jane Block

(b Brussels, Nov 26, 1865; d Brussels, July 5, 1916).

Belgian painter and decorative artist. He showed a precocious talent, first exhibiting in 1875. His only formal study was at a local school of drawing. Between 1884 and 1886 he showed at the Essor group in Brussels paintings that were based on Dürer and Holbein and closely related to those of Lemmen’s contemporary, Khnopff. When Lemmen became a member of Les XX in 1888 his style developed quickly, influenced principally by French Neo-Impressionism and the English Arts and Crafts Movement. Lemmen adopted the pointillist technique following Seurat’s first showing with Les XX in 1887. His best pointillist canvases include The Carousel (1890–91; priv. col., see Belgian Art, 1880–1914, exh. cat., New York, Brooklyn Mus., 1980, p. 118, fig.) as well as portraits of Julie (1891; Chicago, IL, A. Inst.) and Mme Lemmen (1894–5; Paris, Mus. Orsay).

In the early 1890s Lemmen became a leader in the burgeoning decorative arts movement. In ...

Article

[Faust, Séverin]

(b Paris, Dec 29, 1872; d Paris, April 23, 1945).

French writer, theorist and critic. Writing under the pseudonym of Camille Mauclair, his first book was Eleusis (1894). Though a comparative latecomer to Symbolism, he here expounded his version of its aesthetic. He broadly defined the symbol as ‘tout ce qui paraît’ and emphasized the importance of the dream. Mostly the work is influenced by Stéphane Mallarmé, whom he greatly admired, and is, in its philosophical aspects, derived from Arthur Schopenhauer. He was sympathetic to the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Burne-Jones and others in England, and saw the Symbolists as achieving similar results in France.

Throughout his life Mauclair remained dogmatically entrenched within a Symbolist perspective. He admired the Impressionists whilst hoping that their stylistic innovations could be turned to Symbolist effect. In 1892 he took over the Mercure de France from Albert Aurier and rapidly used his column to attack Post-Impressionists such as Gauguin, Cézanne and others. Later he saw himself as engaged in a crusade against modern art and as a defender of the French tradition, ...

Article

(b 1862; d 1943).

French critic. He was greatly interested in Symbolism, and in Le Mouvement idéaliste en peinture (Paris, 1896) he charted the rise of ‘idealist art’, claiming that the idealist movement had first publicly emerged at the Exposition des Peintres du Groupe Impressionniste et Synthétiste, organized by the Pont-Aven group at the Café Volpini, Paris, in 1889. This exhibition had included work by artists of several theoretical persuasions (Chromo-Luminarists, Neo-Impressionists, Synthetists, Mystics). According to Mellerio, the progenitors of ‘idealist’ painting were Gustave Moreau, Paul Gauguin, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Odilon Redon. He first met Redon in 1889 and soon became one of his closest friends and supporters, writing the preface to the catalogue for the Redon exhibition at the Durand Ruel galleries in 1894, in which he stated that Redon occupied a distinctive position in contemporary art as he belonged to no group. He compiled a catalogue of Redon’s graphic work (...

Article

(b Amersfoort, March 7, 1872; d New York, Feb 1, 1944).

Dutch painter, theorist, and draughtsman. His work marks the transition at the start of the 20th century from the Hague school and Symbolism to Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. His key position within the international avant-garde is determined by works produced after 1920. He set out his theory in the periodical of Stijl, De, in a series of articles that were summarized in a separate booklet published in Paris in 1920 under the title Le Néo-plasticisme (see Neo-plasticism) by Léonce Rosenberg. The essence of Mondrian’s ideas is that painting, composed of the most fundamental aspects of line and colour, must set an example to the other arts for achieving a society in which art as such has no place but belongs instead to the total realization of ‘beauty’. The representation of the universal, dynamic pulse of life, also expressed in modern jazz and the metropolis, was Mondrian’s point of departure. Even in his lifetime he was regarded as the founder of the most ...