Théophile Gautier

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Théophile Gautier
Théophile Gautier by Nadar c1856-1.jpg
Théophile Gautier photographed by Nadar
BornPierre Jules Théophile Gautier
(1811-08-30)30 August 1811
Tarbes, France
Died23 October 1872(1872-10-23) (aged 61)
Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Resting place Cimetière de Montmartre
OccupationWriter, poet, painter, art critic
Literary movement Parnassianism, Romanticism

Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier (French:  [pjɛʁ ʒyl teofil ɡotje] ; 30 August 1811 – 23 October 1872) was a French poet, dramatist, novelist, journalist, and art and literary critic.

Contents

While an ardent defender of Romanticism, Gautier's work is difficult to classify and remains a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions such as Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence and Modernism. He was widely esteemed by writers as disparate as Balzac, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert, Pound, Eliot, James, Proust and Wilde.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Decadent movement late 19th century artistic and literary movement of Western Europe

The Decadent Movement was a late 19th-century artistic and literary movement, centered in Western Europe, that followed an aesthetic ideology of excess and artificiality. The visual artist Félicien Rops's body of work and Joris-Karl Huysmans's novel Against Nature (1884) are considered the prime examples of the decadent movement. It first flourished in France and then spread throughout Europe and to the United States. The movement was characterized by self-disgust, sickness at the world, general skepticism, delight in perversion and employment of crude humor and a belief in the superiority of human creativity over logic and the natural world.

Modernism movement of art, culture and philosophy

Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Among the factors that shaped modernism were the development of modern industrial societies and the rapid growth of cities, followed then by reactions of horror to World War I. Modernism also rejected the certainty of Enlightenment thinking, and many modernists rejected religious belief.

Life and times

Gautier was born on 30 August 1811 in Tarbes, capital of Hautes-Pyrénées département (southwestern France). His father was Jean-Pierre Gautier, [1] a fairly cultured minor government official, and his mother was Antoinette-Adelaïde Cocard. [1] The family moved to Paris in 1814, taking up residence in the ancient Marais district.

Tarbes Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Tarbes is a commune in the Hautes-Pyrénées department in the Occitanie region of southwestern France. It is the capital of Bigorre. It has been a commune since 1790. It was known as Turba or Tarba in Roman times. Tarbes is part of the historical region of Gascony.

Hautes-Pyrénées Department of France

Hautes-Pyrénées is a department in southwestern France. It is part of the Occitanie region.

Le Marais neighborhood

Le Marais is a historic district in Paris, France. Long the aristocratic district of Paris, it hosts many outstanding buildings of historic and architectural importance. It spreads across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris. Le Marais is today the trendiest shopping district in Paris with the top stores in Rue des Francs-Bourgeois and Rue des Rosiers. The most famous stores are BHV Marais, Merci: and Uniqlo Le Marais.

Gautier's education commenced at the prestigious Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris (fellow alumni include Voltaire, Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, and the Marquis de Sade), which he attended for three months before being brought home due to illness. Although he completed the remainder of his education at Collège Charlemagne (alumni include Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve), Gautier's most significant instruction came from his father, who prompted him to become a Latin scholar by age eighteen.

Voltaire French writer, historian, and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.

Charles Baudelaire French poet

Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

Victor Hugo French poet, novelist, and dramatist

Victor Marie Hugo was a French poet, novelist, and dramatist of the Romantic movement. Hugo is considered to be one of the greatest and best-known French writers. Outside France, his most famous works are the novels Les Misérables, 1862, and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, 1831. In France, Hugo is known primarily for his poetry collections, such as Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles.

While at school, Gautier befriended Gérard de Nerval and the two became lifelong friends. It is through Nerval that Gautier was introduced to Victor Hugo, by then already a well-known, established leading dramatist and author of Hernani . Hugo became a major influence on Gautier and is credited for giving him, an aspiring painter at the time, an appetite for literature. It was at the legendary premiere of Hernani that Gautier is remembered for wearing his anachronistic red doublet.

Gérard de Nerval French writer, poet, essayist and translator

Gérard de Nerval was the nom-de-plume of the French writer, poet, and translator Gérard Labrunie, a major figure of French romanticism, best known for his novellas and poems, especially the collection Les Filles du feu, which included the novella Sylvie and the poem "El Desdichado". He played a major role in introducing French readers to the works of German Romantic authors, including Klopstock, Schiller, Bürger and Goethe. His later work merged poetry and journalism in a fictional context and influenced Marcel Proust. His last novella Aurélia influenced André Breton and Surrealism.

<i>Hernani</i> (drama) play by Victor Hugo

Hernani is a drama by the French romantic author Victor Hugo.

Doublet (clothing) close-fitting waist-length or hip-length garment with or without sleeves worn by men from the 15th to the 17th century

A doublet is a man's snug-fitting jacket that is shaped and fitted to the man's body which was worn in Spain and was spread to Western Europe from the late Middle Ages up to the mid-17th century. The doublet was hip length or waist length and worn over the shirt or drawers. Until the end of the 15th century, the doublet was usually worn under another layer of clothing such as a gown, mantle, overtunic or jerkin when in public.

In the aftermath of the 1830 Revolution, Gautier's family experienced hardship and was forced to move to the outskirts of Paris. Deciding to experiment with his own independence and freedom, Gautier chose to stay with friends in the Doyenné district of Paris, living a rather pleasant bohemian life.

July Revolution July 1830 revolution in France

The French Revolution of 1830, also known as the July Revolution, Second French Revolution or Trois Glorieuses in French, led to the overthrow of King Charles X, the French Bourbon monarch, and the ascent of his cousin Louis Philippe, Duke of Orléans, who himself, after 18 precarious years on the throne, would be overthrown in 1848. It marked the shift from one constitutional monarchy, under the restored House of Bourbon, to another, the July Monarchy; the transition of power from the House of Bourbon to its cadet branch, the House of Orléans; and the replacement of the principle of hereditary right by popular sovereignty. Supporters of the Bourbon would be called Legitimists, and supporters of Louis Philippe Orléanists.

Towards the end of 1830, Gautier began to frequent meetings of Le Petit Cénacle (The Little Upper Room), a group of artists who met in the studio of Jehan Du Seigneur. The group was a more irresponsible version of Hugo's Cénacle. The group counted among its members the artists Gérard de Nerval, Alexandre Dumas, père, Petrus Borel, Alphonse Brot, Joseph Bouchardy and Philothée O’Neddy (real name Théophile Dondey). Le Petit Cénacle soon gained a reputation for extravagance and eccentricity, but also for being a unique refuge from society.

Portrait of Théophile Gautier by Théodore Chassériau (musée du Louvre). Portrait de Théophile Gautier.jpg
Portrait of Théophile Gautier by Théodore Chassériau (musée du Louvre).

Gautier began writing poetry as early as 1826, but the majority of his life was spent as a contributor to various journals, mainly La Presse, which also gave him the opportunity for foreign travel and for meeting many influential contacts in high society and in the world of the arts. Throughout his life, Gautier was well-traveled, taking trips to Spain, Italy, Russia, Egypt and Algeria. Gautier's many travels inspired many of his writings including Voyage en Espagne (1843), Trésors d’Art de la Russie (1858), and Voyage en Russie (1867). Gautier's travel literature is considered by many as being some of the best from the nineteenth century; often written in a personal style, it provides a window into Gautier's own tastes in art and culture.

Théophile Gautier, his wife Ernestina Grisi-Gautier and their daughters Estelle and Judith. Photograph taken around 1857. Gautierfamily.jpg
Théophile Gautier, his wife Ernestina Grisi-Gautier and their daughters Estelle and Judith. Photograph taken around 1857.

Gautier was a celebrated abandonné (one who yields or abandons himself to something) of the Romantic Ballet, writing several scenarios, the most famous of which is Giselle , whose first interpreter, the ballerina Carlotta Grisi, was the great love of his life. She could not return his affection, so he linked [1] her sister Ernestina, a singer.

Absorbed by the 1848 Revolution, Gautier wrote almost one hundred articles, equivalent to four large books, within nine months in 1848. In his essay La République de l'avenir, he celebrated the advent of the new republic and the onward march of individual liberty. [2] Gautier experienced a prominent time in his life when the original romantics such as Hugo, François-René de Chateaubriand, Alphonse de Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny and Alfred de Musset were no longer actively participating in the literary world. His prestige was confirmed by his role as director of Revue de Paris from 1851–1856. During this time, Gautier left La Presse and became a journalist for Le Moniteur universel, finding the burden of regular journalism quite unbearable and "humiliating". Nevertheless, Gautier acquired the editorship of the influential review L’Artiste in 1856. It is in this review that Gautier publicized Art for art's sake doctrines through many editorials.

The 1860s were years of assured literary fame for Gautier. Although he was rejected by the French Academy three times (1867, 1868, 1869), Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, the most influential critic of the day, set the seal of approval on the poet by devoting no less than three major articles in 1863 to reviews of Gautier's entire published works. In 1865, Gautier was admitted into the prestigious salon of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, cousin of Napoleon III and niece to Bonaparte. The Princess offered Gautier a sinecure as her librarian in 1868, a position that gave him access to the court of Napoleon III.

Elected in 1862 as chairman of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, he was surrounded by a committee of important painters: Eugène Delacroix, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Édouard Manet, Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and Gustave Doré.

During the Franco-Prussian War, Gautier made his way back to Paris upon hearing of the Prussian advance on the capital. He remained with his family throughout the invasion and the aftermath of the Commune, eventually dying on 23 October 1872 due to a long-standing cardiac disease. Gautier was sixty-one years old. He is interred at the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.

Influences

Early in his life, Gautier befriended Gérard de Nerval, who influenced him greatly in his earlier poetry and also through whom he was introduced to Victor Hugo. He shared in Hugo's dissatisfaction with the theatrical outputs of the time and the use of the word "tragedy." Gautier admired Honoré de Balzac for his contributions to the development of French literature.

Gautier was influenced greatly by his friends as well, paying tribute to them in his writings. In fact, he dedicated his collection of Dernières Poésies to his many friends, including Hérbert, Madame de la Grangerie, Maxime Du Camp and Princess Mathilde Bonaparte.

Criticism

Portrait of Théophile Gautier, by Auguste de Châtillon, 1839. Portrait of Théophile Gautier.jpg
Portrait of Théophile Gautier, by Auguste de Châtillon, 1839.

Gautier spent the majority of his career as a journalist at La Presse and later on at Le Moniteur universel. He saw journalistic criticism as a means to a middle-class standard of living. The income was adequate and he had ample opportunities to travel. Gautier began contributing art criticism to obscure journals as early as 1831. It was not until 1836 that he experienced a jump in his career when he was hired by Émile de Girardin as an art and theatre columnist for La Presse. During his time at La Presse, however, Gautier also contributed nearly 70 articles to Le Figaro. After leaving La Presse to work for Le Moniteur universel, the official newspaper of the Second Empire, Gautier wrote both to inform the public and to influence its choices. His role at the newspaper was equivalent to the modern book or theatre reviewer. He also reviewed music, without technical terminology but with intelligence and insight, for instance into the work of his friend Berlioz, who set six of his poems (c. 1840) as 'Les Nuits d'été'.

Gautier's literary criticism was more reflective in nature, criticism which had no immediate commercial function but simply appealed to his own taste and interests. Later in his life, he wrote extensive monographs on such giants as Gérard de Nerval, Balzac and Baudelaire, who were also his friends – Baudelaire dedicated his chef-d’œuvre Les Fleurs du mal to him, describing him as "a perfect magician of French letters".

Art criticism

Gautier, who started off as a painter, contributed much to the world of art criticism. Instead of taking on the classical criticism of art that involved knowledge of color, composition and line, Gautier was strongly committed to Denis Diderot's idea that the critic should have the ability to describe the art such that the reader might "see" the art through his description. Many other critics of the generation of 1830 took on this theory of the transposition of art – the belief that one can express one art medium in terms of another. Although today Gautier is less well known as an art critic than his great contemporary, Baudelaire, he was more highly regarded by the painters of his time. In 1862 he was elected chairman of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts) with a board which included Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, Gustave Doré and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.

Literary criticism

Gautier's literary criticism was more reflective in nature; his literary analysis was free from the pressure of his art and theatre columns and therefore, he was able to express his ideas without restriction. He made a clear distinction between prose and poetry, stating that prose should never be considered the equal of poetry. The bulk of Gautier's criticism, however, was journalistic. He raised the level of journalistic criticism of his day.

Theatre criticism

The majority of Gautier's career was spent writing a weekly column of theatrical criticism. Because Gautier wrote so frequently on plays, he began to consider the nature of the plays and developed the criteria by which they should be judged. He suggested that the normal five acts of a play could be reduced to three: an exposition, a complication, and a dénouement. Having abandoned the idea that tragedy is the superior genre, Gautier was willing to accept comedy as the equal of tragedy. Taking it a step further, he suggested that the nature of the theatrical effect should be in favour of creating fantasy rather than portraying reality because realistic theatre was undesirable.

Carlotta Grisi, his great love, as Giselle, 1842. Giselle C Grisi as Giselle 1842.JPG
Carlotta Grisi, his great love, as Giselle, 1842.

Dance criticism

From a 21st-century standpoint Gautier's writings about dance are the most significant of his writings. The American writer Edwin Denby, widely considered the most significant writer about dance in the 20th century, called him "by common consent the greatest of ballet critics". Gautier, Denby says, "seems to report wholly from the point of view of a civilized entertainment seeker." He founds his judgments not on theoretical principles but in sensuous perception, starting from the physical form and vital energy of the individual dancer. This emphasis has remained a tacit touchstone of dance writing ever since.

Through his authorship of the scenario of the ballet Giselle, one of the foundation works of the dance repertoire, his influence remains as great among choreographers and dancers as among critics and balletomanes [devotees of ballet].

In 2011, Pacific Northwest Ballet presented a reconstruction of the work as close to its narrative and choreographic sources as possible, based on archival materials dating back to 1842, the year after its premiere.

Works

In many of Gautier's works, the subject is less important than the pleasure of telling the story. He favored a provocative yet refined style. This list links each year of publication with its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article, for poetry, or "[year] in literature" article for other works):

Poetry

Plays

Gautier did not consider himself to be a dramatist but more of a poet and storyteller. His plays were limited because of the time in which he lived; during the Revolution of 1848, many theaters were closed down and therefore plays were scarce. Most of the plays that dominated the mid-century were written by playwrights who insisted on conformity and conventional formulas and catered to cautious middle-class audiences. As a result, most of Gautier's plays were never published or reluctantly accepted.

Between the years 1839 and 1850, Gautier wrote all or part of nine different plays:

Novels

The fictional Mademoiselle de Maupin, from Six Drawings Illustrating Théophile Gautier's Romance Mademoiselle de Maupin, by Aubrey Beardsley, 1897. Mademoiselle de Maupin by Beardsley.jpg
The fictional Mademoiselle de Maupin, from Six Drawings Illustrating Théophile Gautier's Romance Mademoiselle de Maupin, by Aubrey Beardsley, 1897.

Short stories

Travel books

The travels of Théophile Gautier Vol 4
Travels in Russia Vol 1 [3]

Gautier in fiction

Two poems from "Émaux et camées"—"Sur les lagunes" and the second of two titled "Études de Mains"—are featured in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray . Dorian reads them out of the book shortly after Basil Hallward's murder.

Ernest Fanelli's Tableaux Symphoniques are based on Gautier's novel Le Roman de la Momie.

In Peter Whiffle by Carl Van Vechten, the main character Peter Whiffle cites Gautier as a great influence and writer, among others.

Chronology of works

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References

  1. 1 2 3 See : "Cimetières de France et d'ailleurs - La descendance de Théophile Gautier", landrucimetieres.fr
  2. Spencer, Michael Clifford (1969). The Art Criticism of Theophile Gautier. Librairie Droz. p. 44.
  3. Gautier, Theodore (1912). Travels in Russia (English ed.). Little, Brown, and Company. Retrieved 1 October 2017.

Sources

Further reading