Art, Artists and Society: Origins of a Modern Dilemma ; Painting in England and France, 1750-1850

By Geraldine Pelles | Go to book overview

FIVE
Style in Art ∧ Life

The artist himself, painter or writer, often elicited more interest than the work of art. Carlyle wrote in 1827 that the grand question "usual with the best of our own critics at present is a question mainly of a psychological sort, to be answered by discovering and delineating the peculiar nature of the poet from his poetry."1

Such a psychological question is not easy to answer. For though, like a poem or a picture, the style of this "peculiar nature" or personality may be sensed as a whole, it is a shimmering network of infinite modalities and meanings. Others experience and define it through a person's behavior. Since a person spends a large part of his life in his work, people often see his nature or personality in terms of the image -- visual or conceptual -- they have of his occupation. The more of life it involves, as with artists or scientists, the more the character of the person and of his occupation seem to be intertwined.

Not only does an occupation have its specialized skills and economic structure. It also requires or inspires a certain way of life, involving the allocation of time, the extent to which other persons must be pleased or placated, whether one sits, moves about, gets one's hands dirty or dresses elegantly. All these choices and actions define something about the person.

Painters and writers themselves found the exceptional nature of the artist to reside in the nature of his work, which was different from that of other men. In contrast to the mere drudgery of labor or the tedium of a job, the artist's work was endowed with pleasures other men associated with leisure. Balzac, in his Traité de la vie élégante, making a tripartite division of society into the classes of the man who works, the man who thinks, and the man who does nothing, found that the artist is the exception, for his work is his rest.

In the close connection between the practical means of life and emo-

-77-

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Art, Artists and Society: Origins of a Modern Dilemma ; Painting in England and France, 1750-1850
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface *
  • Table & Contents *
  • List Ef Illustrations *
  • One - Introduction 1
  • Two - Rebels & Revolutions 8
  • Three - Art as an Institution 23
  • Four - The Language of the Feelings 49
  • Five - Style in Art ∧ Life 77
  • Six - Metamorphoses of the Hero 99
  • Seven - Love & Death 123
  • Eight - Conclusion 147
  • Chronology of Artists 161
  • Notes 163
  • Index 175
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