Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) is an important Symbolist poet of the last half of the 19th century in France. Throughout his writing career, Mallarmé helped formulate and express the rising anti-naturalism in contemporary art. This movement’s inclinations mainly took the form of Symbolism – that is, the fascination with many types of literature and the inclination to draw upon these sources for inspiration in dreams and visions. Although Mallarmé’s poetry is verbally dense and difficult with fleeting imagery, the poet was influential in modern art circles. The poet hosted a weekly salon in Paris known as “les jeudis” which provided a social network for many leading modern thinkers and practitioners, such as Édouard Manet, Edgar Degas, Odilon Redon, Paul Gauguin and Edvard Munch.
Mallarmé was born in Paris in 1842 into a family of civil servants. His mother died when he was 5 years old and his younger sister when he was 15. It was around the time of his sister’s death that Mallarmé wrote his first poetic essays, influenced by Romantics and early Symbolist writers and poets Victor Hugo, Théophile Gautier, Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe. His first poems were published in 1862. Mallarmé earned a teaching certificate in the English language, studied in London and married a young German woman he met in France. Mallarmé began a teaching career in 1863 in Tournon in the Ardèche, where his daughter was born in 1864. He also was teaching in Besançon and Avignon. Outside of Paris, Mallarmé did not prosper as a teacher and viewed his assignments with disdain as necessary modes of employment. The young man turned to poetry as a means of escape. It was between 1863 and 1866 that Mallarmé wrote some of his renown poems: Brise marine, L’Azur, Les Fleurs, a version of L’Après-midi d’un faune. His collection of poems published in Le Parnasse contemporain in 1866 led to Mallarmé’s first notoriety.
In 1871, Mallarmé, now a father of a family with two children, was assigned to teach in Paris and settled near the new Saint-Lazare train station. His social network of artists and writers blossomed in this period. In 1873 Mallarmé met Édouard Manet who soon illustrated Mallarmé’s translation of American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s Raven, published in 1875. In 1876 Manet painted his portrait that is now in the Musée d’Orsay.
Mallarmé’s 8-year-old son died prematurely at the end of the 1870s and Manet died a few short years later in 1883. Mallarmé formed new friendships with Berthe Morisot and her daughter Julie Manet, whose guardian Mallarmé became at the death of his parents. Mallarmé also became friends with other leading avant-garde artists and poets such as Claude Monet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. To the general reader, Mallarmé was criticized as a crazy poet who used unintelligible verse. Yet to avant-garde literati such as Paul Verlaine and Joris-Karl Huysmans, Mallarmé’s demanding poetry they publicly admired.
In 1892 appeared Vers et Prose, a major collection of Mallarmé’s poems. The frontispiece was a lithographed portrait by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, with whom Mallarmé was a close friend. In the early 1890s Mallarmé came into contact with the “Nabis,” young Post-Impressionists such as Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis and particularly Édouard Vuillard. In the 1890’s Mallarmé’s Paris salon was frequented by the young Paul Valéry.
At 51 years old, in 1893, Mallarmé retired from teaching and stayed in his small house of Valvins. He died there on September 9, 1898, at the age of 56. In these final years, Mallarmé’s recognition and fame remained high. It was part of the vivacity and dynamism of literary and artistic circles for which Mallarmé had been one of its inspirations since the 1870s. In 1896 Mallarmé’s influence included his being elected as Prince des poètes and inheriting the seat occupied by the recently deceased Paul Verlaine.
Molière was born into a well-to-do family on January 15, 1622 at Rue St. Honoré and grew up near the Bastille at Rue Saint-Antoine in Paris. The greatest genius of the French theater was baptized at St. Eustache as Jean-Baptiste Poquelin. He adopted the stage name of Molière in the mid1640s after he founded his first theater troupe.
A type of Shakespeare of France – profound theater actor, writer and poet – Molière’s characters and wit are timeless – such as in Tartuffe (1664), Don Juan (1665), and The Misanthrope (1666).
Romain Duris as Molière and Laura Morante as Elmire
French actor Romain Duris as Molière and Italian actress Laura Morante as Elmire in a scene from the 2007 movie “Molière.”
The fictional film is told in flashback to 1645. It is a conflation of two different periods in Molière’s life into one earlier period. Indeed, in 1645, 23-year-old bachelor Molière was bailed out of debtor’s prison. When his great, most controversial play, Tartuffe, appeared in the mid1660s, Molière was married and much older.
For the film, a presumably historical Molière poses as “Monsieur Tartuffe” (a priest) who serves as tutor for Orgon’s children. In real life, Molière played a part in his play, “Tartuffe,” but as the householder and trusting husband, Orgon. In the film, young Molière as Tartuffe, similar to the play, falls in love with Elmire, the neglected wife of the household.
In this scene Molière delivers a letter to Elmire from her secret admirer which, unknown to her, was written by the debonaire M. Tartuffe (Duris as young Molière).
Whereas in the present day any type of true romance may be heart-warming, the 17th century viewed romance through a lens of means and ends, either of which could be scandalous.
Molière’s great plays Don/m Juan and Tartuffe were halted in their tracks by French religious and royal authorities who were concerned that their characters and plots would provoke popular scandal. In the mid1660s, the Archbishop of Paris condemned Molière’s work – and nearly the libertine Molière himself – and then turned to the highest state authority, the king, with whom the top bishop was privileged to be closely aligned, to carry out the sentence.
“But I ought to warn you, strictly between the pair of us, that in Don Juan my master you see the greatest scoundrel that ever walked on Earth. He is a madman, a dog, a devil, a Turk. He is a heretic who believes in neither Heaven, nor saint, nor God, nor the bogeyman. He lives the life of an absolute brute beast. He is an Epicurean hog, a regular Sardanapalus who is deaf to every Christian remonstrance, and looks on all that we others believe as nothing but old wives’ tales. You say he has married your mistress. He would have done far more than that to gratify his desires. He would have married you, and her dog and cat as well. It costs him nothing to marry. That is the best baited trap he has.” – Sganarelle, servant of Don Juan, played by Molière. From Don Juan (1665).
“You see him as a saint. … I see right through him. He’s a fraud.” – Dorine, played by Madeleine Béjart, Act 1, Scene 1. From Tartuffe (1664).
“It’s true – those whose private conduct is the worst,/Will mow each other down to be the first/To weave some tale of lust, and hearts broken/Out of a simple kiss that’s just a token/Between friends.”– Dorine, played by Madeleine Béjart, Act 1, Scene 1. From Tartuffe (1664).
“See, I revere/Everyone whose worship is sincere./Nothing is more noble or beautiful/Than fervor that is holy, not just dutiful.“ – Cléante, played by La Thorillière, Act I, Scene 4. From Tartuffe (1664).
“What good would it do to dissent? A father’s power is great.” – Mariane, played by Mlle de Brie, Act 2, Scene 3. From Tartuffe (1664).
“Don’t be deceived by hollow shows; / I’m far … from being what men suppose.“ – Tartuffe, played by Du Croisy, Act 3, Scene 6. From Tartuffe (1664).
“There’ll be no sins for which we must atone,/Because evil only exists when it’s known.” – Tartuffe, played by Du Croisy, Act 4, Scene 5. From Tartuffe (1664).
“Ah! Ah! You are a traitor and a liar!/Some holy man you are, to wreck my life, / Marry my daughter? Lust after my wife?” – Orgon, played by Molière, Act 4, Scene 7. From Tartuffe (1664).
“Damn all holy men! They’re filled with deceit!/I now renounce them all, down to the man.” – Orgon, played by Molière, Act 5, Scene 1. From Tartuffe (1664).
“All that we most revere, he uses/To cloak his plots and camouflage his ruses.” – Dorine, played by Madeleine Béjart, Act 5, Scene 7. From Tartuffe (1664).
For Molière, the Ancien Régime was not yet dead as a doornail. The American and French Revolutions were a distant century in the future. The latest risk in the late 20th and early 21st centuries of the Apostolic church selling its religion for parts in exchange for a share at the table of the new global faith was not yet a necessary strategy for a powerfully splendorous, yet ever troubled, church in 17th century France.
While “mixing it up” in politics may be the Catholic church’s normal path, it was the irreligious observations of its outcomes in human life in the 17th century that proved a major theme in Molière’s wittiest dramas and brought him into trouble. While the young King Louis XIV (1638-1715) approved orders that banned some of Molière’s farces, the royal personage expressed his reluctance to do so. It had been the priests who were stung by Molière’s popular ridicule with its social danger of being overthrown by comic truths. Their well-connected desires to cancel Molière proved only partly successful in the mid17th century–and, soon after that, hardly at all.
The 17th century continued the wealth of French literature in its many genres – poetry (Malherbe; La Fontaine; Boileau); novels and fairy tales (Cyrano de Bergerac; Perrault); essays (Pascal; La Rochefoucauld; La Bruyère); philosophy (Descartes); theology (St. Francis de Sales; Fénelon; Bossuet) and drama (Corneille; Racine; and Molière), and many others.
Molière’s Comedy – Wit And Types
Molière wrote based on actual facts of society and human nature and, using ludicrous incidents, looked straight ahead to a moral purpose – his plays were very instructive and had all the makings of high comedy. Further to attract us, Molière is the premier dramatist of wit.
His characters are not individuals but types – which allows for perhaps greater intensity than complexity. Though the French are not as known for comedy, the form is mostly indigenous, contrasted to tragedy as a dramatic form which came out of Italy.
The City of Paris Plays a Role
Paris is a theatrical city. Similar to today’s Beaubourg, there were outdoor performances at the Pont Neuf and Place Dauphine. The Hotel de Bourgogne on Rue Etienne Marcel was used in the 16th century by the Confraternité de la Passion for passion plays. In the mid1620s when America was a wilderness there would be street parades of comedians in Paris to lure spectators into the theatre. Stock farce characters included Aurlupin (mean spirited school teacher), Gros Guillaume (dressed in a flour sack), and Captain Fracasse (break things). At the permanent flea market of St. Germain de Prés, spectacles were put on stage. Goods were sold, some of it junk, because, as Daumier observed, “people are always fooled.”
Molière’s mother died when he was 10 years old and he was raised by a nurse maid. In his later plays there are often such maids and servant girls.
In Paris, three rival theatre groups coexisted: that of the Marais; that of the Hôtel de Bourgogne; and, that of the Palais-Royal, directed by Molière. After Molière’s death, the actors of the Marais joined Molière’s troupe of actors by royal order. This new troupe settles at the Hotel Guénégaud, rue Mazarine.
François de La Thorillière was Molière’s companion and kept the register of the company during the 1663/1664 and 1664/1665 seasons. He moved to the Hôtel de Bourgogne after Molière’s death. In 1680 La Thorillière, head of the troupe of the Hôtel de Bourgogne and the last rival in Paris of Molière’s former troupe, died. The King ordered these two troupes of French actors established in Paris to play together going forward.
On August 25, 1680, the actors of the Hotel de Bourgogne and that of the Hotel Guénégaud – Molière’s former troupe now led by La Grange – gave their first joint performance.
On October 21, 1680, an official royal letter signed at Versailles, established the unique troupe, composed of 27 actors and actresses chosen by the King for their excellence, to have a monopoly of performances in French so to “make performances of comedies more perfect.” The repertoire includes Corneille, Molière, Racine, Jean Rotrou, Paul Scarron, and others.
Molière Schools in Paris and Orléans
Molière was a commuter student at the Collège de Clermont behind the Sorbonne. Founded in the 1560s by the Jesuits who had a tremendous hold on educating the young in this period, it was renamed Lycée Louis-le-Grand in the 1680s. Nobility and the well-to-do bourgeois schooled together though segregated by a so-called “golden barrier” of identity – an illiberal, reactionary practice. Molière received a strict, excellent education and was a Latinist. He went to Orléans to study law but didn’t pursue it. His father sent him to Narbonne to be a royal tapestry maker (the family business) but Molière was idealistic and chose to be in theater. Following his bliss, twenty-something Molière – around the time of the film scene – was close to penniless for the next 15 years.
Following the queen of the sciences (theology), cultural authorities officially ordered the boycott of theater as immoral. But the people in Paris mostly ignored these bought-and-paid-for kill joys of church and state and the theater life thrived.
Molière’s first theater production flops; bailed out of debtor’s prison by a street contractor
By the 17th century the Renaissance social fad of tennis had faded away and Molière rented empty courts for the theater. He joined Madeliene Béjart, four years older, and from a family of actors, and established his first theater in June 1643 called the Illustre Théâtre (“Illustrious Theater”). The first performances in the tennis court featuring the 22-year-old Molière and the others opened on January 1, 1644.
To build the theater, Molière fell into debt in 1644. The first performances were a complete flop and Molière was thrown into debtor’s prison for 3 days in July 1645.
There were two official theatre troupes in Paris in the mid 1640s– and Molière’s Illustre Théâtre was not one of them. The troupe did have a royal protector or sponsor, the king’s brother. But financial help was not to be had from Gaston d’Orléans (1608-1660). Rather, a paving contractor paid the bail to release the young actor/writer, a remarkable historical fact. Molière’s first theater was auctioned off with proceeds going to his creditors.
In 1646 Molière and Mme. Béjart joined a troupe led by Charles Dufresne (1611-1684). They relocated to the provinces, specifically to the west at Nantes and south. Success as an actor had been fleeting and Molière was very close to returning to his father’s business as a tapestry maker. Molière, like his fellow actors, could afford to wear only his street clothes on stage – or vice versa. Molière was part of just one theatre troupe among about 1,000 in France.
Others of the defunct Illustre Théâtre joined Molière in 1648. Dufresne handed over the direction of the troupe to Molière in 1650. He rechristened the troupe Comédiens de SAR le prince de Conti. The prince de Conti (1629-1666), fifth in line to the French throne, was Molière’s patron and friend. At the domaine de la Grange des Prés at Pézenas in Languedoc, the prince and the actor-playwright discussed plays and theater.
In the 1650s, Molière’s troupe became moderately successful performing all over the Mediterranean in France. Though Molière kept a notebook to record his ideas and character types these personal items have been lost to history.
The prince de Conti, Languedoc governor, was the king’s cousin, and, upon marrying Anne-Marie Martinozzi (1637-1672) in 1654, an in-law of sorts to Cardinal Mazarin (Anne-Marie was Mazarin’s niece). The prince di Conti, however, lived with his mistress at Pézenas among Molière’s free-spirited actors. In 1655 the prince, being engaged in military campaigns in Spain and experiencing failing health, had a religious awakening. He discarded the mistress, returned to his wife and banished the theatre. Molière was suddenly cancelled.
Allowance of theater in society based on moral grounds would continue to evolve – though audiences always enjoyed its entertainment value. Finding a need and filling it, Molière sold drama as morality (and vice versa) and using dialogue and plot that cut things close to the bone.
Armande Béjart was in Molière’s troupe in 1653 under the name of Mademoiselle Menou and played child roles. Married to Molière in 1662, she was the inspiration for all his heroines: the Princess of Élide, Charlotte, Célimène, Lucinde, Elmire, Alcmène, Élise, Angélique, Lucile, Hyacinthe, Henriette.
Armande and Molière’s daughter, Madeleine-Esprit, survived but their two sons did not. When Molière died in 1668, Armande encouraged the troupe, led by La Grange.
In 1677 Armande remarried a man not in the theater named Guérin d’Etriché and they had a son. She became Mademoiselle Guérin on stage in the troupe brought together by Louis XIV in 1680 and retired in 1694.
After being cancelled by the prince de Conti who became an implacable enemy of the theater until his death in 1666, the reputation of Molière’s traveling troupe was being critically appreciated at the highest levels. In 1658, the king’s brother, 18-year-old Philippe d’Orléans, le Monsieur (1640-1701), arranged an audition for Molière and his troupe in Paris. The result was that King Louis XIV approved the Troupe de Monsieur to share the royal theater, the Petit-Bourbon. Molière immediately premiered there on November 2, 1658. The troupe soon had to build up its cast and repertoire to meet the Paris audience’s expectations and Molière looked to provide them with original comedies. This was notably effected by the addition of 24-year-old La Grange, who would play young romantic lead roles, in 1659.
Also in 1659, having acquired the king’s favor, Molière set about to write the first of his great works: Précieuses Ridicules. In 1662 he married Madeleine Béjart’s younger sister (possibly daughter), Armande. The king was godfather to their child as Molière now performed at the Palais Royal for the king and royal family. In the next years, Molière wrote plays about marriage, jealousy, and adultery, including The Imaginary Cuckold in 1660; Don Garcie de Navarre and The School for Husbands in 1661; and, a great success, The School for Wives in 1662. Opening in December 1662, by the end of May 1663, audiences filled the theatre to watch The School for Wives, a play whose scheming plot is more straightforward than its characters, in over 60 performances. It was afterward attacked by critics who felt and feigned outrage for its sexual references and irreligiosity, but also, possibly, envy of its newness and blatant success. A flurry of artful broadsides between Molière and the King’s Actors at The Hôtel de Bourgogne followed in pamphlets and on their respective stages.
“People of quality know everything without ever having learned anything.” (Les gens de qualité savent tout sans avoir jamais rien appris.) – Mascarille, played by Molière, Act 1, Scene 8. From Précieuses Ridicules (1659).
“A man’s not simple to take a simple wife. Your wife, no doubt, is a wise, virtuous woman. But brightness, as a rule, is a bad omen. And I know men who’ve undergone much pain because they married girls with too much brain. I want no intellectual, if you please.” – Arnolphe, Act 1, Scene 1. From School For Wives (1662).
“It must be confessed that love is a skillful instructor. It teaches us to be what we never were before. By its lessons a complete change in our manners is often the work of a moment. It overcomes obstacles in our very nature, and its sudden effects seem like miracles. It makes misers liberal in an instant, cowards become heroes, and, dear gentlemen, it turns the most inexperienced mind into a nimble wit, as it gives understanding to the most simple.” – Horace, Act 3, Scene 4. From School For Wives (1662).
The middle 1660s was a high point for Molière’s plays: Tartuffe; Festin de Pierre (Don Juan) and Le Misanthrope were all written in these same two or three years (1664-1666). These greatest comedies of enduring genius, however, were not well received in their days by a mostly obliging audience yet who took governance and religion very seriously. In May 1664, Molière staged the first three acts of his later Tartuffe at Versailles. Called The Hypocrite, the play was immediately banned by Louis XIV. When it opened again in 1667 as The Imposter, it was once more immediately banned. Any further performance – and this extended to its audience – adventured excommunication. It was not until February 1669 that Louis XIV allowed the performance of Tartuffe in its completed five act form. It instantly became the hottest ticket in Paris.
A prosperous man wanting to retain his hard-earned social position and continue to practice his theory of the stage as the layman’s pulpit, Molière in these final years turned toward lighter, innocuous spectacles to teach and entertain French society. In 1665 Don Juan ran for 15 performances though it was censored and its financial proceeds had to benefit the Church.
“I expect you to be sincere and as an honourable man never to utter a single word that you don’t really mean.” – Alceste, played by Molière, Act 1, Scene 1. From The Misanthrope (1666).
“There’s a season for love and another for prudishness, and we may consciously choose the latter when the hey-day of our youth has passed—it may serve to conceal some of life’s disappointments.” – Célimène, played by Armande Béjart-Molière, Act 3, Scene 4. From The Misanthrope (1666).
“I’ll confront her in no uncertain terms with her villainy, confound her utterly, and then bring to you a heart entirely freed from her perfidious charms.” – Alceste, played by Molière, Act , Scene . From The Misanthrope (1666).
“The failings of human nature in this life give us opportunities for exercising our philosophy, which is the best use we can put our virtues to. If all men were righteous, all hearts true and frank and loyal, what purpose would most of our virtues serve?” – Philinte, played by La Grange, Act 5, Scene 1. From The Misanthrope (1666).
“You shall observe me push my weakness to its furthest limit and show how wrong it is to call any of us wise and demonstrate that there’s some touch of human frailty in every one of us.” – Alceste, played by Molière, Act 5, Scene 4. From The Misanthrope (1666).
At rest in Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris since 1817, Molière was denied a Catholic burial in 1673
The baptized Molière died in 1673 at 51 years old. He was denied a religious burial for the simple fact that he was a theater actor. The traditional wing of the Catholic Church constantly impugned Molière’s work. Educated by the more liberal Jesuits, Molière never renounced his Catholicism, and was probably not an atheist. He was secretly buried in a Catholic cemetery in the section of unbaptized infants. In 1792, during the French Revolution, Molière’s remains were transferred to the museum of French Monuments. In 1817, Molière was laid to rest in Père Lachaise Cemetery where he lies today.
Tartuffe disguises himself as a virtuous man and is a hypocrite. As the French celebrate Molière’s 400th birth anniversary they reflect on the relevance of Molière’s drama for today. Some argue that false faces in democracy are just as numerous as those in mid17th century Paris though perhaps in a different way.
Cancel Culture derives from Tartuffe
The cancel culture can be said to derive of Tartuffe. Though not displaying a purely religious hypocrisy as in Molière’s original character, today’s Tartuffe hates the individual heart’s freedoms and hides their will to crack down on people by citing the “common good” or other platitude which usually includes a spectrum of needs and fears. Notions of superiority, duplicity, and simple stupidity are present in Molière’s Tartuffe – that is, the hypocritical type of 350 years ago.
A supposed offense today is paired with Molière’s hypocrite of 350 years ago against a partisan viewpoint of the “higher interest” with its obligations and payments “overdue” to them from which as a penalty and means requires the ban, cancellation, and banishment –yet, almost conveniently, not of one’s fragile self, if opposed. While the perennial distrust of politicians is well known, today’s social breakdown is broader and endemic – with the inflation of hypocrisy a common denominator.
Like a popular play on an outdoor stage in 17th century Paris, hypocrites can be better recognized, fortunately or not, by type. The brittle use of virtue signaling can offer one such type. When it becomes evident that it serves the practicioner’s hidden ends, the audience, assuming its role, heckles and boos such stock farce characters off the stage with gusto.
Though censorship and restrictions of thought and action of others in its many forms is hardly always the result of hypocrisy, hypocrites (whichever side of the fence their belief or opinion may fall) are certain to take the short route to do so.
Molière would have sufficient material today to write and perform another of his great dramas for the 21st century and whose production is under a similar menace of cancellation by such powers grown antagonistic to his content and close or lower the curtain when opportunity is seen to enter.
FEATURE image: Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895, pastel on cardboard, private collection.
By John P. Walsh
Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was a Symbolist and Expressionist artist from Norway.
In the 1890s, anti-naturalism mainly took the form of Symbolism – that is, the fascination with many types of literature and the inclination to draw upon these sources for inspiration in dreams and visions. This movement informed the art of Edvard Munch throughout that decade and into the twentieth century. Inspiration from literature, however, was not illustration. By the 1890s the younger generation of modern artists saw that by giving the artist an example of constructing an irrational logic, the artist’s dream, or more specific to Munch, psychology, had been freed not only from the restrictions of nature in terms of form, line, color and subject but also its potentially literary or ideological sources. It manifests as a style of drawing that the imagination has liberated from the concern of natural details in order that it might freely serve only as the representation of conceived things.
For Edvard Munch, this resulted in the creation of several fantastic scenarios which are designed and constructed as the artist deems them necessary to be. The distinction between Impressionism and Symbolism is the difference emanating from the tradition of naturalism and the expression of ideas by means of its symbol that is searching beyond naturalism.
Edvard Munch is a precursor and practitioner of Expressionism. Although the major portion of Munch’s artwork lies outside this classification, his expressionist paintings are some of his best-known works.
The Scream is Munch’s most famous work, and is widely interpreted as representing the universal anxiety of modern man. It is one of modern art’s most iconic paintings along with Whistler’s mother (Arrangement in Grey and Black, Number One, D’Orsay), Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa (Louvre), and Grant Wood’s American Gothic (Chicago).
Expressionism was a movement that was a combination of Symbolism, ideals of the human spirit, often confined in solitude, and poetical lyricism laced with emotion.1
1870’s, 1880’s KRISTIANIA (OSLO): MUNCH’S FIRST ARTWORK AND “THE SEEDS OF MADNESS”
In an artistic career that spanned from the early 1880s until his death in 1944 at 80 years old, Edvard Munch experimented within painting, graphic art, drawing, sculpture, photography and film.
Growing up in Kristiania (today’s Oslo) Munch decided at 17 years old that he was going to be a painter. Munch’s family encouraged his artistic pursuits so that in 1880 Munch enrolled at the Royal School of Art and Design in Kristiania where he expanded his drawing repertoire to include live models and en pleine aire (out of doors).
Often ill as a child, Munch believed that in his experiences growing up, “…I inherited the seeds of madness. The angels of fear, sorrow, and death stood by my side since the day I was born.”
In his career, Munch painted mania in several pictures, including Melancholy (1901). It depicted his younger sister Laura who suffered from schizophrenia, and was hospitalized regularly for what was diagnosed as “hysteria” and “melancholia.”2
SOUL PAINTING: MUNCH’S FIRST ARTISTIC BREAKTHROUGH
Between 1884 and 1889 young Munch made a range of drawing and paintings that was extensive and meaningful. His portfolio included landscapes, domestic environments, portraits, self-portrait, still life, and fictional motifs. Munch’s drawings included industrial sites along the Akerselva River, and promenading denizens and local farmers at work.
In Munch’s early work there is a hint of his wrestling with eros and the nature of woman that became a lifelong obsession.
In Kristiania Munch began to live a bohemian life under the influence of anti-establishment writer Hans Jaeger (1854-1910). Jaeger urged Munch to paint his own emotional and psychological state called “soul painting.”
Munch’s first “soul painting” was The Sick Child (1886). The artist produced five versions over decades. Munch’s freedom of treatment and color – also found in the painting Tête-à-Tête in 1885 – is largely owed to Impressionism. In 1886, Munch participated in the Artists’ Autumn Exhibition in Kristiania and exhibited The Sick Child. It met with very negative reaction. The motif of the sick was popular but Munch’s hasty Impressionistic treatment was seen as insensitive. It was the first breakthrough for Munch’s art.
Munch later painted Hans Jaeger’s portrait in Oslo in 1889 after Jaeger lost his job and had to flee Norway one step ahead of the law. This was after Jaeger published a novel about local Bohemian life that the authorities considered inflammatory. Young Munch began to explore in his art personal situations, emotions, and states of mind. He wrote in his “soul” diary: ” I attempt In my art to explain life and its meaning to myself.”3
PARIS AND ÅSGÅRDSTRAND IN 1885: MUNCH ENCOUNTERS OLD MASTERS, MODERNIST ÉDOUARD MANET—AND HAS HIS FIRST LOVE AFFAIR
With friends, Munch rented a studio in Kristiania. His mentor, established artist Christian Krohg (1852-1925), encouraged Munch to conform to his own artistic vision.
In 1885, 22-year-old Munch traveled to Paris for the first time to explore the world’s art capital. During his three-week stay in Paris Munch visited the Louvre and the Salon and was particularly impressed by French Modernist painter, Édouard Manet (1832-1883). Munch began to incorporate those ideas and techniques of French Modernism into his artistic vision. In the same year Munch produced his full-length Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell to the derision of critics in Kristiania. The penchant for Manet’s artwork continued for Munch into the new century with a full-length portrait called The Frenchman (Monsieur Archimard) in 1901.
In summer of 1885 Munch had his first love affair which affected him deeply. It occurred in the coastal resort town of Åsgårdstrand when Munch met Milly Thaulow (1860-1937), a fashion model and singer.
Milly had been married since 1881 when she met Munch and they had a passionate affair. The short, secret relationship filled Munch with mixed feelings of love and shame. Its inevitable ending produced melancholy that affected Munch’s artmaking.
Milly Thaulow remained active in the arts, translating Maurice Maeterlinck’s French play, Pelléas et Mélisande, into Norwegian in 1906. She went on to divorce her husband in 1891 and remarry that same year. Her second marriage ended in divorce. In the end, Munch justified his experience with Milly as part of radical bohemian artist culture which Hans Jaeger preached where love is free and self-expression is paramount.
PARIS IN 1889-91: MUNCH’S MODERNIST VISION AND TECHNIQUE
In 1889 Munch rented exhibition space in Kristiania to display 110 of his artworks. His entrepreneurship resulted in receiving state grant funds that led to a second, yet back and forth, stay to Paris whose time amounted overall to about two years.
In Paris, Munch took drawing lessons, explored art galleries, and networked with expatriate artists, especially at the venerable 17th-century Café de la Régence near the Palais-Royal.
In his study, Munch became inspired by the rhythmical and decorative art of Paul Gauguin (1847-1903), several of the Nabis, Japonisme, and the Symbolist drawing of Odilon Redon (1840-1916).
Though Munch rejected Realism in art, he embraced Impressionism, particularly the technique of Claude Monet (1840-1926) and Camille Pissarro (1830-1903) and Thomas Couture (1815-1879). Munch was particularly impressed by Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) and their unnatural use of color to express sensory perception and emotion. In this milieu Munch painted Rue Lafayette (1891).
The 26-year-old Munch had just arrived into Paris when his father died, an event which devastated the artist. Running low on money, Munch left the city and, with Danish poet Goldstein, rented a small apartment in the suburb of St. Cloud.
Munch’s experiences of relative poverty and the death of a loved one offered new insights and impetus for his art in terms of seeking to understand and express the memory of his human existence.
He painted Night In St. Cloud (1890) and Evening on the Karl Johan (1889) in this time period. Munch also conceived the idea of The Frieze of Life, a series of paintings exploring human existence from a range of pathos, terror, desire, dread, nightmare, and anxiety, to other fascinations, so to include The Dance of Life, The Scream, The Vampire, Madonna, and Death and the Maiden.
In 1891 Munch had exhibitions in Kristiania, Berlin, and Munich. He returned to Paris several times in the next decade for short term visits as in 1899 which included a trip to Italy.4
BERLIN 1892-1895: MUNCH’S ARTISTIC POWER REACH MATURITY
In 1892, Munch’s pictures were again exhibited at the Autumn Exhibition in Oslo (it was his final time)–and led to the 29-year-old artist being invited to exhibit at the Verein der Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists) in Germany in November 1892 for a one-man exhibition.
Munch’s exhibition of Melancholy (1891) in Oslo was called Norway’s “first Symbolist painting.” His exhibition of 55 pictures in Berlin proved another breakthrough for Munch’s reputation in Europe: it made him infamous. The critical reaction to his artwork was divided. Critics described Munch’s art as “repugnant, ugly and mean.” As it shocked the Berlin public, German artists Max Liebermann (1847-1935) and Ludwig von Hofmann (1861-1945) setting up a dissident “Group of XI” that led to the establishment of the Berlin Secession later on May 2, 1898.
The government of Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) set the mood for the public reaction in that art which “presumes to overstep the limits and rules” which Wilhelm had set, “is no longer art.” In the eyes of German society, Munch’s artwork “misused the word ‘freedom’ and (with) a total loss of restraint and excess of self-esteem.”
Later, by around 1910, that same Emperor in his constant pursuit of cultural influence, mostly supported the Berlin Secession. Yet the Secession’s public and financial success which Wilhelm II eventually helped to build, came at the price of a benevolent autocrat’s constant interference, particularly in the modern art group’s jury process.
Munch stayed in Berlin until 1895. In the Berlin exhibitions of 1893 and 1895 Munch presented a sequence of pictures he called Man’s Life, From the Modern Life of the Soul and, simply, Love. These all contained artwork that contributed to The Frieze which Munch intended to be a symbolic expression of reality and not a mere symbol of or for reality.
Munch’s bohemian circle in Berlin included editors of the magazine Pan, the German arts publication analogous to France’s La Revue Blanche. It also included Swedish avant-garde writer, August Strindberg (1849-1912) who would soon provide Munch with influential introductions to the Berlin and Paris art worlds. In 1890 Strindberg broke with naturalism and was in his own artistic and personal crisis as he sought new art forms within an emerging Symbolism. Munch met German art critic Julius Meier-Graefe (1867-1935) and socialized with Polish decadent naturalist and Symbolist novelist, dramatist, and poet Stanisław Przybyszewski (1868-1927) along with Przybyszewski’s paramour and later short-term wife, Dagny Juel (1867-1901). Munch painted both of these friends’ portraits.
Munch’s Berlin friends understood what Munch was doing with symbolism though the German critics did not. Przybyszewski wrote: “The old kind of art and psychology was an art and psychology of the conscious personality, whereas the new art is the art of the individual. Men dream and their dreams open up vistas of a new world to them.”
In addition to exhibiting in Berlin in both 1893 and 1894, Munch exhibited in Copenhagen, Dresden and Munich in 1893 and in Stockholm in 1894.
Working on the Frieze of Life, Munch created painting with turbulent, ambiguous and morose themes with titles such as Despair (1892), The Girl and Death (1893), Stormy Night (1893), The Voice (1893), Anxiety (1894), The Three Stages of Woman (1894), Ashes (1894), Death Struggle (1895), and Jealousy (1895). Aspects of Symbolism extended to romantic aspects of nature in paintings such as Coastal Mysticism (1892), Evening (Melancholy) (1893), Moonlight (1893), Starlit Night (1893), Sunrise at Åsgårdstrand (1893) and The Evening Star (1894). He painted many portraits in this period, in addition to those in his Berlin Bohemian circle, including Sister Inger (1892). Other iconic, overtly anecdotal Munch paintings were created such as Self Portrait in Hell (1895), Self Portrait under a female mask (1892), and Self portrait with Burning Cigarette (1895).
Other paintings, including casino scenes, showed Munch’s simplification of form and detail. The artist favored shallow pictorial space and a minimal backdrop for his foreground figures. Poses, forms, colors, lines and subjects were carefully constructed images that expressed psychological and emotional states, and often appear monumental as if they were playing a role on the stage of life.5
PARIS IN 1895 TO 1897: MUNCH ADOPTS “IDEA” PAINTING. THE SCREAM
Until 1870, young artists from Norway went to Dűsseldorf to study and pursue an art career though sometimes to Berlin, Paris, Munich and Karlesruhe. By 1880, Paris was the center of the art world and Munch returned to Paris in 1895, 1896, and 1897 for extended visits (he also visited Nice in 1897).
Thadée Nathanson’s La Revue Blanche published Munch’s lithograph The Scream in December 1895. The Scream exists in four versions: two pastels (1893 and 1895) and two paintings (1893 and 1910). There are several lithographs of The Scream from 1895 and later.
With The Scream, Munch met his stated goal in his diary of his art expressing “the study of the soul, that is to say the study of my own self.” Philippe Jullian argues that it had been the combination of influences of Strindberg, Redon, and Gauguin that explained Munch’s conversion from Naturalism and Impressionism to “Idea” painting expressed in Symbolism. Munch was the first to express the individual’s anguish in modern society and facing death. He was an inventor of the ectoplasm line (“ectoplasm” is a spiritualism term first used in 1894). Munch’s figures, including The Scream, emerges from pastel, oil, or ink like an apparition, yet to be identified with the “souls” of ordinary persons.
Anxiety, jealousy, loneliness; Munch illustrates people who pictorially express Symbolism’s darkest visions and themes.
In Paris Munch exhibitions were organized at the Salon des Indépendents and Siegfried Bing’s Salon de L‘Art Nouveau. Young avant-garde art dealer Ambroise Vollard (1866-1939) included Munch in his first Album des Peintres Graveurs. Munch was commissioned by the Cent Bibliophiles to illustrate Baudelaire’s Flowers of Evil. Like young Nabis Édouard Vuillard (1868-1940) and Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947), Munch designed programs for Symbolist theatre (Ibsen’s Peer Gynt at the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre). He did portraits of Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) and August Strindberg. Munch created some of his most iconic motifs, including The Scream (pastel version), Vampire (a woman seductive and destructive), Puberty (an anxious girl seated naked on a bed), and Madonna (a synthesis of the mystical and erotic).
MUNCH MASTERS MODERN EXPERIMENTAL PRINTMAKING
In Berlin in 1894 Munch had produced his first dry point etchings. In Paris in 1896, following the explosion of color printing in the 1890’s, Munch produced his first color lithographs and woodcuts (Vampire was his first woodcut). Influenced by Gauguin and Max Klinger (1857-1920), printmaking allowed Munch to be highly experimental in the creation of an image. Particular to Munch as an artist, the subject of the artwork determined which of the various styles to be deployed. At his death Munch retained over 15,000 prints in his Oslo studios. During his lifetime, inspired importantly by his work in mid-1890’s Paris, Munch became a master of all graphic techniques, such as color, volume, and line. Munch’s production of an immense portfolio of graphic art sought to create images which are subordinated to the experiences of the self’s impulses and drives.
Munch’s attempts to market his new artwork in Paris as he did in Berlin to acceptance and fame resulted in relative failure in the world’s art capital. His parting milestone in Paris in this period was in the 1897 Salon des Artistes Indépendants where Munch displayed in the main hall his ever-augmenting Frieze of Life. The cycle was characterized by continuous reworkings as new paintings; versions that replaced paintings which had sold; and, new compositions added to the series.
In terms of public acclaim, the effort appeared for naught. French resistance to Munch’s “repugnant, ugly and mean” art endured. French critics decried Munch’s art as “violent and brutal” and, when they weren’t chastising him, they ignored him—and this attitude lasted deep into the 20th century. However, another exhibition in Munch’s native Oslo of 85 paintings was well received.6
MUNCH’S AMBIVALENCE IN LOVE AND OBSESSION WITH DEATH
In 1898 Munch met Tulla (Mathilde Larsen) and they became lovers. Munch continued a productive period of art-making as he continually refused to marry Tulla. Munch portrayed many artworks displaying his view of life and death and the destructive force of love where both man and woman suffer– Madonna (1893), Salome, The Maiden and the Heart (1896), Under the Yoke (1896), Cruelty, The Woman and the Urn (1896), and, later, his Alpha and Omega lithograph series (1909). Munch remained fascinated by women as expressed in The Kiss (1892), The Three Stages of Women (1894), and The Dance of Life (1900).
One explanation of the ambivalent relationship of Munch the artist and Woman as artistic subject may be understood through the Symbolist art aesthetic. Symbolism connoted the idea of a desirable union of the human being with a philosophic ideal. In its view, Woman, though called real is a false appearance, and thereby not ideal. Further, Woman acts mainly as a temptress, the then-popular notion of a femme fatale, as she reveals man’s animal nature which obscures and prevents the desirable union to the ideal. Woman must be avoided and, if engaged by man, done so with peril.
Munch was an idealist before he became a Symbolist, and, as Christian Krohg ominously wrote about him in 1892: “dares to subordinate Nature, his model, to the mood.“
In 1899 Munch exhibited at the Venice Biennale and in Dresden. The Berlin Secession held its first exhibition in 1899 on its own premises but did not invite Edvard Munch. Though the Berlin group invited no foreigners that year, Munch’s art continued to be viewed by status quo cognoscenti as “undesirable.” Yet, at the same time, Munch’s art was beginning to influence young Expressionist artists in Germany. In artworks such as The Voice and Summer’s Night, Munch appealed to these younger avant-garde artists for his illustrating the upsurge and resonance of raw emotion.
MUNCH IN THE NEW CENTURY; THE FRIEZE OF LIFE
Little is known about Munch’s personal relationships with individual women that would greatly enlighten the artist’s overall character and how these relationships’ impacted his artwork in his adult years. Fantastic stories are told. How, in his room at Åsgårdstrand with an unknown woman (likely Tulla), did a gunshot go off in Fall 1902 from a revolver that injured Munch’s hand? Munch successfully chased Tulla out of his life, though after she married another man, the artist felt betrayed by Love and brooded over it. Even as Munch had numerous short-lived affairs with beautiful women who wanted to marry him, he fled them all and verbally expressed no known regrets. Throughout his life, Edvard Munch never married.
Munch started the year 1900 in Gudbrandsdalen and moved on to Berlin. In 1901 he painted in Nordstrand and in 1902 returned to Berlin. Along with artwork of Édouard Manet, Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944), and Claude Monet, Munch exhibited at the Berlin Secession in 1902. He had continually worked at the Frieze of Life, the group of images representing human existence, a subject that fascinated the artist. He exhibited 22 paintings from the completed Frieze at that year’s Berlin Secession. Though the Berlin critics began to appreciate Munch’s art, the public continued to view him as warped and weird. In 1902 he met ophthalmologist Dr. Max Linde (1862-1940), an art collector and author of a Munch study while Hamburg judge and art collector Gustav Schiefler (1857-1935) started a catalogue of Munch’s voluminous graphic art that year.
In 1903 Munch visited Dr. Max Linde in Lübeck and painted a frieze for his house though Dr. Linde ended up rejecting Munch’s work. Munch exhibited in Berlin at Paul Cassirer modern art gallery.
EVA MUDOCCI’S PREGNANCY AND MUNCH’S NERVOUS BREAKDOWN
In 1903 Munch met British violinist Eva Mudocci (1872-1953) in Paris where Munch had an exhibition. Fully aware of his commitment only to art, Eva Mudocci reportedly became Munch’s mistress and Munch soon immortalized her in The Woman with the Brooch.
In this period, Munch received several commissions for portraits and prints. In 1904 the German rights to his graphic art and paintings was sold to two prominent galleries. Munch exhibited in Vienna and Paris and became a member of the Berlin Secession. In 1905 Munch exhibited 75 paintings in Prague at the Manés Gallery and in 1906 was invited to exhibit with the Fauves in Paris. In Berlin, Munch painted stage sets for Henrik Ibsen plays (Ghosts and Hedda Gabler) at the Max Reinhardt Theatre. A frieze that was commissioned for the Reinhardt Theatre was sold by its director before the frieze was unveiled to the public.
In 1907 Munch summered in Warnemünde as he turned his attention to human figures and situations. He exhibited with Henri Matisse and Paul Cézanne at Cassirer Gallery, the purchaser of the German rights to Munch’s graphic art. In November 1907 Eva Mudocci went on a concert tour in Norway for three weeks where She and Munch spent time together in Åsgårdstrand and Oslo. In early 1908 Eva Mudocci was pregnant and gave birth to twins in Denmark at the end of the year. Friends insisted that Munch must have been the father but Mudocci never said who the father was.
Almost simultaneous with Mudocci’s pregnancy, 45-year-old Edvard Munch had a nervous breakdown. In December 1908 he checked himself into a clinic in Copenhagen for several month’s treatment for alcoholism and exhaustion. Munch later wrote: “My condition was verging on madness—it was touch and go.”
In 1909, Mudocci and Munch parted ways though they stayed in touch for the next 18 years, until 1927. At the clinic, Munch painted portraits of his doctor (Dr. Daniel Jacobsen, 1909) and a nurse as well as close friends and a self-portrait using short, thick, and forceful brushstrokes—it was a watershed moment in Munch’s life and art.7
NORWAY 1909: MUNCH COMES HOME
Following his recuperation at the clinic, Munch was sober for the first time in years. In 1907 and 1908 he created Bathing Men, a scene of cleansing by immersion reminiscent of Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). Suddenly the totality of Munch’s art of the 1890’s and early 1900’s, where he explored his dark and tormented feelings, thoughts, and experiences, became passé for the artist. With the same vigorous brushwork and unnatural, expressionistic colors, Munch turned to painting everyday subjects.
Renting a house in Kragerø, a fishing village in Norway, Munch permanently settled in his homeland. In 1912 he exhibited in Cologne at the Sonderbund exhibition where he was ranked with Van Gogh, Gauguin and Cézanne. That year Munch had his first American exhibition In New York City. In 1913, the 50-year-old artist traveled extensively, had tributes paid to him, and rented larger quarters at Jeløya.
Munch turned to landscapes and large-scale art projects as he continued the murals for Oslo University which were, after lengthy controversy, finally accepted in 1914. Already a Knight of the Royal Order of St. Olaf since 1909, the Oslo National Gallery began buying some of Munch’s most important works – The Day After, Ashes, Puberty, Two Girls at the Verandah, and The Frenchman. The State museum received gifts from collectors as well. Olaf Schou (1861-1925) gave them Madonna, The Sick Child, Mother and Daughter, Girls on the Bridge and, later, The Scream, Death in the Sick Chamber, The Dance of Life, Girl at her Toilet, Betsy, Moonlight in Nice, and others.
Meanwhile, Munch decided to turn for inspiration to some of the outward obsessions of a new 20th century: its advancing technologies, mass media, high-speed transportation and urban life. 8
GLOBAL FAME, LAST EXHIBITIONS, OLD AGE AND DEATH
From 1914 until his death in January 1944, Munch sold nearly nothing but pictures bought by museums and new, commissioned work. Until then Munch had to sell pictures to live though he was reluctant and made replicas for himself. He did not sell works closely aligned to his emotional life. In 1916, Munch, now a famous artist, had finished the murals in the assembly Hall of Oslo University and purchased Ekely at Skøyen just outside the city. The artist constructed fences, let hedges and weeds grow tall, and closed off his residence to onlookers. Not strictly a misanthrope, Munch chose to live in glorious isolation. He hardly stayed in contact with family or relatives and permitted few friends to visit.
At Ekely Munch constructed interior and exterior studio spaces where, situated among works, Munch stored The Frieze of Life. At his death in January 1944 at Ekely, Munch bestowed all works in his possession to the city of Oslo– more than 1000 paintings, 15,000 prints, and about 500 watercolors and drawings. There was also some sculpture. These artworks comprise most of today’s Munch Museum – see https://www.munchmuseet.no/
In 1922 Munch painted 12 murals for a chocolate factory in Oslo. In the 1920’s and 1930’s he exhibited his art frequently— in Zurich, Basel, Berne, Berlin, Mannheim, Dresden. In 1936 and 1937, he exhibited in London, Amsterdam and Stockholm. There were major shows and retrospectives.
LAST PAINTINGS RETURN TO EARLIER DARKER SUBJECTS AND THEMES
Besides monumental work for public projects, Munch late paintings included almost genre-type scenes such as horses and workers in the field, fishermen, an elm forest, fruit trees and a garden. While the main mural for Festival Hall at Oslo University is mostly decorative, The Sun (1909-11) recalls aspects of Symbolism that Munch depicted in his darker pictures of the 1890s. Some late pictures stirred with the memory of past, darker experiences such as The Death of the Bohemian (1926) and The Bohemian’s Wedding (1926). In 1915 he painted a new version of the Death Struggle from 1895.
After contracting Spanish Flu in 1919, Munch painted his self-portrait as a convalescent from sickness and death. Twenty years later the artist painted a self portrait as an insomniac in The Night Wanderer (1939). Munch produced paintings and graphic work in great number. There are self-portraits; portraits; beach motifs; motifs from life of workers, fishermen, and farmers; garden scenes; nudes; landscapes; the theme of Faust, etc.
When Norway was invaded by Nazi Germany in April 1940 during World War II, Munch’s exhibitions outside Norway ceased by 1942. In 1937 the Nazis had labeled 37 of Munch’s paintings as “degenerate art” and they were removed and sold. After the invasion of Norway, Munch refused to have anything to do with the German occupiers. Munch stayed in Norway where he died at Ekely on January 23. 1944, at 80 years old.9
1. Odilon Redon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986, p. 23.
Quoted in Martha Kapos, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993, pp. 175-180.
Jean Selz, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974, p. 6 and 24
2. Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 2.
Arne Eggum, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, , New York: C.N. Potter, 1984, pp. 196, 203, 228, 236.
Edward Lucie-Smith, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 189.
8. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, pp. 127-128.
Sue Prideaux, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005, p. 373. 9. J.P. Hodin, Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972, p. 167.
Michael Gibson, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999, p.149.
Munch, Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, New York: Universe Books, 1964, p. i-ii; 1.
Bischoff, Ulrich, Edvard Munch 1863-1944, Cologne: Taschen, 2000. Delevoy, Robert L., Symbolists and Symbolism, New York: Rizzoli, 1982. Dube, Wolf-Dieter, Expressionism, New York: Oxford University Press, 1972. Eggum, Arne, Edvard Munch: Paintings, Sketches, and Studies, New York: C.N. Potter, 1984. Gibson, Michael, Symbolism, Cologne: Taschen, 1999. Goldwater, Robert, Symbolism, New York: Westview Press, 1998. Hodin, J.P., Edvard Munch, Thames & Hudson, 1972. Jullian, Philippe, Dreams of Decadence: Symbolist Painters of the 1890s, New York: Praeger Publishers, 1971. Kapos, Martha, The Post-Impressionists: A Retrospective, London: Beaux Arts Editions, 1993. Langarred, Johan H., Revold, Residar, Munch, New York: Universe Books, 1964. Lucie-Smith, Edward, Symbolist Art, Thames & Hudson, 1972. Mathews, Nancy Mowll, Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2001, p. 207. Paret, Peter, The Berlin Secession, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980. Prideaux, Sue, Edvard Munch: Behind the Scream, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2005. Rapetti, Rodolphe, Symbolism, Paris: Flammarion, 2005. Redon, Odilon, To Myself, translated by Mira Jacob and Jeanne L. Wasserman, New York: George Braziller, Inc., 1986. Selz, Jean, Edvard Munch, New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1974.
LIST OF WORKS BY EDVARD MUNCH
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, oil on canvas, 1886.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, crayon, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy, Laura.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1882, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Interior Pilestredet, oil on canvas, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Still Life with Jar, Apple, Walnut and Coconut, 1881, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, From Saxegårdsgate, c. 1882, oil on canvas, Lillehammer Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Laura, 1882, oil on paper (top) and oil on cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Andreas Studying Anatomy, 1883, Oil on Cardboard, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Tête-à-tête, oil on canvas, 1885, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child (original version), 1885-86, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Hans Jæger, 1889, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Night on the Beach, 1889, Bergen Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait, c. 1888, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Portrait of the Painter Jensen -Hjell, 1885, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Night In St. Cloud, 1890, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening on the Karl Johan, 1889, oil, Bergen Art Museum.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1891, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening Melancholy, 1891, oil, crayon, pencil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Rue Lafayette, 1891, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Rue de Rivoli, 1891, oil on canvas, Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy, 1893, oil, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (The Yellow Boat), 1891, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the window, 1892, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1892, oil, Private Collection.
Edvard Munch, The Girl by the Window, 1893, oil, Art Institute of Chicago.
Edvard Munch, Separation, 1893-94, Gouache, watercolor and crayon on paper, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Parting, 1894, oil on canvas, 67 x 128 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Three Stages of Women (Sphinx), c. 1894, Bergan.
Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1894–1895, oil on canvas, 151.5 x 110 cm, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Anxiety, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Despair, 1893, oil on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Inger in Black and Violet, 1892, oil on canvas, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The storm, oil on canvas, 1893, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Edvard Munch, Summer Night’s Dream The Voice, 1893, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Massachusetts.
Edvard Munch, Coastal Mysticism, 1892.
Edvard Munch, Sketch of the Model Posing, 1893, pastel on cardboard, The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
Edvard Munch, The Hands, 1893, oil on canvas, 91 x 77 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At the Roulette Table in Monte Carlo, 1892, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Under the Mask of the Woman, 1893, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait with Burning Cigarette, 1895, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait in Hell, c. 1895, oil on canvas, 82 x 60 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski,1895, pastel, 62x55cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1893, oil, tempera, pastel on cardboard, National Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1895. Ink.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, 1895, Dry-point and aquatint, 34.8 x 28 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Kiss, woodcut, n.d., 44.7 x 44.7. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Jealousy, 1896, Lithograph, 46.5 x 56.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1894, Dry-point, 30.2 x 22 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening),1896, woodcut, 37.6 x 45.5. cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Attraction, 1896, Lithograph, 47.2 x 35.5 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1896, Lithograph, 42.1 x 56.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Evening, Melancholy I, woodcut, 1896.
Edvard Munch, Stéphane Mallarmé, 1896, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Auguste Strindberg, 1896, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Self-portrait, 1895, Lithograph, 45.5×31.7 cm, Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Edvard Munch, Lady From the Sea (detail), 1896, oil on canvas. 100 cm × 320 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Voice Summer Night, 1896, 90 cm × 119 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo
Edvard Munch, Paris Boulevard, 1896, oil on canvas, 96.5 x 130 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Inheritance, 1897-99, oil on canvas, 141 x 121 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Two people, 1899, oil on canvas, 175 x 143 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Amor and Psyche, 1907, oil on canvas, 118 x 99 cm
Edvard Munch, Marat’s death, 1907, oil on canvas, 151 x148 cm, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, The Murderess, 1906, Munch museum.
Edvard Munch, Death of Marat I, 1907, 150 x 199 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Kiss by the Window, 1897, oil on canvas, 99 x 80.5 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death and the Maiden, 1893, oil on canvas, 128 x 86 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Man and Woman, 1898, oil on canvas, Bergen.
Edvard Munch, Stanislaw Przybyszewski (The Vampire), Oil and/or tempera on unprimed cardboard, 1893.
Edvard Munch, Weeping Nude, 1913–1914, 110 cm × 135 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Against a Green Background and Caricature Portrait of Tulla Larsen, 1905.
Edvard Munch, Ashes, 1893,
Edvard Munch, The Dance of Life, 1899-1900.
Edvard Munch, Madonna, 1894, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, The Brooch, 1903, lithograph, 60×46 cm.
Edvard Munch, Salome, 1903, lithograph.
Edvard Munch, Fertility, 1898, woodcut, 42 x 51.7 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Women on the Beach, 1898, woodcut, 45.5 x 50.8 cm, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Red and White, 1899–1900, 93 cm × 129 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Portrait of Friedrich Nietzsche, 1906, Thiel Gallery, Stockholm.
Edvard Munch, Red Virginia Creeper, 1900, oil on canvas, 120 x 120 cm.
Edvard Munch, Young People on the Beach, 1902, oil on canvas, 90 x 174 cm.
Edvard Munch, On the beach, 1905, oil on canvas, 81x 121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Bathing Boys, c. 1904, oil on canvas, 194 x 294 cm.
Edvard Munch, Shore with Red House, 1904, oil on canvas, 69 × 109 cm, Munch Museum. Edvard Munch, Train Smoke,1900, 84 cm × 109 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, At The Sign of the Sweet Girl, 1907, oil on canvas, 85 x 130 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nude by the bed, c. 1907, oil on canvas, 120×121 cm.
Edvard Munch, Four Girls Åsgårdstrand, 1905, oil on canvas, 87x111cm.
Edvard Munch, Avenue in the snow, 1906, oil on canvas, 80 x100 cm.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with Brushes, 1904, 197×91 cm, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait with a Bottle of Wine, 1906, 110 cm × 120, The Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Deathbed, 1900, oil on canvas, 100 x 110 cm.
Edvard Munch, Village Street, 1905, oil on canvas, 100×100 cm.
Edvard Munch, Prayer, 1902, woodcut, 45.8 x32.5 cm.
Edvard Munch, Dr. Daniel Jacobson, 1909, oil on canvas, 204 x 112 cm.
Edvard Munch, Nurse, 1909, dry point, 20.5×15.2 cm.
Edvard Munch, The Scream, 1910, oil, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Self Portrait Bergen, 1916, oil on canvas, 90 x 60 cm.
Edvard Munch, Bathing Men, 1907–1908, oil on canvas, 206 x 227.5 cm, Atheneum, Helsinki.
Edvard Munch, The Day After, 1894/5, oil on canvas, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Moonlight in Nice, 1895, oil, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Death in the Sickroom, 1893, pastel on canvas, Munch Museum, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Girls on the Bridge,1899-1901, National Gallery, Oslo.
Edvard Munch, Mother and Daughter, 1897, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
Edvard Munch, Crouching Nude, 1919, oil on canvas, Munch Museum.
Edvard Munch, Artist and his Model, 1919-1921, Thyssen-Bornemisza National Museum, Madrid.
FEATURE image: Ethel Barrymore on the cover of The Theatre in August 1901 following the close of the successful Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines which ran on Broadway for 168 performances from February to July 1901 and made 22-year-old Ethel Barrymore a star. Public Domain.
22-year-old Ethel Barrymore on stage at the Garrick Theatre on West 35th Street in New York City in Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines in 1901. Dramatist Clyde Fitch (1865-1909) wrote over 60 plays in his career that ranged from comedies and farces to melodramas. Fitch was the most popular writer for the Broadway stage in his time and specialized in writing important dramatic parts for women. Fitch’s new play was a romantic comedy set in the States years after the Civil War. Ethel Barrymore played Madame Trentoni, the female lead and the play’s love interest. The 1901 Broadway production made Barrymore a star. The public domain photograph is in the archive of the Museum of the City of New York.
By John P. Walsh
Stage and screen actress Ethel Barrymore (1879-1959) was the sister to older brother Lionel (1878-1954) and younger brother John (1882-1942) Barrymore. Though Ethel Barrymore was absolutely devoted to the stage from her youth, she began to appear in major silent films starting in 1914. Much later, in the 1940’s, the veteran stage actress was nominated twice for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She won the golden statuette in 1944 for her role as Ma Mott in the film None but the Lonely Heart starring Cary Grant who used a Cockney accent for his part.
By the time Barrymore appeared in her first feature motion picture, The Nightingale, in 1914, she was a celebrated stage actress on both sides of the Atlantic. Coming from the famous American acting family of Drews and Barrymores, the just 16-year-old Ethel Barrymore made her Broadway stage debut in 1895 alongside her uncle, John Drew, Jr. (1853-1927).
Ethel Barrymore at 17 years old in 1896. In 1895, a 16-year-old Barrymore made her Broadway stage debut alongside her uncle, Jack Drew, Jr., a famous and well-liked actor.
John Drew, Jr. in 1896. A versatile actor, Drew was so highly esteemed by his fellow actors that they elected him the lifetime president of New York City’s Players’ Club. The private social club for actors founded in the 1840’s at 16 Gramercy Park remains active today.
Before she was 20 years old, Ethel appeared several times on the London stage. Her first role was that of Miss Kittridge in William Gillette’s new play, Secret Service (1895). After that show closed, she was offered and played other roles on the London circuit. By the turn of the 20th century, a vibrant and talented Ethel Barrymore gained the especial attentions of several male admirers that included dukes, actors, writers and politicians.
Winston Churchill in 1900. A public domain photograph in the Imperial War Museum.
One such admirer of Ethel Barrymore was eligible bachelor, enthusiastic theater hound, and nascent politician Winston Churchill (1874-1965). Though Ethel had many propositions and proposals in this period—she was even briefly engaged to a man until Ethel broke it off—any marriage proposal made to her by Churchill was refused. Churchill and Barrymore, however, became lifelong friends.
Poster for William Hooker Gillette’s 1895 play, Secret Service, on the London stage which featured young American actress Ethel Barrymore in its cast. The poster promotion depicts the play as a royal entertainment which attracts princes and princesses, dukes and duchesses. William Gillette (1853-1937) wrote melodramas and spy plays that were very popular with audiences. In 1899, Gillette first created the role of Sherlock Holmes for the stage, a role which he himself played for over 30 years.
Ethel Barrymore at 19 years old in 1898.
Young Ethel Barrymore. From a famous American acting family, she was was devoted to the stage at an early age.
At 20 years old Ethel Barrymore gained the attention of many male admirers, including dukes, actors, writers and politicians. Though briefly engaged around the turn of the century, Ethel broke it off. Ethel finally married in 1909. She met her husband, Russell Griswold Colt (1882–1960), at Sherry’s restaurant at 44th Street and Fifth Avenue in New York City while having lunch with her uncle, John Drew, Jr. The marriage produced three children, though it ended in divorce in 1923.
When Ethel returned to the United States, she began to appear in various stage productions. It was in 1901 when the 22-year-old actress was cast in the role of Mrs. Trentoni in Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines on Broadway that Ethel Barrymore became a star.
Ethel Barrymore dressed in one of the Edwardian costumes as Madame Trentoni in the 1901 Broadway play, Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines.
Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines introduces Robert Carrolton Jinks and his friends who form a club to boost the presidential campaign for General U.S. Grant in 1868. Calling themselves “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,” they think to try out their marching abilities by greeting the arrival of a steamer carrying Madame Trentoni, a famous opera singer. Though sight unseen, Jinks bets money that he can make Madame Trentoni fall in love with him. The boat is late and everyone leaves the dock except for a gaggle of reporters who wait to greet the opera singer. When Jinks returns, after he lays eyes on Madame Trentoni (played by Ethel Barrymore) he falls in love with her. After Captain Jinks sees she is having trouble at customs, he pulls out money which the customs official mistakes for a bribe and Jinks is promptly arrested.
When Jinks is released on bail he calls on Madame Trentoni who has stopped to visit her foster father. She is as much in love with him as he is with her and their courtship progresses rapidly. When Jinks tries to call off the bet he made with his friends, they refuse until he finally agrees to pay off the bet with an I.O.U.
Jinks’ friends are also smitten with Madame Trentoni but she is totally uninterested in them. This gets them angry and they decide to ruin it for Jinks. They tell Madame Trentoni’s foster father that jinks intends to marry Madame Trentoni solely for her money — and as proof pull out the signed I.O.U. that says “I.O.U. $1,000 for the bet regarding Madame Trentoni.” The foster father flies into a rage, tells Madame Trentoni about the I.O.U, and she decides to never see Jinks again.
Jinks has no idea why Madame Trentoni is so angry at him. When he finally discovers what his friends have falsely told her, he tries to gain admittance to her apartment to tell her the truth. When she learns the real facts of the matter, Madame Trentoni throws her arms around her Captain Jinks.
In that intimate position, a detective suddenly bursts into the room to arrest Jinks. In all the tumult surrounding the loss of his love interest, Jinks forgot to appear in court for his bribery case. It appeared Jinks had skipped bail. Madame Trentoni tells the detective that she and her sweetheart have had a misunderstanding and only now are having the chance to make up. Her plea and the promise that Captain Jinks will appear in court tomorrow for his case is approved by the detective, who departs. Captain Jinks and Madame Trentoni embrace, and the curtain goes down on the couple living happily ever after.
The public domain photographs above are in the archive of the Museum of the City of New York.
Color promotional poster for Captain Jinks and the Horse Marines starring Elizabeth Kennedy. After the Broadway show starring Ethel Barrymore closed in July 1901 after 168 performances, a new production and cast appeared in 1902. The theatrical poster highlights New York’s Garrick Theatre run. (Library of Congress collection)
Ethel Barrymore as Madame Trentoni in 1901.
Ethel Barrymore on the cover of The Theatre in August 1901 following the close of the successful Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines which ran on Broadway for 168 performances from February to July 1901 and made 22 year old Ethel Barrymore a star.
Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines was produced in 1901 at the Garrick Theatre. The 910-seat theatre was built in 1890 by Francis Hatch Kimball (1845-1919) and located at 67 W. 35th Street in New York City.
The Garrick opened as Harrigan’s Theatre and became the Garrick in 1895. It was sold to the Schubert brothers in 1916 and leased to Otto Kahn who renamed it the Théâtre du Vieux-Colombier in 1917.
Management reverted to the Schuberts in 1925 when the theatre featured popular burlesque until the onset of the Great Depression. The building was demolished in 1932.
Screenshot, October 2019, site of GARRICK THEATRE (1890-1932), 67 W. 35th Street, New York City. The Garrick Theatre was where Ethel Barrymore starred as Madame Trentoni in Clyde Fitch’s Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines. A smash hit, the Broadway production made Ethel Barrymore one of the 20th century’s major theatrical and film stars. In 2006 the site had a multi-level parking garage which was later replaced by a hotel devlopment. The brownstone building in the middle distance appears to have survived from the late 19th-century period.
Both photographs above, Ethel Barrymore in 1901. As a new theatrical celebrity Barrymore’s image, style, and fashion were in demand by the public.
Ethel Barrymore in 1901.
Barrymore with a fur muf and feather hat in a hairstyle à la mode. The demand by the public for images of theatrical celebrities was insatiable.
In the 20th century’s first decade, Ethel Barrymore became a theatrical celebrity. Her image was in demand in photographs and picture post cards of the time. Throughout the first third of the twentieth century, Barrymore continually appeared in popular stage productions. Following the success of Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines, Barrymore appeared in the next years in many top-rated popular Broadway productions.
A few highlights included in 1903 Barrymore appearing for 60 performances in the title role in Cousin Kate at the brand-new Hudson Theatre at 139–141 West 44th Street. In 1905 Barrymore played Norma Helmer in Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll House for 23 performances at The Lyceum Theatre at 149 West 45th Street. Also in 1905 Barrymore appeared in Alice Sit-by-the-Fire at the Empire Theatre. In 1908 Barrymore played the title role in Lady Frederick for 96 performances, again at the Hudson Theatre. There were a dozen more productions Barrymore was involved in before 1910.
Another side of Ethel Barrymore, at the piano in 1903. Before she took to a career on the stage, Ethel Barrymore aspired to be a concert pianist as a youth.
Ethel Barrymore, 1904, by photographer Arnold Genthe. The actress was starring in several plays that year including in the title role of Kate Curtis in My Cousin Kate at the Empire Theatre. Barrymore would reprise the role briefly in 1907.
Ethel Barrymore in a photograph by William Morrison of Chicago in 1907. In the 1900’s Ethel Barrymore was a theatrical celebrity whose image displayed the latest fashion, make-up, and hairstyles that helped express the style of the times.
Ethel Barrymore in 1908. She was starring in the title role of Lady Frederick at the Hudson Theatre that year. The Broadway play ran for 96 performances.
With her film debut in 1914 in The Nightingale, a film written especially for her by playwright Augustus Thomas (1857-1934), Ethel Barrymore began in the new silent flickering medium of cinema in the footsteps of her brothers Lionel and John, who made their film debuts a couple of years earlier.
While Ethel made at least 14 films between 1914 and 1919 (some films are lost) she continued with her stage work and appeared in a dozen more Broadway productions throughout the 1910’s. When she decided to interrupt her film work in 1920 –and did not return to the movies until 1932 in the M-G-M film Rasputin and the Empress starring with her brothers (Ethel played Czarina Alexandra) – she appeared in a dozen more plays in the 1920’s, all in prominent Broadway theatres.
In 1922 she starred as Juliet in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet for 23 performances at the Longacre Theatre at 220 West 48th Street as well as her celebrated role as Constance Middleton in Somerset Maugham’s new comedy play, The Constant Wife, in 1927. It ran for 296 performances at Maxime Elliot’s Theatre at 109 West 39th Street (it was demolished in 1960). The play had previewed in Cleveland, Ohio, at the Ohio Theatre in early November 1926 with Ethel Barrymore in the title role. It opened on Broadway at the end of November 1926 and ran until August 1927. After the Broadway show closed, Ethel Barrymore toured the production. Maugham dedicated his play to Ethel Barrymore and later said her performance was by far the best of any he had seen given for any of his plays.
Barrymore’s extensive stage work in this period also included, in 1928, appearing in the role of Sister Gracia in The Kingdom of God. The play was selected by Ethel Barrymore herself as the premier production in the Schubert Theatre chain’s newly-built 1,058-seat venue at 243 W. 47th Street in New York City. The new Broadway venue was named the Ethel Barrymore Theatre. Since its opening on December 20, 1928, the Ethel Barrymore Theatre has, without exception, presented legitimate Broadway productions continuously from that time to the present day.
The Ethel Barrymore Theatre on West 47th street in New York City is named for the legendary stage actress. Opened on December 20, 1928, the 1,058 seat theatre has been in continuous operation as a legitimate theatre since Barrymore first starred there in The Kingdom of God, a play she selected for the theatre’s first production. (Photo Credit: “Barrymore Theatre” by ensign_beedrill is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).
Three famous actors, Philadelphia-born, in 1904. They were the third generation of the Royal Family of the American stage. From left: John (1882–1942), Ethel (1879–1959), and Lionel (1878–1954) BARRYMORE, performed on stage, screen, and radio. Their grandparents, the Drews, managed the Arch St. Theatre in Philadelphia.
“The advent of the new president changed everything. The Roosevelts transformed the White House as completely as the swift march of public thoughts and events had changed the country. No longer did the Executive Mansion resemble a medieval castle besieged by the forces of progress. The drawbridges were figuratively let down, and the moats drained of their timeworn prejudices. The archers of reaction withdrew from their turrets, and the victorious New Deal army took over the battlements.” George Abell and Evelyn Gordon, Let Them Eat Caviar, Dodge Publishing Co., New York, 1937.
“Even that son of a bitch looks impressive in that getup!” Alice Roosevelt Longworth (1884-1980), at the White House after visiting President Warren Harding in the Oval Office. Quoted in Katherine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002.
Alice Roosevelt was President Teddy Roosevelt’s oldest child and the only child of Roosevelt and his first wife, Alice Hathaway Lee, who died in childbirth. Alice grew up to be an independent, unconventional and outspoken “first daughter” and was an important figure in the women’s movement in the first half of the 20th century.
Alice Longworth was perfectly realistic about Harding—and didn’t like the Republican president very much. Sen. Brandegee of Connecticut, a member of Harding’s own inner circle, called the former newspaper owner of The Marion Star, Senator from Ohio, and 29th U.S. President, “no world-beater, but he’s the best of the second-raters.”
“[The Wilsons] finally settled on a house in the 2300 block of S Street, Northwest, and purchased it…[W]e rode by everyday, and the President was eager as a bridegroom about getting back to private life. He seemed to gain new strength as he shed the idea of responsibility and assumed the freedom of a civilian. But he did not forget his dreams.” Colonel Edmund W. Starling, Starling of the White House…as told to Thomas Sugrue…, Simon & Schuster.
Colonel Edmund William Starling (1875-1944) was chief of the Secret Service detail in the White House from 1914 to 1943. In his thirty years of service at the White House he was responsible for the personal safety of five President of the United States—Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt. Starling idolized Woodrow Wilson. His first exposure to Wilson left him “in a daze.” Born in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the posthumous book is based on over 11,000 personal letters Starling wrote over the decades, mostly to his mother back home. Starling’s ashes are buried at Arlington National Cemetery.
“As Senate majority leader, I participated in many private conferences with President Franklin D. Roosevelt….Usually we would talk in his bedroom at the White House, and the President, wrapped in his cherished gray bathrobe, which he clung to year after year….would interrupt work on a pile of papers and puff at a cigarette through his long ivory holder as we exchanged views.” Alben W. Barkley (1877-1956), That Reminds Me, 1954.
Senator Barkley (later Vice President Barkley under President Harry S. Truman) describes an almost iconic FDR- one can almost imagine a bespectacled 32nd president smoking a cigarette from a long cigarette (in this instance, ivory) holder and jauntily thrusting his chin forward.
Alben W. Barkley, Democrat of Kentucky, was one of the most prominent American politicians of the first half of the 20th Century. Barkley hoped expectantly to someday be the U.S. President–or at least his party’s sometime presidential nominee, particularly in 1952. The longtime majority leader of the U.S. Senate had to settle, however, for being a one-term vice-president in the executive branch. After Truman chose Barkley to be his running mate in 1948 and that ticket triumphed in one of American history’s most astounding upsets, Alben Barkley became a popular national figure known everywhere as “The Veep.” Like his Kentucky forebear Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Barkley was a noted story-teller and often started his sentence with, “And that reminds me…”
“It was all gone now-the life-affirming, life-enhancing zest, the brilliance, the wit, the cool commitment, the steady purpose….[President Kennedy] had so little time: it was as if Jackson had died before the nullification controversy and the Bank War, as if Lincoln had been killed six months after Gettysburg or Franklin Roosevelt at the end of 1935 or Truman before the Marshall Plan.” Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) on the death of JFK. From A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House, Houghton Mifflin, 1965.
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. was an American historian who resigned from Harvard and was appointed Special Assistant to the President in the Kennedy Administration in January 1961. Per Kennedy’s desire, Schlesinger served as a sort of ad hoc roving reporter and troubleshooter on behalf of the president. In February 1961, Schlesinger was told of the plans for what developed into the disastrous Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961 and wrote a memorandum to the president telling him that he opposed the action. During the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962 Schlesinger aided United Nations ambassador Adlai Stevenson on his presentation to the world body on behalf of the Kennedy Administration’s ultimately successful efforts to peacefully remove Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. On November 22, 1963, Schlesinger had flown to New York for a luncheon with Washington Post owner Katharine Graham and the editors of her magazine, Newsweek. As they still sipped pre-luncheon libations and amiably talked about upcoming college football games that weekend, a young man in shirtsleeves suddenly entered the gathering. He tentatively announced to the group that, as Schlesinger relates in A Thousand Days, “the President has been shot in the head in Texas.”
“[George Washington’s] mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order; his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke; and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder. It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), U.S. president, Letter, January 1814.
After returning from France where he served as Minister Plenipotentiary with John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in Paris in the mid-to-late 1780’s, Thomas Jefferson accepted President George Washington’s invitation to serve as the nation’s first Secretary of State in the early 1790’s. Jefferson eventually left Washington’s cabinet over his opposition to Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton’s promotion of a national debt and national bank in contrast to Jefferson’s vision of a minimalist federal government (see Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 221-222). Thomas Jefferson was elected the third president of the United States in 1800 and served two terms as president. In 1803 Jefferson transacted the Louisiana Purchase that doubled the size of the United States and in the process acquired the most fertile tract of land of its size on Earth.
“During the inaugural parade [President George H.W.] Bush kept darting in and out of his limousine…These pop-outs were much better received than the Jimmy Carter business of walking the whole parade route. We Americans like our populists in small doses and preferably from an elitist.” P.J. O’Rourke, PARLIAMENT OF WHORES, Atlantic Monthly Press, 1991.
The Bushes were a big family and family oriented. O’Rourke reported in his best-selling book that on the first night of Bush’s presidency 28 members of the Bush family spent it at the White House.
“Mr Jefferson has reason to reflect upon himself. How he will get rid of his Remorse in his Retirement I know not. He must know that he leaves the government infinitely worse than he found it and that from his own Error or Ignorance. I wish his Telescopes and Mathematical Instruments, however, may secure his Felicity. But If I have not mismeasured his Ambition, he will be uneasy, and the Sword will cutt away the Scabbard. As he has, however a good Taste for Letters and an ardent curiosity for Science, he may and I hope will find Amusement and consolation from them: for I have no resentment against him, though he has honoured and Salaried almost every Villain he could find who had been an Enemy to me.” Former president John Adams (1735-1826), at Quincy, letter to Benjamin Rush, April 18, 1808.
John Adams (1735-1826), the second president of the United States, a Federalist, and Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), a Democratic-Republican, were fierce political rivals. Both lawyers—Adams from Massachusetts and Jefferson from Virginia—each were enlightened political liberals who served in the Continental Congress in Philadelphia as well as headed the committee that drafted the Declaration of Independence. Adams and jefferson also served together as ministers to France in the 1780’s. Into the 1790’s, as president (Adams) and vying to be (Jefferson), each served opposing visions for the direction of the new nation. At their extreme, the Federalists advocated to establish a strong Federal government that could alienate the individual rights of large groups. Jefferson’s vision of limited government included his advocacy in certain instances for state government to have the right to resist those federal laws that were injurious to local interest.
Jefferson’s narrow victory in the presidential election of 1800 made John Adams the nation’s first one-term president, and sent the New England patriarch into early retirement to Quincy, Massachusetts. For the next decade, John Adams harbored a barely hidden resentment of his political rival, if not enemy when measured by some of their florid rhetoric. Though these two sparring giants of the early republic eventually resumed civil correspondence—Adams and Jefferson stayed in contact until the day they died, both remarkably on the same day, July 4, 1826— Adams had been especially upset by the relentless propaganda campaign of Jefferson’s Republican party against him during the second president’s first term. The years-long libelous accusations described President Adams, in part, as narcissistic, incompetent, dangerous to democracy, unbalanced, and corrupt—all of which Jefferson had personally paid for and approved and which led to a premature and hasty departure of Adams as chief executive on March 4, 1801. (See Joseph J. Ellis, American Sphnix: The Character of Thomas Jefferson, Random House, 1998, pp. 281-82).
“Isn’t it nice that Calvin is President? You know we never really had room before for a dog.” Grace Coolidge (1879-1957), First Lady of the U.S. (1923-1929), in 1927.
Grace Coolidge was the wife of the 30th President of the U.S., Calvin Coolidge. Throughout her husband’s career, whether as Governor of Massachusetts, Vice-President, or President, Grace Coolidge avoided politics. Though the young Grace broke off a marriage engagement to marry Coolidge, her mother advised against marrying this young man. Calvin Coolidge and Grace Coolidge married on October 4, 1905—and Calvin Coolidge never settled his differences with his mother-in-law who felt her daughter was completely responsible for his rising political fortunes. The Coolidges had two sons, John (1906–2000) and Calvin (1908–1924). After Calvin Coolidge, Jr. died of blood poisoning in July 1924, the Coolidges were inconsolable. The story is well-known: while playing lawn tennis with his brother, John, at the White House, the teenager developed a blister on one of his toes. Within the week, the 16-year-old was dead of a blood infection despite being admitted to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. (see- https://www.coolidgefoundation.org/blog/the-medical-context-of-calvin-jr-s-untimely-death/)
By 1921, the wife of Vice-President Coolidge entered Washington society and quickly became the most popular woman in the capital. In 1927 when Mrs. Coolidge made these remarks, the world that her husband was facing was in flux. In 1927, as France called to outlaw war, which was endorsed by the U.S, a Great Depression already began in Germany with its economic collapse on “Black Friday.” After President Coolidge called for a Naval Disarmament Conference, only a couple of global powers showed up.
The world seemed to be getting smaller in 1927. In May 1927 American Charles Lindbergh flew solo, nonstop, from New York to Paris and started the era of transatlantic air travel. Regular transatlantic telephone service also began in 1927. In the U.S., as the stock market boomed, much of it on shaky credit, lawyers and doctors earned around 3½ times more than a teacher or factory worker. Baltimore-born “Babe” Ruth hit a record 60 home runs in New York.
The first full-length sound motion picture, The Jazz Singer, opened in 1927. In Chicago there was an important art exhibition of Chinese Buddhist art of the Wei Dynasty. In 1927, Hemingway published Men without Women; Willa Cather published Death Comes for the Archbishop; and Thomas Mann published The Magic Mountain. That year’s Pulitzer Prize went to Thornton Wilder’s second novel, The Bridge of the San Luis Rey. It told the story of people who unexpectedly die together in a rope bridge collapse in Peru and the friar who witnessed the accident looking to figure out the possibly cosmic answers as to why.
“The days of transition from Kennedy to Johnson were as hard on me as they were on anyone else–harder. I was losing a dog and gaining a President I didn’t know. Not only didn’t I know him, I didn’t think I wanted to know him. He wasn’t boyish or good-natured or quick-witted like Kennedy and I heard him cussing out the help when things weren’t done fast enough.” Traphes Bryant, Dog Days at the White House, 1975.
In 1951, Traphes Bryant started out at the White House working as an electrician in the afternoons. Bryant moved on to respond to general maintenance calls including a broken White House elevator. In the 1950’s Bryant was already looking after the First Family’s pets, both for the Trumans and, later, the Eisenhowers. The line of work became official for Traphes Bryant in 1961 when John Kennedy became president.
Kennedy asked Bryant to become the new presidential kennel keeper. The president liked how Bryant trained the dogs to meet the presidential helicopter that would often be seen in photographs and films.
Though Kennedy himself was allergic to some animals, First Lady Jackie Kennedy adored all sorts of animals. During the next 1000 days while in office, the Kennedys kept several pets. At one point the first family, which included children Caroline and John, Jr., had nine dogs. The Kennedys also kept hamsters, horses, birds, a rabbit, and a cat. Some of the animals were gifts from foreign heads of state.
In 1961 Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev sent the Kennedys a mixed breed dog named Pushinka. The dog’s mother had been sent into orbit in 1960 on Korabl-Sputnik 2. While a surprise, the Kennedy’s welcomed the Russian’s canine gift. In fact, Kennedy’s Welsh terrier, Charlie, not only had a new companion but a new mate: Pushinka gave birth to four puppies fathered by Charlie. Kennedy called the litter, “the pupniks.”
Bryant was officially in charge of Pushinka’s and Charlie’s grooming, exercise, and diet—and all the rest though those responsibilities ended abruptly for Kennedy in November 1963.
“Nancy Dickerson wrote that ‘The LBJ social style was something of a shock to the capital. Starting right at the White House, the Johnson way was different…It’s difficult to comprehend the LBJ style because even by Texas standards he had large impulses. When the Johnsons said, ‘You all come,’ they meant it. Their lack of inhibition was new in Washington, a Southern city in the East. LBJ was a cowboy, and though that mythic figure is in the best American tradition, the Washington establishment, the press and the country were unaccustomed to a cowboy in the White House. The city shook its collective head.’ …However, the Johnsons gradually began to put their own mark on the city.” Katharine Graham, Katharine Graham’s Washington, Knopf, 2002, p. 458.
I always thought [President Jimmy] Carter was great…That kind of brain power made him the smartest president we’ve had in my time. His failing was as a politician. He did not know how to organize the White House and how to get along with Congress. Carter promised he was not going to work with the bureaucracy in Washington. He would be the people’s president.. He did it — and it doesn’t work. [Carter] proved that.Conversations with Cronkite: Walter Cronkite and Don Carleton, University of Texas at Austin, 2010, p.320.
“In a way the criticism of Washington is extremely healthy. Because the idea of Thomas Jefferson was that to make the system work, Americans always had to be in a state of semi-revolution against the government. He would have been terrified to think that in 2001 Americans might be uncritical of Washington and let it steal their liberties.” Michael Beschloss, U.S. historian, quoted in “Why Do They Hate Washington?” by Sally Quinn, The Washington Post, April 12, 2001.
“Just the day before, I’d joked about being the vice president when I addressed a group of newspapermen covering the Senate. One of them called me Mr. Vice President and I said, “Smile when you say that,” and I told them that the Senate was the greatest place in the world and that I wish I was still a senator. “I was getting along fine,” I said, “until I stuck out my neck too far and got too famous. And then they made me VP and now I can’t do anything.” But now I wasn’t the vice president any longer, and there was plenty to do.” Harry S. Truman, 33rd U.S. President, Where the Buck Stops: The Personal and Private Writings of Harry S. Truman, ed. Margaret Truman, 1989.
“Do you know who the patient is in the emergency room?”“Yes.”“Would you give me his name, please?”I said, “It’s Reagan. R-E-A-G-A-N.” I waited for a reaction.“First name?” “Ron.”“Address?”I said, “1600 Pennsylvania.”His pencil stopped in mid-scratch. He finally looked up. “You mean…?”I said, “Yes. You have the president of the United States in there.” Michael K. Deaver at George Washington University Hospital in Washington, D.C. after the assassination attempt on President Reagan on March 30, 1981. From his Behind the Scenes, 1987.
On Monday afternoon, March 30, 1981, after giving a speech at the Washington Hilton Hotel at 1919 Connecticut Avenue, N.W., in Washington, D.C., President Reagan was shot by 25-year-old would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr. The president was slammed to the floor of the presidential limousine by a Secret Service agent during the first split seconds of the shooting in a bid to save his life. Later Reagan expressed his anger for being treated very roughly by the agent though the agent knew he was just doing his job. Under a pile of agents, the 70-year-old president was raced in the limousine to George Washington University Hospital about a mile away.
At first it was believed that the president was unhurt, but within minutes, still on the way to the emergency room, Reagan coughed up blood from his lungs.
At the hospital, the president walked on his own power about 15 yards into the emergency room. Once inside the hospital, Reagan slumped and was helped by Secret Service agents into a private room off the lobby.
As the hospital’s trauma team assembled, it was still not clear whether Reagan had been hit or not in the hail of 6 bullets shot in quick succession by the would-be assassin’s .22 caliber gun. Bullets struck James Brady, Reagan’s Press Secretary, in the head above his left eye; Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy in the chest; and D.C. police officer Thomas Delahanty in the back of his neck ricocheting off his spine. All of them would receive medical attention and survive.
The doctors were just starting their examination of the president when a green smocked-hospital orderly with a clipboard approached Michael K. Deaver, White House Deputy Chief of Staff and Reagan confidante, looking for information on the new patient. It soon became clear that Reagan had, indeed, been hit in the assassination attempt. A fragment of a bullet had ricocheted off the limousine’s armored car door and entered the new president below the armpit, traveled down his left side, bounced off a rib, punctured his lung, and stopped just inches from his heart.
“What convinces is conviction. You simply have to believe in the argument you are advancing. If you don’t you are as good as dead. The other person will sense something isn’t there, and no chain of reasoning, no matter how logical or elegant or brilliant, will win your case for you.” Lyndon B. Johnson, quoted in Doris Kearns Goodwin, Lyndon Johnson and the American Dream, St. Martin’s Press, 1991, p. 130.
FEATURE image: Henry Miller, photographed by Carl Van Vechten, 1940. Public Domain. This work is from the Carl Van Vechtan Photographs collection at the Library of Congress. According to the library, there are noi known copyright restrictions on the use of this work. As the restrictions on this collection expired in 1986, the Library of Congress believes this image is in the public domain. However, the Carl Van Vechten estate has asked that use of Van Vechten’s photographs “preserve the integrity” of his work, i.e, that photographs not be colorized or cropped, and that proper credit is given to the photographer.
We have two American flags always: one for the rich and one for the poor. When the rich fly it, it means that things are under control; when the poor fly it, it means danger, revolution, anarchy. The Air-Conditioned Nightmare (1945).
The world dies over and over again, but the skeleton always gets up and walks.The Wisdom of the Heart, “Uterine Hunger,” (1941).
Actually we are a vulgar, pushing mob whose passions are easily mobilized by demagogues, newspaper men, religious quacks, agitators and the like. To call this a society of free peoples is blasphemous. What have we to offer the world besides the superabundant loot which we recklessly plunder from the earth under the maniacal delusion that this insane activity represents progress and enlightenment?The Air-Conditioned Nightmare, Preface (1945) on the people of the U.S.
Perhaps I am still very much an American. That is to say, naïve, optimistic, gullible…In the eyes of a European, what am I but an American to the core, an American who exposes his Americanism like a sore. Like it or not, I am a product of this land of plenty, a believer in superabundance, a believer in miracles.Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymous Bosch (part 3), “Paradise Lost,” 1957.
The mission of man on earth is to remember. To remember to remember. To taste everything in eternity as once in time.Remember to Remember, 1947.
Everything which evokes raptures from me, in connection with France, springs from the recognition of her Catholicity. Remember to Remember, 1947.
To make whole, universal, to include everything, that is the pristine sense of being catholic. It is the attitude which the healer adopts.Remember to Remember, 1947.
I began to realize that I was living in a treasure garden, the garden of France at which the whole world casts loving, yearning glances.Remember to Remember, 1947.
To penetrate the spirit of France one has to examine her art; it is there she reveals herself absolutely.Remember to Remember, 1947.
The obsession for beauty, for order, for clarity – why should I not add “for charity”? – that is what underlies the spirit of creation, which is the true seat of resistance.Remember to Remember, 1947.
The [artists] are, as we have been told so often, the eternally young. They ally themselves with all that endures, with that which triumphs even over defeat.Remember to Remember, 1947.
The artist is not a revolutionary, he is a rebel. Remember to Remember, 1947.
FEATURE Image: George Gordon (Lord Byron) by Richard Westall (1765-1836). National Portrait Gallery, London.
Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Letter to poet Thomas Moore, October 28, 1815. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 4 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 8 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Out of chaos God made a world, and out of high passions comes a people. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Byron was describing the early nationalist fervor in Italy for which the poet played an active role. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 8 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
I do detest everything that is not perfectly mutual. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Letter, October 21, 1813. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 3 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Journal, December 12, 1813. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 3 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Journal, March 22, 1814. Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 3 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
In solitude, where we are LEAST alone. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Childe Harold, canto 3, stanza 90.
Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Byron’s Letters and Journals, vol. 8 (1973-81; edited by Leslie A. Marchand).
Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Byron’s Letters and Journals, volume 9, edited by Leslie A. Marchand, 1979. The journal entry was written on Byron’s final journey to aid the Greek revolt.
If we must have a tyrant, let him at least be a gentleman who has been bred to the business, and let us fall by the axe and not by the butcher’s cleaver. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Letter, February 21, 1820 to John Murray, publisher. Byron’s Letters and Journals, volume 7, edited by Leslie A. Marchand, 1973-1981.
Are we aware of our obligations to a mob? It is the mob that labour in your fields and serve in your houses–that man your navy, and recruit your army–that have enabled you to defy the world, and can also defy you when neglect and calamity have driven them to despair. You may call the people a mob; but do not forget that a mob too often speaks the sentiments of the people. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, First speech to the House of Lords, February 27, 1812 on the topic of Luddite machine-wreckers.
The French courage proceeds from vanity—the German from phlegm—the Turkish from fanaticism & opium—the Spanish from pride—the English from coolness—the Dutch from obstinacy—the Russian from insensibility—but the Italian from anger. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Letter, August 31, 1820, to publisher John Murray. Published in Byron’s Letters and Journals, volume 7, ed. Leslie A. Marchand , 1973-1981.
It is by far the most elegant worship, hardly excepting the Greek mythology. What with incense, pictures, statues, altars, shrines, relics, and the real presence, confession, absolution, –there is something sensible to grasp at. Besides, it leaves no possibility of doubt; for those who swallow their Deity, really and truly, in transubstantiation, can hardly find any thing else otherwise than easy of digestion. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Letter, March 8, 1822 to poet Thomas Moore. Byron explained that he was bringing up one of his own daughters, Allegra, a Catholic.
It is useless to tell one not to reason but to believe — you might as well tell a man not to wake but sleep. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, Detached Thoughts, no. 96, 1821-22.
I would rather…have a nod from an American, than a snuff box from an emperor. Lord Byron (George Gordon), 1788-1824, letter, June 8, 1822, to poet Thomas Moore.
FEATURE image: The poet John Keats, c. 1822, by William Hilton after Joseph Severn (1819), oil on canvas, 30 in. x 25 in., Nation Portrait Gallery, London. Public Domain.
John Keats’s first book of poems was published in 1817 when the English poet was 22 years old. From an early age, Keats, studying under the literary Rev. John Clarke, became a passionate reader of poetry and was introduced to the theater and music which he loved. Though both of his parents had died by the time Keats was in his early teens, their respectable estate never reached him in his short lifetime. His guardian sent the minor Keats to work in the medical field. But in 1813, the young Keats abandoned that apprenticeship for another — and began to write poetry.
Keats’ early poetic mentor was Leigh Hunt (1784-1859), editor of the Examiner, who introduced Keats to great established poets such as William Hazlitt (1778-1830), Charles Lamb (1775-1834), and Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822). Keats also made the acquaintance of painter Benjamin Robert Haydon (1786-1846) and made other intimate lifelong friends. In 1816 Keats wrote his first major sonnet (On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer) in which he laid out an ambitious plan for his poetry.
In 1817 Keats wrote the 4,000-line Endymion though, ever a perfectionist, Keats considered it merely a poetic exercise. Keats soon isolated himself consciously from others to benefit his art. His over-riding quest was to seek his artistic individuality and poetic voice.
In 1818 external personal and professional events circumscribed Keats’ precious independence. First, his poetry for political rather than artistic reasons was ridiculed in the press. But more problematic for the brave Keats was that some of his immediate family members had become suddenly destitute or died. Keats’ spring and summer walking tour in 1818 of England, Scotland, and Ireland resulted in Keats’s personal inspiration but a chronically weakened state of physical health. In those same months, the 23-year-old poet had fallen in love with the vivacious, pretty and thoroughly nonliterary 18-year-old Fanny Brawne (1800-1865). They soon became engaged, but Keats’ inferior health and his strained to nonexistent finances impeded their getting married which frustrated Keats.
In the rapidly reached final period of his life and poetic career, Keats wrote several of his masterpieces. In 1819 Keats wrote, one after another, The Eve of St. Agnes, La Belle Dame Sans Merci, his Odes (including Ode To a Grecian Urn), Lamia, and several major sonnets. These poems possess the characteristics of Keats’ mature work—that of grace, sensuality, and sympathetic objectivity. It sets before the reader the conflicting and contradictory nature of existence, signaling a “both-and” experience of living in the world, including grappling with the problem of good and evil. Keats writes plainly in a letter in that period about life’s suffering—it is a “world…full of misery and heartbreak, pain, sickness and oppression.”
Weakened by tuberculosis, Keats’ health took a bad turn in February 1820 so much so that the poet realized he was dying. By that fall he traveled to Italy seeking a milder climate for his health. He stayed in Rome until the end came. On February 23, 1821 —like his mother and brother before him— Keats died of tuberculosis. The 25-year-old poet was buried in the Protestant Cemetery in Rome.
Despite his gallant reluctance to yield to bitterness or despair for his life’s wasteful circumstances, with death died Keats’ ambitious plans of renewed poetic achievement and an ongoing passionate love for Fanny Brawne. Although today’s reader can continue to savor John Keats’ poems and letters prior to his having stopped writing at 24 years old, what might have been in terms of the English Romantic poet’s fully realized potential is to offer a conjecture about one of the English language’s greatest poets.
SOURCES: The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Third Edition, Volume 2, W.W. Norton & company, Inc. New York, 1974.
John Keats, Walter Jackson Bate, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964.
John Keats, letter to his brother and sister, Spring 1819. While we are laughing, the seed of trouble is put into the wide arable land of events. While we are laughing it sprouts, it grows and suddenly bears a poison fruit which we must pluck.
Letter to his brother George Keats (1797-1841) and sister-in-law Georgiana Augusta Wylie Keats (1798-1879). Married in England in May 1818, the Keats departed for America going to Kentucky and southeastern Illinois by way of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. The Keats are buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville, Kentucky. Mrs. Keats re-married after the poet’s brother died during experiences of serious financial setbacks. Do you not see how necessary a world of pains and troubles is to school an intelligence and make it a soul?
The poet suffered from– and died of– tuberculosis at the age of 25 years. Letter to his fiancée, Fanny Brawne, March 1, 1820. Health is my expected Heaven.
Letter to his brothers, George and Thomas Keats, January 13-19, 1818. Letters of John Keats, no. 37, edited by Frederick Page, 1954. There is nothing stable in the world; uproar’s your only music.
Endymion, Preface (1818). The complete line is: “This may be speaking too presumptuously, and may deserve a punishment: but no feeling man will be forward to inflict it: he will leave me alone, with the conviction that there is not a fiercer hell than the failure in a great object.”
The Fall of Hyperion – A Dream. Canto 1, first lines. Fanatics have their dreams, wherewith they weaveA paradise for a sect.
Letter, August 23, 1819, Letters of John Keats, no. 144, ed. Frederick Page, 1954. I will give you the definition of a proud man: he is a man who has neither vanity nor wisdom—one filled with hatreds cannot be vain, neither can he be wise.
Letter to George Keats, February 19, 1819. A Man’s life of any worth is a continual allegory–and very few eyes can see the Mystery of his life–a life like the scriptures, figurative–which such people can no more make out than they can the Hebrew Bible…Shakespeare led a life of Allegory; his works are the comments on it.
FEATURE image: E.M. Forster. Public Domain. Edward Morgan Forster was born in London in 1879. He wrote numerous short stories, essays, biographies and plays, although he is best known for his novels, particularly A Room With A View (1908), Howards End (1910), and A Passage to India (1924), all of which have been made into award-winning feature films. Forster was nominated for a score of Nobel Prizes for Literature. He died in 1970.
Edward Morgan Forster (1879–1970) is an English novelist, short story writer, and essayist.
The heart of Forster’s literary work is humanist in nature as his characters depict—whether in Where Angels Fear to Tread (1905), A Room with a View (1908), his masterpiece Howards End (1910), his most successful work A Passage to India (1924), Maurice (1971), and others — the honest pursuit of personal tracks and connections in the face of first looking to impress or please the inevitable and constantly mutating restrictions of contemporary society.
In “A Room With a View” it is 1907 and young English girl Lucy Honeychurch — “a young lady with a quantity of dark hair and a very pretty, pale, undeveloped face”– is staying at an Italian pension with her cousin and chaperone, Miss Charlotte Bartlett while on holiday in and around Florence.
At dinner in the pension they meet some other English guests: a reverend, two older Miss Alans, a writer Miss Lavish, and a Mr. Emerson and his handsome adult son, George. They discuss the merits and practicalities of having a room with a view in Florence.
The next day while touring the city Lucy faints in the Piazza della Signoria having witnessed a stabbing and is rescued by handsome George. After they establish this connection George and Lucy are together again to join a group tour of the nearby countryside. Eventually finding themselves alone, George embraces Lucy and they kiss. This is witnessed by Miss Bartlett who cuts short her and Lucy’s visit to Florence.
After visiting the Vyses in Rome, Lucy and Miss Bartlett have returned to Surrey in England. Lucy accepts one of the marriage proposals from snobby Cecil Vyse, a drawing room match. By happenstance of personal connection, George and his father, Mr. Emerson, had made passing acquaintance with Cecil at the National Gallery in London which led to Cecil inviting them to take up residence in a rental house next door to Lucy Honeychurch. Lucy immediately recalls the Emersons and their personal connection in Florence, especially with George. But her escape to Rome and then to Windy Corner, her home in Surrey, added to her being uncomfortable with their renewed intimate presence, particularly since she is just engaged to Cecil, her “Fiasco” as Lucy’s brother Freddy calls him.
Lucy rebuffs George as she ultimately breaks her engagement with Cecil with plans for herself to travel to Greece. Meantime, George has made plans of his own to leave. At this juncture, Lucy admits her feelings for George and cancels her trip. George and Lucy elope to Florence. They take “a room with the view” with the promise of living happily thereafter. Forster observed: “Passion does not blind. No. Passion is sanity, and the woman you love, she is the only person you will ever really understand.”
Chapter I: The Bertolini (7 quotes).
Chapter II: In Santa Croce with No Baedeker (17 quotes).
Chapter III: Music, Violets, and the Letter “S” (15 quotes).
Chapter IV: Fourth Chapter (5 quotes).
Chapter V: Possibilities of a Pleasant Outing (10 quotes).
Chapter VI: The Reverend Arthur Beebe, the Reverend Cuthbert Eager, Mr. Emerson, Mr. George Emerson, Miss Eleanor Lavish, Miss Charlotte Bartlett, and Miss Lucy Honeychurch Drive Out in Carriages to See a View; Italians Drive Them (6 quotes).
Chapter VII: They Return (10 quotes).
Chapter VIII: Medieval (14 quotes).
Chapter IX: Lucy As a Work of Art (11 quotes).
Chapter X: Cecil as a Humourist (11 quotes).
Chapter XI: In Mrs. Vyse’s Well-Appointed Flat (9 quotes).
Chapter XII: Twelfth Chapter (9 quotes)
Chapter XIII: How Miss Bartlett’s Boiler Was So Tiresome (13 quotes)
Chapter XIV: How Lucy Faced the External Situation Bravely (9 quotes)
Chapter XV: The Disaster Within (20 quotes)
Chapter XVI: Lying to George (11 quotes)
Chapter XVII: Lying to Cecil (14 quotes)
Chapter XVIII: Lying to Mr. Beebe, Mrs. Honeychurch, Freddy, and The Servants (18 quotes)
Chapter XIX: Lying to Mr. Emerson (25 quotes)
Chapter XX: The End of the Middle Ages (11 quotes)
FEATURE image: Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball in a still from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli. Fair Use.
In the 1949 film Madame Bovary directed by Vincente Minnelli, a beautiful and charming Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) meets wealthy Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) at a ball where he literally sweeps her off her feet. Selfishly aggravated by her husband Charles Bovary (Van Heflin) for not fitting into high society, Madame Bovary begins a love affair with Rodolphe. Though the pair scheme to elope to Italy, Rodolphe does not love Madame Bovary.
The Waltz Scene was Filmed to the Music
One of the film’s most carefully wrought and delightful scenes is this ballroom sequence. It was one of the last segments to be shot. The film footage was tailored to Miklós Rózsa’s music. Minnelli explained to the composer in advance the camera movements so he could write the music in an arrangement for two pianos. The scene was then filmed to match it. Their artistic collaboration produced one of cinema’s most original scenes uniting robust music with weaving and gliding images on film.
Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) and Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan) waltz at the ball. It is one of the film’s most delightful scenes and one of the last to be shot. Director Vincente Minnelli made certain its choreography carefully matched the music of Miklós Rózsa. Madame Bovary was nominated for an Oscar for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White.
“Break the Windows” dramatizes a heroine’s transition into madness
As Rodolphe swirls her, Emma Bovary’s head spins until she becomes dizzy. The viewer sees her disorientation as the camera takes her viewpoint. She keeps dancing but asks for fresh air. Her request leads to an extraordinary and incredible reaction by the stewards. They start to smash the ballroom’s windows with chairs to help her cool down. This fantastically destructive action of broken glass aligns with the destruction of Emma’s romantic illusions throughout the film.
In reaction to Madame Bovary becoming dizzy while waltzing with a new lover, the stewards smash the ballroom windows to give her air. The extraordinary action ultimately becomes symbolic of the destruction of Madame Bovary’s romantic illusions with handsome, wealthy Rodolphe and her own descent into madness.
Night of Repressed Passion
Along with her husband’s boorish behavior at the ball and everywhere else, madame Bovary’s romantic disappointment leaves her feeling publicly humiliated. Instead of love and excitement, Madame Bovary runs out of the ball in shame. Though she yearns for happiness and excitement, her pursuit of selfish pleasures ends in scandal and ruin.
Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful. It is equally insightful to the selfish and nervous personality of Flaubert’s fictional character.
A film poster for Vincente Minnelli’s Madame Bovary. Several different versions of the film poster were produced for the marketing of the 1949 film.
This publicity photo for Madame Bovary showed the love triangle of Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones), her handsome lover Rodolphe Boulanger (Louis Jourdan), and her hapless and cuckolded husband Charles Bovary, a medical doctor (Van Heflin).
Thirty-year-old Jennifer Jones plays Gustave Flaubert’s doomed title character, Madame Bovary, from his 1856 serial novel.
Vincente Minnelli’s film of the same name offered two costume and wardrobe managers: Walter Plunkett for women and Valles for men.
Walter Plunkett (1902-1982) was a prolific costume designer who worked on more than 150 projects in his Hollywood career, including Gone With The Wind. In 1951, Plunkett shared an Oscar with Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff for An American in Paris.
Valles (1886-1970) specialized in men’s costumes at M-G-M. Valles received two Academy Award nominations, including Spartacus in 1960.
Van Heflin is Charles Bovary, whom Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) had loved and hoped to build a respectable life, but in whom she grew disillusioned.
A unique example of the Valles’ costume design for Louis Jourdan and Walter Plunkett’s costume design for Jennifer Jones for the 1949 film Madame Bovary. The next year, in 1950, both Valles and Walter Plunkett were nominated for the Academy Award for Compton Bennett’s That Forsyte Woman/Saga.
Madame Bovary danced wildly with Rodolphe at the ball and loves him. The illicit couple plan to elope to Italy. But Rodolphe leaves for Italy without her and shatters Madame Bovary’s spirit and dreams.
Costumes were by award-winning Valles and Walter Plunkett, both award-winning Hollywood costume designers.
Madame Bovary (Jennifer Jones) is indulged by an unscrupulous shop-keeper as she lives beyond her means in the pursuit of happiness. She takes on a heavy debt that is impossible to pay back.
The film plot is told from the point of view of the author, Gustave Flaubert (James Mason). a legal proceedings takes place where Flaubert is accused of corrupting morals by writing Madame Bovary. It is an historical fact that, in 1858, Flaubert and his publisher had faced government charges of immorality for Madame Bovary. But the outcome of the trial was that Flaubert was completely acquitted.
Charles, who never stopped loving his wife, begs her to wait for a doctor to arrive. Madame Bovary sighs, “Oh, Charles, why are you always trying to save me?”
From the waltz scene through to her death scene Jennifer Jones as Madame Bovary offers a performance that is elegant and beautiful. It also provides insight into the contradictions offered by a selfish and nervous personality.
In the end Madame Bovary finds that her own death is more attractive to her than living with her shattered dreams.
A 1949 film poster for Madame Bovary that includes a publicity head shot of James Mason as Gustave Flaubert, the novel’s French author.
Minnelli’s film is told in flashback through the character of Flaubert who is on trial for charges of immorality for writing the novel. After Flaubert’s work was serialized in the Revue de Paris in 1856, the government charged and tried the author and his publisher for immorality. Both were acquitted in 1859. After Madame Bovary appeared in book form in France, it became an instant classic.
Vincente Minnelli directs Jennifer Jones and Louis Jourdan in a scene from Madame Bovary.
Reviews from film critics had been mixed and Madame Bovary lost money at the box office. Whether it is the fault of the film-makers or the unhappy story becomes a debatable point.