CAA COLLEGE ART ASSOCIATION CONFERENCE PROGRAM SESSIONS FOR ALMSD
SYMBOLIST DUALITIES I
Friday, February 15, 2013 from 5:30-7:00 p.m. in Nassau Suite, 2nd Floor
National and self-referential, mystic and sexual: the dualities of Polish Symbolism
Irena Kossowska, Copernicus University in Torun, Poland
This paper reinterprets Melancholy (1890-1894) by Jacek Malczewski, a painting which has come to be regarded as an emblematic work of Polish symbolism and, taking a wider view, of the Young Poland movement. Analyses of Melancholy emphasised the inspiration drawn by Malczewski from the messianic ideology and the poetry of Romanticism. At the same time, the artist broke here the representative conventions which until then were dominant in Polish painting, depicting a tangle of thematic threads – national martyrology, artistic creation and the mystery of destiny. Hence, Melancholy is also an auto-thematic work, constituting the artist's reflection on the act of creation itself, its inner tensions, conflicts and conditions. Self-reference became an element of the symbolism of three paintings which are crucial to Malczewski's work: apart from Melancholy - Introduction and Vicious Circle. They form an idiosyncratic thematic triad, defining the issues which are crucial for Polish symbolism: the relationship between the artist and nature (Introduction), the artist and history (Melancholy), and the artist and human existence (Vicious Circle).
It seems significant that the date when Vicious Circle was completed, 1897, was the year when Polish proto-expressionism made public its manifesto. The presentation will show how the expressionist idiom (empowered by Stanislaw Przybyszewski's theory of the "naked soul"), evolved in the early works of Wojciech Weiss and Witold Wojtkiewicz. Weiss's vision makes us aware of the closeness of the two extremes of human existence, birth and death. The tempting voice of nature and erotic instincts in the paintings by Weiss, is replaced in the work of Wojtkiewicz by an irresistible fascination with the world of children's toys, an artificial realm in which the child's imagination comes to be trapped. In the world of childhood experiences, the artist saw a reflection of the conflicts and tensions ruling the world of adults. The motif of men afflicted by mental illness, surrounded by dolls as inert as themselves, appears in a series of Wojtkiewicz's paintings called Madness which show the marginal areas of life, asylums for the freaks, isolated spaces of "a-normality." Ironically, these spaces become at the same time a visual metaphor for artistic creation.
Stanis?aw Wyspia?ski's whole mature output in visual arts is defined by the inner tension between a sense of patriotic mission and the sphere of intimate experiences. The feeling of suffering experienced by the artist imprisoned in his studio by terminal illness found its expression in a series of views of the Ko?ciuszko Mound (1904-1905). Yet, the existential experience comes here to be irrevocably joined to the symbolic meanings carried by the miniaturised cone of the mound, a monument to national insurrection.
We thus see that, in the art of Polish symbolism the subject of national identity was irrevocably entangled with existential motifs, and a tendency to artistic self-reflection. On the other hand, expressionist attitudes became manifest in the realms of phantoms, dolls, or madmen
Maeterlinck's Blue Bird: beyond duality
Walter Geerts, University of Antwerp, Belgium
Since Wagner's conception of the Gesamtkunstwerk and its euphorical reception in Symbolist and Decadent circles, the theatrical scene in every one of its dimensions and potentialities had become the place par excellence for artistic experimentation. Maeterlink's Blue Bird (L'oiseau bleu) is probably, from its artistic conception until the numerous international stagings, one of the most convincing examples of the multi-medial and poly-signifying use of the theatrical space.
Marina Kliger, New York University
Although incredibly diverse both stylistically and thematically, Symbolist practice is remarkably consistent in its deliberate consideration of the seemingly oppositional relationship between mimetic representation and the abstraction necessary to express the artist's all important "idea"—whether through fantastic subjects, unusual juxtapositions, non-local color, or contorted form. Even the most modernist of Symbolist artists (Gauguin, Redon, the Nabis) relied on observed reality as the source of their inner visions, while for many more of their contemporaries the descriptive representation of the world was crucial to the spiritual or evocative purpose of their art.
This paper will consider the significance of mimetic image making for Symbolist practice through a focused case study of a series of about two-dozen small sketchbook drawings by the Belgian artist James Ensor (see, for example, fig. 1). Initiated around 1880 when the artist was still fully committed to Realism, the drawings originated as naturalistic studies of familiar objects and people observed in and around the artist's maternal home in Ostend. In 1885–86, Ensor transformed these sketches through the addition of fantastical and grotesque motifs inspired by the drawings of Hokusai, Flemish 'primitives" like Bosch and Bruegel, and his own fertile imagination, thus making them into hallucinatory visions that oscillate between an intimate reality and a dream. Though Ensor later considered these tiny composite works significant enough to sell to his most devoted collectors, they were made as private experiments—predating his grander Symbolist declarations like The Aureoles of Christ (1886), The Temptation of Saint Anthony (1887), and The Entry of Christ into Brussels (1888). As such, they are significant for their foundational position in Ensor's oeuvre, parts of which would maintain a curiously ambiguous relationship between naturalistic representation and fantasy well into the 20th century. Examined alongside resonant literature by Edgar Allen Poe and Joris-Karl Huysmans, Ensor's own writings, and the work of contemporaries like Fernand Khnopff, Xavier Mellery, and Félicien Rops, the drawings will ultimately be considered as particularly rich examples of a Symbolist aesthetic that sought to expose "the soul of things"—to make visible the hidden meanings beneath the surface appearance of everyday objects and places, in which mimetic representation is generative of evocative fantasy and dream.
Symbolist Dualities II
Saturday, February 16, 2013, 12:30-2:00 p.m. Bryant Suite, 2nd Floor
Chair: Deborah Cibelli, Nicholls State University
The Symbolists often created images and forms that had a dual meaning. Symbolist dualities include but are not limited to the sacred and profane and evoke the myriad of depictions of women as saints/demons and creators/destroyers. The idea of duality even informs experiments in which Symbolists combined different media, as they expressed their philosophy through the visual arts, literature, music, and theater. This session will examine Symbolist dualities and how the division of unity was inherent to Symbolist theories regarding the transforming nature of visual art and related disciplines.
The Ideal and Matter: Gustave Moreau's Ambiguous Dualities
Peter Cooke, The University of Manchester
Moreau's art is essentially paradoxical, a place where aesthetic unity is imposed on unresolved contradictions.
Moreau saw life in terms of the play of interdependent polar opposites, founded on the essential duality of the Ideal and Matter. A self-conscious inheritor of the tradition of French academic idealism, he developed a reactionary spiritualist ideology in opposition to the prevailing Naturalism, which he despised as a manifestation of materialism. Yet his major works do not conform to academic norms of didactic clarity, offering instead ambiguity and mysterious polysemy. While consciously clinging to the 'noble' tradition of allegory, Moreau, operating as a neo-Romantic painter-poet, created a modern form of Symbolism.
Through the analysis of important paintings such as Oedipus and the Sphinx (1864), Orpheus (1866), Salome (1876) and Jupiter and Semele (1895), I shall endeavour to show how Moreau's fundamental ideological opposition between the Ideal (or Spirit) and Matter found increasingly complex expression in ambiguous relationships between masculinity and femininity, life and death, line and colour, art and nature, spirituality and sensuality, Christianity and paganism. So essential are these dualities to Moreau's art that, even in his testamentary palinode, The Dead Lyres (1896-1898), the urge towards transcendence remains suspended, and the contradictions are left forever unresolved.
The Vicious Wallpaper Destabilizing Structures in Edouard Vuillard and Charlotte Gilman Perkins
Martin Sundberg, Universität Basel
The wallpaper visualizes the complexity found in Symbolist interiors since it can point in many directions – i.e. cozy surrounding or vicious threat. Considered as skin, I will argue, the wallpaper is a precariously thin border that easily can sway and take on a different meaning. It is a recurrent motive in Vuillard's art, especially in a series with a floral patterned wallpaper from 1896-99. Some years earlier, Gilman Perkins published the well-known short story "The Yellow Wall-Paper". Using Vuillard and Gilman Perkins as my points of departure, I not only want to discuss the wallpaper's seminal importance, but also to present a rereading of the wallpaper as a (de)stabilizing force within the pictorial/textual structure through a juxtaposition of their works.
A "mottled" (to quote Bal on Proust) understanding of the wallpaper is necessary in order to describe interior space. It might seem straightforward that Vuillard uses it as border as well as ground, but at the same time he turns the wallpaper into figure so as to destabilize the image structure. The complex relation between figure (or person in both Gilman and Vuillard) and ground is addressed by Gilman as well; a comparison might therefore show in what ways they deconstruct interior space and what role the wallpaper plays. The wallpaper forms a threshold figure – visualizing Symbolist dualities. The notion of threshold figure (adapted from Bakhtin) serves to describe the location of the problem in both, i.e. constituting a hinge, and expresses the precarious state of the image/text structure.
My new take on Vuillard through Gilman Perkins, and vice versa, can help to understand the importance of the figure/ground relationship in representations of the interior – including the precariousness of its skin. Through ornament theories I will shed light on the visual/textual logic that is at stake in the wallpaper and that, moving from background to become an essential quality, influences the image/text from within.
George Minne and Maurice Maeterlinck
Albert Alhadeff, The University of Colorado Boulder
The sculptor George Minne, working in the Symbolist climate of Ghent's dour skies and Maurice Maeterlinck phantom figures, fashioned a series of male nudes in the 1890s whose astringent kneeling forms Wilhelm Lehmbruck later echoes in his own work. Long seen as "gothic" by admirers and critics alike, their antecedents lie in the writings of the 14th century Flemish mystic, Jan Van Ruysbroeck (1293-1381) whose exegeses Maeterlinck explored as early as 1889 in a lengthy study for the Brussels's La Revue générale. My paper then places Minne's nudes in a heretofore unknown context, one which bridges current frames of reference with Belgium's Flemish past, which ties the profane to the sacred, a naturalist agenda to the mystical probing of l'au delà.Minne's angular self-enclosed nudes are most often set against Rodin's ample nudes; where the latter are generous, the former are lean; where the latter are expansive, the former are withdrawn, set unto themselves. That Minne's nudes favor a vie immobile, a phrase integral to Maeterlinck's thought and one he first set to paper in 1896, aligns them with Ruysbroeck's Ornement des noces spirituelles (translated from the Flemish in 1891) where a "humble," dispassionate and reserved response to God is set against one that favors "superlatives and "hyperboles," the difference as Maeterlinck phrased it between Denis the Aeropogite and Ruysbroeck or, in our own words, between Rodin and Minne. On the one hand then the thesis I here propose states that Minne's nude not only distance themselves from Rodin in order to assert their own identity, one that stands apart from the French master, but define themselves, albeit (and most importantly) in a secular guise, with the vestments of a spiritual seer, the dress of Jan Van Ruysbroeck---dualities that invest the quotidian with the metaphysics of the seer from Brabant.
Floating Heads: Ambivalent Meaning of the fin-de-siècle
Rosina Neginsky, University of Illinois at Springfield
One of the themes that was predominant in the art and literature of the second part of the 19th century was the theme of a floating, decapitated head. We find this image in a number of literary works, and especially in Mallarmé's poem Le cantique de St Jean (The Chant of John the Baptist) and in works of artists such as Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, Gauguin.
Moreau's representation of the disembodied head of John the Baptist was part of the nineteenth-century fascination with the myth of the beheading. This theme goes hand in hand with the myth of Orpheus, also painted by Moreau, in which the meaning of the head of Orpheus found by the young girl of Thrace is similar to that of the floating head of John the Baptist. Odilon Redon and Gauguin also produced a number of representations of a disembodied head, attaching to it a variety of different sometimes ambivalent, sometimes contrary meanings. In my paper I would like to examine a variety of meanings of floating heads in the turn of the century representations and to show the ambivalence and duality of their meanings.
18-24 Juillet/18-24 July, 2013
Comparative Literature Congress
Congré de littérature comparée
Paris IV, Sorbonne
Atelier / Workshop
Fri, Jul 19. 2013
15:30 - 17:00
Salle 125 (Equipped) S1: LE MOUVEMENT SYMBOLISTE ET LES MALADIES MENTALES (4/4)
BAUDELAIRE et les Aliénistes
Connaissance et pratique de l'hallucination : Du Club des Hachichins aux expérimentations symbolistes
Le roman paranoïaque symboliste: Fiodor Sologoub et Andreï Biély
Follies and Madness: Verhaeren and Rembrandt at the Turn of the Century
Atelier / Workshop
Fri, Jul 19. 2013
17:15 - 18:45
Salle 125 (Equipped) S2: LE MOUVEMENT SYMBOLISTE ET LES MALADIES MENTALES (4/4)
Hysteria as a Creative Condition in Alexei Remizov's Solomoniia
Between the hypnotic and the hallucinatory: aesthetic experience and the poetry of Mallarmé
Plusieurs types de folie des personnages littéraires que l'on trouve dans des œuvres d'inspiration helléniste chez les artistes russes du début du vingtième siècle
Maladies mentales et objectif d'un poète - symboliste
The Symbolist Movement: Its Origins and Its Consequences - 2009
The Symbolist Movement: Its Origins and Its Consequences - 2012
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