Les Fêtes de Nuit à la Exposition . From L’Exposition de Paris (1900). 1900.
What was the significance of the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris? When the Exposition Universelle opened in Paris in the spring of 1889, it heralded a new era of Western technological innovation and political and social superiority as displayed in the fair’s thousands of exhibits. The most prominent exhibit was also the symbol of the exposition, and would soon become the embodiment of Paris itself— the Eiffel Tower. What, more specifically, did it symbolize? The fair’s many exhibits displayed a wide range of technological innovations, including hundreds of inventions from Thomas Edison’s laboratories, as well as an ambitious collection of houses from across the globe. How were France’s imperial ambitions represented?
Charles Garnier. Japanese house (left) and Chinese house (right) in Garnier's "History of Habitation" exhibit, Exposition Universelle, Paris. 1889.
What is the fin de siècle? The fin de siècle (French for “end of the century”) is the period just before and after the two great Paris expositions of 1889 and 1900, marked—from the point of view of those who looked at it with disfavor—by a degenerate abandonment in art and culture of the ideals of the past. It was also an era marked by a spirit of innovation. How did Art Nouveau embody both aspects? How can Henrik Ibsen’s Realist drama be characterized as fin de siècle theater? The transition from Realism to Symbolism, also characteristic of the period, appears in the sculpture of Rodin, who came to value music and dance as the most Symbolist of art forms. How does Symbolism differ from Realism? Why are dance and music quintessential Symbolist media?
Louis Comfort Tiffany. Stained-glass window. ca, 1894. 43" × 27-1/2”.
Auguste Renoir. The Kiss . 1888-89. 54-1/2" × 43-1/2" × 46-1/2”.
Auguste Renoir. Monument to Balzac . Garden of the Museum. 1898. 106-1/4" × 47-1/4" × 50-3/8”.
Auguste Renoir. Dancing Figure . 1905. 12-7/8" × 9-7/8”.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Miss Loïe Fuller . 1893. Sheet: 15-1/8" × 11-1/16”.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge . 1892-95. 4’ 3/8" × 4’ 7-1/4”.
What is Post-Impressionism? The generation of painters that followed the Impressionist exhibitions was dedicated to advancing art in innovative directions. What were Seurat’s particular contributions? What did van Gogh contribute in terms of color and paint application? What tension particularly informs Cézanne’s paintings? Finally, Gauguin reflected the primitif. What do we mean by this?
Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte . 1884-86. 81-3/4" × 121-1/4”.
Georges Seurat. Les Poseuses (The Models) . 1886-88. 78-3/4" × 98-3/8”.
Vincent van Gogh. Night Café . 1888. 28-1/2" × 36-1/4”.
Vincent van Gogh. The Starry Night . 1889. 28-3/4" × 36-1/4”.
Paul Cézanne. The Gulf of Marseilles seen from l’Estaque . ca. 1885. 31-1/2" × 39-1/4”.
Paul Cézanne. Mont Sainte-Victoire . 1902-04. 28-3/4" × 36-3/16”.
Paul Cézanne. Closer Look: The Peppermint Bottle . 1893-95. 26" × 32-3/8”.
Paul Cézanne. Closer Look: Still Life with Plaster Cast . ca. 1894. 26-1/2" × 32-1/2”.
Paul Gauguin. Mahana no atua (Day of the God) . 1894. 27-3/8" × 35-5/8”.
Claude Monet. Setting Sun . Panel from the Water Lillies murals. ca. 1921-22. 6’ 6-3/4" × 19’ 8-3/8”.
How does Symbolism manifest itself outside of France? The Symbolist spirit manifested itself in Germany in the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. In The Birth of Tragedy , he argued for a return of the Dionysian spirit. What is the Dionysian spirit? In The Gay Science, Nietzsche announced—not in his own words, but in the words of a madman—the death of God. And in Beyond Good and Evil , he argued that the true philosopher must live where everyone else is “least at home.” What negative impacts did Nietzsche’s writings have? Deeply influenced by Nietzsche, composer Gustav Mahler created music distinguished by its jarring contrasts of melody and mood. How does his music contrast with that of his near-contemporary, Johannes Brahms? In Oslo, the painter Edvard Munch, influenced by van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nietzsche, captured the anguish of modern experience in works like The Scream , while in Vienna, Gustav Klimt revolted from tradition by painting deeply erotic works designed to set society free of its inhibitions. The Vienna Secession was dedicated to showing “modern man his true face.” What is the significance of this?
Claude Monet. Room 1 of the Water Lilies , Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris, France.
Edvard Munch. Skrik (The Scream) . 1893. 36" × 29”.
Gustav Klimt. Judith I . 1901. 33" × 16-1/2”.
How did developments in Africa reflect European beliefs and sensibilities? Beginning with the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Africa proved an irresistible lure for European colonial and imperialist interests, particularly for Britain, France, Germany, and Belgium. At stake were the exploitable natural resources of the African continent, including phosphates, gems, ivory, and rubber. Europe’s African colonies were mostly used to produce large quantities of raw materials at the lowest possible price, which left most Africans in dire poverty. Europe’s imperialists justified their policies through the philosophy of social Darwinism. What is social Darwinism? How did Charles Darwin himself counter its theories? How does Joseph Conrad react to the theory in his novella Heart of Darkness ?
Map: Imperial expansion in Africa to 1880.
Map: Imperial expansion in Africa from 1880 to 1914.
Giorgio de Chirico. Continuity & Change: The Child's Brain . 1914. 31-1/8" × 25-5/8”.
The Paris Exposition of 1889What was the significance of the 1889 Exposition Universelle inParis?• The future was the chief attraction of the Paris Exposition, andinvention was the key word of the day. Thomas Edison exhibited 493new devices. The most popular object was Gustav Eiffel’s tower placedat the entrance of the fair and which quickly became one of the city’slandmarks.
The Fin de Siecle: From Naturalism to SymbolismWhat is the fin de siecle?• Art Nouveau — As an international movement, Art Nouveau includedarchitecture, glassware, textiles, furniture, and painting. This “new art”endeavored to elevate feelings, imagination, and the power of dreamsas creative inspiration.• Exposing Society’s Secrets: The Plays of Henrik Ibsen —The fin de siecle spirit was apparent in the later works of Ibsen. Hisplay, A Doll’s House offered a depiction of Victorian marriage, with it soppression of women and cruelty of men.
• The Symbolist Imagination in the Arts — The Symbolists aimedto describe the transitory feelings of people through symbolic languageand images in an effort to convey the essential mystery of life. Thesculptor Rodin, in his most famous sculptures, The Kiss, was apurposeful homage to the opposite sex. A number of artists engaged inexperiments that combined music, dance, painting, and the newelectrical lighting technology. Dancing the can-can became popular atthe Moulin Rouge. Music’s ability to bring to mind a torrent of imagesand thoughts without speech is almost perfectly realized in Debussy’scomposition Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune.• Discussion Question: What is the tension in Ibsen’s A Doll’s House?
Active Listening Guide: Debussy: La Mer, IMyArtsLabChapter 33 – The Fin De Siècle: Toward the Modern
Post-Impressionist PaintingWhat is Post-Impressionism?• Pointillism: Seurat and the Harmonies of Color — Seurat’smasterpiece, A Sunday on La Grande Jatte depicts a crowd ofParisians enjoying the weather. It is a carefully controlled, scientificapplication of tiny dots of color—pointilles.• Symbolic Color: Van Gogh — Van Gogh studied Seurat’spaintings and Seurat’s emphasis on contrasting colors became aningredient in his synthesis of techniques. Color become symbolic,charged with feelings.• The Structure of Color: Cezanne — Cezanne’s color is notsymbolic but is used to structure the space of the canvas. He painteden plein-air which allowed a representation of nature as a series ofpatches of color.
• Escape to Far Tahiti: Gauguin — Symbolists valued thecomparative quiet of the countryside over the turmoil of cities. Gauguinleft France for the island of Tahiti. In his paintings color is freed of itsrepresentational function to become an almost pure expression of theartist’s feelings.• Escape to Giverny: The Late Monet — The tract of land ownedby Monet included a pond where he planted water lilies and built aJapanese bridge. Then he began to paint the ensemble repeatedly.• Discussion Question: What are some of the dominant characteristics ofPost-Impressionist painting?
Toward the ModernHow does Symbolism manifest itself outside of France?• The New Moral World of Nietzsche — Rather than the rationalityof Socrates, Nietzsche described the turbulent conflict between the“Apollonian” force that leads to the art of sculpture, the beautiful illusionof the ideal form, and the “Dionysian” force which expresses itself inmusic and dance, with their ability to excite the senses.• On the Cusp of Modern Music: Mahler and Brahms — Thesecomposers dominated the music scene in Vienna. Mahler wasinfluenced by Nietzsche’s The Birth of Tragedy in his Symphony No. 1.The compositions of Brahms are rich in musical allusions to Beethovenand Bach among others. His Fourth Symphony is startlingly modern.
• The Painting of Isolation: Munch — In Skrik (The Scream) theartist’s depiction of the horrifying anxiety of modern life is unmatched inthe work of any previous painter.• The Vienna Secession: Klimt — This artist was a master of theerotic who sought to liberate art from the confines of conventionalmorality, believing that human life was driven by sexual desire.• Discussion Question: What does Nietzsche mean by the “death ofGod”?
Africa and EmpireHow did developments in Africa reflect European beliefs andsensibilities?• European Imperialism — European domination of the continentspread after 1880 beginning with the opening of the Suez Canal.Economic wealth was at stake in the form of phosphates, ivory, rubber,and especially diamonds.• Social Darwinism: The Theoretical Justification forImperialism — This view explained the supposed social and culturalevolution that elevated Europe (and the white race) above all othernations and races. Europeans were the “fitter” race, and thus destinedto dominate the world. This view was used to validate imperialism.
• Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness — No fiction writerexamined European imperialist schemes in Africa more critically thanJoseph Conrad. He used his experiences as captain of a riversteamboat in the Congo as the basis of his novella Heart of Darkness.Ambiguity lies at the heart of the story – “darkness” itself being ametaphor for a world without clarity.• Discussion Question: What is social Darwinism? Was Darwin aproponent of this theory?