The Age of Sensibility 1780-1840 Fuseli Fuseli, De Sade and Diderot did not consider their world of forbidden sex and eroticism to be irrational. It was, from a social point of view, a problem of freedom. Diderot realised the power of imagination resulted in human communication and in a struggle against the rules, and that beyond those rules lay a path to unreality, dreams and irrationality. Hammacher We often think of art in terms of periods, eg Classicism, Neo-classicism, Romanticism, Realism, Naturalism, Impressionism, Neo-impressionism and Symbolism. Here we consider an alternative path,
Neo-classic art and architecture Large scale rebuilding of cities like Paris and London Industrial revolution from 1760. Population increase, presure on colonies for raw commodities Bott's Poor Law 1790 Designed to protect the poor French Revolution Birth of a major European republic American War of Independence All but bankrupted France and England Battle of Waterloo and Trafalger Left Britain as the only major sea power Frankenstein published in 1818
“ The Door of Death I found open And the Worm Weaving into the ground Thou art my Mother from the womb Wife Sister Daughter, to the Tomb Weaving to Dreams the Sexual strife And weeping over the Web of Life” Blake The death of mortal man who from his thought derives to reach for the stars – pur ardu ad astra Neo Classicism injected with an altered perception of reality A recurring artistic theme – “ The State of Man ”
Artists, Writers and Poets who knew each other Constable Blake Fuseli John Flaxman Thomas Banks Emily Bronte 1818-48 Wuthering Heights Mary Wollenstonecraft Coleridge Thomas Paine The Rights of Man Emanuel Swedenborg John Lavater De Quincy
They socialised together at their Patron's estates, like here at Petworth House – A favourite with Flaxman and Turner. In 1760 there were some 10,000 landowners in England. Their wealth was to significantly increase over the coming years
Paradise Lost John Milton Published in 1667 in ten books An epic account of The Fall of man. Satan struggles through Chaos from Heaven to Hell. All were familiar with this work
“ When I beheld the Poet blind, yet bold, In slender Book his vast Design unfold, Messiah Crown'd, Gods Reconcil'd Decree, Rebelling Angels, the Forbidden Tree, Heav'n, Hell, Earth, Chaos, All; the Argument Held me a while misdoubting his Intent, That he would ruine (for I saw him strong) The sacred Truths to Fable and old Song” Milton - Paradise Lost Notel the references to hidden meanings known only to the initiated:- Poet Blind, Slender Book, Design, Forbidden Tree, Sacred Truths The original Latin prose has a rhythm also conveying meaning
The Divine Comedy (Italian: Commedia, later christened "Divina" by Giovanni Boccaccio), written by Dante Alighieri between 1308 and his death in 1321, is widely considered the central epic poem of Italian literature, and is seen as one of the greatest works of world literature. The poem's imaginative vision of the Christian afterlife is a culmination of the medieval world-view as it had developed in the Western Church. It helped establish the Tuscan dialect in which it is written as the Italian standard. See also Michelangelo's elevation of his native Florentine language through his sonets. Dante holding his Divine Comedie
One of Botticelli's to illustrations for the Divine Comedy
Christoph Martin Wieland September 5, 1733 – January 20, 1813, German poet and writer. Wieland was widely read by this group. He was strongly influenced by the French fairy-tale vogue of the 18th century, he published a collection of tales entitled Dschinnistan (1786-1789), which included three original tales, 'Der Stein der Weisen' ('The Philosopher's Stone'), 'Timander und Melissa', and 'Der Druide oder die Salamanderin und die Bildsäule' ('The Druid or the Salamander and the Painted Pillar'). Typical of all these tales is the triumph of rationalism over mysticism. More on the Philosopher's Stone elsewhere.
Jules Michelet (August 21, 1798 – February 9, 1874) was a French historian. He was born in Paris to a family with Huguenot traditions. Ii Michelet was widely read. He was an antimonarchist, critic, historian and philosopher. His finest work was a history of France from the middle ages to the Revolution in 19 volumes
Jakob Böhme (1575-1624) Also widely read “ In Yes and No all things consist." The central idea in Boehme's Lebensphilosophie (Life philosophy), is that reality, in both its physical and metaphysical aspects, is a living entity in constant tension between affirmation and suppression of the potentiality which exists in unity. "Yes" and "No" define each other, bringing forth new form, new substance, new definition within the unity.
Horace Walpole 1717-1797 "This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel," “ Foolish writers and readers are created for each other. The whole secret of life is to be interested in one thing profoundly and in a thousand things well. The curse of modern times is, that almost everything does create controversy.” Horace Walpole, Letter to Sir David Dalrymple, 1770 In 1764, he published his Gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto, setting a literary trend to go with the architecture. He rebuilt Strawberry Hill, Richmond in Neo Gothic fashion.
Coleridge Samuel Taylor Coleridge (October 21, 1772 – July 25, 1834) He was an English poet, critic, and philosopher who was, along with his friend William Wordsworth, one of the founders of the Romantic Movement in England and one of the Lake Poets. He is probably best known for his poems The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Kubla Khan , as well as his major prose work Biographia Literaria.
“ At six years old I remember to have read Belisarius, Robinson Crusoe, and Philip Quarll - and then I found the Arabian Nights' Entertainments - one tale of which (the tale of a man who was compelled to seek for a pure virgin) made so deep an impression on me (I had read it in the evening while my mother was mending stockings) that I was haunted by spectres whenever I was in the dark - and I distinctly remember the anxious and fearful eagerness with which I used to watch the window in which the books lay - and whenever the sun lay upon them, I would seize it, carry it by the wall, and bask, and read.” Biographia Literaria
Day after day, day after day, We stuck, ne breath ne motion, As idle as a painted Ship Upon a painted Ocean. Water, water every where And all the boards did shrink; Water, water every where, Ne any drop to drink. The very deeps did rot: O Christ! That ever this should be! Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs Upon the slimy Sea. Rime of the Ancient Mariner
“ Not properly a dream, But a spirit of Reverie, akin to Somnambulism, during which the Understanding and moral sense are awake tho more or less confused and over the Terrors of which Reason can exert no influence.” Of the Nightmare
Thomas De Quincey "That boy," his master at Bath School had said, "that boy could harangue an Athenian mob better than you or I could address an English one." Thomas de Quincey (August 15, 1785 – December 8, 1859) was an English author and intellectual, best known for his book Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1822). Tom Hood found the shrinking author "at home in a German ocean of literature, in a storm, flooding all the floor, the tables, and the chairs—billows of books." Richard Woodhouse speaks of the "depth and reality of his knowledge. Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, Isis and Osiris appeared in his works which were read by Van Gogh, Gaugain, Dali, Manet, Gautier, Redon, Magritte and many others.
-- oh heavens! what a revulsion! what an upheaving, from its lowest depths, of the inner spirit! what an apocalypse of the world within me! That my pains had vanished, was now a trifle in my eyes; this negative effect was swallowed up in the immensity of those positive effects which had opened before me, in the abyss of divine enjoyment thus suddenly revealed. Here was a panacea, for all human woes; Thomas De Quincey
Thoma De Quincey's immediate influence extended to Edgar Allan Poe, Fitz Hugh Ludlow and Charles Baudelaire, but even major 20th century writers such as Jorge Luis Borges admired and claimed to be partly influenced by his work. Berlioz also loosely based his Symphonie Fantastique on Confessions of an English Opium Eater, drawing on the theme of the internal struggle with one's self. De Quincey is also referred to in the Sherlock Holmes short story The Man with the Twisted Lip .
Rights of Man and the Age of Reason Thomas Paine The original clarion call for the American revolution. Many have regarded Paine's latter years as a period of decline but Hitchens points to his continuing contributions to ideas and human progress as he saw it. “Paine saw what was happening to the Indians, and saw also that the theft of their land and threat to their existence came largely from proselytising Christianity, which was used as a hypocritical cover for greed,” Hitchens writes. By encouraging President Thomas Jefferson to purchase Louisiana from the French Paine helped set the course for the world. “From then on, the future of the United States as a continental, and thus world, power was assured,” Paine also staunchly defends his rights and kept his own reason to the end. “dying in ulcerated agony, he was imposed upon by two Presbyterian ministers who pushed past his housekeeper and urged him to avoid damnation by accepting Jesus Christ. “Let me have none of your Popish stuff,” Paine responded, and threw them out. In a world where rights and reason are forever under attack, we could do no worse then return to Thomas Paine's firebrand radicalism for example and inspiration. Christopher Hitchens, The Daily Telegraph
Mary Wollenstonecraft A Vindication of the Rights of Women, 1792: "How many women thus waste life away the prey of discontent, who might have practised as physicians, regulated a farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by their own industry, instead of hanging their heads surrounded with the dew of sensibility, that consumes the beauty to which it first gave lustre…
Mary Godwin Wollenstonecraft by John Opie National Portrait Gallery Mary Wollstonecraft is shown here pregnant with the future Mary Shelley. .
Emanuel Swedenborg Scientist, Philosopher and Spiritual Explorer Noted Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian, best known for his later writings, in which he presents ideas both Christian and ecumenical, for a new spiritual era or "new church" to be known as the New Jerusalem . Blake found Swedenborg's lack of poetic creativity and his passivity impossible to accept. Both Blake and Flaxman joined the Swendenborg Society in 1789 It also didn't please Blake that Swedenborg didn't read Jacob Boheme who was avidly read by Blake and Coleridge
John Lavater 1741-1801 “He who seldom speaks, and with one calm well-timed word can strike dumb the loquacious, is a genius or a hero” “ Intuition is the clear conception of the whole at once.” “Beware of him who hates the laugh of a child.” “To know yourself you have only to set down a true statement of those that ever loved or hated you” “Great minds comprehend more in a word, a look, a pressure of the hand than ordinary men in long conversations, or the most elaborate correspondence” “He who has not forgiven an enemy has not yet tasted one of the most sublime enjoyments of life”
Henry Fuseli “ The only man I ever knew Who did not make me almost spew Was Fuseli: he was both Turk and Jew And so dear Christians, how do you do? ” Blake
“ His spirits are hurricane, His servants flames of fire He goes well on the wings of the wind His laugh is the mockery of Hell and his love a murderous lightening flash” Lavater of Fuseli Fuseli (1741-1825) was born in Zurich, spending eight years in Rome before finally settling in London to study. He enjoyed extensive knowledge of art history, literature, theology and many languages. He was more worldly than Blake and a good match for Coleridge. Fuseli collaborated with Lavater on his English translations and wrote an introduction. He was also familiar with Lavater's study of physiognomy
John Flaxman Master of the purest Line 1755- 1826 John Flaxman was an essential supporter and friend of Blake. Flaxman represented Neo-classicism as a living discipline, using the academic mould to his advantage – unlike Blake
Captain Cook By Flaxman National Library, Wellington
Coal port porcelain jardiniere with a Sèvres pink (so-called rose du Barry) ground decorated with a Neoclassical painting based on a design by John Flaxman, Shropshire, England, c. 1850; in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London
William Blake 1757-1827 When he was about nine, he told his parents he had seen “a tree filled with angels” At age ten he was enrolled in Henry Pars's drawing school, where he learned to sketch the human figure by copying from plaster casts of ancient statues. His father encouraged his interest and even bought him some casts of his own. Blake owned one of the first western copies of the Bhagarad-Gita in 1785. He was interested in the Cabala and the writings of Paracelus the alchemist and pioneer of modern toxicity. In 1788 Blake was introduced to the avant guarde circle of William Godwin, his wife Mary Wollstoncraft, Joseph Priestly and Thomas Paine. J
Death of the Poet Blake Romaticism. Noble death of the poet. Imortalised by Byron and Shelly Sacrifice for art
The Golden Ladder from The Divine Comedy - Dante Blake
House of Death Blake used neoclassicism to maintain his modern life style, but remained open to everything night and day offered (Hammacher)
George Cumberland, 1754-1858 Patron of Blake and Banks A passionate advocate of radical neo-classicism, the art of ancient Greece, and especially of the sculptor Thomas Banks With Blake he experimented in new painting techniques
The Friendship Book itself is a time-capsule from the Age of Sensibility, beautifully bound in its original tooled green morocco. It contains, additionally, more than 100 contemporary paintings, drawings, holograph texts, verses (mostly signed and dated) and autographs by notable artists, authors, poets, sculptors and naval characters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries: (eg George Romney, John Russell, John Flaxman, William Hodges, William Hayley, Anna Seward, Charlotte Smith, Nicholas Pocock, Nelson's Captain Thomas Masterman Hardy).
Jane Austen, painted by James Stanier Clarke in 1815 Jane Austen (16 December 1775 – 18 July 1817) was an English novelist whose realism, biting social commentary and masterful use of free indirect speech, burlesque and irony have earned her a place as one of the most widely-read and best-loved writers in British literature The book also contains this rare watercolour of Jane Austin
And this Watercolour by John Russell, the celebrated portraitist and astronomer, a friend of William Herschel. Russell wrote a definitive book on using pastels Literature, Art, Philosophy, Politics, Poetry, Science to each a door
The Legacy Manet's Luncheon on the Grass 1893 From Denis Diderot (1713-84) “Les Bijoux indiscret” Diderot pleaded for nudity in paintings “nudity should not be shocking”
Charles Pierre Baudelaire (April 9, 1821 – August 31, 1867) was an influential nineteenth century French poet, critic and acclaimed translator. He was very influenced by our 'group'. “ You know that I have always considered that literature and the arts pursue an aim independent of morality” Among his translations are “ Confessions of an English opium Eater”, by De Quincey No discussion of art and creativity could be complete without a study of Baudelaire and Satre
Manet Wagner Nadar Poe Gautier Delecroix Courbet Victor Hugo Franz Liszt Balzac all met with Baudelaire
“ Why does a good sketch please us more than a good painting?” “ He who has a sharp feeling for color, has eyes fixed to the canvas, his mouth half open, he is gasping; his palette is the image of chaos. It is in this chaos that he dips his brush and out of it, he drags the work of creation” Diderot 1713-84 Diderot Michael Loos 1764
Van Gogh studied Baudelaire, Michelet and Diderot avidly. Michelet's encounters with the Dark Lady were particularly read featuring in several of Van Gogh's works “many, many times have I passed from larva into chrysalis state an to have a complete state . . . .shall I be bird or quadruped”
Author H. P. Lovecraft's praises Doré: "There's something those fellows catch - beyond life - that they're able to make us catch for a second. Doré had it." Gustave Dore by Felix Nadar 1855-1859 Gustave Dore