IDEAL BEAUTY - SENSUOUS BEAUTY: THE ACADEMIC MODEL IN FRENCH AND POLISH POETRY OF THE LATE 19TH AND EARLY 20TH CENTURY
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The issues raised in this article - ie. the correspondence of the arts, or more precisely the links between academic painting and 19th C. French and Polish poetry - belong to the field of comparative cultural studies. The 19th C. academism was a continuation, though with some peculiar characteristics of its own, of a major trend in the European art of the 16th and 17th C. In spite of being challenged by Romanticism, realism and, later, impressionism, the academic style remained an important and highly influential art form. Its aesthetic attractiveness was demonstrated in a number of ways. French and Polish poetry, especially of the Parnassien type, seems to have followed closely the salient features of that model. The correspondences between poetry and painting, an echo of the Horatian counsel 'ut pictura poesis', can be summed up under three heads: 1. Both academic painting and 'academic' poetry appeal first of all to the eye and privilege graphic, highly suggestive description. Both are concerned more with showing than with prompting reflection or creating a mood. 2. The two have a common repertoire of themes, motives and narratives. Their connection can take the form of direct poetic copying of an 'academic' subject (eg. José-Maria de Heredia's poem 'Le Tepidarium' doubling both the subject and the title of Théodore Chasseriau's classicist canvas, as well as other artists. Alternately, the connection may go no further than the reproduction of some characteristic themes or motifs. This is the case with several poems by Charles Baudelaire, Leconte de Lisle, Théodore de Banville and François Coppée. This practice was also quite widespread among the poets of the 'Mloda Polska' movement. 3. Many 19th C. poems let themselves be guided by conventions intrinsic to the academic style or recommended by the Academe. It was common for poets, not only of the Parnassien school, to observe the principles of formal composition and/or highlight the qualities and associations of their subject with the arts, painting and sculpture. Another sign of the influence of the academic model, or rather its unmistakable fini, could be found in the striving for faultless workmanship, precise wording, formal rigour and discipline.
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