While an ardent defender of Romanticism, Gautier's work is difficult to classify and remains a point of reference for many subsequent literary traditions such as Parnassianism, Symbolism, Decadence and Modernism. He was widely esteemed by writers as disparate as Balzac, Baudelaire, the Goncourt brothers, Flaubert, Pound, Eliot, James, Proust and Wilde.
Théophile Gautier photographed by Nadar
|Born||Pierre Jules Théophile Gautier|
30 August 1811
|Died||23 October 1872 (aged 61)|
|Resting place||Cimetière de Montmartre|
|Occupation||Writer, poet, painter, art critic|
|Literary movement||Parnassianism, Romanticism|
Gautier was born on 30 August 1811 in Tarbes, capital of Hautes-Pyrénées département (southwestern France). His father was Jean-Pierre Gautier, a fairly cultured minor government official, and his mother was Antoinette-Adelaïde Cocard. The family moved to Paris in 1814, taking up residence in the ancient Marais district.
Gautier's education commenced at the prestigious Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris (fellow alumni include Voltaire, Charles Baudelaire, Victor Hugo, and the Marquis de Sade), which he attended for three months before being brought home due to illness. Although he completed the remainder of his education at Collège Charlemagne (alumni include Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve), Gautier's most significant instruction came from his father, who prompted him to become a Latin scholar by age eighteen.
While at school, Gautier befriended Gérard de Nerval and the two became lifelong friends. It is through Nerval that Gautier was introduced to Victor Hugo, by then already a well-known, established leading dramatist and author of Hernani. Hugo became a major influence on Gautier and is credited for giving him, an aspiring painter at the time, an appetite for literature. It was at the legendary premiere of Hernani that Gautier is remembered for wearing his anachronistic red doublet.
In the aftermath of the 1830 Revolution, Gautier's family experienced hardship and was forced to move to the outskirts of Paris. Deciding to experiment with his own independence and freedom, Gautier chose to stay with friends in the Doyenné district of Paris, living a rather pleasant bohemian life.
Towards the end of 1830, Gautier began to frequent meetings of Le Petit Cénacle (The Little Upper Room), a group of artists who met in the studio of Jehan Du Seigneur. The group was a more irresponsible version of Hugo's Cénacle. The group counted among its members the artists Gérard de Nerval, Alexandre Dumas, père, Petrus Borel, Alphonse Brot, Joseph Bouchardy and Philothée O’Neddy (real name Théophile Dondey). Le Petit Cénacle soon gained a reputation for extravagance and eccentricity, but also for being a unique refuge from society.
Gautier began writing poetry as early as 1826, but the majority of his life was spent as a contributor to various journals, mainly La Presse, which also gave him the opportunity for foreign travel and for meeting many influential contacts in high society and in the world of the arts. Throughout his life, Gautier was well-traveled, taking trips to Spain, Italy, Russia, Egypt and Algeria. Gautier's many travels inspired many of his writings including Voyage en Espagne (1843), Trésors d’Art de la Russie (1858), and Voyage en Russie (1867). Gautier's travel literature is considered by many as being some of the best from the nineteenth century; often written in a personal style, it provides a window into Gautier's own tastes in art and culture.
Gautier was a celebrated abandonné (one who yields or abandons himself to something) of the Romantic Ballet, writing several scenarios, the most famous of which is Giselle, whose first interpreter, the ballerina Carlotta Grisi, was the great love of his life. She could not return his affection, so he linked her sister Ernestina, a singer.
Absorbed by the 1848 Revolution, Gautier wrote almost one hundred articles, equivalent to four large books, within nine months in 1848. In his essay La République de l'avenir, he celebrated the advent of the new republic and the onward march of individual liberty. Gautier experienced a prominent time in his life when the original romantics such as Hugo, François-René de Chateaubriand, Alphonse de Lamartine, Alfred de Vigny and Alfred de Musset were no longer actively participating in the literary world. His prestige was confirmed by his role as director of Revue de Paris from 1851–1856. During this time, Gautier left La Presse and became a journalist for Le Moniteur universel, finding the burden of regular journalism quite unbearable and "humiliating". Nevertheless, Gautier acquired the editorship of the influential review L’Artiste in 1856. It is in this review that Gautier publicized Art for art's sake doctrines through many editorials.
The 1860s were years of assured literary fame for Gautier. Although he was rejected by the French Academy three times (1867, 1868, 1869), Charles-Augustin Sainte-Beuve, the most influential critic of the day, set the seal of approval on the poet by devoting no less than three major articles in 1863 to reviews of Gautier's entire published works. In 1865, Gautier was admitted into the prestigious salon of Princess Mathilde Bonaparte, cousin of Napoleon III and niece to Bonaparte. The Princess offered Gautier a sinecure as her librarian in 1868, a position that gave him access to the court of Napoleon III.
Elected in 1862 as chairman of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, he was surrounded by a committee of important painters: Eugène Delacroix, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Édouard Manet, Albert-Ernest Carrier-Belleuse and Gustave Doré.
During the Franco-Prussian War, Gautier made his way back to Paris upon hearing of the Prussian advance on the capital. He remained with his family throughout the invasion and the aftermath of the Commune, eventually dying on 23 October 1872 due to a long-standing cardiac disease. Gautier was sixty-one years old. He is interred at the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.
Early in his life, Gautier befriended Gérard de Nerval, who influenced him greatly in his earlier poetry and also through whom he was introduced to Victor Hugo. He shared in Hugo's dissatisfaction with the theatrical outputs of the time and the use of the word "tragedy." Gautier admired Honoré de Balzac for his contributions to the development of French literature.
Gautier was influenced greatly by his friends as well, paying tribute to them in his writings. In fact, he dedicated his collection of Dernières Poésies to his many friends, including Hérbert, Madame de la Grangerie, Maxime Du Camp and Princess Mathilde Bonaparte.
Gautier spent the majority of his career as a journalist at La Presse and later on at Le Moniteur universel. He saw journalistic criticism as a means to a middle-class standard of living. The income was adequate and he had ample opportunities to travel. Gautier began contributing art criticism to obscure journals as early as 1831. It was not until 1836 that he experienced a jump in his career when he was hired by Émile de Girardin as an art and theatre columnist for La Presse. During his time at La Presse, however, Gautier also contributed nearly 70 articles to Le Figaro. After leaving La Presse to work for Le Moniteur universel, the official newspaper of the Second Empire, Gautier wrote both to inform the public and to influence its choices. His role at the newspaper was equivalent to the modern book or theatre reviewer. He also reviewed music, without technical terminology but with intelligence and insight, for instance into the work of his friend Berlioz, who set six of his poems (c. 1840) as 'Les Nuits d'été'.
Gautier's literary criticism was more reflective in nature, criticism which had no immediate commercial function but simply appealed to his own taste and interests. Later in his life, he wrote extensive monographs on such giants as Gérard de Nerval, Balzac and Baudelaire, who were also his friends – Baudelaire dedicated his chef-d’œuvre Les Fleurs du mal to him, describing him as "a perfect magician of French letters".
Gautier, who started off as a painter, contributed much to the world of art criticism. Instead of taking on the classical criticism of art that involved knowledge of color, composition and line, Gautier was strongly committed to Denis Diderot's idea that the critic should have the ability to describe the art such that the reader might "see" the art through his description. Many other critics of the generation of 1830 took on this theory of the transposition of art – the belief that one can express one art medium in terms of another. Although today Gautier is less well known as an art critic than his great contemporary, Baudelaire, he was more highly regarded by the painters of his time. In 1862 he was elected chairman of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts) with a board which included Eugène Delacroix, Édouard Manet, Gustave Doré and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes.
Gautier's literary criticism was more reflective in nature; his literary analysis was free from the pressure of his art and theatre columns and therefore, he was able to express his ideas without restriction. He made a clear distinction between prose and poetry, stating that prose should never be considered the equal of poetry. The bulk of Gautier's criticism, however, was journalistic. He raised the level of journalistic criticism of his day.
The majority of Gautier's career was spent writing a weekly column of theatrical criticism. Because Gautier wrote so frequently on plays, he began to consider the nature of the plays and developed the criteria by which they should be judged. He suggested that the normal five acts of a play could be reduced to three: an exposition, a complication, and a dénouement. Having abandoned the idea that tragedy is the superior genre, Gautier was willing to accept comedy as the equal of tragedy. Taking it a step further, he suggested that the nature of the theatrical effect should be in favour of creating fantasy rather than portraying reality because realistic theatre was undesirable.
From a 21st-century standpoint Gautier's writings about dance are the most significant of his writings. The American writer Edwin Denby, widely considered the most significant writer about dance in the 20th century, called him "by common consent the greatest of ballet critics". Gautier, Denby says, "seems to report wholly from the point of view of a civilized entertainment seeker." He founds his judgments not on theoretical principles but in sensuous perception, starting from the physical form and vital energy of the individual dancer. This emphasis has remained a tacit touchstone of dance writing ever since.
Through his authorship of the scenario of the ballet Giselle, one of the foundation works of the dance repertoire, his influence remains as great among choreographers and dancers as among critics and balletomanes [devotees of ballet].
In 2011, Pacific Northwest Ballet presented a reconstruction of the work as close to its narrative and choreographic sources as possible, based on archival materials dating back to 1842, the year after its premiere.
In many of Gautier's works, the subject is less important than the pleasure of telling the story. He favored a provocative yet refined style. This list links each year of publication with its corresponding "[year] in poetry" article, for poetry, or "[year] in literature" article for other works):
Gautier did not consider himself to be a dramatist but more of a poet and storyteller. His plays were limited because of the time in which he lived; during the Revolution of 1848, many theaters were closed down and therefore plays were scarce. Most of the plays that dominated the mid-century were written by playwrights who insisted on conformity and conventional formulas and catered to cautious middle-class audiences. As a result, most of Gautier's plays were never published or reluctantly accepted.
Between the years 1839 and 1850, Gautier wrote all or part of nine different plays:
Two poems from "Émaux et camées"—"Sur les lagunes" and the second of two titled "Études de Mains"—are featured in Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Dorian reads them out of the book shortly after Basil Hallward's murder.
Ernest Fanelli's Tableaux Symphoniques are based on Gautier's novel Le Roman de la Momie.
In Peter Whiffle by Carl Van Vechten, the main character Peter Whiffle cites Gautier as a great influence and writer, among others.
Acmeism, or the Guild of Poets, was a transient poetic school, which emerged in 1912 in Russia under the leadership of Nikolay Gumilev and Sergei Gorodetsky. Their ideals were compactness of form and clarity of expression. The term was coined after the Greek word άκμη (ákmē), i.e., "the best age of man".
The acmeist mood was first announced by Mikhail Kuzmin in his 1910 essay "Concerning Beautiful Clarity". The acmeists contrasted the ideal of Apollonian clarity (hence the name of their journal, Apollon) to "Dionysian frenzy" propagated by the Russian symbolist poets like Bely and Vyacheslav Ivanov. To the Symbolists' preoccupation with "intimations through symbols" they preferred "direct expression through images".In his later manifesto "The Morning of Acmeism" (1913), Osip Mandelstam defined the movement as "a yearning for world culture". As a "neo-classical form of modernism", which essentialized "poetic craft and cultural continuity", the Guild of Poets placed Alexander Pope, Théophile Gautier, Rudyard Kipling, Innokentiy Annensky, and the Parnassian poets among their predecessors.Major poets in this school include Ossip Mandelstam, Nikolay Gumilev, Mikhail Kuzmin, Anna Akhmatova, and Georgiy Ivanov. The group originally met in The Stray Dog Cafe, St. Petersburg, then a celebrated meeting place for artists and writers. Mandelstam's collection of poems Stone (1912) is considered the movement's finest accomplishment.
Amongst the major acmeist poets, each interpreted acmeism in a different stylistic light, from Akhmatova's intimate poems on topics of love and relationships to Gumilev's narrative verse.Captain Fracasse (1929 film)
Captain Fracasse (French:Le capitaine Fracasse) is a 1929 French silent adventure film directed by Alberto Cavalcanti and Henry Wulschleger and starring Pierre Blanchar, Lien Deyers and Charles Boyer. It is based on the 1863 novel of the same name by Théophile Gautier.
The film's sets were designed by the art director Erik Aaes.Captain Fracasse (1940 film)
Captain Fracasse (Italian: Capitan Fracassa) is a 1940 Italian historical adventure film directed by Duilio Coletti and starring Elsa De Giorgi, Giorgio Costantini and Osvaldo Valenti. It was made at the Cinecittà studios in Rome. The film is based on the 1863 novel of the same name by Théophile Gautier. Another adaptation Captain Fracasse was made three years later as a co-production between France and Italy.Captain Fracasse (novel)
Captain Fracasse (French:Le Capitaine Fracasse) is an 1863 novel by the French writer Théophile Gautier. It is an adventure novel set in the seventeenth century. The story has been adapted for film and television numerous times.Giselle
Giselle (French: Giselle, ou les Wilis [ʒi.zɛl u le vi.li]) is a romantic ballet in two acts. It was first performed by the Ballet du Théâtre de l'Académie Royale de Musique at the Salle Le Peletier in Paris, France on 28 June 1841, with Italian ballerina Carlotta Grisi as Giselle. The ballet was an unqualified triumph. Giselle became hugely popular and was staged at once across Europe, Russia, and the United States. The traditional choreography that has been passed down to the present day derives primarily from the revivals staged by Marius Petipa during the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the Imperial Ballet in St. Petersburg.
"Giselle" is a masterwork in the classical ballet performance canon. The ghost-filled ballet tells the tragic, romantic story of a beautiful young peasant girl who falls for the flirtations of the deceitful and disguised nobleman Albrecht. When the ruse is revealed, the fragile Giselle dies of heartbreak, and Albrecht must face the otherworldly consequences of his careless seduction. One of the world's most-often performed classical ballets, it is also one of its most challenging to dance.Librettists Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Théophile Gautier took their inspiration for the plot from a prose passage about the Wilis in De l'Allemagne, by Heinrich Heine, and from a poem called "Fantômes" in Les Orientales by Victor Hugo.
The prolific opera and ballet composer Adolphe Adam composed the music. Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot created the choreography. The role of Giselle was intended for Carlotta Grisi as her debut piece for the Paris public. She became the first to dance the role and was the only ballerina to dance it at the Opéra for many years.
The ballet is about a peasant girl named Giselle, who dies of a broken heart after discovering her lover, Albrecht, is betrothed to another. The Wilis, a group of mystic and supernatural women who dance men to death, summon Giselle from her grave. They target her lover for death, but Giselle's great love frees him from their grasp. The Wilis are particularly haunting characters. They are the spirits of virgin girls who died before they married. These creatures were very popular in Romantic-era ballets. Led by Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis, they gain their power in numbers as they effortlessly move through dramatic patterns and synchronized movements, and control the stage with their long tulle dresses and stoic expressions. Appearing ethereal, the presence of the Wilis is intended to create an eerie mood that builds as the ballet continues and they enclose on Albrecht. They are ruthless and hateful of men because they have all died of a broken heart. Giselle finds forgiveness in her heart for Albrecht, but she knows the Wilis will not do the same. Their goal is clear and they are relentless on their quest; in saving Albrecht, Giselle at the same time saves herself from becoming one of them. The Wilis are one of the most iconic characters in Giselle and dominate the second act.Hexalogy
A hexalogy (from Greek ἑξα- hexa-, "six" and -λογία -logia, "discourse") is a compound literary or narrative work that is made up of six distinct works. The word apparently first appeared in English as a borrowing from German, in discussions of August Bungert's Wagnerian opera cycle entitled Homerische Welt based on the Iliad and the Odyssey. (He planned two tetralogies, but the third and fourth operas of the eight were never written.) Both pentalogie and hexalogie were used by Théophile Gautier in 1859. In 1923 the word was applied by an American reviewer to Johannes V. Jensen's The Long Journey.La Péri (Burgmüller)
La Péri is a fantastic ballet choreographed by Jean Coralli (1779-1854) to music composed by Friedrich Burgmüller. With a scenario devised by Théophile Gautier and Coralli, scenery designed by Charles Séchan, Jules Diéterle, Édouard Desplechin, Humanité Philastre, and Charles Cambon, and costumes designed by Paul Lorimer and Hippolyte d'Orshwiller, it was first presented by the Paris Opera Ballet at the Académie Royale de Musique on 17 July 1843.Le Pavillon d'Armide
Le Pavillon d'Armide is a ballet in one act and three scenes choreographed by Michel Fokine with music by Nikolai Tcherepnin to a libretto by Alexandre Benois. It was inspired by the novella Omphale by Théophile Gautier.Le Spectre de la rose
Le Spectre de la rose (The Spirit of the Rose) is a short ballet about a young girl who dreams of dancing with the spirit of a souvenir rose from her first ball. The ballet was written by Jean-Louis Vaudoyer who based the story on a verse by Théophile Gautier and used the music of Carl Maria von Weber's piano piece Aufforderung zum Tanz (Invitation to the Dance) as orchestrated by Hector Berlioz.
The ballet premiered in Monte Carlo on 19 April 1911, produced by the Ballet Russes ballet company. Michel Fokine was the choreographer and Léon Bakst designed the original Biedermeier sets and costumes. Nijinsky danced The Rose and Tamara Karsavina danced the Young Girl. It was a great success. Spectre became internationally famous for the spectacular leap Nijinsky made through a window at the ballet's end.Madamigella di Maupin
Madamigella di Maupin is a 1966 Italian adventure film directed by Mauro Bolognini. It is loosely based on the life of Mademoiselle de Maupin and the novel with the same name by Théophile Gautier.One of Cleopatra's Nights
One of Cleopatra's Nights (French: Une nuit de Cléopâtre) is a historical short story by the French writer Théophile Gautier, first published as a six-part serial from November 29-December 6 1838 in La Presse. It relates an imagined romantic incident in the life of the Ptolemaic queen of Egypt, Cleopatra VII. The story was translated into English together with other fantastic tales of Gautier by Lafcadio Hearn for the collection One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances, published by Richard Worthington in 1882.One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances
One of Cleopatra's Nights and Other Fantastic Romances is a collection of fantasy short stories by Théophile Gautier, selected from his Nouvelles and Romans et Contes and translated from the French by Lafcadio Hearn. The translation was Hearn's first book, and is considered one of the best English translations of Gautier. It was first published in hardcover by Richard Worthington in 1882, and reprinted in 1886, 1888, 1890 and 1891; later reprint editions were issued by H. W. Hagemann (1894) and Brentano's in 1899, 1900, 1906, 1910, 1915, and 1927. The first British edition was published by MacLaren and Co. in 1907. The work was reprinted in 1899 by Wildside Press, a trade paperback edition with page count matching the original.Lin Carter intended to reissue the collection as a volume in the Ballantine Adult Fantasy series, though this hope was not realized.Copyright for the work has expired in the United States, so it now resides in the public domain. The text is available via Project Gutenberg.Parnassianism
Parnassianism (or Parnassism) was a French literary style that began during the positivist period of the 19th century, occurring after romanticism and prior to symbolism. The style was influenced by the author Théophile Gautier as well as by the philosophical ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer.Study (Flandrin)
Study (Young Male Nude Seated beside the Sea) (French: Jeune Homme nu assis au bord de la mer, figure d'étude) is a painting by Hippolyte Flandrin executed between 1835 and 1836. Flandrin had won France's Prix de Rome in 1832, a bursary which provided the winner with a trip to Rome to concentrate on their vocation. There, Flandrin produced this study, which he sent back to Paris in 1837, in fulfillment of the bursary's requirements for the student to submit works in the tradition of various genres. In 1857, Napoleon III purchased the painting, which is now in the collection of Paris's Louvre.
The painting gained attention among contemporary French art critics, and remains one of Flandrin's best-known works, despite being produced relatively early in his career. The subject is an unidentified youth, an "ephebe", who sits nude on a rock with his arms wrapped around his legs and his head resting on his knees, eyes closed. There is a sea in the background, and no distinguishable landmarks locate the figure. The enigmatic scene provides no explanation for the figure's pose: Théophile Gautier (1811–1872) commented that the young man could be shipwrecked on a deserted island, or be a shepherd who has lost his flock. Ultimately, any explanation for this scene is left to the imagination, leading to comparisons with Surrealist art in the twentieth century.In examining the influence of German aesthetic theory on French art, critic Elizabeth Prettejohn finds that the roundedness of form and "flawless" modeling of flesh would have met with Johann Joachim Winckelmann's approval as an exemplar of the beautiful. Prettejohn compares the figure's almost circular pose and sparse framing with that of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man.
Vital to the painting's spread were reproductions based on an 1887 engraving by Jean-Baptiste Danguin that was commissioned by the state. As awareness of the work grew, the painting became an icon of homosexual culture in the 20th century. Photographers Marcel Moore and Claude Cahun adopted the pose in a photograph of the lesbian Cahun, c. 1911. The painting was similarly evoked in early twentieth-century art photography by F. Holland Day and Wilhelm von Gloeden, and later by Robert Mapplethorpe.The Pharaoh's Daughter
The Pharaoh's Daughter (Russian: Дочь фараона, French: La Fille du pharaon), is a ballet choreographed by Marius Petipa to music by Cesare Pugni. The libretto was a collaboration between Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and Petipa from Théophile Gautier's Le Roman de la momie. It was first presented by the Imperial Ballet at the Imperial Bolshoi Kamenny Theatre, in St. Petersburg, Russia, on 18 January (30 January) 1862, with the design by A. Roller, G. Wagner (scenery), Kelwer and Stolyakov (costumes).
The principal dancers at the opening night were Carolina Rosati (Mummy/Aspicia), Nicholas Goltz (Pharaoh), Marius Petipa (Ta-Hor), Timofey Stoukolkin as John Bull, Lubov Radina (Ramzaya), Felix Kschessinskiy (King of Nubia), and Lev Ivanov (Fisherman). For Petipa it was the last role: he has finished his career as a dancer; he became ballet master.
The Sergeyev Collection, housed in the Harvard University Theatre Collection, contains choreographic notations of Petipa's 1898 production of The Pharaoh's Daughter for Mathilde Kschessinskaya. The notations document Petipa's choreography for the dances of the principal roles, while the rest of the choreography (i.e. for the corps de ballet and much of the action sequences) is only vaguely documented. It was this documentation that helped Pierre Lacotte revive the production in the year 2000.Théophile Gautier, fils
Théophile Charles Marie Gautier (29 November 1836 – 16 June 1904) was a French scholar, translator and administrator. He was the son of the writer Théophile Gautier and his mistress Eugénie Fort.
He became sous-préfet of Ambert (Puy-de-Dôme) in 1867 and of Pontoise in 1870, chef du bureau de la Presse at the ministry of the interior in 1868, then secrétaire particulier to the former minister of Napoléon III, Eugène Rouher.
He translated German authors and collaborated on his father's works in the Moniteur and the Journal officiel.Émaux et Camées
Émaux et Camées (Enamels and Cameos) is a collection of poetry by the French poet Théophile Gautier.
Originally published in 1852 with 18 poems, Émaux et camées grew to include 37 poems in later editions. Whereas Gautier's earlier work was more concerned with romantic aestheticism, the formalism of this last collection is a point of reference for the arrival of Parnassianism.Émile Bergerat
Émile Bergerat (29 April 1845 in Paris – 13 October 1923 in Neuilly-sur-Seine) was a French poet, playwright and essayist. He used the pseudonyms l'Homme masqué (the masked man), Caliban and Ariel (the latter two drawn from The Tempest by William Shakespeare). A library in Neuilly-sur-Seine opposite his flat bears his name.