Romanticism and Its Discontents by Anita Brookner

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In this lavishly illustrated book, Anita Brookner examines the masters of French Romantic painting in the context of nineteenth-century poetry, literature, and criticism. Here are Gros as hero and victim, Alfred de Musset as infant de sicle, Delacroix as Romantic classicist, and, later in the century, Zola as an advocate of life for art's sake and Huysmans indulging in the madness of art. Brookner traces the way that French Romanticism followed the political turmoil of the late eighteenth century and the defeat at Waterloo in 1815, and replaced the agnosticism of the Enlightenment and Revolution with a new heroism.

"By almost common consent the Romantics in France transferred their idealism to the domain of art, either as practitioners or as critics," writes Brookner. "Art was common ground, almost as religion had once been; art, moreover, was an elite calling, a vocation, 'un apostolat' according to Ingres. And few were inclined to doubt that there was something sacerdotal in operating even on the fringes, in celebrating the new that might in turn be revelatory."


About Anita Brookner

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Anita Brookner is a novelist whose forte is the meticulous examination of the lives of unremarkable women. She portrays the women with dignity and tolerance. Brookner generates novels of intellectual and emotional compulsion. Brookner's novels evoke a near contemporary, Barbara Pym, and the tradition of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. But they reflect the realities of a generation later than that of Pym. For Brookner, a simple, pacific femininity no longer provides a respite from a danger that lurks throughout her world. Unhappiness, which Pym's characters bear with resignation, torments Brookner's sensibility. Hotel du Lac (1984) won the Booker Prize and remains Brookner's most acclaimed work. Cunning and formal in tenor, it probes the repressed secrets and fragile psychological condition of a writer, Edith Hope, who is recovering from the external world's threats and bruises and trying to reconcile the life of human passions with the life of the artist. Critics have rated the novel as one of the most important works in the genre of Kunstlerroman for the late modern period. A professor of art history, Brookner has taught at Cambridge University and the Cortauld Institute where she specialized in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century painting. In addition to her fiction, Brookner has written scholarly works about Jacques Louis David, Jean Baptiste Greuze, and Jean-Antoine Watteau. Her works include The Bay of Angels, The Next Big Thing, The Rules of Engagement, Leaving Home, and Strangers.
Published October 1, 2000 by Farrar Straus Giroux. 208 pages
Genres: History, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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Employing her considerable talent as a storyteller, she shows how the various political and intellectual currents of the day combined with more personal influences in shaping the works of the French Romantics, whose revolutionary contributions to art and literature changed the course, not merely ...

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The Guardian

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Romanticism and its Discontents Anita Brookner Viking £25, pp208 Buy it at BOL Why do rock stars feel obliged to look sullen?

Oct 29 2000 | Read Full Review of Romanticism and Its Discontents

The Guardian

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Romanticism and Its Discontents Anita Brookner 173pp, Viking, £25 Buy it at BOL Anita Brookner's reputation as an art historian, now overtaken by her renown as a novelist, was founded on The Genius of the Future (1971), which examined French art criticism in the hands of, among othe...

Dec 23 2000 | Read Full Review of Romanticism and Its Discontents

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