collapsing the geometric order

The search for emotional impact. Classicism and romanticism are only tenuously compatible. Like Cain and Abel, its a contrapuntal piece of music, that if played often enough, like Glenn Gould with Bach, can create some some odd exposures to the stark dualities in human nature. A yearning to be mad and liberated bound up with a fear of sanity; the imposition of suffocating reason and common sense magically producing a mastering of the inner and outer. As about as compelling as the evolution of rocks. The classic academics had the right idea. A least in theory, but the chasm between theory and behavior exposes contradictions in reason not particularly obvious. Civilized control is a best stifling and the antithesis of the creative. Romantic madness is a replacement of the ego control of classicism, an obliteration, a vaporizing into delirium. A formlessness that would achieve its pinnacle in abstract expressionism. At the least, its a nominal conformity exposed to the risk of madness…

---In Citizen Belley, painted about 1797, Girodet has succeeded in transforming his portrait into a clever, startlingly original history painting. Outfitted in the uniform of a French deputy, Belley leans on a pedestal supporting a gleaming, white marble bust of the French philosophe and historian, Abbé Guillaume Raynal. Raynal, who had died in 1796, was the author of an influential treatise published in 1770 that became a major cornerstone of the abolitionist movement in France. But the potent Republican message of Girodet's "history painting" is curiously undermined by the picture's peculiar and unsettling aura. As Robert Rosenblum has observed, the disquieting effects of the Belley portrait derive from the artist's deliberate intensification not only of the whiteness of the bust and the blackness of the sitter, but also of the textural differentiation between marble and flesh.6 Girodet's willful, anti-Davidian predilection for dazzling contrasts of heightened color and magnified surface textures can be observed in many of his paintings, and this surreal tendency to artistic hyperbole,...--- Read More:

Kuspit:The child, Benoit Agnes Trioson, was the son of Girodet’s mentor and stepfather. The boy died young, making him all the more “romantic.”  Putting his book aside, he gazes off into the distance, thinking his own thoughts, his face radiant with consciousness. He is shown in the traditional pose of melancholy, his head resting on one hand. It is an astonishing psychological portrait, pre-dating Gericault’s portraits of the insane, which attempt to convey their mental state, but are much less convincing than Girodet’s singular portrait. All the more so because Girodet shows the boy as an individual, not as a type. It is rare enough to treat children as serious persons — Goya and Velazquez do so — and even rarer to realize they have a serious mental life. Girodet was able to convey it, perhaps because he projected his own melancholy into the child, as Bellenger suggests, but also because he had genuine respect and love for his stepbrother. His art has the quality of intimacy that David’s art lacks.

---Indeed, the portrait seems to have been the occasion for Girodet to evoke memories of his own precocious discovery of an artistic vocation. Girodet played the violin and studied drawing from a very early age; and the painting's whimsical, symbolic anchoring of a hard, glossy-shelled beetle and a contrastingly delicate, powdery-winged butterfly to a draftsman's pencil may well recall a first awareness of the strange artistic propensities that Girodet would never outgrow....But Girodet's portrait of the ten-year-old Benoît-Agnès is perhaps the most personal of all of his works—a work that is ultimately more revealing than any of Girodet's own inscrutable self-portraits.--- Read More:

Gericault’s most modern works, then, combine overcontrol and lunacy, brilliantly integrating them into romantic hyberbole. Lunacy is more charismatic than classical control, because the lunatic has clearly been traumatized, that is, has lost his reason and self-control, and thus lives in the impulsive present, which is where, unconsciously, we would all like to live, just like children. (Is Benoit Agnes Trioson haunted by time, depressed by the long time it takes to become an adult, and all the things it takes time to learn in order to be one, to take one’s independent place in society? The more grown up one is, the more aware of time, and with it death — a recurrent theme in Girodet’s pictures . The impulsive light in The Sleep of Endymion gives Endymion’s classical body its charismatic presence and immediacy. Classical form has no charisma — reason has no charisma. (Which is perhaps why it has little appeal.) Without the supplement of irrational moonlight — lunatic light, as it were — Endymion’s classical form lacks immediacy and poignancy, expressive power and passion, that is, emotional impact, and thus instant appeal. Read More:

---Gericault painted real portraits, characterized by a deep analysis of man’s psychology, even though in the 19th century portraits were destinated only to important clients. This painting precisely describes the features of the pathology that must be explained, even using the contrast between the white bonnet and the eyes, which are circled with red. The contrast is repeated again in the neckline of the dress, where the white is framed by red. By doing so, the chromatic inversion of contrasts reinforces the dynamics of the foreground, while the clothing, dark and neutral, is insensibly lost in the background, enhancing the vivacity of the face of the elderly woman. These paintings are portraits at all effects, and therefore they raise the portrayed person to nobility, leading the observer to search for those signs of humanity that make a mentally ill person worthy of attention--- Read More:¶m2_1=N10f75e8bdc0a2d3fc20¶m1_1=N10f759c4f3cc28bd714

But, Girodet’s artistic revolt was the epitomy of the champagne socialist. A gilded dissent without any feeling or empathy for the sufferings and deprivations for the commoner. An elitist with a profound and pronounced individualism that was extreme. An early star of celebrity culture, but also thoroughly modern and a sense of the heroic in creating the conditions, the aesthetic bases of modern consumer culture whose romanticism would later be corrupted into pop culture. Girodet’s radical individualism would fit into Thomas Frank’s discussion today of the Rebel Cool.

…The French Revolution was not only a revolution against an oppressive government, but also against a way of thinking — thinking that regarded some human beings as inferior by nature to other innately superior human beings. It was a revolution for humanity as a whole.

It was initially a bourgeois revolution against aristocratic authority — Bellenger regards Girodet as a “bourgeois revolutionary” — that briefly became a populist revolution during the Terror. However short-lived and anarchical, this historical moment of populist rebellion became the model for future humanistic revolutions. Supposedly, the social destructiveness and terror they let lose are for the good of humanity as a whole — clearly a very abstract humanity. Nonetheless, humanistic revolutions insist that all human beings have the same rights. This is the point of Girodet’s Portrait of Citizen Belley, Ex-Representative of the Colonies (1797), “the first example of a black man represented in the official position of a Western political legislator,” as Bellenger says. It is clearly a statement of liberty, equality and fraternity. Humanistic revolutions also imply that high socioeconomic class and influence does not necessarily mean “natural” superiority to those of lesser socioeconomic class. And that all human beings can rise into positions of sociopolitical importance, assuming they have the merit to do so and the ability to function in them…

---Etienne Georget, who commissioned the pictures, was an interesting theorist in his own right. His many original ideas included the belief that insanity was on the increase, in the early years of the nineteenth century, thanks chiefly to the great upheavals that had altered the political and social fabric of Europe during the previous 30 or 40 years. The principal factors that he cited were the spread of education to all social classes; the effects of the Industrial Revolution such as the expansion of cities; and the widespread political uncertainty caused by world-shaking events such as the French Revolution and the rise and fall of Napoleon. With circumstances such as these “galvanising the mind of man, setting his soul in turmoil and putting every single one of his passions in play” it was no wonder, Georget believed, that so many people should be slipping into insanity. --- Read More:

…This is why the French Revolution in its most populist phase inevitably led to the ideal of a classless society. Little did Girodet realize that when he attacked David, his artistic super-ego, he would be opening the floodgates of modern lunatic creativity — modern artistic chaos (more politely, “democratic diversity,” which means diversity without an “aristocratic” hierarchy of value, and thus with no “classical” standards of excellence) — while at the same time carrying the banner of liberty, equality and fraternity into an imaginary socialist future. And also into sensationalist mass culture, where everyone has the same right to be entertained. Girodet’s romantic paintings are, after all, still good entertainment, much more so than most movies. Read More:

Haber:One can almost call his Sleeping Endymion, painted in 1791, a bisexual epic. Hovering at the left, Diana has the more masculine features, the vitality of a hunter goddess, and a lascivious grin. Her prey lies asleep, in the traditional pose of a female nude, an intense light caressing his stomach and thighs. A small, round patch of sky, surrounded by thick foliage, further associates his ravishment with that of a woman, and it transposes day into night. Girodet, then twenty-four, never reached such transgressive heights again. ---Read More:


It was not important for white people to recognize their superiority to black people, what was important was that black people recognized their inferiority to white people. In a nation that praised “liberté, égalité et fraternité” it became apparent to both white and black people that the idea of slavery was a contradiction. This was problematic for France, as the country‟s economy relied heavily on its five hundred thousand slaves cultivating sugar and coffee in Saint-Dominigue. Thus, the term “race” became much more salient in France‟s debate on equality. As Antoine Barnave pointed out, “in order to provide a moral means for thirty five thousand whites to control five hundred thousand blacks, it is necessary to uphold the immoral prejudice of colour.” Without a moral basis for colonial rule, a fabricated one had to suffice….

…Girodet, then, had to represent Belley as a responsible French leader due to the uncertainty of France‟s position in Saint-Dominigue while sustaining a condescending tone in his work. Similar to the position of France in the colony, he had to elevate Belley to a certain status without making him an equal. He appears to be a civilized French gentleman, yet still presented in such a way that coveys barbarianism or a lack of civilization. As Homi Bhabha, post-colonial theorist, has pointed out, it is as if Belley is represented as a “mimic man… almost the same but not white.” His bright and overly polished clothing alludes to indulgence, referring to the new bourgeoisie, often called the Merveilleuses and
the Incroyables, who were seen as social pretenders and sexually debauched. Though his face is lined with age, referring to wisdom, and his expression is one of thoughtful seriousness, there is a sharp contrast when comparing him to other portraits done of white Revolutionary figures in the same era. Read More:

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