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Dreams of Happiness

Dreams of Happiness: Social Art and the French Left, 1830-1850

Neil McWilliam
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 400
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    Dreams of Happiness
    Book Description:

    Responding to the decline of the monarchy and the church in post-revolutionary France, theorists representing a wide spectrum of leftist ideologies proposed comprehensive blueprints for society that assigned a crucial role to aesthetics. In this full-length investigation of social romanticism, Neil McWilliam explores the profound impact of radical philosophies on contemporary aesthetics and art criticism, and traces efforts to conscript the arts for doctrinal ends. He highlights the complexity and diversity of systems such as Saint-Simonianism, Fourierism, Republicanism, and Christian Socialism--movements that set out to exploit the ameliorative effect of aesthetic form on human consciousness--and challenges the previous linking of social art to narrow didacticism. This book seeks an understanding both of the conventions of artistic judgment and reception and of the aims and significance of radical political ideologies. Drawing on a broad spectrum of previously neglected journalistic criticism, visual material, and archival sources, together with key political texts by figures such as Saint-Simon, Philippe Buchez, and Pierre Leroux, this work reveals an important facet of radical history and modifies received understandings of French art in the wake of Romanticism. In the process it probes the role of culture within oppositional political practice, arguing that the ultimate failure to realize a social art exposes the limits of the radicals' break with dominant discourse and their hesitancy in forging links with a culturally disenfranchised working class.

    Originally published in .

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-8724-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Abbreviations (pp. xv-2)
  6. CHAPTER 1 Introduction (pp. 3-30)

    In the prospectus to hisJournal de la Société de 1789, issued in the summer of 1790, the philosopher Condorcet called for the elaboration of anart social. Coined as part of a trinity completed by a social science and a social mathematics, the term was used to evoke the rational organization of collective life according to the principles of human nature in order to afford greatest happiness to the greatest number.¹ Some hundred years later, in November 1891, the phrase had been promoted to the masthead of a new monthly review sponsored by the “Club de l’Art social,” an...

  7. CHAPTER 2 Saint-Simon and the Promotion of a Social Aesthetic (pp. 31-53)

    Although a number of commentators during the eighteenth century had revitalized traditional notions of the moral influence of art, advocacy of a social aesthetic on the left during the mid nineteenth century owed much to the example of Count Claude-Henri de Rouvroy de Saint-Simon. An impecunious former soldier and sometime speculator under the Revolution, this descendant of a long and distinguished aristocratic line played a pivotal role in the development of French socialist thought. If his ideas on social organization and industrial expansion were to enjoy brief but spectacular exposure by an avid group of disciples during the late 1820s...

  8. CHAPTER 3 From Positivism to Sentiment: The Aesthetics of Saint-Simonianism (pp. 54-88)

    The evolution of Saint-Simonianism in the years following the master’s death amplified elements discernible in the writings of Saint-Simon himself, moving from an initial emphasis on positivism toward the cultivation of a mystical antirationalism. This trajectory allowed the development of an aesthetic endowing the artist with a superior vision and potential social influence far surpassing anything envisaged in the doctrine inherited by the new group. Their assertion of these enhanced powers informed a complex theory of art expounded in the Saint-Simonian press, through special lectures and in exhortatory texts, culminating in the celebratedAux artistesby the group’s principal aesthetician,...

  9. CHAPTER 4 Theory into Practice: The Frustration of Saint-Simonian Aesthetics (pp. 89-122)

    Historians of social romanticism rarely neglect the opportunity to reproduce the roll call of cultural luminaries attracted by the Saint-Simonians. We are reminded that Sainte-Beuve, Berlioz, Vigny, and Liszt attended doctrinal gatherings, while George Sand and Maxime du Camp were impressed by the philosophy in a more diffuse, though nonetheless profound, way.¹ Among committed disciples, Charles Duveyrier and Emile Barrault brought the group’s ideas to the stage, while Félicien David set them to music.² Yet although the Saint-Simonians could claim some success in literature and music, their impact on the visual arts appears to have been slight. Their theoretical influence...

  10. CHAPTER 5 Sentiment and Faith: Philippe Buchez and His Circle (pp. 123-164)

    With the secession of Philippe Buchez in December 1829, the Saint-Simonians lost one of their most prominent members.¹ Over the next two decades, culminating in his appointment as president of the National Assembly in 1848, Buchez acted as an important focus for a number of currents in the contemporary social movement. As the self-professed inheritor of Saint-Simonian orthodoxy, he attracted such dissidents as the playwright and critic Hippolyte Auger and the sculptor Théophile Bra, while his gravitation toward Catholicism in the mid 1830s brought an influx of young artists and writers onto his journal L’Européen, providing a link with the...

  11. CHAPTER 6 Pierre Leroux and the Aesthetics of Humanité (pp. 165-187)

    Although his adherence to Saint-Simonianism was short-lived, Pierre Leroux’s contact with the group represents an important element in a political and philosophical career spanning half a century. A self-taught print worker, Leroux achieved early prominence, establishing the daily paperLe Globein 1824, when he was only twenty-seven, and attracting such figures as Sainte-Beuve, Rémusat, and Lerminier. In relinquishing editorship to the Saint-Simonian Michel Chevalier in November 1830, he not only provided the sect with an invaluable platform, but also demonstrated his disillusionment with the liberal tradition that had triumphed following the July Revolution. His early involvement with the Eclectics...

  12. CHAPTER 7 The Beauty of Happiness: Art Social and Fourierist Criticism (pp. 188-266)

    In the year that saw the dispersal of the Saint-Simonians’ convent at Ménilmontant and the imprisonment of the group’s leaders, a new journal appeared devoted to the ideas of one of the most vociferous rivals of Enfantin and his sect, Charles Fourier. The publication ofLe Phalanstérein 1832 initiated the growth of Fourierism as a radical force, a position it maintained until the early years of the Second Empire. Unlike Saint-Simon, who enjoyed only a posthumous notoriety, Fourier was able to witness the growth of a small but avid group of devotees before his death in 1837. Recognition had...

  13. CHAPTER 8 Vision and Virtue: The Aesthetics of Republicanism (pp. 267-314)

    The years bounded by the revolutions of June 1830 and February 1848 witnessed the reassertion of a vigorous republican tradition in France, firmly opposed to the Orléanist monarch whose constitutional regime had emerged from the struggle against the Bourbons. Less a coherent movement than a fluctuating alliance, republicanism covered a broad ideological spectrum from moderate reformists seeking limited political change to revolutionary socialists committed to a comprehensive reordering of the nation’s economic institutions in the interests of the laboring poor.¹ The volatility of political life under the July Monarchy, punctuated by insurrectionary explosions and abortive attempts on the king’s life,...

  14. CHAPTER 9 Conclusion (pp. 315-346)

    In an unfinished account of the cooperative associations that sprang up in Paris following the February Revolution, the locksmith and people’s deputy Jérôme-Pierre Gilland offers a glimpse of the ideological work of the work of art in a mass democracy.¹ Describing a visit to a tailors’ collective in the faubourg Saint-Denis, he recalls the sight of three popular prints decorating the workshop’s walls: a portrait of the radical leader Armand Barbès, an image of Christ trampling the demon of pride flanked by allegories of Liberty and Equality, and a personification of the Republic—one of many such—whose emblematic trappings...

  15. Bibliography (pp. 347-376)
  16. Index (pp. 377-385)