The essays that comprise this volume exemplify the best aspects of recent Caillebotte scholarship. They employ a variety of perspectives to examine the ways in which his art sheds light on the formation of individual and class identities in Paris during the early years of the Third Republic—an era of transition marked by the burgeoning of capitalism and the instabilities of newly shifting gender roles in the modern world.
Addressing a wide range of major paintings by Caillebotte, the contributors reveal the compound ways in which the artist encoded his images and the multiple interpretations to which these images are susceptible. Juxtaposed so as to complement and challenge one another, these essays build a provocative whole as they probe issues of spectatorship and authorial intention. The contributors—all internationally known scholars and art professionals—create an important theoretical framework for the discussion of Caillebotte’s work.
“My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word, to make you hear, to make you feel—it is, before all, to make you see. That—and no more, and it is every-thing.” So wrote Joseph Conrad in the best-known account of literary impressionism, the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century movement featuring narratives that paint pictures in readers’ minds. If literary impressionism is anything, it is the project to turn prose into vision.But vision of what? Michael Fried demonstrates that the impressionists sought to compel readers not only to see what was described and narrated but also to see writing itself. Fried reads Conrad, Stephen Crane, Frank Norris, W. H. Hudson, Ford Madox Ford, H. G. Wells, Jack London, Rudyard Kipling, Erskine Childers, R. B. Cunninghame Graham, and Edgar Rice Burroughs as avatars of the scene of writing. The upward-facing page, pen and ink, the look of written script, and the act of inscription are central to their work. These authors confront us with the sheer materiality of writing, albeit disguised and displaced so as to allow their narratives to proceed to their ostensible ends.What Was Literary Impressionism? radically reframes a large body of important writing. One of the major art historians and art critics of his generation, Fried turns to the novel and produces a rare work of insight and erudition that transforms our understanding of some of the most challenging fiction in the English language.
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