Passionate Discontent

Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art

Patricia Mathews

Passionate Discontent

Patricia Mathews

323 pages | 13 color plates, 92 halftones | 6-1/2 x 9-1/4 | © 1999
Cloth $54.00 ISBN: 9780226510187 Published April 2000
Passionate Discontent is an erudite study of the relationship between gender and genius in late nineteenth-century French Symbolism. Born in an era of crisis, the Symbolist art movement was characterized by withdrawal to a mystical, antibourgeois world of the mind and spirit. While Symbolists idealized the "poète maudit," a creative, mad genius exhibiting an emotional state of heightened awareness and "passionate discontent," female artists displaying similar symptoms were dismissed as hysterical.

Art historian Patricia Mathews traverses the artistic, social, and scientific discourses of fin-de-siècle France in order to illuminate the Symbolist construction of a feminized aesthetic that nonetheless excluded female artists from its realm. Along the way, Mathews proffers important new readings of the art of such Symbolists as Gauguin, van Gogh and Moreau, as well as that of their female contemporaries Camille Claudel and Suzanne Valadon. Passionate Discontent is an important contribution to art historical and women's studies.

List of Illustrations
1: The Symbolist Aesthetic
2: The Symbolist Aesthetic in Context: Commentary and Critique
3: The Ecstasy and the Agony: Creative Genius and Madness
4: The Gender of Creativity: Women, Pathology, and Camille Claudel
5: Gendered Bodies I: Sexuality, Spirituality, and Fear of Woman
6: Symbolist Women Artists: Practice and Reception
7: Gendered Bodies II: Paul Gauguin
8: Gendered Bodies III: Suzanne Valadon
Conclusions and Contiguous Connections

College Art Association: Charles Rufus Morey Award
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