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PUBLISHED: 1892
PAGES: 121

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French Art – Classic and Contemporary Painting and Sculpture

By W. C. Brownell

It saved French painting an immense amount of fumbling, laborious experimentation, crudity, and failure. But it stamped it with an essential artificiality from which it did not fully recover for over two hundred years until, insensibly, it had built up its traditions and gradually brought about its inherent development. In a word, French painting had an intellectual rather than an emotional origin.

Its first practitioners were men of culture rather than feeling; they were inspired by the artistic, constructive, and fashion rather than the poetic spirit. And so evident is this inclination in even contemporary French painting–and indeed in all French √¶sthetic expression–that it cannot be ascribed wholly to the circumstances mentioned. The circumstances themselves need an explanation, and it is found in the constitution itself of the French mind, which (owing, doubtless, to other circumstances, but that is extraneous) is fundamentally less imaginative…

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W. C. Brownell

Brownell graduated from Amherst College in 1871, from where he also later received two honorary degrees.

Biography

From 1871 to 1879, he wrote for the New York World and was on The Nation’s staff from 1879 to 1881. From 1888 until 1926, he was a literary advisor at Charles Scribner’s Sons. He published French Traits (1889), an essay in comparative criticism; French Art (1892), classic and contemporary painting and sculpture; Newport (1896); Victorian Prose Masters (1901); American Prose Masters (1909).

Brownell married Virginia S. Swinburne in 1878. Ten years after she died in 1911, he married Gertrude Hall (1863-1961), the writer, poet, and translator (not to be confused with Anna Gertrude Hall, the children’s writer). In her autobiography, A Backward Glance, Edith Wharton mentions him appreciatively as one of the finest literary men of his age and a significant contributor to the New York literary scene. His studies of the later English prose writers were highly regarded and deservedly praised; he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

W. C. Brownell

W. C. Brownell