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Aesthetic Rivalries

Word and Image in France, 1880–1926


Linda Goddard

This book explores interaction and competition between painting and literature in France, from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth, offering new readings of works by key figures including Paul Gauguin, Stéphane Mallarmé, Pablo Picasso and André Gide. Combining close visual and literary analysis with a broader examination of critical discourse, the volume uncovers a mutual but often contentious exchange of ideas. The author challenges habits of periodisation, drawing attention to the links between Symbolist and Cubist criticism. Issues such as the debate about ‘literary’ painting, the role of art criticism and artists’ writings, as well as themes such as newspapers and gold, alchemy and forgery, are shown to connect the two centuries. In examining how the rejection of mimesis in painting affected literary responses to the visual arts, the book explores a shift in power from the verbal to the visual in the early decades of the twentieth century.


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Chapter 4 - Mallarmé, Picasso and the Aesthetic of the Newspaper 163


Chapter 4 Mallarmé, Picasso and the Aesthetic of the Newspaper Poetic Gold or Paper Money? In ‘Crise de vers’ (1897), Mallarmé wrote that the act of composing poetry ‘involves suddenly realising that an idea breaks itself down into a number of motifs of equal value, and grouping them’.1 This principle of fragmenta- tion and unity is embodied in the typographical arrangement of his 1897 poem ‘Un coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard’ much as it is in the assemblage of paper fragments in Picasso’s 1912 papiers collés.2 Organised across the double spread of the page, words and phrases in ‘Un coup de Dés’ belong simultaneously to dif ferent syntactic groups.3 The title, integrated into the main body of the text, and the surrounding white with which it interacts, are equally important components of the poem. The final line, ‘Toute Pensée émet un Coup de Dés’, brings the work full circle so that the 1 ‘consiste à voir soudain qu’une idée se fractionne en un nombre de motifs égaux par valeur et à les grouper’. Mallarmé, ‘Crise de vers’ (1897), Mallarmé, 1998–2003, vol. 2, p. 209. For the gestation of ‘Crise de vers’, see Chapter 1, n. 44. An earlier version of part of this chapter was published as ‘Mallarmé, Picasso and the Aesthetic of the Newspaper’ in Word & Image, vol. 22, no. 4, October–December 2006, pp. 293–303. 2 The capitalisation follows that stipulated by Mallarmé on the proofs for the abortive 1897...

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