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John Bull and the Continent

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Edited By Wojciech Jasiakiewicz and Jakub Lipski

Ever since John Arbuthnot published The History of John Bull in 1712, the figure of John Bull has stereotypically personified the best and the worst traits of the British (or English) national character. The present work takes the eponymous juxtaposition as an incentive to study the variety of multi-faceted contacts between the two sides. Given the recent attempts at a re-definition of the relationship between Britain and the Continent – best visible in the turmoil over Britain’s EU membership – the results of the research will hopefully stimulate discussion about John Bull’s ever-changing presence within or without the Continent.
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The influence of continental symbolism, impressionism and post-impressionism on British writers and painters

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Between derivativeness and originality

The multifarious ways in which Continental and especially French literary and artistic movements affected British writers and painters at the turn of the twentieth century testify that they may have lagged behind their European peers. In this respect, however, a distinction between British Impressionism and Symbolism in visual arts and in literature is conspicuous: whereas the former were partly derivative in their technique, the latter did not merely copy a Continental style of writing. In other words, the concepts reminiscent of Impressionism and Symbolism had been immanent in English tradition, traced back to the beginnings of Romanticism and the anticipation of Aestheticism. Moreover, it is even a moot point whether the influence was unilateral or, on the contrary, mutual. As a matter of fact, such writers as Oscar Wilde or W.B. Yeats were inspired not only by French Symbolist poets or Impressionist painters, but also by the national heritage established by William Blake, S.T. Coleridge, John Keats, the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood’s artistic ideas or the work and criticism of Edgar Allan Poe (himself influenced by the aforementioned English poets), who, in turn, had a powerful impact on French Symbolist poets. At the same time, it is necessary to do justice to Aubrey Beardsley, James Whistler, Alfred Sisley, Walter Sickert or Roger Fry who were, admittedly, determined by the Impressionist techniques, but who also managed to fashion their own recognisable and highly idiosyncratic style of painting.

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