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Impressionists and Love...

Impressionists and Love is the most recent of my lectures which I had the pleasure of delivering for the first time to the Society of Friends of the Musée de l'Annonciade in Saint-Tropez last February.

In the 19th century, love was serious business, especially after the frivolous behavior of the previous century. In this time of exaltation of feelings, we no longer joke with love, we transcend it, and this continues until marriage, considered the Holy Grail of romantic love.

This love aspires to total fusion, uniting individuals in life and in death – an unfortunately all-too-common reality. The unfortunate heroes of the 19th century often died young, struck by fate, tuberculosis, poverty or despair. Some rush into the clear waters like Ophelia, while others perish under the gaze of their beloved ones.

John Everett Millais. Ophélie. 1852. Tate Britain
John Everett Millais. Ophélie. 1852. Tate Britain

At the same time, an astonishing coexistence takes shape between the angelic attitudes of romanticism and the masculine practices that manifest themselves in brothel exploits. It's the time of naive young girls and houses of pleasure! Sexuality is experienced and expressed differently depending on whether one is a man or a woman.

Edgar Degas. Femmes à la terrasse d’un café. 1877. Musée d’Orsay
Edgar Degas. Femmes à la terrasse d’un café. 1877. Musée d’Orsay

From 1860, a shift began. The romantic code begins to crack and the feeling of love evolves. Women enjoy greater mobility. Growing urbanization and gas lighting are changing behaviors, intensifying nightlife with balls, shows and operettas. A new practice then emerges between young people: flirting. This borrows elements from the old code while reconciling virginity, modesty and desire... A new era is looming.

Jean Béraud. Une Soirée. 1878. Musée d’Orsay
Jean Béraud. Une Soirée. 1878. Musée d’Orsay

In this new and evolving context, conducive to encounters and the development of relationships, one might think that the painters, witnesses of the mores of their time, would have represented on their canvases the gestures of affection, the kisses and the caresses of couples. lovers who assume their pleasure. However, with a few exceptions, amorous passion is rarely depicted. Rather, one represents the situations that favor it, capturing what transpires through the modesty of the looks and the awkwardness of the gestures retained...


The rest is to be discovered in the conference "Impressionists and Love"


In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...




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