Realizations

Realizations: Narrative, Pictorial, and Theatrical Arts in Nineteenth-Century England

MARTIN MEISEL
Copyright Date: 1983
Pages: 492
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7ztp77
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  • Book Info
    Realizations
    Book Description:

    In this richly illustrated study of the relationship of art, drama, and fiction in the nineteenth century, Martin Meisel illuminates the collaboration between storytelling and picturemaking that informed narrative painting, pictorial dramaturgy, and serial illustrated fiction.

    Originally published in 1984.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5609-1
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-xvi)
  4. A NOTE AND SOME ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xvii-2)
  5. A MATTER OF STYLE
    (pp. 3-14)

    This book explores some relations between fiction, painting, and drama in the nineteenth century. It keeps mainly to Britain but occasionally looks abroad, especially to France and Germany. It is concerned with formal similarities and with expressive and narrative conventions that fiction, painting, and drama shared, and less abstractly with the intricate web of local connections that show the arts to be one living tissue. I attend to such connections for the period between David Wilkie’s coming to London to make his fortune as a painter in 1805, and Henry Irving’s departure from the Lyceum Theatre, having lost his fortune...

  6. PART I: COORDINATES
    • 1 THE MOMENT’S STORY: PAINTING
      (pp. 17-28)

      The union of inward signification with a particularized material reality, the goal of so much nineteenth-century art, is best achieved and understood in a narrative of human affairs. The painters who entered the nineteenth century doubted this no more than did the novelists who flourished at its height; but the narrative aspect implicit in any depiction of public or private events raised theoretical and practical problems that were special to picture-making. To tell a story requires time, and time itself is what a story represents, as a change of state in material or psychological reality. The temporality of narrative was...

    • 2 ILLUSTRATION AND REALIZATION
      (pp. 29-37)

      An exchange between poet and painter over an illustration in Moxon’s landmark edition of Tennyson’sPoems(1857) shows the strains of the manifold collaboration of narrative and picture in the middle of the nineteenth century. Tennyson objected to Holman Hunt’s illustration of “The Beggar Maid” on grounds that the picture contained elements not given in the poem. Hunt thought Tennyson had missed the essential point, and said so with his usual vigorous conviction: “I feel that you do not enough allow for the difference of requirements in our two arts,” Hunt told Tennyson. “In mine it is needful to trace...

    • 3 SPEAKING PICTURES: THE DRAMA
      (pp. 38-51)

      The revolution in the drama that took hold in the age of revolutions entailed a change in the relation of the subordinate parts to the design of the whole, and indeed a change in the fundamental building block of the play. The perception of what was essentially “dramatic” changed accordingly, and with it, relations between image and action, in the theater and out of it. The nature of these changes in the making and staging of plays is the special concern of this chapter.

      In the inherited drama, the building block of the play was transitive and rhetorical. It was...

    • 4 TELLING SCENES: THE NOVEL
      (pp. 52-68)

      The novel, like the play and the picture, is a mimetic art in that most novels imitate other novels. But thanks to its relatively late appearance and low esteem, the novel long lacked the critical “rules” and academic canons that stiffened the spine of drama and painting. It has therefore been particularly open in form and substance to local conditions and the incursive influence of its neighbors, especially in the nineteenth century when its appetite for materials, acceptable formal alternatives, and inspiration grew gargantuan.

      Seeking a vocabulary to describe their work (and seeking perhaps the support of more firmly established...

    • 5 THE ART OF EFFECT
      (pp. 69-88)

      The sensation of the Royal Academy exhibition of 1842 was Daniel Maclise’s painting,The Play Scene in Hamlet. An admiring reviewer had these words to say:

      He dares to tell the whole of a story, some will say, do say, theatrically—that we consider no dispraise. It is the business of the dramatist to make good pictures, and whether it be done by the players or the painter, what matter, so they be effective, and the story worth telling; and how shall they be better told than as the author intended they should be represented? The boards of the theatre...

  7. PART II: CONJUNCTIONS
    • 6 PREAMBLE TO THE PICTURE PLAY
      (pp. 91-96)

      When Luis Buñuel recreates Leonardo’sLast SupperinViridiana(1961) as a grotesque feast of beggars, and when Robert Altman parodies both inM*A*S*H(1970)—and the actors freeze in their da Vincian attitudes to call attention to the joke—these directors reinvent a device sporadic in earlier films and characteristic of their predecessor and progenitor, the nineteenth-century picture stage. For example,The Last Supperwas reproduced in David Belasco’s theatrical production of Salmi Moses’Passion Play(1879), which was in effect a gallery of paintings on the stage. It appeared again in a silent-era equivalent,Christus(1917), an Italian...

    • 7 FROM HOGARTH TO CRUIKSHANK
      (pp. 97-141)

      To begin with the incipient pictorialism of the eighteenth-century theater is not simply a matter of historical justice. Hogarth dramatized, in the eighteenth century and then in the nineteenth, offers a contrast in possibilities, a contrast that speaks to the nature of dramatic genre and its effect on the materials upon which drama works. To judge by results, genre was not much more than a bundle of expectations for the audience, and an array of opportunities for the playwright and performer. It was not a fixed form—the practical artist is as much concerned with novelty as with repeating earlier...

    • 8 THE POLITICS OF DOMESTIC DRAMA: DAVID WILKIE
      (pp. 142-165)

      Two seasons after the success of Planché’sBrigandat Drury Lane, that much-violated temple of legitimacy produced Douglas Jerrold’s pictorial and domestic melodrama,The Rent Day(25 Jan. 1832). Jerrold was then a struggling antiestablishment journalist, still nearly a decade away fromPunch, but already a well-established writer for the minor theaters, author of some three dozen plays includingFifteen Years of a Drunkard’s Life(1828),Black-Ey’d Susan(1829), andMartha Willis,the Servant Maid(1831). The last is a play that owes a substantial debt to Hogarth (A Harlot’s Progress), and “abounds in strong and highly-wrought pictures of real...

    • 9 THE MATERIAL SUBLIME: JOHN MARTIN, BYRON, AND TURNER
      (pp. 166-188)

      If nothing else, domestic realism in its homeliest dress was a welcome antidote to the varieties of sublimity that passed from theory into practice in the late eighteenth century, and then evolved and differentiated through Romantic fiction, exclamatory poesy, the acting of tragedy and melodrama, and the more grandiose forms of painting and music. There was no monolithic uniformity about the sublime as practiced, nor was it fixed and unchanging as a category of response in audiences, viewers, and readers. Something of its fate in the nineteenth century can be learned from considering the translation of the work of two...

    • 10 PERILS OF THE DEEP
      (pp. 189-200)

      Of the three main branches of melodrama that had differentiated successively by 1830,The Brigandcontinued the Romantic strain—and appeared as “A Romantic Drama” on the playbills—whileThe Rent Daygave impetus to the domestic strain. The first, with a lingering Gothic echo here and there, was consciously “picturesque” in conception; the second was consciously “realistic,” that is, homely and familiar. The intervening nautical strain, Michael Booth suggests, was partly Romantic, partly domestic, a doubleness that worked to the advantage of both sensation and sentiment.²

      Nautical melodrama, drawing on the circus and water-tank spectacles of the Napoleonic wars,...

    • 11 NAPOLEON; OR, HISTORY AS SPECTACLE
      (pp. 201-228)

      In July 1830, in France, England, and much of Europe, the French Revolution and the Empire of Napoleon became history. The promotion (or relegation) of a given segment of the past to the status of history is a psychological event, not entirely governed by the lapse of time and the succession of generations. Often an external event precipitates the change. World War II made history of World War I; and similarly the July Revolution made history of the first French Revolution and of the grand Empire.

      There were, of course, special reasons. In France, Restoration and reaction, under Louis XVIII...

    • 12 ROYAL SITUATIONS
      (pp. 229-246)

      Little Arthur’s history, as Shaw called the genre,¹ anecdotal, familiar, and scaled to domestic requirements, gave more opportunity to the storytellers in paint and words in the nineteenth century than did the dialectic of the hero and the crowd. To forego heroic action and panoramic spectacle, however, did not mean relinquishing the art of effect. Indeed, in the inherited Gothic tradition, which depended upon the trappings of exoticism and in turn colored much historical representation, history was nothing if not effect. But at the same time, in the shifting experience of artists and audiences in the nineteenth century, another impulse...

    • 13 NOVELS IN EPITOME
      (pp. 247-282)

      An industry devoted to the theatrical realization of novels on the stage—the fate of much popular fiction in the nineteenth century—casts a refracted light on the art of conjoining verbal and pictorial narrative, in the book designed for reading no less than in the play designed for viewing. In the following pages, I concentrate on some of the novels of Dickens and Ainsworth and how they were brought upon the stage. Since the order is partly chronological, one can follow the establishment, tentative at first, of what became the standard method for enacting the serial illustrated novel. That...

    • 14 PRISONERS BASE
      (pp. 283-301)

      Ascene that presents a readable and interesting narrative configuration is unlikely to be wholly original or wholly stereotyped. The recognizable component is usually in the disposition of the figures; but often the setting plays an essential role, entering the drama with the force of a character. I intend to explore one such configuration in the heart of the century: a prison scene, a local development within the larger history of prison scenes, but one specially tuned to the period sensibility. Like any such configuration, it was varied and inflected, but it was essentially a prison scene with a domestic reference....

    • 15 DICKENS’ ROMAN DAUGHTER
      (pp. 302-321)

      Toasting the Chair at the Theatrical Fund dinner of 1858, Dickens graciously asserted that “every writer of fiction, though he may not adopt the dramatic form, writes in effect for the stage.”¹ The Chair’s occupant—so overcome with emotion that he could barely reply—happened on this occasion to be Thackeray. Dickens could be comfortable with his declaration because he saw a firm distinction between the dramatic and the theatrical (see above, p. 81). That distinction allowed him to incorporate the dramatic as action and pathos, and exploit the theatrical as the stagey speech and behavior and the burlesqued melodramatics...

    • 16 THE PARADOX OF THE COMEDIAN: THACKERAY AND GOETHE
      (pp. 322-350)

      The consciousness of an audience, for Dickens the critical difference between a “theatrical” and a “dramatic” performance, was not a matter of great concern to Thackeray. It was the self-consciousness of the performer that intrigued and worried him: the self-consciousness at the heart of the mystery in Diderot’sParadoxe sur Ie comédien(not printed till 1830), a treatise that has challenged and informed discussions on acting ever since. But if Thackeray was troubled by the self-consciousness of the performer, he was also deeply skeptical of alternative ideals of performative art, such as sincerity. The issues involved were moral and social...

    • 17 PRE-RAPHAELITE DRAMA
      (pp. 351-372)

      In Edward Mayhew’s 1840 treatise on stage effect, “situation” was conceived as multiple and climactic, as in the serial narrative and dramatic versions of Ainsworth’sJack Sheppard, with which the treatise was nearly contemporary. “Situation” does not yet have the sense of a singular underlying configuration of persons and things from which a story or an action unfolds prospectively or retrospectively. Mayhew’s definition is worth repeating:

      To theatrical minds the word “situation” suggests some strong point in a play likely to command applause; where the action is wrought to a climax, where the actors strike attitudes, and form what they...

    • 18 W. P. FRITH AND THE SHAPE OF MODERN LIFE
      (pp. 373-401)

      In 1881, Émile Zola distilled the fruit of his four years as a drama critic into the polemic entitledNaturalism in the Theater. In a section on costume in which he recapitulates its evolution toward realism, he lashes out at present standards that still prevent the emergence of a drama re-creating the lives of most of the inhabitants of modern society. He argues that an appetite for spectacle and display and a limited concept of authenticity not only falsify the dramatic representation of contemporary society in its higher reaches, but rule out that vast majority of the population who do...

    • 19 IRVING AND THE ARTISTS
      (pp. 402-432)

      Between 1878, when Irving assumed control, and 1902, when he played there for the last time, Henry Irving’s Lyceum Theatre flourished as a Temple of Art. No English theater had aspired to that status before, certainly not since Drury Lane, weighed down by its legitimacy, had borrowed the entertainments of the circus and the minor theaters to fill the house. In the interval other houses and managements had established reputations for splendor, for archaeology, for elegance and refinement, even for Shakespeare; but none achieved or sought the special congregational reverence and hieratic tone that marked the Lyceum. From 1890 on,...

    • THE LAST WORD
      (pp. 433-438)

      Everything I have had to say about the nineteenth-century narrative pictorial style bespeaks the compounding of eye and ear, not necessarily as sensory channels, but as cognitive aspects of the comprehensive experience of a work of art. Yet, in the passage where he retrospectively attributes to himself the role of Hercules cleansing the Augean stables of nineteenth-century poetics, Yeats, whose life’s work began as Irving’s was reaching its climax, rejects such compounding as a premise for his art. He asserts a poetic decorum based on the medium and the senses, “bringing all back to syntax … for ear alone”; a...

  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 439-454)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 455-471)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 472-472)