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Jean Delville's La Mission de l'Art: Hegelian Echoes in fin-de-siècle Idealism

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Jean Delville was not only a gifted painter, but also a prolific author, poet and polemicist. He is unique amongst his artistic contemporaries for having written extensively on the subject of Idealism in art. Idealist philosophy, as an intellectual influence, was fairly pervasive amongst contemporary non-realist authors, poets and painters; the core nineteenth-century influence in this regard was the writings of Arthur Schopenhauer. Delville, however, took a different path, particularly in his seminal book, La Mission de l'Art, and his various polemical essays on the subject, which reflect, rather, key ideas derived from the writings of the German Idealist, G.W.F. Hegel. Hegel's influence on late-nineteenth century non-realist art is understated in the literature. This paper analyses the main ideas of Delville's La Mission de l'Art in the context of Hegelian Idealism. It focuses on key areas of this tradition, specifically with regard to the nature of the Idea and the Ideal, the relation of the Ideal to the natural world, the relation between the Idea and the notion of Beauty and the special role of the artist in revealing the Idea in physical form.

Affiliations: 1: Eton College

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