May 7, 2008 at 1:18 pm | Posted in art, Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Johann Heinrich Füssli (1741-1825)

Le Désespoir de l’artiste devant la grandeur des ruines antiques, 1778-1880

The despair of the artist before the grandeur of ancient ruins… And honestly, what artist among us hasn’t felt like this some days?

This sketch is from the exhibit L’Âge d’or du romantisme Allemand: Aquarelles et dessins à l’époque de Goethe, currently on at the Musee de la Vie Romantique. It may not be the most fashionable style these days — the people will have their realists and impressionists — but the passion and drama of Romanticism has always had a strange attraction for me: the desolate landscapes, the fascination with overlooked periods of art and architecture, the easy familiarity with death and the supernatural… The idea is to be swept away by the visceral impact of art, instead of dispassionately admiring the skill of the artist.

While the style may sometimes veer into base sentimentality, I’m nevertheless drawn to its ideal of privileging subjective experience — as Casper David Friedrich put it, “The painter must not be content to paint what he sees before him, but also what he sees in himself.”

P.S. Since the exhibit was devoted almost entirely to pen and ink drawings and watercolors, it might be of some interest to the illustrators in my audience.

Musée de la Vie romantique
Hôtel Scheffer-Renan
16 rue Chaptal – 75009 Paris
until June 15th



  1. love this post and the drawing, too.
    yes, we have all felt that despair.
    it’s the joy and pain of artistic

  2. Thanks for your sweet comment, Cindy! Nobody ever has much to say about my art posts (which doesn’t mean I’ll stop writing them!), so it’s nice to know that someone appreciated it.

  3. oh, i miss paris for the art! tho i did get museum sickness at the lourve (sp?) haha! you make me want to return to the city of lights!!

  4. the nutella crepes and chocolate mousee
    are worth missing, too. =p~

  5. “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” of course is the famous line. God, I love that poem.

    So I thought I’d throw in the rest of Shelley’s poem. Thanks for a thoughtful post and a wonderful, wonderful blog. and looking forward to the pique-nique on the 24th!

    “I met a traveller from an antique land
    Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
    Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
    Half sunk, a shatter’d visage lies, whose frown
    And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
    Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
    Which yet survive, stamp’d on these lifeless things,
    The hand that mock’d them and the heart that fed.
    And on the pedestal these words appear:
    “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains: round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

  6. Thanks for posting that, Polly! The great Ozymandias may be forgotten, but I’m glad a few of us at least remember Shelley. 😉

  7. Amazing story, thanks for sharing

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