Balzac and artists

Between Myth and Reality

Du 17 juin 2016 au 02 octobre 2016

Balzac and Artists: Between Myth and Reality

17 June 2016 to 2 October 2016

From the small wooden table on which the entirety of La Comedie Humaine was written, to the very recent portraits of the author by Eduardo Arroyo or Olivier Blackhart, the Maison de Balzac explores, through its expositions, the gaze brought on the artistic creation of Honoré de Balzac.

We know that he wrote alone, often during the night. His office, which has recently undergone a renovation, and is one of the most moving rooms in the museum, provides a unique opportunity to imagine him facing his own imagination, setting on a piece of paper precise descriptions of a purely imaginary world.

This exposition confronts this mythic image of the night worker, matched with the reality of the oeuvre of a grand artist strongly marked by contemporary thought. Opera halls, newspaper reviews, and literary gathering offered many occasions for artists to run into each other. In the brilliant salon of Delphine de Girardin, Balzac rubbed shoulders with Alphonse de Lamartine, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, George Sand, Alfred de Musset, and Franz Liszt. This relationships more or less amiable exerted a profound and stimulating influence on Balzac, allowing him to throw himself into what were sometimes audacious political and artistic enterprises. He did not hesitate to request help from specialists to better understand music or painting, or to request the expertise of his friends in writing pieces of theatre or poems that he could insert in his own novels. Several characters in La Comedie Humaine were inspired by these strong personalities. But it was also realisations, sculptures, engravings, pieces of theatre that provoked these characters, that brought about new ideas, new novels.

This complex reality was obscured by the representation of Balzac that was firstly exaggerated and became  progressively heroic that was created very early on by painters, sculptors, and illustrators. Their works, from 1830 up until today, suggest diverse facets of the author with which they enrich the myth, and their portraits of Balzac, alone or in a group, create so many interpretations of Balzac’s oeuvres that future artistic renderings are prevented.

A découvrir durant l'exposition

Balzac par Arroyo, photomontage
Lamartine par Lehmann
Grande course au clocher académique par Grandville
Panthéon du Diable à Paris : La Littérature par Bertall
Moeurs administratives par Monnier : dix heures