Study Guide

Sentimental Education Art and Culture

By Gustave Flaubert

Art and Culture

L'Art Industriel was a hybrid establishment, wherein the functions of an art-journal and a picture-shop were combined. (1.1.17)

Monsieur Arnoux's work in the art field is what gets Frederick interested in painting to begin with. At L'Art Industriel, he's able to network—and eventually become friends—with all sorts of random artists and intellectuals. Does it rub off on him? Or does he never really become one of them?

He plumed himself on his knowledge of the language, and analysed the most beautiful phrases with that snarling severity, that academic taste which persons of playful disposition exhibit when they are discussing serious art. (1.4.83)

So this is Hussonet, philosophical man of the hour. Frederick does not find it interesting, but maybe you will. We hope.

When he arrived early, he surprised the artist in his wretched folding-bed, which was hidden from view by a strip of tapestry; for Pellerin went to bed late, being an assiduous frequenter of the theatres. (1.4.132)

Pellerin is the only painter we really get to know. But his work is, well, a little mediocre (which is why we're happy photography was invented). Is Flaubert making a commentary on all artists through the character of Pellerin?

After pushing forward some contemporary masters in the early portions of their career, the picture-dealer, a man of progressive ideas, had tried, while clinging to his artistic ways, to extend his pecuniary profits. His object was to emancipate the fine arts, to get the sublime at a cheap rate. (1.4.150)

Though Monsieur Arnoux cared about art early in his career, he later turns his commitment toward profit. And you know what that means: his eyes turn green and it becomes all about the money. Which he promptly loses all of.

With his mania for pandering to public opinion, he made clever artists swerve from their true path, corrupted the strong, exhausted the weak, and got distinction for those of mediocre talent; (1.4.150)

If this is the kind of guy Monsieur Arnoux is, that means it's also the kind of guy Madame Arnoux is married to. Hmmm, what does this tell us about the object of Frederick's affection?

He had been devoting himself to artistic work of a kind that he did not care to connect his name with, such as portraits for two crayons, or pasticcios from the great masters for amateurs of limited knowledge; and, as he felt humiliated by these inferior productions, he preferred to hold his tongue on the subject as a general rule. (1.4.177)

Pellerin has his own ways of making profits. His strategy? Make art that he knows is terrible but that the people want. So yeah, Arnoux isn't the only sell-out.

Frederick saw approaching a column of individuals with oddly-shaped hats and long beards. At its head, beating a drum, walked a n**** who had formerly been an artist's model; and the man who bore the banner, on which this inscription floated in the wind, "Artist-Painters," was no other than Pellerin. (2.14.70)

Once the revolution is underway, Pellerin starts to fight for the political rights of artists. He has good intentions, but he's not, um, super successful? Is it his strategy that's the problem, or is it just that no one's into public art.

"When the country could provide men like Delacroix or Hugo with incomes of a hundred thousand francs, where would be the harm?" (2.14.116)

Martinon thinks artists should actually make a decent wage. And wouldn't you know? This idea would still be considered radical today. What do you think?

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