Arts and Sciences in the 19th Century
Evolutionism and New Psychology
Darwin and Charcot, key figures in an unexpected art history
In 1871, the British scientist Charles Darwin published a book called The Descent of Man. The publication caused a stir among his contemporaries, from scientists to clergymen to the man in the street, who were not at all happy about the fact that they were descended from apes.
Our artists, children of a positivist, realist and modern century, had to assimilate the laws of what came to be known as Darwinian evolutionism: their credibility depended on it.
A little later, it was the turn of Dr Jean-Martin Charcot and Hypolite Berheim's New Psychology to revolutionise the treatises on physiognomy that artists had traditionally consulted. Their work was irrevocably changed, as was their concept of creativity.
This lecture will re-examine our classics in the light of the scientific and, more specifically, medical discoveries of the 19th century through major works such as Edgar Degas's Little Dancer Aged 14, the vases of the glass-maker Émile Gallé and Auguste Rodin's Gates of Hell.