Sunday, November 9, 2014

Anna Karenina: Part 7, Chapter 10

David Slays Goliath - Gustave Dore
David Slays Goliath, by Gustave Dore

In Part 7, Chapter 10 of Anna Karenina, Konstantin Levin and Stephan Arkadyevich pay a visit to Anna at her Moscow apartment. In the study they are greeted by Anna and introduced to another guest named Vorkuev. Levin admires a portrait of Anna and which was painted in Italy. They all engage in a discussion of the current trend in art. Levin is impressed with Anna and her opinion of realism.
The conversation turned on the new movement in art, on the new illustrations of the Bible by a French artist. Vorkuyev attacked the artist for a realism carried to the point of coarseness. Levin said that the French had carried conventionality in art further than anyone, and that consequently they see a great merit in the return to realism. In the very fact that they do not lie they see poetry. Never had anything clever said by Levin given him so much pleasure as this remark. Anna's face lighted up at one, as at once she appreciated the thought. She laughed.
"I laugh," she said. "as one laughs when one sees a very striking likeness. What you said so perfectly describes French art now, painting and literature too, indeed -- Zola, Daudet. But perhaps it is always so, than men form their conceptions from imaginary, conventional types, and then -- all the combinations made -- they are tired of the imaginary figures and begin to invent more natural, true figures."
 * * * * * 
 illustrations of the Bible by a French artist

According to the footnote in my Modern Library Classics edition, the French artist referred to in this scene is Gustave Dore. He was commissioned to illustrate an English Bible in 1853. The following are some examples of Dore's depictions of biblical scenes.

Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness - Gustave Dore
Hagar and Ishmael in the Wilderness

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the Furnace - Gustave Dore
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the Fiery Furnace

Sodom - Gustave Dore
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones - Gustave Dore
The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones
Samson and Delilah - Gustave Dore
Samson and Deliah
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel - Gustave Dore
Jacob Wrestling with the Angel
Ruth and Boaz - Gustave Dore
Ruth and Boaz
Jesus - Gustave Dore

1 comment:

  1. Those illustrations are riveting. Realism to the point of coarseness has its merits!