Portraits by the artists as young men: Proust, Valéry, Colour
Oxford University Press for Society for French Studies
Reason for embargo
Marcel Proust and Paul Valéry have received very little comparative critical attention. An exception is Adorno’s essay ‘Valéry Proust Museum’ (1955). Here Adorno notes that these writers are ‘the two most knowledgeable men to have written about art in recent times’. My article tests this claim by performing the first comparative analysis of works written and published by Proust and Valéry just four years apart whilst both were in their early twenties: Valéry’s prose ‘Glose sur quelques peintures’ (1891), which focuses on portraits by Cristofano Allori and Zurbarán, and Proust’s ‘Portraits de peintres’ (1895), verse poems in which he celebrates paintings by Albert Cuyp, Paulus Potter, Watteau, and Van Dyck. My focus will be on the role colour plays in these brief, intense texts that are structurally at odds with the much more expansive spaces of the authors’ later works – À la recherche du temps perdu (1913–1927) and the Cahiers (compiled 1894–1945). How do Proust and Valéry use colour when transposing the visual medium of painting into text? Proust is above all a prose writer and Valéry made his name as a poet. Does Proust’s handling of colour in his poetic texts differ from the ways in which colour figures in À la recherche? How does Valéry’s use of colour in his prose ‘glose’ relate to the chromatic features of his verse? By taking colour in works written about paintings as a common thread I aim to determine the similarities and divergences of Proust and Valéry during the years of their apprenticeship as writers.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from OUP via the DOI in this record.
Vol. 1 (3): 333-347