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Musical and Artistic Life in Paris in 1830-1850 Essay

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Art and music are interrelated and mutually contribute to the development of each other. The current paper is concerned with investigation of this interrelation through the perspective of musical and artistic life in Paris between 1830 and 1850. The focus of the paper will be personal and professional lives of the prominent artists and musicians who contributed heavily to the development of the musical and artistic tradition of Paris in the period described. Namely, we will consider the lives and works of the pianist composers Frederick Chopin and Franz Liszt, the writers George Sand, Ivan Turgenev, Alfred de Musset and Prosper Merimée and the painter Eugéne Delacroix. The paper seeks to discover the common characteristics among these figures and their artistic productions and to illustrate the fact that the relation between these musical and artistic geniuses was important for the development of art and music of the period.

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To characterize Paris of the 1830 we should say that it was the cultural capital that even London could not surpass in its magnificence. Paris was alive with activity; social awareness was more and more commonly reflected in arts. Hugo’s Les Miserables (1862) presented the reality of the times described: prostitution and gambling, cholera epidemics, aspiration of its inhabitants for social equality – these were the conditions under which performers created. Still, art flourished, Heinrich Heine remarked that “Paris is a city drowned in music.” (Bernardi et al, 2004) During 1830-1850 Paris was the place where the artists and musicians realized their importance on the global arena. Richard Wagner called this period “the culminating point of musical life” (Bernardi et al, 2004). These were both talent and financial pressure that enhanced the development of music and arts. Another important feature of the life of the capital was piano manufacturers. Piano became a symbol of the elite. The city was sometimes referred to as Pianopolis (Bernardi et al, 2004).

Considering the major evens in the lives of the two great composers of the time described, Franz Liszt’s and Frederic Chopin’s we observe that their lives crossed each other, each of the composer had a significant impact on the artistic development of the country as a whole and on a fellow composer, in particular.

Chopin and Liszt started their professional careers in Paris, as piano teachers of the elite. Their early development as pianists was quite similar: they both began taking lessons from their fathers and started to compose at the early age. Their first concerts both of the composers gave at the early age as well.

By 1830 the differences between the composers became evident. By this time Chopin was twenty and Liszt was nineteen. The thing is that the composers differed in the level of their musical maturity. By then Chopin had twenty-one opus numbers to his credit, including two piano concertos, three other works for piano and orchestra, a sizable collection of mazurkas, polonaises, and waltzes, and seven of the innovative etudes of op. 10. Liszt, by contrast, was still groping for his musical personality. Apart from a number of variations and bravura pieces for the piano, the only salient works to his credit were a one-act operetta Don Sanche ou le Château d’amour (1824 – 1825), an Etude en douze Exercises (1826), and a Grande Fantaisiesur la Tyrolienne (Azoury, 1999, p.130).

The composers met during the winter of 1831-1832 after Chopin’s debut. Mutual admiration drew them together. Before they started their professional collaboration they developed warm, sincere and informal relationship. In 1833, the two composers took part in three concerts: the first was held for the benefit of the bankrupt Shakespearean actress Harriet Smithson by Berlioz where Liszt and Chopin played the Sonata in F Minor op. 22, for four hands by Georges Onslow; the second concert was given the following day at the Salle du Vauxhall, there the composers joined Henri Herz and his brother Jacques and performed together a theme from Meyerbeer opera Il crociato in Egitto. As for the third concert where the composers performed together, it was given at Hiller’s concert in the Conservatoire on 15 December. Liszt and Chopin played with Hiller the allegro from Bach’s Concerto in D Minor for three pianos (Azoury, 1999, p.131).

During 1834-1835 Chopin and Liszt again played together. The first concert was given in the Salle Pleyel on December, 25. Chopin and Liszt performed the Grande Sonate for four hands in E-flat op. 47, by Ignaz Moscheles and the Grand Duo for two pianos based on the theme from one of Mendelssohn Lieder ohne Worte (Songs Without Words) by Liszt. The second concert was given at the Salle Favart of the Théâtre Italien on 5 April 1835. They performed there the Duo for two pianos by Hiller.

In 1836 Liszt introduced Chopin to Mme Dudevant, known as George Sand. Chopin and Sand spent the winter of 1838-39 in Majorca together. Though Chopin’s pulmonary illness developed there, inspired by his feelings towards Sand he wrote 24 preludes which are considered as his finest compositions. Chopin was commonly noticed among the highest ranks of the Parisian elite. After his arrival to Paris he was accepted into high society at once and his relations with George Sand only solidified these connections. The affair with the novelist lasted up to 1847 by which Chopin’s illness had developed into tuberculosis. He gave his last concert through Great Britain in 1848. When Chopin died in 1849, Liszt composed two volumes of works in his memory.

If we consider George Sand’s relationship with her contemporaries we will also observe how interconnected the worlds of music and of literature were at the time under analysis. George Sand, one of nineteenth-century France’s most prolific and celebrated writers, was also known for her numerous love affairs with prominent figures of the day: Prosper Merimee, Alfred de Musset, Frédéric Chopin, Alexandre Manceau, and other famous well-known men were among her lovers. On the one hand, her affairs were born by her works, on the other, her works revealed the feelings and emotions she once experienced.

After reading Sand’s Indiana (1832) Alfred de Musset wrote an admiring letter to her, this symbolized the beginning of the couple’s passionate relationship. The next affair that the novelist had was with Chopin we spoke of above. The thing is that the great composer never found the writer attractive that could serve as a possible reason for their break up. Another fact that hastened the couple’s break up was Sand’s treatment of her daughter Solange. When Solange had married the sculpture Auguste Clésinger, she turned against her mother with him and Chopin took Solange’s side. Her relationship with Chopin Sand depicted in the work Lucrezia Floriani (1846). The triangle drama Elle et Lui (1859) depicted her romance with Musset. The latter responded with Lui et Elle.

Due to her frequent affairs with well-known figures Sand’s personal and professional life got a rather controversial acclaim in the public. Quite often she was accused of lesbianism and nymphomania.

Sand’s views were formed under the influence of Michel de Bourges’ understanding of society who preached revolution and Pierre Leroux, an opponent of property and supporter of equality of women. Sand’s works, in their turns, also inspired other creative people, Alexander Herzen and Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand to name a few.

A bright example of how personal relationship influences literary works is George Sand’s affair with Alfred de Musset. The relationship between the couple is probably the best documented liaison in nineteenth-century letters (Datlof et al., 1991, p. 207). De Musset’s novel La Confession d’un Enfant du Siècle, which appeared in February, 1836, a year after the couple’s break-up, is an account of their passionate romance.

Sand and Musset first met in June 1833 at a dinner party given by François Buloz, the publisher of La Revue des Deux Mondes. Sand was twenty-nine she had already published Indiana (1832), Musset was twenty-three, he had published Contes d’Espagne et d’Italie (1829). Both were already famous. The couple was destined to be for one year and nine months together, though for six years after the Buloz party they were lovers and concealed their feelings from the public. Sand and Musset fell in love with each other as they both were notorious: she for her amorous and sartorial eccentricities; he as a dandy, a libertine, and a skeptic (Datlof et al., 1991, p. 207).

Musset was delicate, gracious, nervous, and effeminate. He believed that Sand was the grand passion of his life. Sand was the virile one in the relationship; she was charmed by Musset’s wit, his manners, his exquisite delicacy, and his freshness. He was like a child for her, the one she had always been dreaming about. The child gave up his debauched companies and devoted himself to his wife.

During the period when the couple were madly in love with each other the masterpieces of the French literature of the nineteenth century were written: Musset wrote Lorenzaccio; Sand wrote Lélia.

As the lifestyles of Sand and Musset were previously established there were many people who wished the couple ill. To escape the prejudices of the public, Sand and Musset travelled to Italy on December 12, 1832. During the trip first Sand fell ill and then Musset. Though Sand never left the bed of the ill, she was not faithful. Still, Musset recovered and returned to Paris. Sand returned there several days later accompanied by the doctor who helped her in Italy. For some time Sand and Musset went through a series of violent ruptures and reconciliations. And the definitive break came in March 1835.

Though Musset’s novel does not render the factual details of their affair it throws light on the ecstasy, the tension, the turmoil, the disillusionment, and the ultimate devastation that their love affair encompassed. La Confession d’un Enfant du Siècle that presents a distillation of the pleasure and pain lovers inflict on one another makes the author one of the most delicate and graceful writers of the age. The novel is Musset’s last major work. He lived for twenty-one years more, but he always believed that his love affair with George Sand had ruined the rest of his life (Datlof et al., 1991, p. 210).

Though Sand was also deeply affected by the failure of their romance, she was a rather stronger person than Musset. Her life, sustained as always by her work, proved to be long and productive. In the tradition of Romantic poets, Musset died relatively young at forty-seven; Sand lived to the “unromantic” age of seventy-two (Datlof et al., 1991, p. 211).

Considering the development of French literature at the mid of the nineteenth century one cannot underestimate the importance of Prosper Mérimée for its development. The author of the unfading novel Carmen (1845), along with Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Vigny, Musset, Gautier, and George Sand stand to represent the Romantic movement in France.

Understanding his life during the period described we will observe the following facts. In 1831 he started a long correspondence with a young girl named Jenny Dacquin, which further was published as Letters a une Inconnue (1873). In 1850 Merime was admitted to the royal circle as the daughter of his friend became empress Eugenie of France and made a senator in 1853. Stendhal and Turgenev were among his closest friends. Contrary to the well-established public opinion about Merime as a cold and indifferent person Turgenev could discern the writer’s affectionate heart. The later career of Merime included pioneering transitions of Russian authors and Turgenev is among them.

Paris played an important role in the life of this Russian author. Though it was Russia Turgenev was writing for, he was admired by the best writers in France. He was a common guest at the lively literary dinners in Paris, Flaubert was his intimate friend. Still, he never learned to love France as his native country.

In the letters to his friends at home, Annenkov, Borisov, Toporov, Fet and Polonsky, Sergey Aksakov, the three favored ladies, Anna Filosofova, Countess Lambert, Baroness Vrevskaya, even to the satirist Saltykov Turgenev reveals his views on Parisian culture. He claims it to be cold, narrow and banal. According to these letters he likes only music, poetry, nature, dogs; poetry in France, going by Turgenev, is trivial, music tends to cheap vaudeville, nature is hideous, hunting is quite disgusting. He confesses that he simply cannot like the French. “Everything that is not theirs seems to them wild and stupid.” (Berlin, 1983) Turgenev sees the French as sets of opinions that do not take into account the point of view of other people; their heads are filled with clichés. He speaks of the “jangling clatter of Victor Hugo, the feeble whimperings of Lamartine, the chatter of George Sand” who has “written herself out”; Dumas fils, and Mérimée, for all his interest in Russian literature, fare little better. Only Michelet escapes the attack. Among composers, now that Rossini has ceased writing and Bellini is dead, only Meyerbeer and Mme. Viardot’s protegé Gounod are approved of (Berlin, 1983).

In the letter to his friend Russian poet Fet he admits that he detests the militarism, arrogance, tyranny of the Second Empire: “I cannot tell you how deeply I hate everything French and especially Parisian”. His attitude to Paris changes with the end of the Franco-Prussian. Turgenev returns to France and makes friends with the leading writers, Edmond de Goncourt, Zola, Daudet, Renan, the young Maupassant, and renews his warm relations with Flaubert. His French friends admired and adored him far more deeply than did any writers in Russia (Berlin, 1983). No matter how contradictory Turgenev’s views on Paris of the mid of the nineteenth century were, they are important for getting a more balanced view on the capital of France of that day.

Though the great German art critic Julius Meier-Graefe observes that “to write adequately about Delacroix would be to relate the whole history of modern art” and that the rest of attempts to outline the significance of the artist’s work can be read as an effort to make good on the claim (Kimball, 1998, p. 28) we will offer at least a brief overview of the main features of his style in order to give a more balanced view on interrelation between the music and arts in Paris of the middle of the nineteenth century.

The romantic painter Eugene Declaroix is known for his expressive use of color, dynamic compositions, and stirring subjects drawn from literature and contemporary events (Miller, 1998, p. 62). He formed the link between the traditions of the past and modernism having a significant influence on impressionism. The advocate of the style that proclaimed the use of vibrant colors, the artist was the lifelong rival of neoclassic Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, an exponent of a more traditional linear style. Delacroix built a reputation as one of the foremost French artists of the 19th century.

What becomes significant in terms of the problem studied is the existing comparison of the artist with Richard Wagner. For example, in Beyond Good and Evil(1886), Nietzsche wrote that both tried to discover the realm of the sublime, ugly and gruesome. They were interested in the effects, “virtuosos through and through, with uncanny access to everything that seduces, allures, compels, overthrows; born enemies of logic and straight lines, lusting after the foreign, the exotic, the tremendous, the crooked, the self-contradictory” (Kimball, 1998, p. 29).

The Journals of Delacroix display his great literary talent and express his views on art, politics, and life that proves once more the close interconnection between music and arts in Paris of the middle of the nineteenth century.Delacroix always considered the comparisons of the type quite odd. For him real superiority admitted no eccentricity but Wagner seemed, he believed, to represent the apotheosis of eccentricity. His views on the Orientalist-Wagnerian view of Delacroix are revealed in his journal: he supposed that Wagner strived to be an innovator, he thought that he had reached the truth and suppressed a great many of the conventions of music as the conventions could not be founded on necessary laws. To Delacroix’ view, Wagner was a democrat, his books about the happiness of humanity Delacroix considered to be absurd (Kimball, 1998, p. 30).


Thus, the analysis of the musical and artistic life in Paris between 1830 and 1850 conducted confirms the essential relationship among the artists and musicians of the period. The analysis indicates that the artists and musicians cooperated and contributed mutually for the sake of art’s growth. The relationship between these writers and artists analyzed proves that the musical and artistic life in Paris between 1830 and 1850 flourished and made a basis for further art and music development.


Azoury, P. (1999). Chopin through His Contemporaries: Friends, Lovers, and Rivals. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Berlin, Isaiah. (1983). The gentle genius. 2008. Web.

Bernardi, Mario et al. (2004). Paris in the 19th century. 2008. Web.

Chopin, FrÉdÉric FranÇois. (2007). In The Columbia Encyclopedia (6th ed.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Cogman, Peter. (2003). Prosper Mérimée. The Literary Encyclopedia. 2008. Web.

Datlof, N., Fuchs, J., & Powell, D. A. (Eds.). (1991). The World of George Sand. New York: Greenwood Press.

Kimball, R. (1998). Delacroix Reconsidered. New Criterion, 17, 9.

Miller, P. B. (1998). Delacroix: Leading Light of the French Romantic Movement. USA Today (Society for the Advancement of Education) 62.

Weekley, Dallas, and Nancy Arganbright. “The Piano Duet: A Medium for Today.” American Music Teacher, 2007.

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