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University of Nebraska L. B R E N T B O H L K E Godfrey St. Peter and Eugene Delacroix: A Portrait of the Artist in The Professor’s House? Godfrey St. Peter and his friend and student, Tom Outland, in Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House have been enigmatic to readers and critics for some time. Both charactcrs leave one with a deep sense of curiosity about their personalities: during the course of the novel the Professor changcs profoundly, while Tom Outland has an almost mystical and mythical presence about him. Their relationship engenders jealousy between the Professor and his wife, creates a rift in the St. Peter family even after Tom’s death, causes a rupture in the Professor’s one profes­ sional friendship at his college, and leaves the Professor feeling unfulfilled. He regrets: that he had never got that vacation in Paris with Tom Outland. He had wanted to visit certain spots with him: to go with him some autumn morning to the Luxembourg Gardens, when the yellow horse-chestnuts were bright and bitter after rain; to stand with him before the monument to Delacroix and watch the sun gleam on the bronze figures — Time, bearing away the youth who was struggling to snatch his palm — or was it to lay a palm? Not that it mattered. It might have mattered, had not chance, in one great catastrophe, swept away all youth and all palms, and almost Time itself.1 1WilIa Cather, The Professor’s House (New York: Vintage Books, 1973), p. 260. Further references will be to this edition and will be cited parenthetically in the text. 22 Western American Literature Well might the Professor have longed to stand before that “monument to Delacroix” with Tom Outland, for in that moment there would have been a kind of “communion of saints,” a rendezvous of kindred spirits, a meeting that would have transcended time and space. I Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix was born on 26 April 1798, near Paris. After a classical education at the Lycce Imperial and the deaths of both his parents he entered the Ecole des Bcaux-Arts. His early years were gregarious, social, active, intellectually stimulating, taken up with his painting, numerous love affairs, and his friends — among them George Sand, Dumas fils, Balzac, Baudelaire, Berlioz, Chopin, Hugo and Flaubert. When he was twenty-five, he journeyed to England and became fascinated with Shakespeare. In 1832, he traveled to Morocco and Spain and was ever after intrigued with the Moorish people and the mountains that he saw on that trip. In 1833, when he was thirty-five, he received the first of the public commissions that resulted in his work decorating dozens of buildings in the city of Paris, including the Palais Bourbon, the Library in the Luxembourg and the Louvre. His final commission and last great work was the decoration of the Chapel of Saint Sulpice, completed in 1861. After a long illness he died in April of 1863. “The bells of the church had just rung the morning Angelus.”" Although the reception of his work was mixed in his own time, today Delacroix’s place in the world of art is established. But the paradoxes within his work and his own personality have made him difficult to know. He was called a great romantic, yet he insisted that he was a pure classi­ cist. Living during a time of revolutionary fervor, he remained aloof, but “his outward reserve masked passionate inner fires. He could be a lover of women and an ascetic; a gadabout and a work fanatic; an adept at social trivia and a man of wide-ranging erudition.’” He was the last major painter who had a sure and definite feel and passion for classical subjects — myth, allegory, historical event, high drama — yet his varia­ tions on and from those subjects led to the advent of impressionism. His Journal (first published in France in 1893-95 in three volumes) is 2René Huyghe, Delacroix (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1963), p. 7. 3Tom Prideaux, The World of Delacroix (New York: Time Incorporated, 1966), p. 11. L. Brent Bohlke 23 an “invaluable commentary on the whole human...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 21-38
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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