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« Paul Souriau à l’école d’Emile Gallé : l’ornement entre rêverie et utilité »

Abstract : The theorist Paul Souriau (1852-1926) was a leading figure in intellectual circles in Nancy at the turn of the 19th century. In his essays on L’esthétique du mouvement (1889), La suggestion (1893), L’imagination de l’artiste (1901) and La beauté rationnelle (1904) he developed original thinking linked with both Hippolyte Bernheim’s “physiology of mind” and the artwork of Emile Gallé. Souriau studied the emergence of images through their most basic components: the arabesque and the coloured mark. He believed that they convey the vital strength present in movement and light. These elements are not an aimless play of patterns, since they are the origin of a “beauty of expression », that corresponds to a “physiological and psychological finality”. Souriau is best known as the father of a « functionalist aesthetic » based on the rejection of ornament. This interpretation of La Beauté rationnelle is partly inaccurate: actually his work is closely linked to the crafts ideals of William Morris, and to rationalist and organicist ornament promoted by Emile Gallé. If there is a kind of beauty –« mechanical beauty » - which is the result of the perfect correlation of form and function, this beauty greatly surpasses strict utility and contributes, together with “beauty of expression”, to the enrichment of our daily lives through visual stimulation. The inversion of the traditional hierarchy – « fine arts » vs « crafts » - is achieved by combining “beauty of expression” and “mechanical beauty”, and thereby evoking the idea of social art. For Souriau aesthetic reverie and utility are not contradictory: they become the two terms associated with a new relationship with artwork, integrated into the modern world of perceptions, in its physiological, material and technical aspect.
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Rossella Froissart. « Paul Souriau à l’école d’Emile Gallé : l’ornement entre rêverie et utilité ». Nouvelle Revue d'Esthétique, Presses Universitaires de France 2019, Arts et ornements, 1 (23), pp.21-29. ⟨hal-02398440⟩

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