Gautier, Théophile

Gautier, Théophile gōtyāˈ [key], 1811–72, French poet, novelist, and critic. He was a leading exponent of “art for art's sake”—the belief that formal, aesthetic beauty is the sole purpose of a work of art. An important manifesto of this theory appeared in the preface of his novel Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835). Gautier was a painter before he turned to writing. His theory of plasticity, that words should be used as the painter and sculptor use their tools, is illustrated in his volumes of poems Voyage en Espagne (1845) and Emaux et camées [enamels and cameos] (1852). His other works include the poem La Comédie de la mort (1838), the novel Le Capitaine Fracasse (1863), and L'Histoire de l'art dramatique en France (1858–59). He prepared the way for the Parnassians and symbolists in their reaction against romanticism.

See studies by A. B. Smith (1977), R. Shell (1982), and K. Bulgin (1988).

His daughter, Judith Gautier, 1850–1918, was married to the poet Catulle Mendès and then to Pierre Loti, with whom she wrote the novel La Fille du ciel (1911; tr. The Daughter of Heaven, 1912). Her novels, poems, and essays were usually on Asian subjects. She was the first woman to become a member of the Goncourt Academy.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: French Literature: Biographies