Francis Cairns Publications

Liverpool Monographs in Hispanic Studies 6

Vision and the Visual Arts in Galdos. A Study of the Novels and Newspaper Articles

P.A. Bly

LMHS 6. ISBN 978-0-905205-30-4. Cloth. x+242pp. 1986.

Extract    Reviews

Throughout his life the major Spanish novelist Benito Perez Galdós (1843-1920) took a keen interest in the visual arts. Parts I and II of this book discuss Galdós's art journalism and his artistic contributions to the illustrated edition of the historical novels. But the main focus (part III) is on references to the visual arts and pictorial landscapes, particularly in the serie contemporánea, the contemporary social novels. Such allusions often act as a guide to interpretation; they also relate to the whole philosophical question of how the eye perceives physical reality.

Professor Bly offers a fascinating analysis of the various types of interrelationship between visual art and novelistic action; his study contributes greatly to the understanding of aesthetic and moral perception in Galdós's novels, and contains wider implications for nineteenth-century literary and aesthetic theory.   


Acknowledgements; List of Abbreviations; Introduction

PART I: Galdós as Critic of the Visual Arts: his Newspaper Articles

1. Small Beginnings. La Nación, La Revista del Movimiento Intelectual de Europa (1865-67)

2. Mature Art Criticism. La Prensa (l884-l901)

3. Art Criticism and Landscape Description with a Literary Form. Revista de España (1870-76)

PART II: The Historical Novels and the Visual Arts

4. The Illustrated Edition of the First Two Series of the Episodios nacionales (1881-85)

5. The Visual Arts as Commentary or Metaphor: the Episodios nacionales (l873-19l2)

6. The Thematic Commentary: La Fontana de Oro (1870), El audaz (1871)

PART III: The Visual Arts and the Contemporary Social Novels

7. Introduction

8. Mirrors of Reality for the Wealthy Noble: La familia de León Roch (1878), Lo prohibido (1884-85), the Torquemada Tetralogy (1889-95)

9. Initial Art Forms: La desheredada (1881), E1 amigo Manso (1882), Tormento (1884), Fortunata y Jacinto (1886-87)

10. Picturesque Landscapes: Doña Perfecta (1876), Gloria (1876-77)

11. Initial Art Forms, Picturesque Landscapes and Lessons in Optics: Marianela (1878), El doctor Centeno (1883), La de Bringas (1884)

12. Visual Art Enigmas: Miau (1888), La incógnita (1889), Nazarín (1895), Halma (1895), Misericordia (1897)

13. Visual Art as Principal Determinant of Novelistic Action: La sombra (1871), Angel Guerra (1890-91), Tristana (1892)

Conclusion; List of Artists Mentioned; Bibliography


(From Introduction, p.5) In the last analysis, though, one might wonder whether the inclusion of visual art terms, however brief or extended, intended or hackneyed, is absolutely necessary for the establishment of correspondences between the arts. Surely any verbal transcription of a scene, panorama or character appearance demands that the writer's retina and then his mind's eye first immobilize their features as if they were components in a painting or any type of art surface. In turn, the reader will reproduce the process, but in reverse: as the eye scans the words on the printed page, the mind's eye will re-create the stasis of the original tableau. Clearly, though, to examine all instances of this basic pictorial description in Galdós' fiction would be a Herculean task. For the purpose of this study, I have limited discussion to those textual passages in which the vocabulary of the visual arts, however stereotyped, appears. In this regard, it is further desirable to widen our terms of reference; the visual arts are so often confined to the higher forms of painting, sculpture and architecture that such popular, low-brow forms as silhouettes, figurines, photographs, mural graffiti, panoramas and magic lanterns (to cite only a few examples) tend to be unjustly ignored.

Nevertheless, interart parallels in novels can only constitute one dimension of a complex pattern of heterogeneous materials. If they are not to intrude embarrassingly in the development of the fiction as pleasant but irrelevant displays of erudition, then they must be integrated into the theme of the novels and serve as significant guides for the reader.



Bulletin of Hispanic Studies 65 (1988) 413 (Brian J. Dendle): "Bly's exposition is clear, his approach - covering both art and novel - comprehensive, the categories he proposes illuminating. ... Bly's study will be read with benefit by all galdosistas."

Anales Galdosianos 23 (1988) 145-9 (J.J. Alfieri): "There are faults of various kinds in Bly's study, but they are minor. He shows that the visual arts add to our understanding of theme, character, or plot, depending on the particular novel, and reveals new ways of looking at the novelist's works and characters. He justifies expanding the category of art beyond the masterpieces of painting to include popular art forms and brings to our attention the importance of physical eyesight in the assessment of art objects, whether by a given character or by readers who reconstruct them in their imagination. Bly deserves credit for making a significant contribution to Galdós studies."

Hispania 71 (1988) (Pierre Ullman): "for the modern college teacher an indispensable commentary on twenty-five major Galdós novels"

Revista Canadiense de Estudios Hispánicos 14 (1989) 179-82 (E.S. Southworth): "This is a stimulating book, original in its conception, well-documented and thought-povoking. Whilst one may sometimes feel that the way in which the author has chosen to organise such a wealth of material has led to over-rigid demarcations between novels, one is glad for the challenges to different formulations that the author's comments present. (The book is also, incidentally, produced with the esmero characteristic of the Liverpool Hispanic Monographs series. Misprints are few and none confuses.)"

Revista de Literatura 104 (1990) 585-89 (Yolanda Latorre Ceresuela)

Romance Quarterly 35 (1988) 375-8 (Diane F. Urey): "Notwithstanding debatable and intentionalist conclusions ... this book is indispensable reading for any scholar of Galdós"

Revista de Estudios Hispánicos 22 (1988) 139-40 (Michael A. Schnepf): "a cogent critical work which illuminates still another corner of the Galdosian universe."

Hispanic Review 55 (1987) 243-5 (Marie E. Barbieri)

Modern Language Review 83 (1988) 493-4 (Jennifer Lowe)