Bohemianism

Bohemianism

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Bohemian (or Lise the Bohemian), 1868, oil on canvas, Berlin, Germany: Alte Nationalgalerie

Bohemianism is the practice of an unconventional lifestyle, often in the company of like-minded people, with few permanent ties, involving musical, artistic, or literary pursuits. In this context, Bohemians may be wanderers, adventurers, or vagabonds.

This use of the word bohemian first appeared in the English language in the nineteenth century to describe the non-traditional lifestyles of marginalized and impoverished artists, writers, journalists, musicians, and actors in major European cities.[1] Bohemians were associated with unorthodox or anti-establishment political or social viewpoints, which often were expressed through free love, frugality, and—in some cases—voluntary poverty. A more economically privileged, wealthy, or even aristocratic bohemian circle is sometimes referred to as haute bohème[2] ("high bohemians").[3]

The term Bohemianism emerged in France in the early nineteenth century when artists and creators began to concentrate in the lower-rent, lower class, Romani neighborhoods. Bohémien was a common term for the Romani people of France, who were mistakenly thought to have reached France in the 15th century via Bohemia,[4] at that time the only protestant and therefore heretic country among Western Christians.

Contents

  • Origins 1
    • European bohemianism 1.1
    • American bohemianism 1.2
  • People 2
  • Former bohemian communities 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Bibliography 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8

Origins

European bohemianism

Literary "Bohemians" were associated in the French imagination with roving Romani people (called "bohemians" because they were believed to have arrived from Bohemia[5][6]), outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval. The term carries a connotation of arcane enlightenment (the opposite of Philistines), and also carries a less frequently intended, pejorative connotation of carelessness about personal hygiene and marital fidelity. The character of the title character in Carmen (1876), a French opera set in Seville, Spain, is referred to as a "bohémienne" in Meilhac and Halévy's libretto. Her signature aria declares love itself to be a "gypsy child" (enfant de Bohême), going where it pleases and obeying no laws.

Henri Murger's collection of short stories "Scènes de la Vie de Bohème" ("Scenes of Bohemian Life"), published in 1845, was written to glorify and legitimize Bohemia.[7] Murger's collection formed the basis of Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème (1896). Nearly a century later Jonathan Larson based his musical Rent on Puccini's opera.

In England, Bohemian in this sense initially was popularized in Trilby (1894). The novel outlines the fortunes of three expatriate English artists, their Irish model, and two very colorful Central European musicians, in the artist quarter of Paris.

In Spanish literature, the Bohemian impulse can be seen in Ramón del Valle-Inclán's play Luces de Bohemia (Bohemian Lights), published in 1920.

In his song La Bohème, Charles Aznavour described the Bohemian lifestyle in Montmartre. The film Moulin Rouge! (2001) also reflects the Bohemian lifestyle in Montmartre at the turn of the 20th century.

American bohemianism

Bohemian Grove during the summer Hi-Jinks, circa 1911–1916

In the 1850s, Bohemian nationals began to arrive in the United States.[8] In New York City in 1857, a group of some 15–20 young, cultured journalists flourished as self-described "Bohemians" until the American Civil War began in 1861.[9] Similar groups in other cities were broken up as well; reporters spread out to report on the conflict. During the war, correspondents began to assume the title "Bohemian", and newspapermen in general took up the moniker. Bohemian became synonymous with newspaper writer.[9] In 1866, war correspondent Junius Henri Browne, who wrote for the New York Tribune and Harper's Magazine, described "Bohemian" journalists such as he was, as well as the few carefree women and lighthearted men he encountered during the war years.[10]

San Francisco journalist Bret Harte first wrote as "The Bohemian" in The Golden Era in 1861, with this persona taking part in many satirical doings, the lot published in his book Bohemian Papers in 1867. Harte wrote, "Bohemia has never been located geographically, but any clear day when the sun is going down, if you mount Telegraph Hill, you shall see its pleasant valleys and cloud-capped hills glittering in the West..."[11]

George Sterling responded to this redefinition:

Despite his views, Sterling associated very closely with the Bohemian Club, and caroused with artist and industrialist alike at the Bohemian Grove.[13]

Canadian composer Leo, the Royal Cadet.[14]

The impish American writer and Bohemian Club member, Gelett Burgess, who coined the word blurb among other things, supplied this description of the amorphous place called Bohemia:

Gelett Burgess drew this fanciful "Map of Bohemia" for The Lark, March 1, 1896

In New York City an organization of musicians was formed in 1907 by pianist Rafael Joseffy with friends such as Rubin Goldmark, called "The Bohemians (New York Musicians' Club)".[16] Near Times Square Joel Renaldo presided over "Joel’s Bohemian Refreshery" where the Bohemian crowd gathered from before the turn of the twentieth century until Prohibition began to bite.[17][18][19][20] The postmodern Bohemian culture of New York in the late twentieth century was portrayed in Jonathan Larson's musical Rent and specifically in the song "La Vie Boheme".

In May 2014 a story on NPR suggested that after a century and a half, some Bohemian ideal of living in poverty for the sake of art had fallen in popularity among the latest generation of American artists. In the feature a recent graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design relating that "her classmates showed little interest in living in garrets and eating ramen noodles." [21]

People

The term has become associated with various artistic or academic communities and is used as a generalized adjective describing such people, environs, or situations: bohemian (boho—informal) is defined in The American College Dictionary as "a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior."

Many prominent European and American figures of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries belonged to the bohemian subculture, and any comprehensive "list of bohemians" would be tediously long. Bohemianism has been approved of by some bourgeois writers such as Honoré de Balzac, but most conservative cultural critics do not condone bohemian lifestyles.

Laren Stover, the author of The Bombshell Manual of Style, breaks down the Bohemian into five distinct mind-sets or styles in Bohemian Manifesto: a Field Guide to Living on the Edge. The Bohemian is "not easily classified like species of birds," writes Stover, noting that there are crossovers and hybrids. The five types devised by Stover are:

  • Nouveau: bohemians with money who attempt to join traditional bohemianism with contemporary culture
  • Gypsy: the expatriate types, they create their own Gypsy ideal of nirvana wherever they go
  • Beat: also drifters, but non-materialist and art-focused
  • Zen: "post-beat," focus on spirituality rather than art
  • Dandy: no money, but try to appear as if they have it by buying and displaying expensive or rare items – such as brands of alcohol [22]

Maxwell Bodenheim, an American poet and novelist, was known as the King of Greenwich Village Bohemians during the 1920s and his writing brought him international fame during the Jazz Age.

In the twentieth century United States, the bohemian impulse was famously seen in the 1940s hipsters, the 1950s Beat generation (exemplified by writers such as William S. Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti), the much more widespread 1960s counterculture, and 1960s and 1970s hippies.

Rainbow Gatherings may be seen as another contemporary worldwide expression of the bohemian impulse.[23] An American example is Burning Man, an annual participatory arts festival held in the Nevada desert.

In 2001, political and cultural commentator David Brooks contended that much of the cultural ethos of well-to-do middle-class Americans is Bohemian-derived, coining the paradoxical term "Bourgeois Bohemians" or "Bobos".[24]

Former bohemian communities

By extension, Bohemia meant any place where one could live and work cheaply, and behave unconventionally; a community of free souls beyond the pale of respectable society. Several cities and neighborhoods came to be associated with bohemianism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries:

Europe
United States
Canada
Australia
New Zealand

See also

References

  1. ^ First occurrence in this sense in English, 1848 (OED).
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b
  5. ^ Bohemian at It also mentions another possibility: the term may be related to Bohemia via Hussites, Bohemian religious protestant heretics.
  6. ^ Bohemian in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  7. ^
  8. ^ Roy Kotynek, John Cohassey (2008). "American Cultural Rebels: Avant-Garde and Bohemian Artists, Writers and Musicians from the 1850s through the 1960s". McFarland
  9. ^ a b c The Mark Twain Project. Explanatory Notes regarding the letter from Samuel Langhorne Clemens to Charles Warren Stoddard, 23 Apr 1867. Retrieved on July 26, 2009.
  10. ^ Brown, Junius Henri. Four Years in Secessia, O.D. Case and Co., 1866
  11. ^ a b Ogden, Dunbar H.; Douglas McDermott; Robert Károly Sarlós Theatre West: Image and Impact, Rodopi, 1990, pp. 17–42. ISBN 90-5183-125-0
  12. ^ Bohemian Club. Constitution, By-laws, and Rules, Officers, Committees, and Members, Bohemian Club, 1904, p. 11. Semi-centennial high jinks in the Grove, 1922, Bohemian Club, 1922, pp. 11–22.
  13. ^ a b Parry, 2005, p. 238.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Burgess, Gelett. "Where is Bohemia?" collected in The Romance of the Commonplace. San Francisco: Ayloh, 1902. pp. 127–28
  16. ^ Krehbiel, Henry Edward. The Bohemians (New York Musicians' Club) A historical narrative and record. Written and compiled for the celebration of the fifteenth anniversary of the foundation of the Club (1921), pp. 7–11.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Joel’s bohemian refreshery" Restaurant-ing through history
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Gair, Christopher. "The American Counterculture". Edinburgh University Press, 2007, p.25
  26. ^ Goldfield, David. "Encyclopedia of American Urban History". Sage Publications, 2006, p. 85.
  27. ^ Gair, Christopher. "The American Counterculture". Edinburgh University Press, 2007, p.30
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Bibliography

  • Parry, Albert. (2005.) Garretts & Pretenders: A History of Bohemianism in America, Cosimo, Inc. ISBN 1-59605-090-X

Further reading

External links

  • Bohemianism and Counter-Culture