Home Language & Literature Families, Status and Dynasties: 1600-2000
From Dynasticity to Laterality
As was evident from the continued presence and influence of the Strauss and the Wagner musical dynasties, dynasticity clearly still counted for something. But another form of affiliation was now beginning to emerge and steer the relationships of artists, namely, laterality, which further eroded the power of dynasticity. Instead of intergenerational familial relationships, laterality gave precedence to intragenerational relationships created through marriages and lateral kin relationships as well as through friendships. To see how these lateral affiliations developed at the time when the arts were gaining their autonomy, we shall explore two cases at some length, one from Finland and the other from England, representing artist communities that were set up in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. By 1900, over 80 rural artist colonies in 11 European countries brought together at least 3000 artists, some 400 of whom were women (Lubbren 2001, 1-5). These communities were characterized by a particular form of sociability: artists lived, worked, dined, sang and played together. They also married one another. It is into this world we need to delve in order to gain a clearer picture of how laterality organized marriages and love relationships when unhampered by traditional ties of rank (Lubbren 2001, 17-27; Jacobs 1985).
The Finnish group of artists is not widely known internationally, and it actually had no official name. In Twentieth Century Authors, edited by Kunitz and Haycraft (1966, 1286), the circle is referred to as a ‘free association in southern Finland’. Its nucleus would be the Tuusula artist colony (Halonen 1952), which eventually became known by this name thanks to the many memoirs, histories and studies that were published about it (Halonen 1952; Konttinen 2013). The originators of the group were the writer Juhani Aho (orig. Brofelt) (1861-1921) and his friends, and the three brothers from the lower noble Jarnefelt family: writer Arvid (1861-1933), painter Eero (1861-1933) and composer Armas (1869-1937). Although laterality significantly shaped this group of artists, the mother of the three brothers, Elisabeth Jarnefelt, also played an important part, particularly in the initial phase of the circle when she brought together young artists to discuss art and literature (Konttinen 2013, 20).
But let us return first to history, the late eighteenth century and the seven Jarnefelt brothers we met earlier when discussing social decline in the nobility. According to their pedigree (Carpelan 1958, 569-89), the forefather of the three Jarnefelt artists was Johan Adolf (1763-1818), one of the said seven brothers. Johan Adolf only reached the military rank of second lieutenant, the lowest rank in the hierarchy of commissioned officers. In this regard he was not much better than his brothers. He also made his military career in the same Savolax Regiment as his brothers. He married a woman whose father was a sergeant, a non-noble non-commissioned officer. Again, he was not different from his brothers in this respect. Despite these status-related similarities, Johan Adolf did differ from his brothers in that he produced no out-of-wedlock children, nor is there any record of him committing a crime. Johan Adolf was by all accounts a respectable man, which bore fruit in the next generation. While his nephews and nieces continued on the path of social decline, his sons and daughters moved up to higher status positions: two of his sons became higher civil servants, two others entered the priesthood and two daughters married vicars. Two priests and two marriages to vicars in the same family are indicative of socializing in clerical circles, as the marriage of Johan Adolf’s eldest son to a bishop’s daughter also suggests. This was a fortunate match, because this son, Gustav Adolf (1792-1838), was only a bailiff, a local civil servant, an office typical of socially declined noblemen (Tandefelt and Vainio-Kurtakko 2013, 191). This marriage incorporated Gustav Adolf’s family into a social circle conducive to further upward mobility, which was accomplished in the next generation.
Gustav Adolf’s youngest son, August Alexander (1833-96), took the biggest step upwards in this branch. He was a lieutenant general, governor and senator, that is, he climbed to the highest ranks of military and civil service in accord with the best standards of the nobility. He also married accordingly, Baroness Elisabeth Clodt von Jurgensburg (1839-1927) from St Petersburg, a general’s daughter who, in addition to her high status, was artistically talented and deeply interested in art. It was into this upgraded noble family that the three future artists were born. Nine children were born to August Alexander and Elisabeth, but two died in infancy (Carpelan 1958, 569-89; Jarnefelt 1982; Koivulehto 1987; Arjava 2008a; Arjava 2008b; Konttinen 2013). The eldest son’s, Kasper’s (1859-1941), career as a critic and teacher was broken off quite early because he suffered from nerves, but the second son, Arvid, became a notable writer. Eero, the third son, became a famous painter, while the youngest son, Armas, achieved fame as a composer (Jarnefelt 1982, 68-70). Armas was also director of the newly established Music Institution. The brothers did not marry noblewomen, an ever more common custom in the lower nobility in the closing nineteenth century. They were up-to-date while marrying artists, a pattern gaining more strength with time (Konttinen 2010b). Eero, the painter, married an actress, Saimi Swan (1867-1944), who three years into her marriage to Eero called off her contract with the theatre to devote herself to her family. Armas Jarnefelt, the composer, married a singer, Maikki Pakarinen (1871-1929), and after their divorce another singer, Olivia Edstrom (1876-1971), who was employed at the Royal Opera in Stockholm, where Armas was a conductor at the time. These marriages gave added weight to artists in the Jarnefelt circle. The weight of artists grew further when the youngest sister of the Jarnefelt brothers, Aino (1871-1969), married the most famous Finnish composer of all time, Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) (Levas 1961). Two other Jarnefelt sisters remained unmarried, passing away at a relatively young age, one from tuberculosis and the other from suicide.
The weight of the Swan and the Sibelius families increased when further marriages were contracted in the Tuusula circle of artists. Eero Jarnefelt’s sister-in-law, Nelma Swan (1878-1970), a writer, married Cristian Sibelius, Jean’s brother. He was a doctor and future professor of psychiatry. Another Swan, Anni (1875-1958), who became a famous writer was Saimi and Nelma’s sister. By marrying in 1907 Otto Manninen (1872-1950), a poet and a university lecturer, she brought a new literary member into the circle. Thus there were four Jarnefelts, three Swans and two Sibeliuses in this enclave of artists. All men except Cristian Sibelius were professional artists, but he was well-suited to the circle because, besides being Jean Sibelius’s brother and the husband of a Swan, he was a skilful cellist. Five of the women were or had been artists; two were opera singers, one an actress and two were writers. The numbers are meaningful here in a double sense. Artistic prominence grows with the growing numbers of artists affiliated to one another and furthermore, if they are brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, brothers-in-law and sisters-in- law, not only dynastically but laterally as well.
In the end, only four couples moved to Tuusula village near Helsinki. Migration to Tuusula began in 1901 when Juhani Aho, one of the original members of the artist group, and his wife Venny Soldan-Brofelt rented a house in Tuusula. Juhani was a nationally prominent novelist, while Venny was a notable painter. Her sister Tilly Soldan also moved to Tuusula to live with Juhani and Venny. Other migrators to Tuusula included Jean and Aino Sibelius as well as Eero and Saimi Jarnefelt, all original members of the group. The artist community was expanded by Pekka Halonen (1865-1933), the nationally famous painter and his wife Maija (1873-1944), a translator. The poet Henrik Erkko (1849-1906) was the bachelor of the Tuusula community and a brother of Eero Erkko (1860-1927), founder of the Erkko media dynasty (Zetterberg 2001). Eero was about to associate with the Jarnefelt family by marrying Elli Jarnefelt, but to her siblings’ and in-laws’ great disappointment, Eero and Elli’s relationship was broken off. Ten years later Elli committed suicide. Marriages played an important part in incorporating new members into the group. In this respect, Venny’s sister Tilly was exceptional. She was bound to the group by her being Vennys sister, but she did not find a husband either within or outside this circle. Instead, she found a lover, who happened to be her sister’s husband, Juhani Aho. She bore a son by him. For years all of them lived together in their Tuusula house, but eventually Tilly moved out and left the boy to live with Venny, Juhani and their two sons.
The Tuusula group gained in unity and strength through the pursuit of artistic success, its enthusiasm for new national (national romanticism) and international artistic trends that were in vogue in Paris at the time as well as through an expectation that their work would eventually bring about something new in the domain of the arts. And indeed, they really created a new era that would become known as the golden age of Finnish art. In addition, the dream of Finnish independence inspired great art works. In this fervent historical phase, the like-minded companions developed close, affectionate bonds, which also made them responsive to feelings of love within their restricted circle. Laterality was not, however, a totally new form of affiliation, as the example of the clerical Wegelius family in its dynastic heyday goes to show. In their case the impetus for the rise of laterality was provided by Pietism. It associated them with the von Essen, Svan (later Swan), Stenback, Malmberg and Lagus families on a generational basis. Most of these fellow revivalists belonged to the same generation, born between 1807 and 1817. As we have seen, several intermarriages, including cousin marriages, reinforced the generational affiliation. In the end, the strong religious movement that grew out of opposition to the official Lutheran Church did not essentially differ from the ethos that aroused enthusiasm for art in the Tuusula colony. By chance or not, the Swan sisters and Pekka Halonen’s wife descended from two of these Pietist clerical families, the Swans and the Stenbacks.
Our second case, the Bloomsbury group in England, is a much more famous artist group than their counterpart in Finland. The group was also known for its opposition to the conventional way of life. The London- based Bloomsbury group gathered together a loose group of writers, artists and intellectuals. In the same way as the Tuusula group, it was constituted in line with the principles of laterality. Yet in one crucial respect these two artist circles differed from each other: while the formation of the artist circle in Finland was dominated by marriages, its counterpart in England was more characterized by free love among its members. At first glance, it seems that this difference is just generational—the Finnish artists were mainly born in the 1860s, the Bloomsbury artists in the 1880s—or national differences, but it is better to take these two groups as representatives of two types of lateral integration, which appeared in many combinations across Europe.
Bloomsbury originated from Cambridge University, the capital of British science at the time (Annan 1990, 280), where Lytton Strachey
(1880-1932), Clive Bell (1881-1964), Leonard Woolf (1880-1969) and Thoby Stephen (1880-1906) were contemporaries at King’s College. Together with Saxon Sydney-Turner (1880-1962) and A.J. Robertson, they formed a reading club called the Midnight Society (Holroyd 2005, 58). The literary club set up in Finland by Elisabeth Jarnefelt resembles the Midnight Society, although it was active outside the university. Robertson soon dropped out, but the others remained in the club and also advanced their intellectual pursuits in another club, the Apostles, the Cambridge Conversazione Society, which was a small exclusive group drawn from the whole university, meeting weekly to hear and discuss papers written by its members. These two clubs laid the foundation for the Bloomsbury group, which began to take shape when Thoby Stephen with his siblings, Virginia (1882-1941), Vanessa (1879-1961) and Adrian (1883-1948), inherited their father’s house in Bloomsbury, London, in 1904. The house became the meeting place of ‘the Bloomsberries’. The circle grew with the addition of Maynard Keynes (1883-1946), Duncan Grant (1885-1978), Roger Fry (1866-1934), E. Morgan Forster (1879-1970), Desmond (1877-1952) and Mary MacCarthy (1882-1953), Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) and G.E. Moore (1873-1958), James Strachey (1887-1967), Oliver Strachey (1874-1960), Gerald Brenan (1894-1987), David Garnett (1892-1981) and Mark Gertler (1891-1939). According to Virginia Woolf, by the winter of 1904-05, when frequent get-togethers led to regular ‘Thursday evenings’, most of the mentioned persons were members. They formed the ‘Old Bloomsbury’ between 1904 and 1914 (Schulkind 1986, 240-56), although friendships and lovers temporarily extended the circle.
What was it that brought these artists and intellectuals together beyond the reading club at Cambridge? We know from numerous accounts by the members (Woolf 1940; Gadd 1974; Schulkind 1986; Spalding 1998; Holroyd 2005; Skidelsky 2005) that intellectual and artistic excellence was greatly appreciated, meaning exquisite learnedness and extensive knowledge of art and literature, fresh thinking and a penchant for incessant conversation on topical intellectual subjects. Anyone accepted into the group had to be somehow extraordinary or better still, a genius, which the Bloomsbury insiders recognized when enchanted by aspirants. In a word, the Bloomsberries were fascinated by intellectualism tinged with aesthetics. Most of the members, 21 in all, aimed at excellence in different fields of the arts. Thirteen of them were writers or painters, and if a career as a novelist, for example, did not take off, there were other alternatives in literary criticism, journalism or publishing. Together, they formed a notable conglomeration of culture producers. The creation of art commanded the highest esteem, but science was also deeply appreciated, as indicated by the high value assigned to the works of the economist Keynes and the philosophers Russell and Moore, the three scientist members of the Bloomsbury. James Strachey and Adrian Stephen together with their wives devoted themselves to psychoanalysis, a new and now quite fashionable school of psychiatry. As well as practising psychoanalysis, they brought Freud’s works to the attention of the British readership. In this respect they were much like art critics and publishers, whose job it was to publicize others’ distinguished creations. Finally, as civil servants, Oliver Strachey and Saxon Sydney-Turner remained in the margins of creative work, as it was perceived in Bloomsbury (Spalding 1998, 98). These considerations also created hierarchies within the group, even though they did not disrupt the Bloomsberries’ mutual relationships.
However, there were some people who were left in the margins of the group. Dora Carrington (1893-1932), for instance, was shunned for her not being intellectual, but her long-term intimate relationship with Lytton Strachey, the central Bloomsbury figure, and casual love relationships with some other Bloomsberries made her more bearable. Another borderline case was Lady Ottoline Morrell: she was never an actual member, but since many Bloomsberries regularly attended her salon, she persevered in the margins of Bloomsbury. Moreover, when Keynes was about to marry Lydia Lopokova (1892-1981), the Russian ballerina, she was disregarded by the Bloomsberries. They were at a loss to understand how Keynes, a highly intellectual person, could marry this ‘half-witted canary’, a ‘parakeet’, a profoundly unintellectual woman (Holroyd 2005, 555). This disapproval did not prevent Keynes from marrying Lydia in 1922. Many other wives were acceptable because they were artists. Yet they are not given much space in Gadd’s (1974) book on Bloomsbury, nor are they visibly present in Virginia Woolf’s memoirs (Schulkind 1986) or in biographies written on the Bloomsberries, indicating that, with the exception of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell for sure and Mary MacCarthy with reservations, men were the dominant figures in Bloomsbury.
There were four Stephenses, Virginia, Vanessa, Thoby and Adrian, and three Stracheys, Lytton, Oliver and James, in the Bloomsbury circle. Four Stephen siblings and three Strachey brothers is quite a remarkable part of 21 members in total. In addition, Lytton Strachey and Duncan Grant were cousins. Clive Bell’s marriage to Vanessa in 1907 and Leonard Woolf’s marriage to Virginia in 1912 were contracted inside the group, and Desmond and Mary MacCarthy married in 1906. In sum, 11 members were siblings, cousins or married inside the group. In addition to conjugal liaisons, the solidity of the group was cemented by several love relationships between members. The majority of these relationships were between male members of the group.
Love affairs between the Bloomsberries formed a complex network, not least for the circulation of lovers. The most active members in this network were Duncan Grant, Maynard Keynes and Lytton Strachey, who created an emotionally painful love triangle. In addition to his cousin Lytton Strachey and Maynard Keynes, Duncan Grant had love affairs with James Strachey, who was Lytton’s brother, Adrian Stephen, who was Vanessa and Virginia’s brother, and David Garnett. Siblings thus played a central role in these relationships, too. These men also shared some outsiders as their lovers, who thereby became more regular visitors in Bloomsbury though not members proper. The aforementioned Dora Carrington, who was shunned by the Bloomsberries, infiltrated Bloomsbury through her love relationships with many Bloomsberries: Gerald Brenan, Mark Gertler and Lytton Strachey.
In addition to homosexual love affairs, male and female Bloomsberries had extramarital affairs. Vanessa Bell, whose husband Clive was an uninhibited womanizer, found her lovers inside Bloomsbury, namely, Roger Fry and Duncan Grant, who, on the other hand, excelled in falling in love with male Bloomsberries and outsiders as well. Like Lytton Strachey, who moved in to live with Dora Carrington, Duncan moved to Vanessa’s house and fathered a daughter with Vanessa. This did not prevent him from having love affairs with men. Vanessa’s sister Virginia Woolf in turn flirted with Vanessa’s husband Clive Bell, causing jealousy in Vanessa but not perhaps a love affair between Virginia and Clive. There were also infatuations inside Bloomsbury that were not returned. These again bear witness to the fact that Bloomsbury was laden with affective emotions. In sum, if Thoby Stephen is excluded due to his premature death, about half of the Bloomsberries were tied by love, through marriage, love affairs or both.
The Tuusula and the Bloomsbury circles were not unique on Europe’s artistic scene in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Artists networked in the same way in many quarters of Europe. Let one more case illustrate the nature of this networking. In Austria, the Vienna circle was famous for its philosophers and artists from different fields, but in this circle too love relationships flourished. One of the central figures in this circle was Alma Mahler (1879-1964) (Giroud 1989). She wanted to become a composer—and indeed compose she did—but her first husband, Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), prevented her from following her passion to make music. One composer in the family was enough, he said. But Alma attained fame via another route: she was married to or cohabited with four famous artists, that is, the composer Mahler, the painter Kokoschka, the architect Gropius and the author Werfel. Alma was a glamorous beauty with whom men easily fell in love, and she seemed to enjoy seducing men. Her entry into the Viennese artist circle owes to her father’s presence there: he was a well-known and well-to-do landscape painter who threw extravagant parties in his castle. Alma Mahler’s mother was a singer, though not very well-known, and she also gave up her career to devote herself to her husband. This did not prevent her from taking lovers—one of them fathered Alma’s sister.
It is clear from our examination of the Tuusula, Bloomsbury and Viennese artist circles that they grew out of friendships between artists of the same age. These friendships did not draw strength from rank and birth, as Lubbren (2001, 27) remarks when describing tens of artist colonies in the late nineteenth century, but from a common ethos of art and lifestyle, which set them apart from what their parents and grandparents represented. In each other’s company, they created something new from scratch, working in social isolation from the rest of society. These artists also instituted a new basis for status: as the Bloomsberries proclaimed, they were reluctant to accept the ‘wrong’ sort of claimants into their inner circle. Access required artistic and intellectual prominence but, to be honest, only soul mates were eventually acknowledged. This converted the imperative of status equivalence into a new formula. Being an artist by profession or working otherwise for the good of the arts formed the broad kernel of the status hierarchy, from bottom to top, but the Bloomsberries found their status equals amongst those who confessed to the same dogma of art and to the same lifestyle. In the arts, then, mere artistic talent did not suffice to determine status; it was also necessary to find and demonstrate the right style. However, as the Bloomsberries’ concerns about their artistic success go to show, they longed for prestige that could only be gained outside the group, by critics and the reading public whose acceptance earned them a high ranking in a professionally organized hierarchy (Holroyd 2005, 616). In one sense at least, the Bloomsbury, Tuusula and Vienna circles were similar: in their intellectual and aesthetic strivings they were formed into an ensemble which Annan (1990, 3-18) calls a generation or ‘our age’, being himself a member of this generation.
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