welcome phantom Welcome to the first "special issue" of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide. Devoted to the "Darwin Effect: Evolution and Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture," it is the outcome of a symposium convened at New York University's Institute of Fine Arts on April 28, 2001. We are immensely grateful to Linda Nochlin and Martha Lucy, guest editors of the issue, for all the work they have done to make it a success. We are indebted as well to the Institute of Fine Arts for their critical financial support.
This issue represents a new initiative of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide—the publication of symposia. All too often, important symposia that blaze new trails for the field have little resonance beyond the limited group of people that attend them. Few symposia get published in their entirety these days as publishers, commercial as well as academic, have become reluctant to publish collections of essays. One or two papers given during the symposium may get published in separate journals, but the impact of the symposium as a whole is lost.
As editors of Nineteenth-Century Art Worldwide, we feel that the electronic medium is suited, par excellence, to meet the need of publication venues for successful symposia. But to do so, we need your help, both professional and financial. In Linda Nochlin, Martha Lucy, and New York University, we found a perfect combination of capable editors and a financial backer that make this type of initiative possible. We hope that others will follow their example. Anyone who has ideas for future special issues, please contact Managing Editor Petra Chu at chupetra@shu.edu.
Thank you, and enjoy!
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On Women and Ambivalence in the Evolutionary Topos
by Kathleen Pyne

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Fig. 1 Orchard Street, View looking south from Hester Street, New York City, 1898
In the decade following the Civil War evolutionary theory shook the foundations of America's self-identity as God's chosen people. On the one hand, Charles Darwin brought the scrutiny of positivist science to bear on biological issues, negating any human uniqueness, while on the other, Herbert Spencer translated evolution into a philosophy of human progress. Spencer's evolutionary philosophy, in particular, had a tremendous impact in the United States because it reconciled the new science with traditional beliefs; it preserved the belief in the special spiritual nature of humankind, as well as the existence of a spiritual realm. The purposefulness of human life on earth thus was upheld, in contrast to Darwin's negation of any human uniqueness. But as Gillian Beer has pointed out, evolutionary science abounded in metaphors and contradictory elements; it could be read as both an ascent and a descent of man.
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Fig. 2 Childe Hassam, Washington Arch, Spring, c. 1893, Phillips Collection
The term "evolution" in itself connoted a trajectory of development and energy, and in late nineteenth century America, it became synonymous with the idea of progress, particularly as that idea had been established by Spencer and his American followers. Ever present in the consciousness of the Northeastern elite, however, was the fear that the ascent could at any wrong turn become descent, evolution become devolution, progression become retrogression.1 If ascent to the heights of Spencer's prophesied world civilization was the promised land Americans seemed destined to inhabit, the threat of descent into Darwin's primeval nature was always near. Its threat could be measured in the proximity of Manhattan's ghettos to the literary and artistic enclave of Washington Square. (fig. 1 and fig. 2) Representing the position of elite culture, Henry James, for example, touring the Lower East Side in 1905, saw the inhabitants of the tenements as simian creatures hanging from arboreal balconies while Childe Hassam presented the white triumphal arch of Washington Square as the herald of a new world status for Northeastern American culture.2 The high and the low points of ascent and descent, that is, could be mapped within only one or two square miles of urban topography.
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Fig. 3 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, A Reading, 1897, Smithsonian American Art Museum
This paper argues that the twin poles of this evolutionary discourse, concerning the uncertain direction of human development, could be collapsed into the image of a woman. Moreover, the ascent to civilization purchased in this image of woman came at the price of feminine bodilessness, and potentially carried within it a descent into nature which insisted upon masculine desire. This dual trajectory is played out no where more strikingly than in the paintings of Thomas Dewing, an artist who—raised in Boston and practicing in New York—represented the interests of the Northeastern elite. (fig. 3)
A Reading pictures two young women seated at a polished mahogany table in a shallow space that is stripped down to its basic, architectonic aspect. The room has been stripped of all accoutrements except for a looking glass in a baroque frame and a tall Chinese-style vase of Dewing's imagining. With the room deprived of all ordinary domestic properties, the resulting vacuum produces a silence that confers upon the reading of a poem the tenor of a ritual. Immured in a silent interior world, both women look down, one intoning the words as she reads, the other listening as she contemplates the words and the fragile white flower in her hands. The contact between the two, it is hinted, occurs at an imaginative juncture that is visually signaled in the vase at the center of the composition, the point at which the axial lines extending from their bodies meet. In the weird greenish-gold atmosphere the women's faces are veiled and their bodies dematerialized into attenuated forms that bear obvious affinities to the elongated vase and its wiry, insubstantial contents. This is not a realm that offers indulgences in sensual beauty. Rather an intellectual pleasure in art is suggested in the bodilessness of forms; thus, the highly polished surface of the table and the mirror establish this world as a reality primarily consisting of reflections.
As with Henry James's otherworldly women, the refined feminine type that Dewing pictures here enjoys a privileged access to the spirit realm.3 As the object of contemplation offered to the viewer, the woman who performs the aesthetic ritual, which is the focus of the image, is herself aestheticized. Rather than the nymphetish showgirls Stanford White pursued, she is represented as a mature "woman of thirty" who has "looked at the sun," her mental and spiritual cultivation is expressed through the attenuation of her body.4 The identification of the male viewer, patron or artist, with the female figure in her mysterious domestic space provided an imaginative release from, and a private resistance to, the aggressive, competitive mode of the masculine marketplace.5 As a narcissistic creature who is seemingly complete in herself and thus impels masculine longing, Dewing's woman is mystified, and this mystique in turn grants her the status of an exemplar who shows Dewing's patron, such as Charles Lang Freer, a higher way in the conduct of a modern life too often defined by nervousness and suffering. She demonstrates the private rituals in the religion of art that will support belief in some eternal truths; and she shows the practice of self-culture that leads away from masculine grossness toward feminine refinement and soulfulness—toward the evolution of a higher self.
But if Dewing and his patrons valued these feminine images for their refined, "spiritual" qualities which emanated from the subtle color schemes and elegant forms, the images were unmistakably charged as well with an erotic innuendo for this elite coterie. Dewing's female figures were doubly constructed, mirroring the contemporary double-headed definition of masculinity in which ideal men were judged to be both civilized and virile. The internal contradiction of masculine ideology required that Anglo-American men exhibit protectiveness and self-restraint in relations with refined Anglo-American women, and at the same time combat the effeminizing effects of such behavior by celebrating and acting out a "primitive" masculine sexuality in terms of aggression, strength, and violence in arenas of leisure such as athletics, hunting, riding, mountaineering.6 It is to this anxiety over masculine identity as both civilized and sexualized that the double lives of Dewing and his cohorts, White and Augustus Saint-Gaudens, speak. Throughout the late 1880s and most of the 1890s Dewing, along with White and several other male friends led double lives in a rented apartment on West 55th Street in New York where they entertained female acquaintances on the sly, separately or communally. Yet, they would claim that the sexual experience they prized was simultaneously aesthetic, poetic, and spiritual.7
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Fig. 4 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Reclining Nude Figure of a Girl, 1894, Smithsonian American Art Museum
The taste for the erotic grafted on to the refined is reflected in the way that Dewing's feminized interiors allowed his ideal male patron, such as Freer, to feel both civilized and virile. The physiognomies of these female figures are marked with the signs of upper class Anglo-American status, to make them suitable Back-Bay courtesans for an elite, as we will see. More explicitly erotic are the small nudes in pastel Dewing executed for the private view of his male confreres such as Freer and White, as opposed to the figures in interior spaces which, after 1900, almost exclusively represented Dewing at public exhibitions. (fig. 4)
But even when Dewing directly confronts the female body in the genre of the nude, he decontextualizes the figure from any specific historical setting. There is an implicit assumption here that his subtle manipulation of limbs and torso, the aestheticizing process itself, will situate the nude within the universalized context of art and preclude it from the purely titillating sphere of the vulgar and pornographic gaze. The practice of aestheticizing, of making the figure into artifice, permits an untroubled eroticizing. Thus, the hips are tipped up to display the lower torso frontally to the viewer, and the upper torso is arched back and her arms thrown up to the head to accentuate the rhythmic rising and falling of the contours in the modulated swelling of hips, rib cage, breasts, and arms. Meanwhile, the glint of light from the single bracelet she wears throws her nudity into relief, and the figure seems to stretch in enjoyment of her own body in a languorous feline manner. Though Dewing boasted that he would paint a nude for White that would be a "gaudy rose bush" and "so alluring and lithe" that White "would not be able to keep it in [his] room," the nude Dewing produced for White failed to satisfy the architect's taste for more explicit representations of feminine sexuality: it was nearly impossible, White complained to Saint-Gaudens, "to tell whether it was meant for a girl or a boy."8
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Fig. 5 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, The Spinet, c. 1902, Smithsonian American Art Museum

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Fig. 6 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Girl with a Lute, 1905, Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution
Such a response underlines the ambivalence of late nineteenth-century Anglo-American elites towards the female body and feminine sexuality. To contemporaries, the mystery and allure of Dewing's female figures emanated from their "subtle contradictions." (fig. 5) Reflecting the desire of the viewer, male critics who wrote about them referred to their "chaste voluptuousness," meaning that the signs of sexuality were registered through their aestheticizing. Their flesh was painted "cool over a warm undertone" which engendered a fantasy of his women as essentially "warm-blooded animals" under chilly, aristocratic exteriors.9 In pictures such as The Spinet, c. 1902, the back of the model is turned toward the viewer to reveal the shoulders and neck, while in still others, for example Girl with a Lute, a low décolletage exposes a soft white bosom. (fig. 6) With their faces veiled, often in a stippled penumbra recalling Vermeer, or at times turned away from the spectator, they offer no resistance and make their bodies available to the viewer's gaze. Their smooth expanses of exposed skin invited touch. Wrote critic Ezra Tharp; "you feel the smoothness and softness of their skin, and its coolness too. You feel the just weight of the body..."10 Yet, enclosed in hermetic environments where they are absorbed in aesthetic experience, these women are completely indifferent to the viewer's presence. They remain psychically and emotionally unavailable to the viewer. Critics like Charles Caffin who interpreted these figures as imbued with "passionateness" simply read their own desires into them. These women fascinated because they were cool and warm at the same time, inexplicably giving off contradictory signals to the viewer. Even if they were engrossed in intellectual activity, to Caffin their "habit of intellectual control...clarified, but not effaced, the essential passionateness...."11 This rationalization of desire, the redemption of the body by the mind, offered in Dewing's representation of the feminine responded reassuringly to the anxieties of the elite male viewer about his self-definition, and reflected there a masculine self-image as civilized, but not overly civilized, so as to efface desire.
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Fig. 7 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Brocart de Venise, 1904–05, Washington University Gallery of Art
If Dewing's male women were perceived as problematically both eroticized and refined, their connotations of a highly evolved, American type of woman were straightforward. According to Martha Banta, the American woman at the end of the nineteenth century was placed at the "center of the evolutionary scheme for American culture" being publicly manufactured by American men; her refinement served as a clear sign of the progress of American civilization.12 (fig. 7) While it disavowed the import of the body, Dewing's evolutionary agenda privileged mind and intellect. For Dewing, the body must serve as an expression of mind, its attenuation signifying the sloughing off of the coarser matter of existence from whence it came. This infatuation with mind in the American woman, however, did not necessarily mean the bookish or the college-educated contingent of women that was emerging at this time. Rather, it signaled instead a reaffirmation of his inherited Bostonian ethos, and it renewed the transcendentalist paradigm that valorized the "higher things," such as soulfulness and beauty in art, music, and literature, now in the form of an agnostic religion of art, that engaged traditional Northeastern aspirations toward self-perfection.13 The female figures in interiors, for example Brocart de Venise, speak to qualities of general cultural erudition through the practice of self-culture, the practices of the finishing school rather than college, as the women lose themselves in a work of literature or music.
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Fig. 8 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, In the Garden, c. 1894, Smithsonian American Art Museum
The critic Sadakichi Hartmann explained how elongated and refined forms employed by an artist such as Dewing signified a refusal of the "earthly and sensual" for the purer "rhythms of beauty." (fig. 8) Form was "expressive to the spirit," he wrote, and the "peculiar elongation of form" encountered in the imagery of Dewing and in the Graces of Botticelli posed "a more direct inlet into the realm of beauty." As Hartmann maintained, "it is a psychological peculiarity of all cultured beings that they find more esthetic gratification in long and thin objects than in short and heavy ones."14 The formal order of A Reading, similarly, is that of attenuation, so that the lines of Dewing's women with their long limbs and backs are all of a piece with the elongated stems of flowers, table legs, and vases. (fig. 3) Likewise, the smoothness of skin in his female figures, especially their backs, necks, and shoulders, is reciprocated in the polished surfaces of mahogany tables and looking glasses all around them.
While Hartmann's commentary makes clear how Dewing's female figures could imply an art experience that is inspiriting, transforming, and thus therapeutic, it also articulates how these women were at the same time apprehended as eroticized objects of beauty. For him these attenuated, angular figures evinced an adolescent physique, "like that of a young girl before having reached maturity." Such a rejection of the mature, rounded form for a presexual physique could also connote a state of androgyny, he acknowledged. But for Hartmann this physical type conjured up a fantasy woman who was "both present and yet far away," what he called a "demi-virgin," part "Parisian demi-monde" and part Puritan descendant.15
Significantly, Dewing's bodiless woman presented a paradoxical configuration; her very form offered a model of eroticized aesthetic experience that was yet "intellectual," anti-corporeal, and thus "higher" in its rejection of the commonplace depiction of sexuality as the carnal, voluptuous body. At least this was true for the Northeastern elite who valued aesthetic refinement as a mark of membership in a group distinguished from a less evolved quotient of humanity by virtue of its greater "spiritual" and mental development. This was the received wisdom according to Spencer's social hierarchies as popularized by John Fiske who lectured throughout the Northeast untiringly on this point. Spencer had alleged that human intelligence was steadily increasing, in accordance with the growth of mental activity in each succeeding generation. Fiske elaborated on this idea, that a sign of the culmination of human evolution was to be located in the spectacle of the material body receding in the wake of the expansion of human mind—an image that found favor with a popular audience that included Dewing's wife, Maria, who used it in her treatise on feminine beauty.16
Intellectual distinction, for Maria Dewing, was directly translated into physical refinement and was transmitted racially. "With educated people," she wrote, the modeling or finish of the face is oftener much finer; with uneducated people, especially in handsome races like the Irish (although among them very degraded types exist), we often find a very beautiful type, both in face and figure; but never in the uneducated face do we find that final modeling, that subtle finish of little parts that is the greatest charm of the educated face.17 Implied here is a catalogue of conventions—charm, delicacy, elegance, frailty, and a general sense of cultivation and education that comes from "good breeding"—that trades on contemporary mythologies and hierarchies of race to differentiate upper-middle-class, WASP women from their lower-class, non-Anglo-American counterparts.
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Fig. 9 Thomas Wilmer Dewing, Portrait in Blue, 1892, University of Michigan Museum of Art

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Fig. 10 Charles Dana Gibson, A Northeaster: Some Look Well in It, Life Magazine, New York, 1900
The chief figure, then, in Dewing's spiritual syntax was a perfected American female who was construed as an index to modern American evolutionary superiority. (fig. 9) Identified by his contemporaries specifically as a descendant of the Puritans, this female figure was deemed a type of ideal American woman. Whether or not his actual model was of Anglo-Saxon descent, the model merely offered Dewing a starting point which he then made over to conform with a personal canon of beauty that had been shaped in Boston during his formative years. This point is underscored by the fact that both Dewing and Charles Dana Gibson at times utilized the same professional model, only to arrive at very different constructions of femininity. Minnie Clark, whose background was working-class Irish, was transformed through Dewing's eyes, in Portrait in Blue, to suggest a remote, ethereal being commonly connected with the self-restrained Puritan daughter. Yet Gibson, looking at the same woman projected a feminine type who similarly posed no challenge to the activist sphere of male professionals.18 (fig. 10) In contrast to the bodily effacement of Dewing's ideal, however, Gibson's extroverted, athletic type is fashioned to generate quite a different narrative: she is drawn to assert and deploy her body as a self-conscious vehicle of feminine sexuality that will further her social ambitions. While it is possible to understand Dewing's breed of femininity as an anti-modern response to the activism of the "new woman," it is also possible to see how she could have been construed as "modern" and perhaps "transitional." Maria Dewing, for example, advocated a finishing school education, an initiation into social conventions that could be accomplished in the home, not a college education of the type available to men. But this straddling of positions left women in their separate sphere of domesticity, at the same time that it endowed them with a mark of advancement, which was non-threatening to male hegemony in the public sphere.19
Dissent from this form of evolutionary typology could often be heard among those raised outside the transcendentalist ethos of Dewing's native Boston. Other artists with naturalist philosophies more in tune with a Darwinian narrative of the human as an animal—John Singer Sargent, for example—criticized Dewing and his colleagues for searching out a [feminine] subject that was "angelic, far-away, and thin, the real flesh and blood thing, rustical thing not being good enough for them..." The painter, Theodore Robinson, likewise expressed hostility to Dewing's "everlasting ladies, ten heads high."20 Their objections, however unfavorable to Dewing, nevertheless clarify the way in which his peers read his practice of elongating form as a sign of his reach for a perfected state of being that is accomplished through the private rituals of self-culture. Frances Grimes, a sculptor who knew Dewing well, commented on this tendency when she observed that the "cultivated and informed" women of Dewing's paintings . . . "like Dewing himself, looked on, criticized, chose, perhaps ruthlessly from life what seemed to them exquisite. They felt, as once Mrs. Dewing told me she did, that the mark of what was most civilized was that it was farthest removed from what was animal."21 From the view inside Dewing's circle, these women clearly embodied the essence of "what was most civilized"; in the repression of the physical body and their cultivation of the spiritual and mental they were conceived as the "farthest removed from what was animal."
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Fig. 11 Charles Dana Gibson, Thirty Years of Progress, Life Magazine New York, 1926
Perhaps the foregoing discussion seems to be bent on eliciting the failings of the evolutionary era, while it remains mute on those of later historical eras—modernism and after—with which the late twentieth-century subject might better identify. To avoid such a position, we might end by reflecting on the practices of the modernists, since they would also see their own ideals embodied in the figure of a woman, but embodied no less ambivalently than in the elite feminine type of the 1890s. (fig. 11) For the Modernists, the young American woman of Gibson's generation had become a matriarch, the appropriate counterpart to the academic father. Gibson's ubiquitous debutante a decade later had thus become the very image of a clubwoman, a member of the DAR, whose mission was to repress masculine desire. Her curvaceous figure had realized its true patriarchal purpose, in being given over to the reproductive charge to bear the next generation. In her place, as Gibson shows us in this cartoon from 1920, the Modernists put another feminine figure, the flapper. Through this infantilized female type, they could reject bourgeois morality, to assert their libidinous, anarchic program. Gibson's title, Thirty Years of Progress, ridicules the whole epic saga of evolutionary progress, previously signified in the articulation of the female figure. The next historical epoch, in Gibson's eyes, has inverted the former narrative of evolution, to champion a movement of devolution—of regression to the symptomatic figure of a child. But, of course, both these female figures are cultural myths in which the lived experience of women, as it might be articulated by the feminine voice, is absent.



1. On the cultural paradigms developed in the wake of evolutionary science, see the author's Art and the Higher Life: Painting and Evolutionary Thought in Late Nineteenth-Century America (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press,1996); Gillian Beer, Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983) pp. 9, 17, and 18; T. J. Jackson Lears, No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 1880–1920, (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981); and James R. Moore, The Post-Darwinian Controversies: A study of the Protestant struggle to come to terms with Darwin in Great Britain and America 1870–1900, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979).

2. Henry James, The American Scene, (London: Chapman and Hall, 1907), pp.131-35.

3. On the "second-sightedness" of James's women, see Martha Banta, Henry James and the Occult: The Great Extension, (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1972), pp. 157-58, 159.

4. Ezra Tharp, "T. W. Dewing" Art and Progress 5 (March 1914), pp. 155-161, p.160.

5. For example, Carol Christ,"Victorian Masculinity and the Angel in the House" in A Widening Sphere: Changing Roles of Victorian Women, pp. 146-62. Edited by Martha Vicinus. (Bloomington and London: Indiana University Press, 1977), pp. 146-62; and Barbara Charlesworth Gelpi, "The Feminization of D. G. Rossetti" in The Victorian Experience: The Poets, pp. 94-114. Edited by Richard A. Levine. (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1982), pp. 94-114, have established the psychological dynamic of masculine identification with the feminine sphere.

6. On the crisis of American masculinity in this period, see Gail Bederman, Manliness and Civilization: American Debates about Race and Gender, 1880–1917, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995); and Michael S. Kimmel,"The Contemporary 'Crisis' of Masculinity in Historical Perspective" in The Making of Masculinities, pp. 121-153. Edited by Harry Brod. (Boston: Allen & Unwin, 1989).

7. Stanford White Papers, Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library, Columbia University, Letterpress Books 1: 372a; 2: 315; 3: 412,: 412a, 413, 424; 4: 135; 5: 260; 21: 403; 23: 247; 24: 407. Dewing to White, letters of July 2 [1894] and December 1 [1894], Stanford White Papers, New York Historical Society. On Dewing's and White's extramarital activities, see Dewing to White, June 11, 1895, Box 39; and White to Augustus Saint-Gaudens, March 2, 1989, Copy Book 19: 397-98, White Papers, Avery Library. Baker 1989, 275, 280-81, 283, 287-90. Saint-Gaudens' double life is described in Wilkinson 1985.

8. Paul R. Baker., Stanny: The Gilded Life of Stanford White. (New York: The Free Press; London: Collier Macmillan Publishers, 1989), 244.

9. Tharp 1914, 157, 159; Sadakichi Hartmann, "The Valiant Knights of Daguerre, ed. Harry W. Lawton and George Knox. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 41; Caffin 1908, 721; Lynn Nead, "Representation, Sexuality, and the Female Nude" Art History 6 (1983), pp. 232-233, 232-233.

10. Tharp 1914, 156.

11. Caffin 1908, 724.

12. Martha Banta, Imaging American Women: Ideas and Ideals in Cultural History, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987) 104, 124-25.

13. Lears 1981 and Turner 1985 describe the agnostic practices of aesthetes in the Northeast.

14. Sadakichi Hartmann, "On the Elongation of Form" Camera Work 10 (April 1905), pp. 27-35, 33-35.

15. Ibid.

16. See Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Psychology, (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1903), Chapter III, The Growth of Intelligence, 418-26; John Fiske, "The Destiny of Man viewed in the Light of his Origin" (1884) Studies in Religion, Being the Destiny of Man; the Idea of God; Through Nature to God; Life Everlasting, (Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1902), 14, 18-19, 72, 78, 205-09; M[aria] R[ichards] Oakey [Dewing], Beauty in Dress, (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1881).

17. 17. Oakey [Dewing] 1881, 162.

18. Lois W. Banner, American Beauty. (New York: Knopf, 1983), 156-58ff, 169.

19. On the attractiveness of such a figure of compromise, see Kate Gannett Wells, "The Transitional American Woman" Atlantic Monthly 46 (December 1880), pp. 817-823, 817-23; and Francis Albert Doughty, "A Southern Woman's Study of Boston" The Forum 18 (October 1894), p. 238-244.

20. For Sargent's comment, see Lucia Fairchild Fuller, Diary (1890).Lucia Fairchild Fuller Papers, AAA microfilm 3825. Robinson, "Diaries," entry for March 8, 1896, in reference to Dewing's Before Sunrise (Dawn) (1895, FGA).

21. Frances Grimes, "The Reminiscences of Frances Grimes." The Papers of Augustus Saint-Gaudens. Special Collections, Dartmouth College Library. Microfilm 3565r, #36. p. 64, frame 357.

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"Impulses and Desires": Klinger's Darwinism in Nature and Society
by Marsha Morton

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Fig. 1 Max Klinger, Darwinian Theory, 1875, pen and ink, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Kupferstichkabinett. Photo: Joerg P. Anders
It has long been recognized that the graphic art of Max Klinger probes the mysteries of human behavior and psychology, particularly those effected by biological drives. Yet surprisingly scant attention has been paid to Klinger's response to Charles Darwin, whose theories revolutionized conceptions of human nature. Darwin's studies were so far-reaching in their implications that even the most traditional themes of literature and art dealing with relationships and emotions—romance, beauty, courage, aggression, death—became encoded with new meanings. The impact of Darwin was not confined to the natural sciences but also, through his breadth of references in The Descent of Man, to the fields of anthropology, sociology, and psychology. Civilized man was kin to animals as well as "barbarians" whose habits, customs and mythologies were under scrutiny by ethnographers seeking to uncover traces of ancestral links.1 At the same time, German archaeologists like Heinrich Schliemann began turning their attention to pre-classical cultures in the Middle East and in Europe.2 Conversely, contemporary society was being examined through a Darwinian lens for signs of atavistic brutish behavior.
The presence of a Darwinian worldview in Klinger's art must be sought in this larger comprehensive sense, evidenced not only through his many references to natural history, but in his scenes of social criticism and his exploration of myth and dreams as vestiges of the primitive self. Darwinian influence is especially compelling when applied to Klinger because it provides an ideology encompassing the artist's disparate themes and his temporal sweeps through history. Like the writings of most German Darwinists, his work began with studies of nature and developed into studies of contemporary society. Issues were presented from different historical moments, tracing Darwin's "unchanging laws" (primarily sexual selection) through the mythologies of Genesis and in ancient Greece. In a post-Darwinian world, as the Swedish art critic Oscar Levertin wrote, "the tie between primeval times and the present day was knit more strongly than ever and all of the most ancient myths and fantasies took on a deeper meaning."3
Klinger had read Darwin by 1875 when he completed the drawing Darwinian Theory (fig. 1) and wrote to his parents in October from art school, requesting the exchange of their Darwin material.4 The collected works of Darwin, with over two hundred illustrations and a photograph of the author, had been published in Germany the previous year to great acclaim.5 Klinger's interest in Darwin, at the impressionable age of eighteen, occurred at the onset of his most fertile years of creative activity and preceded his knowledge of Arthur Schopenhauer, for which it provided a foundation. Since Schopenhauer, who was inspired by Georges Cuvier, Jean-Baptiste Larmarck, and Thomas Hobbes, anticipated many of Darwin's theories and is quoted in The Descent of Man, the philosopher served to reinforce Klinger's Darwinian perspective. The artist's subsequent engagement with Emile Zola and Friedrich Nietzsche provided a similar function, as did his friendship with the Taine-influenced Danish critic Georg Brandes during the late 1870s in Berlin.
Klinger would have received an extensive education in science and anthropology through reading Darwin's books that were crammed with citations from other publications. Indeed, Darwin's encyclopedic references provided a discursive narrative of the historical development of evolutionary thought with sources culled from contributors in the arts, such as the romantic poet Jean-Paul Richter whom Klinger admired, as well as the sciences. In Germany information on evolutionary theory was inescapable thanks to the burgeoning literature by Darwinist popularizers—Ludwig Büchner, Carl Vogt, Carus Sterne, and Ernst Haeckel, among many others—available as books or articles in a variety of magazines that devoted considerable space to keeping the public abreast of scientific advances. Klinger's favorite newspaper, the Leipzig Illustrirte Zeitung, was a treasure-trove of information, publishing scholarly reviews of scientific books (a four-part feature on Haeckel's Anthropogenie appeared in the1875 January and February issues) as well as general reporting on zoos, aquariums, and natural history museums. The comprehensive scope of the newspaper, which included international coverage of cultural events, science, politics, military exploits, and travel, resulted in illustrations whose collage-like juxtapositions located European high society in a global Darwinian context of geographic and ethnic diversity.


Evolutionary theory was embraced in Germany more readily than in other countries, prompting Darwin to remark in 1861 that "the support which I receive in Germany is my chief ground for hoping that our views will ultimately prevail."6 Germans were, to a certain extent, more prepared for the notion that "man is not above nature, but in nature" because similar ideas had been anticipated by revered authors like Goethe. His belief in transformation, descent theory, and evolution were contained in "The Metamorphosis of Plants" and Faust, Part II, which Klinger later read.7 Romantic Naturphilosophie, despite its spiritual idealism, also espoused the interrelationship of man and nature, and a concept of the organic world based on process and historical change. By mid-century, scientists Vogt, Büchner, Jacob Moleschott and Friedrich Albert Lange examined issues in philosophy, history and anthropology from a materialist orientation, and under the influence of Ludwig Feuerbach and David Friedrich Strauss, rejected a faith in divine creation and a teleological worldview. They not only enthusiastically accepted Darwin, albeit with certain qualifications, and popularized his theories during the 1860s, but even "scooped" him by inferring man's kinship with apes in advance of the 1871 The Descent of Man.8
These scientific materialists were also political activists who applied the paradigm of evolution to the cause of social reform. The first generation of German Darwinists adopted left-leaning political positions which ranged from the "bourgeois socialism" of Büchner and Lange to the Marxist ideology of August Bebel and Friedrich Engels. Opposition to church and state was an early hallmark of the movement, initiated by Haeckel's famous 1863 Stettin speech, in which he declared that "neither the weapons of tyrants nor the curses of priests" could suppress the truths of evolutionary theory.9 Socialist Darwinists (in distinction to capitalist Social Darwinists who championed the "survival of the fittest" justification of power and wealth) confidently predicted an ascent to a future society of greater equality predicated on evolving human reason and compassion.10 The socialists' adoption of Darwinism did not go unopposed, especially by more politically conservative German biologists who, led by Rudolf Virchow, lent support to Bismarck in the enactment of his anti-socialist laws of 1878. Within these controversies of science and politics, Klinger and his associates in Berlin projected an anti-establishment attitude during the late 1870s when they were characterized by their friend Georg Brandes as "nihilists, socialists, atheists, materialists, naturalists and egoists…[who] honored the politics of the Paris Commune."11
Darwinian Theory reveals a full grasp of issues swirling around Darwinism in Germany. The drawing depicts, on the right, a natural scientist, presumably Darwin, with a book and two skulls, simian and human, referencing proofs through comparative skeletal anatomy of man's ancestry. Fossil remains of a primitive homo sapiens closer to the catarhine ape had been discovered in 1865 in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf. While these objects symbolize the materialist "new faith" described by David Strauss, the "old faith" of revealed religion is represented by the departing angry priest, already fading to a ghostly memory. During the 1870s anti-clericalism permeated German politics. An alliance between Bismarck and the liberal parties had resulted in a ban on monastic orders in Prussia, with many priests imprisoned or exiled. Dominating the tableau is a smiling ape, identified as a Cynothecus niger, whose hand rests familiarly on Darwin's shoulder while the other cradles an infant playing with a rattle.12 The intimacy of child and ape reveals man's origins, which Darwin appears to be contemplating, while also referencing Ernst Haeckel's famed Biogenetic Law asserting that "ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny"— that "the history of the fetus is a recapitulation of the human race."13 By this way of thinking, the baby is closer to his simian past than a mature adult. Annegret Friedrich has suggested that the two groups are gendered representations of the male domain of scientific reason versus the female realm of nature and nurture.14 Her interpretation transforms this drawing into an important signpost for Klinger's future concerns, and is reinforced through comments by Darwin and Haeckel attesting to the intense maternal affection observed in monkeys. Haeckel maintained that human behavior derived from "the instinct which is found in its extreme form in the exaggerated tenderness of the mother-ape."15


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Fig. 2 Max Klinger, Siesta I from Etched Sketches, 1879, etching and aquatint, Museum der bildenden Kunste, Leipzig

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Fig. 3 Common and Spiny Lobsters, reproduced in A.E. Brehm, Illustrirtes Thierleben (Illustrated Animal Life), vol. 6, Hildburghausen: Bibliographischen Institute, 1869, between pp. 642 and 643
Klinger's graphic art from the mid-1870s through the mid-1880s is replete with images documenting Darwin's theory of the struggle for existence and the struggle for mates. His juvenilia reflect an early—and typically male adolescent—focus on soldiers and battles, as well as bugs and lizards. Klinger's mother later recalled his absorption with his "friends" (the "butterflies and beetles") in the family garden.16 His interest in nature would have been later extended by Realschule classes in natural science.17 Klinger's sketchbook from 1874–77, completed while at art school in Karlsruhe and Berlin, contains frequent scenes of violence and sexuality, many of which would provide sources for his later prints. Darwinian evidence of the harsh lessons of survival, dominance, and death abound, as in the monstrous Goyaesque Fox Hunt, with animals pursued by brutes, or Buzzards with a Dead Hare, documenting an incident observed in the backyard of his parent's Leipzig home.18 The dark side of nature's food chain is grimly depicted in Siesta I, (fig. 2) from his first published graphic series Etched Sketches (1879), where two lobsters enjoy an after-dinner snooze next to the carcass of a fish they have consumed. Compositionally similar to the frontal "display" format of scientific illustrations, the image recalls a scene of crustacean combat, Common and Spiny Lobsters (fig. 3), in Alfred Brehm's widely read multi-volume Illustrirtes Tierleben (1864–69).
Many of Klinger's animal drawings may also have been sketched at the Berlin zoo and aquarium. Brehm, a student of Haeckel, was the founder and director of the Berlin Aquarium, which opened in 1869. It contained not only fish and reptiles, but also an aviary and the city's largest collection of monkeys and anthropomorphous apes.19 Drawings for Brehm's books were based in part on studies made there and at the Berlin zoo, which had undergone extensive expansions during the early 1870s. The zoo—a central attraction of Berlin social life that included restaurants, band shell and skating rink—had been visited by Klinger shortly after his arrival in the city.20 It featured new buildings in exotic architectural styles (an Indian Elephant Pagoda and Islamic Antelope House) and, beginning in 1878, served as the venue for ethnographic performances by non-Western tribal natives, ranging from Inuits to "Nubians" from Sudan. These shows, which were extremely popular, ensured a profit for the zoo and source material for anthropologists, while offering a Darwinian tableau of nature, primates and primitives.21 Klinger's drawings from this period also feature individuals of diverse ethnicities frequently paired with predators, as in Tiger Attacking a Chinese Man, The Lion Tamer and Moor with Tiger.22 His work reflects not only the experience of being an armchair traveler through reading Darwinian literature, but also an awareness that most scientists considered non-Caucasians less advanced on an evolutionary scale and on closer terms with their animal progenitors and prehistoric man.
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Fig. 4 Max Klinger, Persued Centaur from Intermezzos, 1881, etching and aquatint, Museum der bildenden Künste, Leipzig
The circumstances of life for mankind's ancestors are explored in four prints within Klinger's cycle Intermezzos, 1881, in which deadly battles occur between members of one's own species, more advanced species, and a hostile environment. Pursued Centaur illustrates an evolutionary saga of adaptation, survival, and extinction. (fig. 4) The escape of the centaur appears doomed in the face of superior opposition by the more highly evolved men riding horses. Their helmets and village home in the background indicate their increased level of civilization. Klinger's image also references the natural male attributes of "greater size and strength" (in comparison to females), "more developed muscles…[and] greater courage and pugnacity. . .all due in chief part to inheritance from his half-human male ancestors."23 In Battling Centaurs the setting shifts to an icy mountain range, with two figures locked in mortal combat over the prize of a dead rabbit. The series concludes with tranquil domestic scenes of everyday life in Moonlit Night and Landslide, which allude to the importance of procreation, inheritance, and community once the "struggle for existence" has been accomplished.

Klinger suggests that any such serenity is an illusion, however, given the realities of human and animal behavior (the boy centaur hurling a rock at a snake in the foreground of Landslide) and the aimless indifference of nature (the impending landslide). These representations recall Nietzsche's revisionist view of the Greeks, expressed in The Birth of Tragedy, 1872, as more barbaric and aggressive.24 They also echo the uncompromising vision of Haeckel, who noted that "might goes before right as long as organic life exists" and squelched any innocent belief in a benign or moral nature:

We shall rather find everywhere a pitiless, most embittered Struggle of All against All. Nowhere in nature, no matter where we turn our eyes, does that idyllic peace, celebrated by the poets, exist; we find everywhere a struggle and a striving to annihilate neighbors and competitors. Passion and selfishness—conscious or unconscious—is everywhere the motive force of life…Man in this respect certainly forms no exception to the rest of the animal kingdom.25

Klinger's art frequently underscores this viewpoint. Little distinction exists between the centaurs fighting over a hare and the crazed men fighting in Rivals (from the cycle A Life, 1882) whose conquest will be the prostitute observing them with a satisfied smile. The image is nearly a caricature of Darwin's animals "engaged in desperate conflicts…in the law of battle for the possession of the female" and a reminder that "all civilized nations are the descendents of barbarians."26 Indeed, the existence of semi-human hybrids was believed by many to be a fact verified by scientific research. Carus Sterne cited medical reports by Greek military physicians recording army recruits with partially formed foot-hoofs and vestiges of tails. Illustrations for his book Evolving and Vanishing, 1876, included photographs of a Greek faun statue and a contemporary Indian boy from Calcutta who was born with a tail.27 While Klinger lived in Berlin, he could also have visited "freak shows," endorsed and sometimes facilitated by anthropologists, where people with deformities such as tails, excessive body hair growth, or small skulls (microcephalics) were promoted as atavisms evidencing Darwin's "missing link."28

Rivals testifies to Klinger's awareness that Darwin attached tremendous significance to the role played by sexual selection in evolution. Darwin considered it to have been the most efficient factor separating man from animals, and responsible for the primary human racial and gender differences, both physical and mental. This process had benefited the male. His greater ardor and energy in pursuit of the more submissive and "less eager" female earned him, according to Darwin, superior strength and size, as well as "the higher mental faculties [of]. . . genius. . . perseverance. . .imagination and reason."29 Females, who at least within the animal kingdom exercised the power of choice in a mate, were stripped of even this level of assertiveness in human society, resulting in a proportionately diminished brain size.
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Fig. 5 Max Klinger, Sketch with studies of plants, animals, faces, and a woman embracing a lion, c. 1874–77, pen, brush and ink, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
Klinger also believed in the centrality of sexuality in human affairs—devoting his art principally to an examination of the nature and consequences of desire—but he diverged from Darwin in his conviction that women and men were equally possessed by and suffered from their carnal drives. The drawing of a woman embracing a lion is one of many images by Klinger that pairs felines and females in order to portray awakening and mature sexuality. (fig. 5) The trance-like absorption (and gaze of self-recognition) of the woman, echoed in the face above, is in contrast to the pious veiled figures with closed eyes, and visualizes a state of possession by forces whose biological origins are embodied in the decorative doodles of plants, monkey-hybrid, and giraffe.29 Klinger's animals are not mere avatars of female appetites, however, but seem to function as sentient male partners. His couplings of beauties and beasts are given greater plausibility through Darwin's assertion that "higher animals possess memory, attention…and even more imagination and reason."30 Klinger's depictions of women as thoughtful sexual beings would seem to free him from accusations of prudish Victorian gender bias. Yet, while he is not guilty of presenting "eagerly promiscuous males pursuing females, who peer from behind languidly drooping eyelids," as Ruth Hubbard has characterized Darwin's world, nonetheless his scenes of deviant passions do embody another kind of "wish fulfillment dream of a proper Victorian gentleman," who, like Darwin, associated female intuition and perception with "a lower and past state of civilization."31 Klinger did not, however, exempt himself from that condition since his male protagonists—subject to the same torments of love—are frequently self-portraits.
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Fig. 6 Max Klinger, Title Page of Etched Sketches, 1879, etching and aquatint, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
Themes of incipient danger, sexuality, and lability are announced in the Title Page (fig. 6) of Klinger's cycle, Etched Sketches,1879, and repeated throughout his early work, as in Bear and Elf (from Intermezzos, 1881). In both prints, split-second moments are captured as slender, nearly weightless girls hover on fragile reeds or tree branches. The precariousness itself seems to thematize Darwinian theory in which, as Gillian Beer has noted, there is "no place for stasis…or constant equilibrium. Nor…does it allow either interruption or conclusion."32 Like actors in a Darwinian play, the nymphs "coyly" tease the lumbering clumsy beasts, who are forever subject to gravitational realities.33 The biological underpinnings of this courtship are implicit in the aquatic and nocturnal environment. Oceans and watery sites are ubiquitous in Klinger's art, setting the stage for moments of passion and transgression. In the wake of Darwin, the sea gained new prominence, having replaced the mythic garden as the location of origination and primeval procreation. Darwin observed that "all…mammals originally descended from some amphibian-like creature, and this again from some fish-like animal."34 Man's ancestry was now traceable to not only the ape but, according to Nietzsche "living slime," or, as John Ruskin observed with disgust, "the filthy heraldries…[of] the ascidian [sea squirt] and the crocodile."35 Klinger's nymph is literally kin to her pursuer, as embryonic research confirmed, and her ability to escape, metaphorically speaking, illusory. As Darwin cautioned, "man with all his noble qualities…still bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origins."36 Even imagination, a quality which this ethereal nymph has frequently been seen to symbolize, had been furthered by sexual selection, according to evolutionary theory. Those who read Darwin were additionally aware that the moon referenced not only the Romantic night world of fantasy, but, in combination with water, other internal atavistic evidence. Darwin noted that "in the lunar or weekly recurrent period of some of our functions [such as menses] we apparently still retain traces of our primordial birthplace, a shore washed by the tides."37
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Fig. 7 Max Klinger, Fears from A Glove, 1881, etching, The Art Institute of Chicago

For Klinger, man could revisit his ancient past in dreams, which, like the unknown watery depths, were the gateway to the unconscious and the release of carnal desire. In Fears, from the series A Glove, 1881, the protagonist/artist appears in the grip of a terrifying nightmare whose erotic nature is signaled by the shape of the glove (the symbol of the woman he desires), the water, moon, and reptile. (fig. 7) The association of dreams and fetishes with primitive sensibilities was informed by recent anthropological research. Lubbock (quoted by Darwin) considered dreams integral to the formation of early religion, remarking that "to the savage they have a reality and an importance which we can scarcely appreciate," while Bastian identified beliefs in fetishes as characteristic of the lowest stage (the most sensual and emotive) of human mental development.38 Nietzsche asserted that the dream "takes us back again to the remote stages of human culture and provides us with a means of understanding them better."39 In dreams, claimed Nietzsche, we re-experience the thought processes of our less-evolved predecessors, which are typified by a confusing absence of logic, reduction of memory, and a heightened visual clarity suggestive of the hallucinations prevalent among ancient peoples. Two decades later Freud would assert that "dream-work" (whose symbols are almost always sexual) facilitates our return not only to childhood, but to "the archaic prehistory" of the "entire human race."40 Klinger, like Schopenhauer, believed that it is ultimately carnal needs which betray human ancestry to creatures whose lives were determined by instinct rather than intellect.

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Fig. 8 Max Klinger, Abduction from A Glove, 1881, etching and aquatint, The Art Institute of Chicago
Klinger referenced primal drives not just through dream experiences, but through creatures of the "lower orders" who were extinct, aquatic, or reptilian. Lobsters, for example, frequently personify lust, as in the drawing Nightmare, 1878, where a febrile young woman is raped by one.41 Crustaceans were recognized by Darwin as being the first class to possess secondary sexual characteristics; flying reptiles and dinosaurs played central roles in the evolutionary drama, representing transitional hybrid forms which ultimately linked man to his progenitors: "even the wide interval between birds and reptiles has been shown…to be partially bridged over…by one of the dinosaurians.42 One of the two monstrous heads in Fears emerges in Abduction (fig. 8), also from A Glove, as a long-tailed Pterosaur, known to Europeans through recent paleontological discoveries in 1859 from the Bavarian Jurassic limestone quarries. These also yielded the fossil remains of an Archaeopteryx (a small prehistoric bird) in 1861 and 1877, which were discussed by Darwin.43 Skeletons of dinosaurs, as well as other reptiles and vertebrates, were displayed in the Berlin Museum for Natural History when it opened in 1889. Previously, the collection had been housed in university buildings.44 Klinger's familiarity with dinosaurs is confirmed by an early untitled sketch that provocatively juxtaposes a dinosaur, lion head, human faces, and a beached fish supporting a prostrate boy.45
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Fig. 9 Max Klinger, Narcissus and Echo I from Rescues of Ovid's Victims, 1879, etching and aquatint, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
Myth construction, as well as dreaming, was regarded as symptomatic of "the human intellect in its early childlike state," and Nietzsche observed that primitives composed mythologies with the same "confusion and capriciousness" that marked their dreams.46 Myths were frequently invoked by scientists as intuitive anticipations of evolutionary truths. Among these, few were as prescient as Ovid's Metamorphosis. Aldous Huxley began his essay "Man's Place in Nature," with an acknowledgement that "Ovid foreshadowed the discoveries of the geologist," noting that "though the quaint forms of Centaurs and Satyrs have an existence only in the realms of Art, creatures approaching man more nearly than they in essential structure…are now not only known, but notorious."47 Klinger's decision to base a series of etchings on three Ovidian tales—"Pyramus and Thisbe," "Narcissus and Echo," and "Apollo and Daphne"—is therefore consistent with his Darwinian orientation. In this cycle, Rescues of Ovid's Victims, 1879, Klinger rewrites the stories (as Ovid had re-told the Greek myths) as mordant romances. In Narcissus and Echo I (fig. 9) the protagonists are allowed to embrace and kiss under the watchful eye of a faun and centaur, framed by blossoming vines and Cupid's arrow. Klinger's visualization of the text underscores the sexual nature of Nietzsche's Dionysian Greeks not only through the action and characters, but also the lush setting. Indeed, evolutionary themes of fertility, growth, reproduction, and transformation pulsate throughout his art, evidenced by hybrid figures and arabesques. Klinger's factual transcriptions of a fecund nature echo the style and imagery of Darwinian narratives, inviting comparisons with passages that evoke the busy richness of nature.


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Fig. 10 Max Klinger, In Flagranti from Dramas, 1883, etching, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
The same obsessive detail describing a nearly claustrophobic profusion of organic life characterizes many of Klinger's contemporary scenes of passion, such as In Flagranti from the cycle Dramas, 1883, (fig. 10) as he traces the constancy of biological drives through time. Living in a zeitgeist of scientific materialism, Klinger was well aware of the reductionist definition of romance as, in the words of Haeckel, essentially "copulation or fertilization." The "myth" of Adam and Eve and "famous fictions" like Paris and Helen were now regarded as "the poetic expression of the immeasurable influence, which love, in connection with ‘sexual selection,' has exerted.48 While Haeckel acknowledged the "misery, vice, and crime" caused by the "devouring flame" of passion, he remained buoyantly optimistic, however, about a future rooted in the truths of nature and the beneficent aegis of natural selection. Klinger, like Schopenhauer and his popularizer Eduard von Hartmann, drew different conclusions. Noting that love affairs often lead to suicide, murder, or insanity, Schopenhauer compared physical attraction to being "under the influence of an impulse akin to the instinct of insects."49 The murderous rage of the cuckolded husband in In Flagranti reveals the thin line that divides civilized man from his animal progenitors, suggesting Klinger's agreement with Carus Sterne's prediction that "the future promises the most difficult struggle of all…against the lower drives and desires, the struggle against oneself."50 Klinger's task as an artist was to probe the ravaging psychological scars of that battle.
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Fig. 11 Max Klinger, Rejected title page for A Love, 1887, pen and ink, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden
His bleak view of eroticism's power of entrapment is revealed in the rejected drawing, 1887, for the title page of the cycle A Love. (fig. 11) Engulfed in despair, the bespectacled aging ape-man and robed woman emblematize, respectively, carnal drives confronting virtue and denial—the conflicting forces torturing Klinger and his lover bound to the pillar. With hands folded in devotional attitudes as if before an altar of love whose sacred relics include the cat, top hat, and folded glove, the figures invoke our pity as victims of forces beyond their control which will only cause anguish. The pot-bellied old ape-man suggests that the experience is a humbling one.51
Klinger extended his historical survey of sexual attraction to Genesis in the series Eve and the Future, 1880, reconsidering the Judaic-Christian "myth" of creation in light of Darwin's information.52 Both accounts have striking parallels, incorporating elements of nature, desire, death, and loss of innocence. Klinger's first drawings on this theme were made in 1875, the year in which he had discovered Darwin. The cycle is composed of three pairs of prints, each including a scene from the Biblical story with a symbolic image of the future. As the series unfolds Eve (in Eve) sits in paradise, significantly positioned in proximity to a body of water. She appears lost in a daydream while absently stroking her long hair. According to Klinger, the temptation has already occurred to her as a "thought."53 First Future depicts a narrow passageway between high boulders at the end of which looms a seated tiger. The vision offers a shocking contrast to Eve, establishing the carnal and dangerous nature of her musings and the bleakness of a future in which there is no way back to paradise or, thanks to Darwin, forward to an afterlife. Klinger described First Future as a "terrifying creature in front of a permanently blocked path (I am a Fatalist)."54 Both Schopenhauer and Nietzsche had previously speculated on the kinship between the human race and "the tiger and the ape."55
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Fig. 12 Max Klinger, Second Future from Eve and the Future, 1880, etching and aquatint, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
The temptation itself occurs in The Snake, which depicts Eve gazing with satisfaction into a mirror obligingly held by the snake hanging from a branch of the apple tree. It is clear that the knowledge gained is an awareness of her own desirability; the nearby lake and reptile also imply the discovery of her sexual nature. The snake's anthropomorphic attributes highlight their kinship in a post-Darwinian world where snakes "have some reasoning power, strong passions and mutual affection."56 The focus on beauty and vanity, while traditional, also recalls the role played by female physical appearance as an important factor in sexual selection. Second Future (fig. 12) presents a chilling vision of a predator clutching a razor-sharp spear described by many critics as a "satyr" and by Klinger as "a demon swimming from another world."57 The weapon's phallic reference suggests the dual nature of primal pursuit, for both sustenance and procreation. Second Future can be compared to a distant transitional stage of human evolution as described by Darwin: "The early progenitors of man must have been once covered with hair…their ears were probably pointed… and their bodies were provided with a tail….at a still earlier stage [they] must have been aquatic in their habits."58 This image touched a nerve, eliciting pejorative remarks from the conservative critic Jonas Rasch in the Aftenposten when it was exhibited in Kristiania, Norway in November 1880. Rasch was horrified by the print, scoffing that even the most "ardent supporters of Darwin" would concede that man's ancestors weren't this monstrous.59 It is not surprising that the series triggered Darwinian associations, since the names "Adam and Eve," like apes and angels, had become code words signifying alternative theories of creation and human nature. References to the debunked first pair appeared in publications by, among others, Haeckel, Vogt, Büchner, and Bebel.
With Second Future, Klinger elucidates more clearly the message of the series: that the future recapitulates the past because it is pre-determined by our origins from which there will never be any rescue via evolutionary ascent. Together with all organic matter, we are part of the cycles of growth and decay, no longer graced by immortal salvation. Eve's awareness of her sexuality is an acknowledgment of her links with an animal ancestry. Klinger's pessimist vision echoed the sentiments of Nietzsche, who observed that modern man "thinks with sorrow of his origins and is often shamed. . .he gazes sadly into the future: he knows in advance that his posterity will suffer from the past as he does."60 The series concludes with Adam and Third Future, scenes of expulsion and punishment. Adam strides forth into a barren rocky landscape like a "little Hercules," as Rasch observed, his role of dominance asserted in the post-paradise world. The entwined bodies of Adam and Eve imply their new relationship as lovers and, in an earlier drawing, they were accompanied by Cupid. Assessments of blame, guilt, and reprisal are introduced here against Adam and, in the macabre Third Future, the institution of Christianity. Borrowing a scene from Jean-Paul's novel Hesperus, Klinger represents death as a skeleton vigorously pounding sinners' heads into construction material for paving the streets of hell. Klinger observed that the only certainty about the future is that "there is no future."61 In Third Future, the presence of the cross in the background above the skeleton highlights the duplicity of the church, wielding, as Carl Vogt had concluded earlier, "the fear of punishment," and "the hope of reward in a dreamt-of beyond" to enforce moral standards directed against, among other things, the satisfaction of sexual desires.62
Within the context of this graphic cycle, the cross is also a reminder that the creation narrative in Genesis is equally a misogynist myth of female guilt, a theme which Klinger explores in the sequels to Eve and the Future set in contemporary Germany: the series A Life. 1884, and A Love, 1887. The first two prints for A Life return to paradise, with Preface I and II depicting Eve and a demonic Adam. The inscription below the image in Preface I quotes from the serpent's deceitful promise to Eve: "Ye shall not surely die, but your eyes shall be opened." In subsequent scenes, Klinger chronicles the story of a young girl who, like Eve, submits to temptation. Deserted by her lover and ostracized by society, she is forced to turn to prostitution and, finally, commits suicide. Klinger's historical saga of injustice, rooted in the Garden of Eden, perpetrated by an androcentric society and church was inspired by the experimental naturalism of Emile Zola, the social criticism of Brandes (who had translated Mill's The Subjection of Women into Danish in 1869), and the work of his close art school friend, the Norwegian painter Christian Krohg, to whom he had dedicated Eve and the Future. Krohg's advocacy of women's rights culminated in his painting and novel Albertine; his criticism of Social Darwinism was the subject of his painting Struggle for Existence,1889, depicting starving children on a snow-covered urban street fighting for bread crumbs.63
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Fig. 13 Max Klinger, Chained from A Life, 1884, etching and aquatint, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig

A Life also parallels the theme of the Darwinian socialist August Bebel's 1879 book Woman in the Past, Present, and Future (originally titled Woman and Socialism), which reviews the history of female oppression.64 Bebel lays the blame especially on the "Christian State," first evidenced in Genesis. He notes that this misogynist spirit, in which Eve is stigmatized as a seductress, "is still active today…the myth of Adam being beguiled by Eve in Paradise still holds its own in our ideas and laws."65 Bebel's central thesis is an indictment of the bourgeois social order, which has deviated from nature in a manner that is discriminating and exploitative. He regards the sexual impulse in Darwinian terms as a "law of nature" for both men and women whose denial, as Freud later maintained, results in debilitating mental and physical conditions. Bebel asserts that the patriarchal church and state condemn and punish women for the extra-marital "gratification of [their] natural impulses," while sanctioning similar male behavior. He cites the high female suicide rate and observes that prostitution instances "the revolting illustration of the subjection of woman to man."66 Klinger also gives a Darwinian spin to his tale, highlighting the collision between biological drives and social strictures. Sexual consummation occurs in Temptation during, predictably, a descent into oceanic depths between embracing lovers astride two giant fish. In Chained (fig. 13) the carnal nature of the woman's transgressions are symbolized by her bondage to a prehistoric bat-like creature. Chained reveals the hypocrisy and condescension of the upper class "gentlemen" who are responsible for her ruin. The image recalls Bebel's unmasking of high society's double standards:

These men appear by day and in society with the grave and dignified air of guardians of morality, order, marriage and the family; they are at the head of Christian charities and of societies for the suppression of prostitution. Our social organization resembles a great carnival festival…in which everyone wears his official disguise with decorum, and indulges his inclinations and passions all the more unrestrainedly in private.67

The development of Klinger's Darwinian themes from biology to sociology resulted from his awareness of humanity as participants in a larger universe. In his essay Malerei und Zeichnung, he wrote: "man is not a person confined by his individual form, but a being who exists in relation to and dependence on external forces; he is above all a representative of his species."68 Klinger's shift to studies of behavior in contemporary society paralleled the direction taken by many German Darwinists. Like Darwin, who discussed the conflict between man's "social instincts…and his lower, though momentarily stronger, impulses and desires," they believed, in the words of Ludwig Büchner, that "the struggle with nature" had become the "social struggle of man…in the domain of morals" waged against the weakest members of society for the self-interests of "political and material" gain.69

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Fig. 14 Max Klinger, A Mother I from Dramas, 1883, etching and aquatint, Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig
Class inequality and revolutionary tensions in Germany had risen in the years following the enactment of the reactionary Socialist Law in 1878, causing Bebel to comment: "In social life…the struggle for existence assumes its most brutal…shape, it throws man back into his primeval state."70 As a specific example he cited two incidents in the Leipzig Illustrirte Zeitung where impoverished parents were driven "in despair to commit the most fearful crimes on their children and themselves."71 A similar tragic event, reported in the same newspaper, inspired Klinger's A Mother I–III (fig. 14) from the series Dramas, 1883, where a drunken man, ruined by the 1873 financial crash, beats his wife, who then attempts suicide with her child. Organized aggression occurs in March Days I–III (from the same series) with an armed proletarian insurrection against repressive government troops. Spring, Klinger later observed, "is the most dangerous moment in nature and politics."72
While Klinger found abundant evidence confirming man's descent from animals, he saw little proof that natural selection had resulted in human improvement. His immersion in the writings of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, coupled with his disgust over Germany's philistine materialist society and the rise of violence in Berlin (rape cases doubled between 1872 and 1878), reinforced his pessimistic belief that, as Nietzsche remarked, "man as a species is not progressing."73 These convictions ultimately set him apart from Darwin's "cheerful view that progress has been much more general than retrogression" and his "hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future."74 Most German Darwinists reassured readers of a moral order rooted in nature and the reward of a utopian future. Despite vitriolic attacks on current conditions, Bebel believed that man's rational self would prevail, producing a socialist society of legislated equality; Büchner envisioned a "struggle against the struggle for existence," resulting in universal harmony.75

For Klinger, however, man's "lowly origins" precluded any ascent to a future paradise of enlightened human altruism. Describing progress as "the modern surrogate for God," he came to dismiss the concept as "false and illogical" when applied to the human race. In a journal entry from early in 1887, he attempted to sever the equation between change and progress, while also revealing his discomfort with the rejection of teleology:

"But with man, with species, to speak of progress over time is nonsense….everything continues to develop but remains equal in value….To think of the human race in a condition that endures and remains unchanged without revolution [a concept that had been displaced, within the scientific community, by evolution], is to place it on the same level as vegetables and stones….Progress is only a lazy dim-witted crutch for people lacking feelings and ideas, who are incapable or unwilling to see God, or another superior power"76

This statement was written at a time of artistic crisis that signaled his increasingly conservative rejection of naturalism for Neo-Idealism and of the graphic arts for painting and sculpture.77 His growing disenchantment with aspects of Darwinian theory was accompanied by a developing interest in Nietzsche, especially following the 1889 publication of Brandes' book on the philosopher. While Nietzsche never doubted Darwin's "true but deadly doctrine," he rejected the notion of progress and tempered evolutionary theory, as Walter Kaufmann has argued, with the conviction that certain extraordinary individuals—"philosophers, artists, and saints"—could rise above the animal kingdom.78 Klinger's later art, with its celebration of human genius, suggests that he ultimately felt the need for the same reassurance.


1. Foremost among anthropologists who studied mythology and religion were John Lubbock, Edward Burnett Tylor, and Adolf Bastian, director of the Royal Museum of Ethnography in Berlin. Major studies by Lubbock and Tylor were translated and published in Germany during the mid-1870s. Tylor defined mythology as a "means of tracing the history of the laws of mind" and the best source for revealing "the processes of the imagination." Edward Burnett Tylor, The Origins of Culture. 1871. (Reprint, Gloucester, Mass.: Peter Smith, 1970) pp. 274- 275. Andrew Zimmerman, Anthropology and Antihumanism in Imperial Germany. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001) pp. 49-50, it should be noted, argues that most early German anthropologists, unlike their British counterparts, were not Darwinists and refused to establish evolutionary links between "primitives" and modern man.

2. Suzanne L Marchand, Down from Olympus: Archaeology and Philhellenism in Germany, 1750–1970. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996) Chapters 4 and 5. The close ties between German archaeology and anthropology can be seen in the friendship and collaboration of Schliemann and Rudolf Virchow, president of the German Society for Anthropology, Ethnology, and Prehistory. Schliemann's collection of Trojan antiquities were exhibited at Berlin's Ethnography Museum.

3. Oscar Levertin "Böcklin och Klinger," Samlade skrifter. Vol. 7. Stockholm, 1916, pp. 108-120.

4. Max Klinger, Briefe aus den Jahren 1874–1919. Ed. Hans W. Singer. (Leipzig: E.A. Seemann, 1924) pp. 13-14.

5. Charles Darwins Gesammelte Werke, trans. J. Victor Carus (Stuttgart: F. Schweizerbart, 1874) included The Descent of Man and The Origin of Species as well as Darwin's travel accounts and his work on insect-eating plants. For a review see W. Von Kleist, Literaturbriefe," Westermann's Jahrbuch der Illustrirten Deutschen Monatshefte, 40 (April-Sept. 1876), pp. 553-555.

6. Charles Darwin, The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin. Vol. 2. Ed. Francis Darwin. (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1896) p.270.

7. Ernst Haeckel, The Evolution of Man. 2 vols. (London: C. Keegan Paul and Co., 1879) vol. 2., p.456; Julius Vogel, Max Klinger und seine Vaterstadt Leipzig. (Leipzig: A. Deichertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung,1924) p. 102. The literature on Goethe as a scientist is considerable. For recent discussions consult Matthew Bell, Goethe's Naturalistic Anthropology: Man and Other Plants. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994) and Peter Matussek, ed., Goethe und die Verzeitlichung der Natur. (Munich: C.H. Beck, 1998). Goethe was routinely cited as a forerunner of Darwin. See, for example, David Friedrich Strauss, The Old Faith and the New. Vol. 2. 1872. (Reprint, trans. Mathilde Blind. Oxford: Prometheus Books, 1997) p. 206; Frederick Gregory, Scientific Materialism in Nineteenth Century Germany. (Boston: D. Reidel, 1977) p. 185; and Von Kleist 1876, p.554. Goethe, in the "Classical Walpurgis Night" scene of Faust: Part II, describes the evolution of man through transmutational forms originating in the ocean.

8. Scientists who asserted or inferred the ape-man connection included Vogt, Vorlesungen über den Menschen (Lectures on Man) (1863), Büchner, Der Mensch und seine Stellung in der Natur (Man and his Place in Nature), 1870, and Haeckel, Natürliche Schopfungsgeschichte (History of Creation), 1868. For detailed information on the positions of these artists regarding Darwin, as well as the contributions of the theologians Feuerbach and Strauss, see Gregory 1977 and Frederick Gregory, Nature Lost?: Natural Science and the German Theological Traditions of the Nineteenth Century. (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992).

9. Alfred Kelly, The Descent of Darwin: The Popularization of Darwinism in Germany, 1860–1914. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981) p.22.

10. For details on the different applications of evolutionary science to social theory by various socialist Darwinians, who argued over the role of the "struggle for existence" and the necessity for revolution, see Richard Weikart, Socialist Darwinism: Evolution in German Socialist Thought from Marx to Bernstein. (San Francisco: International Scholars Publications, 1999); and Mike Hawkins, Social Darwinism in European and American thought, 1860–1945. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997). Weikart also discusses the positions of politically conservative scientists who were involved in Bismarck's anti-socialist propaganda of the 1870s. Darwin himself was displeased with the affiliation between his teachings and socialism in Germany. (Weikart 1999, p.108-109.) The anti-socialist Virchow was one of the few prominent German scientists who was not a Darwinist.

11. Georg Brandes, "Max Klinger," Moderne Geister. (Frankfurt am Main: Rütten und Loening 1897) p.61. During the late 1870s Klinger was living in the Prussian capital with several Scandinavian artists who included the painters Christian Krohg and Edvard Diriks.

12. Hans-Georg Pfeiffer, Max Klingers Graphikzyklen. (Giessener Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte, vol. 5. Giessen: W. Schmitz, 1980) p. 27. Pfeiffer, one of the few scholars to discuss this drawing, was the first to identity the scientist as Darwin and to notice the similarity between this ape and an illustration in Darwin's The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

13. Hawkins 1997, p.134; Haeckel (1879) 1910, vol. 1, p.2.

14. Friedrich 1997, p. 199.

15. Haeckel (1879) 1910, vol. 2, p. 738.

16. Elizabeth Pendleton Streicher, "Max Klinger's 'Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove' (1878–1881)." (Ph.D. dissertation, Columbia University, 1990) p. 36.

17. Klinger's "class report," which includes "Naturbeschreibung," is reprinted in Klinger 1924, opposite p. 1. By contrast, the Gymnasium, attended by university-bound students, did not offer scientific instruction in its curriculum.

18. Max Klinger 1857–1920. Exh. cat. Frankfurt am Main: Städtische Galerie im Städelschen Kunstinstitut, 1992 p. 305. The best source of illustrations for the student sketchbook drawings is Leipzig 1995. These two drawings appear on p.154; a satirical sketch of an amateur naturalist is reproduced on p. 144.

19. Heinz-Georg Klös, Hans Frädrich, and Ursula Klös, Die Arche Noah an der Spree: 150 Jahre Zoologischer Garten Berlin. (Berlin: FAB Verlag, 1994) pp. 83-86 and 348-351. This aquarium acquired the first gorilla in Germany in 1876.

20. Klinger's friend Diriks reported that "on one of our first days in Berlin we went round the zoo and looked at all the strange animals." This information is cited in Streicher 1990, p. 87. For a contemporary description of the zoo with illustrations see Henry Vizetelly, Berlin under the New Empire. Vol. 1. 1879. (Reprint, New York: Greenwood Press, 1968) pp. 195-216. At that time the zoo's collection numbered over 1500 animals and birds. The skating rink played a prominent role in Klinger's print series A Glove (Paraphrase on the Finding of a Glove.)

21. Klös 1994, pp.89, 90. For a critical analysis of these Völkerschauen within the context of German anthropology, Imperialism, and commercial interests see Zimmerman 2001, pp.18-23.

22. For illustrations consult Max Klinger. Exh. cat. Leipzig: Museum der bildenden Künste Leipzig, 1995, p.167; and Max Klinger: Zeichnungen, Zustandsdrucke, Zyklen. Exh. cat. Munch: Villa Stuck; Munich: Prestel, 1996, p.172. Klinger mentions the drawing of the Moor (noting Krohg's approval) in the same letter as his reference to Darwin. See Klinger 1924, p.8. For Darwin's discussion of "African Moors" see Darwin 1874, p.886. Race remained a contentious issue among scientists who argued over whether human ancestry derived from a single original pair.

23. Darwin 1874, p. 872.

24. Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy. Trans. Walter Kaufmann. (New York: Random House, 1967. First published 1872) pp. 39, 61. Nietzsche described the satyr as "not a mere ape," but "the archetype of man." See also R.J Hollingdale, Nietzsche: The Man and His Philosophy. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1965) pp. 90, 91 on Nietzsche's essay "Homer's Contest," in which he referenced the "vein of cruelty" in the Greek people. Illustrations of prints by Klinger not reproduced in this article can be found in Hans Wolfgang Singer, Max Klinger: Radierungen, Stiche, und Steindrucke; Etchings, Engravings, and Lithographs, 1878–1903. (1909) (Reprint, German-English ed., trans. Bernd K. Estabrook. San Francisco: Alan Wofsy Fine Arts, 1991); or Munich 1996

25. Haeckel (1879) 1910, vol. I, p.72 and 1876, vol. I, pp. 19, 20.

26. Darwin 1874, pp. 818, 863, and 510. These two prints were discussed together within the context of Darwinian combat in Frankfurt 1992, p. 305.

27. Carus Sterne, Werden und Vergen: Eine Entwicklungsgeschichte des Naturganzen in gemeinverständlicher Fassung. 4th ed. Vol. 2. (Berlin: Gebrüder Bornträger, 1901. First published 1876) p.327.

28. Zimmerman 2001, pp. 73-83. Zimmerman includes photographs of the deformed performers. Darwin discussed these defects as "reversions" and "arrests of development." See Darwin 1874, pp. 416 and 421. An illustrated article on microcephalics, entitled "Ein 'Affenmensch'," appeared in the Leipzig Illustrirte Zeitung (30 March 1878, p.257). The figure in the illustration, with its small pointed head, recalls the cranial structure of the creature in Klinger's drawing Demon. For an illustration see Leipzig 1995, p.170.

29. Darwin 1874, pp. 578, 579, 873, and 874. Darwin, citing Carl Vogt's research, averred that the male "brain is absolutely larger" p.867.

30. Giraffes had achieved fame as animals at the center of evolutionary debates between Lamarck and Wallace regarding the roles played by either conscious willpower or chance variation. See Gillian Beer, Darwin's Plots: Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction. 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000) pp. 18, 19; and James Rachels, Created from Animals: The Moral Implications of Darwinism. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990) pp. 39, 40. The face above the woman and lion is probably a study for Psyche in Klinger's etching Psyche on the Cliff, 1880.

31. Darwin 1874, p.460. Darwin's research also offered scientific justification for the traditional association of lions and male prowess: "As far as I can discover, he [the lion] is the only polygamist amongst all the terrestrial carnivores, and he alone presents well-marked sexual characteristics." Darwin 1874, p. 576.

32. Hubbard quoted in Eveleen Richards,"Darwin and the Descent of Woman," in The Wider Domain of Evolutionary Thought, ed. David Oldroyd and Ian Langham. (London: D. Reidel, 1983) p.77. For Darwin see ibid., p.873.

33. Beer 2000, p.8.

34. Darwin 1874, p.579.

35. Ibid., p.911,

36. Ruskin (1873) quoted in Beer 2000, p.8 and Nietzsche (1874) 1990, p.107.

37. Darwin 1874, p.920.

38. Ibid., p.524.

39. John Lubbock, The Origin of Civilization and the Primitive Condition of Mankind. (London: Longman, Green and Co., 1870) p.126; and Klaus-Peter Koepping, Adolf Bastian and the Psychic Unity of Mankind. (St. Lucia: University of Queensland Press, 1983) pp. 95, 96. Darwin cited Lubbock and Tylor's studies about fetishes and dreams, which Tylor regarded as the inception of a belief in spirits. (Darwin 1874, p.469.) Darwin viewed dreams as reflections of man's highest powers of imagination, quoting the Romantic poet Jean-Paul Richter on the topic. For Darwin, however, this offered further evidence of our descent from animals, since they also dream. (Ibid., p.453.)

40. Nietzsche (1878) 1986, pp. 18, 16. A similar function was provided by music. Darwin believed that "man possessed these faculties [singing and dancing] in a very remote period," so that "the sensations and ideas thus excited in us by music…appear…like mental reversions to the emotions and thoughts of a long-past age" associated with "the season of courtship." [Darwin 1874, p. 878-880.] This would have been of particular interest to Klinger who was a pianist and regarded his graphic art as inextricably linked to music through its content (as in the Brahmsphantasie) and serial format (variations on themes).

41. Freud," Introductory Lectures," quoted in Frank J Sulloway, Freud, Biologist of the Mind.(New York: Basic Books, 1979) p. 338.

42. For a discussion of this drawing see Frankfurt 1992, p. 301; it is reproduced in Munich 1996, p. 191.

43. Darwin 1860, p.266.

44. Darwin 1874, pp. 522, 523. Klinger's "bird" appears to be a fusion of two types of Pterosaurs, the head of a Rhamphorhynchus on a Dimorphodon body. For illustrations and further information see Carroll Lane Fenton and Mildred Adams Fenton, The Fossil Book: A Record of Prehistoric Life. (Garden City, New Jersey: Doubleday, 1958) pp. 363-368.

45. Das Museum für Naturkunde 1889, pp. 3, 7, 8. The museum included collections in geology, paleontology, mineralogy, petrology and zoology.

46. The drawing is illustrated in Leipzig 1995, p.159.

47. Tylor (1871)1970, p.284 and Nietzsche (1878) 1986, p.17.

48. Charles Huxley, Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature. (London: Williams and Norgate, 1863) p.1. This statement was quoted and discussed within the context of Darwinian myths of transformation by Beer 2000, p.129. Nineteenth-century books on the natural sciences were, in fact, usually laced with references to Greek literature and culture. Haeckel, for example, begins The Evolution of Man with Goethe's poem "Prometheus."

49. Haeckel 1879, vol. 2, p.394.

50. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation. Vol. 2. 1819. (Reprint, trans. E.F.J. Payne. New York: Dover Publications, 1958) p.556. In the same passage, he averred that love is "always ready ruthlessly to destroy personal happiness in order to carry out its ends."

51. Sterne (1876) 1901, p.552.

52. For a detailed interpretation of the drawing's symbolism, see Pfeiffer 1980, pp.47-49.

53. Biblical truths had been discredited after the publication of Strauss's books The Life of Jesus (1835) and Doctrine of Faith (1840), in which he had exposed events in Genesis and the Gospels as fictional myths, the latter created in response to psychological needs of first-century Jews. For further information see Gregory 1992, pp. 76-87.

54. Klinger to Ludwig Pietsch, 20 Sept. 1880 in Klinger 1924, p.35

55. Ibid.

56. Nietzsche (1872) 1967, p. 40. Schopenhauer's statement, contained in Parerga und Paralipomena (1851), was cited by Dückers (1976), p. 62. An article on tigers also appeared in the Leipzig Illustrirte Zeitung (23 February 1878) describing their greater power and danger in comparison to lions.

57. Darwin 1874, p. 692.

58. Klinger 1924, p.35.

59. Darwin 1874, p.524. As noted earlier, similar hairy humans were featured at freak shows; their photographs were reproduced in articles and books. For further information on "ape-men" in Germany during the later nineteenth century see Nigel Rothfels, "Aztecs, Aborigines, and Ape-People: Science and Freaks in Germany, 1850–1900." In Freakery: Cultural Spectacles of the Extraordinary Body, ed. Rosemary Garland Thomson. (New York: New York University Press, 1996) pp. 158*72.

60. Jonas Rasch, "Fra Kunstforeningen," Aftenposten, 1 Dezember 1880. Reprinted in Lange, Marit, "Max Klinger und Norwegen," Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte 33 (1994), pp. 205, 206.

61. Nietzsche (1878) 1986, p.118.

62. Klinger to his parents, 20 April 1881 in Klinger 1924, p. 37.

63. Vogt 1864, p.469. Hostility towards organized religion was expressed by many German scientists who supported Darwin.

64. For illustrations and discussions of Albertine in the Police Doctor's Waiting Room and Struggle for Existence see Kirk Varnedoe, Northern Light: Nordic Art at the Turn of the Century. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988) p. 152 (cat. 59) and 32 (fig. 11). For further information on Krohg see Oscar Thue, Christian Krohg. (Oslo: Aschehoug, 1997)

65. The connection between Bebel's book and Klinger's work was first discussed in Sylvia Heinje, "Zwischen Synnlichkeit und Moral," in Max Klinger. Exh. cat. Bielefeld: Kunsthalle, 1976, p. 282-285. Through his sympathetic presentation of women in these print cycles, Klinger distanced himself from the attitudes of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. In addition to Bebel, Büchner also condemned what he perceived as the enslaved position of women in society. See Ludwig Büchner, Man in the Past, Present and Future. Trans. W.S. Dallas. (London: Asher and Co., 1872. First published in German 1870) pp. 200-208.

66. August Bebel, Woman in the Past, Present and Future. 1879. (Reprint, London: Zwan, 1988) p.94.

67. Ibid., p. 91.

68. Ibid., p. 97.

69. Klinger (1891) 1984, p. 216.

70. Darwin 1874, p. 494; Büchner 1872, p.158.

71. Bebel (1879) 1988, p. 158.

72. Ibid., p. 156.

73. Klinger to Max Lehrs, 1 March 1916 in Klinger 1924, p. 208.

74. Nietzsche, unpublished notes (1888) quoted in Kaufmann 1974, p. 328.

75. Darwin 1874 pp. 511 and 920.

76. Büchner 1872, p. 175.

77. Klinger 1985, p. 79.

78. For a more extensive discussion of this transition see Jay Anne Clarke,"The Construction of Artistic Identity in Turn-of-the-Century Berlin: The Prints of Klinger, Kollwitz, and Liebermann." (Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 1999) pp. 95-100. Klinger did, however, keep in touch with scientific circles in Leipzig. In 1895 he designed the commemorative print honoring the famous Leipzig zoologist Rudolph Leuckart on the fiftieth anniversary of his doctorate.

79. Nietzsche (1874) 1990, p.112; Walter Kaufmann, Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974) p.152. For Nietzsche's influence on Klinger see, among others, Martin Michalski, Max Klinger. (Augsburg: AV-Verlag, 1986) pp. 19-24; and Elizabeth Tumasonis, "Klinger's Christ on Olympus: The Confrontation between Christianity and Paganism," RACAR 20, no. 1-2 (1993), pp. 83-97.

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Haunted Supermasculinity: Strength and Death in Carl Rungius's Wary Game
by Alexander Nemerov

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Fig. 1 Carl Rungius, Wary Game, 1909. Oil. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Allen
Animal art from the turn of the century seems to be literal and even banal, the kind of picture that neither demands nor rewards close critical inspection. Take for example Carl Rungius's Wary Game, painted about 1908, an image of six mountain rams looking and listening for something to their right. (fig. 1) Admirers of the painting have found it to be an objective view of a creature known as Dall sheep. Detractors might see it, at most, as a forgettable relic of the turn-of-the-century practice and ideology of big-game hunting. Yet Wary Game turns out to be far more complicated—specifically, it casts the rams in racial terms. The painting is a fantasy about the first white "men," primordial and strong, poised on a dizzying peak of virility. Yet at the same time it shows these supermasculine figures standing decrepit, pathetic, and forlorn in their very supremacy—dead in their very life. Wary Game suggests that we miss a great deal when we label comparable turn-of-the-century images as "mere" animal art lacking depth and ideological complexity.
The Origins of Whiteness
Rungius (pronounced RUN-gis; 1869–1959) based Wary Game on his experiences in the Yukon Territory in the summer of 1904. The Yukon trip came only seven years after the artist had moved to the United States from his native Germany, where he had trained as a painter of both human and animal figures. Rungius explored the Yukon with the hunter Charles Sheldon, who organized the trip, and the naturalist Wilfred Osgood, of the Division of Biological Survey, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Sheldon's purpose in traveling to the remote region was to hunt and study the area's mountain sheep. He wanted to determine if the different colors of the Pacific Northwest's alleged three species—Dall sheep, Fannin sheep, and Stone sheep (respectively white, gray, and dark gray) —really did indicate separate types of animal or merely color phases of the same kind of creature. He eventually published his findings, along with a detailed account of the trip, in The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon (1911), a book that mentions Rungius and includes reproductions of several Rungius paintings like Wary Game.
Sheldon's answer to the "perplexing problems" of sheep coloration was racial. Specifically, it reveals his interest in the formation of races. He dismissed the idea of color phases, and he also respectfully rejected the idea of natural selection, as it was espoused in the camouflage theory of Abbott Thayer. (Thayer's magnum opus, Concealing—Coloration in the Animal Kingdom, had just appeared in 1909.) For Sheldon, the different colors of mountain sheep did not make sense as a mode of concealment. Instead, he argued that all the sheep "came from a common ancestor." This ancestor, he felt, was a dark animal—one could tell because even the whitest of the sheep still showed "the persistence of dark hairs" as a residuum of its ancestry. At some point in the past, according to Sheldon, various descendants from this original dark animal had staked out different mountain ranges in Alaska and British Columbia. Partly for environmental reasons (Sheldon is vague about this), the northernmost of these sheep had become whiter while the more southerly ones, those inhabiting British Columbia, had remained comparatively dark. "As a result," Sheldon wrote, "geographical races are formed, gradually changing from one area to another, until the extremes may be widely different."1
A monogenist theory such as Sheldon's was the only one available to an evolutionist. In the mid-nineteenth century, polygenists had sanctioned racism by theorizing that white— and dark—skinned people had evolved from separate ancestors. After Darwin, however, such a view ceased to be tenable, yet the racism remained. "The polygenists now admitted a common ancestry in the prehistoric mists," writes Stephen Jay Gould, "but affirmed that races had been separate long enough to evolve major inherited differences in talent and intelligence." Gould then quotes the historian George Stocking on the post-1859 "'comprehensive evolutionism which was at once monogenist and racist, which affirmed human unity even as it relegated the dark-skinned savage to a status very near the ape.'"2 Sheldon's monogenism— "admitting a common ancestry in the prehistoric mists," yet still sharply differentiating between black and white creatures—exemplified this racialized view of origins.
In the evolutionary laboratory of the Yukon, one "race" not surprisingly fascinated Sheldon. About the Dall sheep of the Mackenzie Range, he wrote, "All these sheep . . . are pure white" (Sheldon's emphasis). Indeed, a little later, the phrase "pure white" occurs four more times within half a page as Sheldon summarizes his color explanation: "All the sheep of Alaska are uniformly pure white. . . . Throughout the Mackenzie Rockies . . . sheep are pure white. . . . In the Yukon Territory, all sheep . . . are pure white. Pure white sheep greatly preponderate west of the Lewes and Yukon Rivers." That the phrase "pure white" had a vivid racial connotation for Sheldon is clear if we consider that he named the expedition's all-black pack horse "Nigger."3 To study Dall sheep, then, was to see how a white race had evolved. The fact that the creatures were not literally pure white only made them more interesting, since scatterings of dark hairs revealed the animal's evolutionary past.
Wary Game embodies Sheldon's theory of racial evolution in two ways. First, the group of more or less white rams, all of them Dall sheep, illustrates the idea of a white race apart: "Within the geographical areas, the differing characters are sufficiently uniform to mark a race, though there may be individual variation." Second, Rungius's painting also shows Sheldon's idea of the evolutionary development of whiteness from darkness through the influence of Eadweard Muybridge's sequential photography, which had a profound effect on many turn-of-the-century realist pictures. The painting, in Muybridgean fashion, reads as an image not just of six rams but of one ram, seen (from left to right) at six different moments. Though we can read each creature discretely, the sense of separate animals is substantially reduced by the way they blur into one another. As in Muybridge's photographs, Wary Game shows a single figure repeatedly, each figure depicted as part of a temporal sequence.4
This progression, moreover, illustrates Sheldon's theory of the evolutionary development of whiteness. The nearest, darkest ram reveals Sheldon's opinion about the residual coloration of white rams: "The dark hairs are most persistent in the tail and least persistent in the head and neck. Next they are most persistent on the mid-dorsal line directly above the tail; next on the back."5 As we follow the rams from foreground to midground, however, they become whiter and whiter until we reach the rightmost and most distant ram, brightly illumined by the sun, who seems whitest of all. The successive figures thus show not just the sequential instant, the slight shuffling of one animal in a few seconds, but rather a great evolutionary unfolding, an epochal sort of change. To be more precise, it is an epochal change represented in terms of the sequential instant, as though thousands of years were condensed into a Muybridgean second or two—all so that we can see the progressive shift to whiteness that Sheldon espoused.
The very position of the rams in Wary Game confirms the painting's racial view. Carefully placing the leftmost rams against the dark rocks and the rightmost rams against the dark sky, Rungius chooses not to show any of the white animals against snow. The image clearly forsakes the idea of "concealing-coloration" —an idea that would offer a less racialized explanation of the rams' color. Far from an objective picture, Wary Game represents a monogenist view in which color is explicable as a racial development.
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Fig. 2 Carl Rungius, Wary Game (detail), 1909. Oil. Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Douglas Allen

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Fig. 3 Carl Rungius, Lioness Studies, ca. early 1890s. Pencil on gray paper. Glenbow Collection, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta

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Fig. 4 Wilfred Osgood, Carl Rungius Drawing a Ram’s Head, 1904. Glenbow Archives, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta

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Fig. 5 Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait, The Life of a Hunter—A Tight Fix, 1858. Oil. Manoogian Collection, Taylor, Michigan
But the painting suggests something else. The satyrlike hybridity of the rams' bodies, especially that of the nearest creature, tantalizingly evokes the human form. (fig. 2) Shown backside first, the nearest animal is the most bestial of all six rams, but the foreshortening of the figure largely defeats its animal horizontality. With the possible exception of the almost obscured ram third from the right, this nearest creature is the only one whose horizontality has been so de-emphasized. The figure thus reads vertically—from its lower hind legs through its backside to its raised neck and head. Also, the fact that this creature, alone among the six, positions its body upward—the front legs on a higher plane than the lower ones—adds to our sense of its vertical orientation. The result is an animal that relates more to the verticality of the human body than to the horizontality of an animal's.
Moreover, Rungius presents the head and neck of the two closest rams in carefully modeled, contoured profiles that invite comparison to human features. One of the many drawings the artist made at the Berlin Zoo in the early 1890s shows the artist's interest in relating animal and human faces. (fig. 3) The image features five views of a lion and lioness, as well as the likeness of a single female zoo visitor. Rungius rhymes the woman's slanting profile with that of the lion directly above her. The repeated profiles show that Rungius could represent human and animal faces in relation. This same interchangeability, it would appear, informs the strange, jut-jawed protohuman profiles of the two nearest rams in Wary Game, as though Rungius meant his viewers to speculate that the rams' faces might bear the physiognomic traces of a nascent humanity.
There is yet a further dimension to the protohumanity of the rams. A photograph from the Yukon trip, taken by Wilfred Osgood, shows Rungius sketching the severed head of a Dall ram like the ones pictured in Wary Game. (fig. 4) What is most interesting about the photograph is the way it persistently relates human and animal. Rungius and the ram's head confront one another. They do so at almost the same level—the artist's head is only slightly higher than the ram's. They are visually matched: the V-shaped spring of the ram's horns duplicates the V-shape of the artist's suspenders. The beast is a strange mirror image of the hunter-artist. The result is a powerful force field of relation traversing the space between them. Osgood's photograph exemplifies the well-known idea of the identity of the hunter and hunted, what the philosopher José Ortega y Gasset called the hunter's "mystical union" with the animal.6
More precisely, Osgood's photograph is an example of the psychological hunting image. In these images (and stories), the animal becomes an alter ego, a projection of the hunter onto the creature he pursues. The animal becomes a projection of the hunter's primitive or bestial side, so that to hunt the beast is really a symbolic attempt to vanquish or just to see the unruly brute within oneself. In Arthur Fitzwilliam Tait's The Life of a Hunter: A Tight Fix, painted in 1858 (fig. 5), bear and hunter face one another in an extraordinary series of doublings: the bear's fur and the man's hair and beard; the bear's right hind paw and the man's left hand; and the bear's white chest markings and the snow on the man's jacket. The bear, in this sense, is the hunter's second self. Jaw set, the hunter tries to kill his snarling mirror image. Osgood's photograph, representing the same doubling between hunter and prey, comparably casts the ram as Rungius's alter ego.
Osgood's image, thus, epitomizes the mirrorings one finds throughout nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century hunting narratives. In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), Frankenstein strives to kill the monster he has created—a monster whose extraordinary violence embodies the doctor's own antisocial impulses. In Herman Melville's Moby Dick (1851), Captain Ahab obsessively hunts the white whale whose malevolence evokes his own blind hatred. In "The Jolly Corner" (1906), Henry James's supernatural story masterfully appropriated from the conventions of hunting narratives, a fifty-six-year-old expatriate, Spencer Brydon, returns to Manhattan and begins a strange stalk inside the house in which he grew up. Brydon's quarry is his other self, the person he would have become had he remained in New York and become a businessman. When Brydon finally comes face to face with his prey, he confronts a presence "rigid and conscious, spectral yet human, a man of his own substance and stature." He has finally seen that "strange alter ego" (James's emphasis) he has sought. As Brydon's companion, Alice Staverton, puts it, using words that also apply to Osgood's photograph of Rungius: "You came to yourself."7
Wary Game explicitly shows no hunter, but the sense of the rams as alter egos is pervasive. Their fixed positions implicitly duplicate the frozen attitude of the unseen hunter suggested by the title. Their vigilant gazes evoke the hunter's concentrated vision. Their virile power—standing, staring, possessed of jutting armaments—parallels that of the gun-toting hunters in photographs taken during the Yukon trip. Much more fundamentally, the rams' physiognomy, as we have seen, is represented on a continuum with the human body. As befits an image made in a Darwinian age, Rungius's painting is a fantasy in which we are meant to discover ourselves, as we existed ages and ages before, at the border, when animal had just begun to change into human. The same is true in Osgood's photograph. Seated before the ram's head, Rungius encounters a first, animal version of himself in which early humanity is just perceptible.
Prehistoric Prussians
We can be more specific, though, about what kind of ancestral self Wary Game represents. At the time he painted Wary Game, Rungius was living in Brooklyn, but he and his wife, Louise, maintained strong ties to Germany, her native country also. Germany had been unified only in 1871 (two years after Carl's birth). Not surprisingly, German nationalism characterizes various Rungius family documents. In 1907, three years after Carl had returned from the Yukon, Louise completed a distinctly nationalistic master's thesis at Columbia University entitled "Lessing and Pseudo-Classicism." Her thesis argues that the German theorist Gotthold Ephraim Lessing heroically overturned the "pseudo-classicism" of French writers such as Voltaire and Corneille by adhering to Aristotle's rules about unity of time and place. Lessing restored classical form to German drama and set the stage for the great German writers to follow—Herder, Goethe, and Schiller—so that, in her words, "[N]ow, when France is on the decline, Germany is steadily rising and reaches its highest pinnacle." Lessing's heroic accomplishment— "A radical method . . . to free the Germans from their bondage [to French pseudoclassicism]" —produced an "awakening of a feeling of nationality and pride in Germany." To this last sentence someone, perhaps her advisor, Professor Brander Matthews, felt it necessary to pencil in the word "literary" before the word "Germany."

Moreover, the nationalism in the Rungius household was distinctly militaristic. In Louise Rungius's thesis, one can sense the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, in which Germany defeated France and annexed the province of Alsace-Lorraine. The militarism became more intense in subsequent years. In September 1914, Louise was in Germany just as the war began. Hastily, she returned to New York via Liverpool, traveling steerage on the Lusitania, which the Germans would sink the following year. From Brooklyn Louise wrote to Carl, who was then hunting and painting in Alberta:

I would not have missed the mobilization in Germany for a good deal. It was perfectly grand and the fighting was magnificent. I hope and pray that the Germans may win altho they are fighting against a great crowd—English, Russians, French, Belgians, and the yellow Japs. If I could do only a little against England I would be happy. I am sorry to say that opinion here [in Brooklyn] seems to be that the Germans brought on the war. This is the most awful mistake. I was there when the thing came about. Simply because Germany is ready and the others not, Germany is said to be warlike and the emperor a warlord. I have so much to say to you about this I cannot begin. I shall try my best to help Germany by trying to enlighten the people I come in contact with. (Louise Rungius's emphases).8

Although there is no record of Carl Rungius's reply, it is likely that he shared her views. Carl and his siblings were raised in a fervently nationalistic atmosphere. In a spoken memoir in 1962, near the end of her life, Carl's sister Lise remembered that "In church prayers were officially offered every Sunday for the protection of our 'Kaiser and the entire German war-might on land and on sea,'" and that "Our school and song books were full of material in praise of God and our country, especially Prussia, being the best country and having a way of life superior to any other country anywhere." On the Kaiser's birthday, on January 27, she remembered, there would be no school "but we had to be present for a celebration in the Auditorium to hear patriotic speeches and recitations from the podium, delivered by some girls particularly gifted in that direction. All songs and poems fairly bristled with blood and killing, with praise of our heroes and their 'blessed sword' and with hatred of the cowardly enemy."

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Fig. 6 Photographer unknown, Carl Rungius in Uniform, 1891. Glenbow Archives, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta
Lise recalled that soldiers were everywhere in and around the Rungius household. "In Germany at that time much of public and private interest centered around our Army… Almost every family had their sons in service, either temporarily or permanently. We were proud of this and felt it to be a great protection." The Rungius family housed staff officers at their home and often saw soldiers on the road from Berlin, which ran right past their house. Carl, a soldier in the German Imperial Army, was in the middle of this militaristic culture. (fig. 6) Lise remembered that he used to call the three talented artists in the family—himself, Lise, and another sister named Luse— "the Holy Alliance." "He of course was Germany, Luse was Austria, and I had to be Italy."9
In light of the nationalism governing Rungius's youth and time in Brooklyn, the Germanic strains of Wary Game become palpable. Louise Rungius's nationalistic statement in her thesis that "Germany is steadily rising and reach[ing] its highest pinnacle," aptly describes Rungius's image of six heroic warriors. Between Rungius's spiked soldier's helmet and the rams' sprouting horns, one suspects, there is little difference. The rams are just more extravagantly armed specimens of Germanic military masculinity. In evolutionary terms, the rams' horns expose the spike on the fusilier's helmet as the vestigial stump of animality. The rams read as imaginary icons of a primordial German soldiery, even of the first "Germans," just at the boundary of humans and animals, figures still in full possession of their raw animal power. As alter egos, the creatures represent the modern soldier's inner barbarian, the noble warlord he used to be.
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Fig. 7 N.C. Wyeth, The First Cargo, 1910. Oil. Central Children’s Room, Donnell Library Center, The New York Public Library. Photograph courtesy of the Brandywine River Museum

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Fig. 8 N.C. Wyeth, The Coming of the Huns, 1910. Reproduced in Arthur Conan Doyle, "Through the Mists, I: The Coming of the Huns," Scribner's 48 (November 1910): 548
Other period accounts of primitive Teutonic warriors underscore the kind of ancestral alter ego shown in Wary Game. Although these accounts were not written by Germans, and although they even exemplify an anti-German viewpoint, they explore the same themes as Rungius's picture and reveal him to be working within a larger discourse on this subject. In 1910 N. C. Wyeth painted The First Cargo (fig. 7), an illustration for Arthur Conan Doyle's story of the same name. The story, concerning the fourth-century arrival of Saxons in Britain, was the second installment of "Through the Mists," a three-part tale Doyle published in Scribner's in late 1910 and early 1911 concerning late Roman Europe. Wyeth's picture represents the "warlike Germans," as Doyle describes the Saxons, just after they have disembarked. The ox-horn helmets in Wyeth's painting establish the quasi-animality of the Saxons.
Yet a still baser form of Germanic military masculinity—one closer to the kind Rungius visualized in Wary Game—can be found in Wyeth's illustration for "The Coming of the Huns," the first installment of "Through the Mists." (fig. 8) Wyeth's image shows the animal—Teutons described by Doyle's narrator: "strange humped figures . . . face[s] advanced . . . round-backed." Unlike the Saxons, the Huns crouch over. The verticality of the Saxons, for all their primitiveness, marks their comparatively higher civilization. Each of Wyeth's Huns, by contrast, illustrates the words of Doyle's narrator: "He was a very short, thick man . . . . His legs were short and very bandy, so that he waddled uncouthly as he walked."10 These primitive human figures, tending toward but not quite achieving the vertical, call to mind the rams in Wary Game, with their similar mixture of human and animal orientation.
The profile views in each painting further link Wyeth's and Rungius's images of the Germanic primitive. Wyeth is careful to reveal a profile of the prominent Hun on the left, likely in order to reveal the flattened animal nose of that figure—a nose that emphasizes, as much as the figures' hunched postures, the Huns' low evolutionary state. The profile of Wyeth's Hun suggests the racial import, ca. 1910, of this particular view of the human face—the way the profile could be used, as in the anthropometric photography of Bertillon and Galton, to document the racial characteristics of supposedly lower and higher orders of humanity. In Wary Game, accordingly, Rungius's choice to emphasize the profiles of the two nearest rams serves a similar purpose. Inasmuch as the side view had more ethnographic than zoological connotations, the profiles not only humanize the creatures but also cast them as primitives. Overall, the similarities between Wyeth's and Rungius's images suggest that each artist, operating independently, was concerned with the same pictorial challenge: namely, how to portray a tribe of primitive or animal-Teutons. Whereas Wyeth had to suggest the animal within the white man, Rungius tried to evoke the white man within the animal.
A third image of the Teutonic animal helps illustrate the sense of Rungius's Germanic ram as an alter ego. In Harvey Dunn's illustration for Jack London's story, "When the World Was Young" (1910), a modern man shines a flashlight on a bearded barbarian. The modern man is actually a thief, Dave Slotter, intent upon stealing from the vast country estate of wealthy businessman James Ward. As he walks Ward's grounds, however, Slotter stumbles upon a strange wild man and is forced to flee for his life. Little does Slotter suspect that the barbarian is Ward, who, as London's narrator says, "was two men, and chronologically speaking, these men were several thousand years or so apart." One of Ward's selves is modern, the other a "Teutonic barbarian." By day Ward works in a San Francisco firm, where he is senior partner; as night comes on, he becomes "an uncouth, wife-stealing savage of the dark German forests," "a vagabond anachronism," "a crude, rude savage creature who, by some freak of chance, lived again after thrice a thousand years," a man of extraordinary strength. Ward is even aware of this older self during daylight hours, so much so that in college he had sung ancient Saxon chants for his startled philology professor: "Professor Wertz proclaimed it no hog-German, but early German, or early Teuton, of a date that must far precede anything that had ever been discovered and handed down by the scholars."
In his illustration to London's story, Dunn has cleverly made the thief's encounter with Ward's Teutonic self into an image of Ward's own divided nature. His head at the same height, his legs and hands positioned similarly, his body facing the other, the barbarian mirrors the man in the derby hat, perfectly illustrating the words of London's narrator about Ward: "half of him was late American and the other half early Teuton."11
Dunn's image strikingly matches the mirroring dynamics of Osgood's photograph, reinforcing our sense of the ram as Rungius's own Teutonic double. Moreover, Dunn's image, like London's story, helps us to see that Wary Game itself represents a comparable fantasy: the modern man seeing himself at a remote evolutionary epoch, as he used to be, a prognathous Prussian, a first white man, " a crude, rude savage" in a state of indomitable command.
White and Black
And in a pristine new world. As a sharp contrast to the polyglot world of Brooklyn, where Rungius made the painting, Wary Game envisions a Teutonic arrival in an untouched land. Charles Sheldon believed that the first rams emigrated from Asia. As the novelist Owen Wister wrote in 1904, the mountain ram "had at some period of his long, long ancestry marched across to us from Asia upon his lengthy un-sheeplike legs—skipped over the icy straits before Adam (let alone Behring [sic]) was in the world." Though of course the rams in Wary Game have not literally just emigrated, Rungius uses the visual conventions of the Heroic Arrival in order to show them as stalwart newcomers looking out on an empty land. He presents them in the manner of pilgrims, surveying an untouched world of promise. In this respect, Rungius's rams, like Doyle's Saxons, are themselves a "first cargo." The way to deal with the heterodox present is to think back to the first moments of a white race on the North American continent. To adapt the words of cultural historian Donna Haraway about the American Museum of Natural History, Wary Game offers a safe space in which "Western Man may begin again the first journey, the first birth from within the sanctuary of nature."12
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Fig. 9 Artist unknown, cover of Theodore Roosevelt's African Game Trails (New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1909)
A comparison sharpens the political connotations of this dream of whiteness. The cover illustration of Theodore Roosevelt's book African Game Trails, published in 1909, shows a white hunter, implicitly Roosevelt, saving a black spear-bearer from a rampaging lion. (fig. 9) On its most basic level, the picture concerns the self-styled "obligations" of the white race. Armed with a gun, at a higher stage of civilization, the white hunter is obliged to help those who cannot help themselves. Note that the black man's spear is lodged ineffectually in the lion's side.13 On another level, however, it is difficult to ignore the trajectory between the hunter's gun and the black man's fallen body. Even though the lion intervenes, the visual relation between the hunter and the black man—with the black man down as though the victim of the hunter's gun—is powerful enough to suggest that racial violence is the image's hidden, and perhaps most important, subject.
The rams in Wary Game also represent the white man transformed into a primitive beast. Rungius's image of "super-men," moreover, seems an implicit reaction against the dark racial presence that the Roosevelt book cover openly shows. The two images, both made in the same year, are fantasies of primordial white supermasculinity. Yet Rungius's painting reveals the very anxieties it tries to hide.
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Fig. 10 Ernest Thompson Seton, Krag Wheeled and Faced the Foe. Reproduced in Seton, "Krag, the Kootenay Ram," Lives of the Hunted (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), p. 79
"Through the Mists": Autonomous Male Reproduction
Wary Game is a picture in which what is strong is always weak; what is fertile is always barren; and what is alive is always dead. To begin to see how this is so, we need to stay focused on the painting's fascination with origins. If the rams are shown as supermasculine figures at the start of time, how did they get there? How were they propagated? Clearly it could not have been that they were born—to have been a newborn, to have been raised by a mother, implied weakness. In "Krag, the Kootenay Ram" (1901), a story written and illustrated by Ernest Thompson Seton, known for his stories for boys, the super-ram Krag is famous for his immense horns. In an image from Seton's story, Krag, turning on a narrow, mountainous pass to defend his flock, displays the mighty horns with which he will spear the pursuing wolves. (fig. 10) Yet even Krag was vulnerable as a kid. Indeed Krag was not Krag then—he was "Nubbins," named for his precociously sprouted little nubs of horns, and he could have been killed many times over. In Wary Game there is no Nubbins—Rungius avoids showing this kind of vulnerability. His rams (like Wyeth's Saxons and Huns) call to mind more the rough ship's crew of Wolf Larsen in London's The Sea-Wolf (1904): "It seems to me impossible that they ever had mothers," says London's narrator, Humphrey Van Weyden, about the crew, "[T]hey are hatched out by the sun like turtle eggs, or receive life in some such similar and sordid fashion."14

Nor does Rungius choose to show family life generally. He does not show males and females of the same species, as he did in other images in which primordial creatures become Adams and Eves, implicitly creating others of their kind. Perhaps this was because raising a family, in Seton's words, meant that "the wonderful powers" of the supermale animal would be "hampered and weakened by the responsibilities and mingled joys" of parenthood. In The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon, Sheldon accordingly offers a dramatic indictment of conventional reproduction's vitiating and indeed fatal effects. Traveling up the Ross River in 1905, he arrives during the end of the king salmon spawning season, "the last stage in the life of those noble fish":

Thousands were dead on the bars or dying in the water, and equal numbers were still spawning or struggling up against the current; hundreds, too weakened to remain, were drifting down, many striving to swim against the current, but without strength left to do so . . . . Observing that enormous sacrifice of life, I reflected on it without discovering the Beneficent Law of nature or Goodness of Design, by virtue of which countless millions of these magnificent fish are annually sacrificed in the full flush of life, for the sake of propagating their race.15

"Noble fish," "magnificent fish," male and female but all "king" salmon: Sheldon's failure to understand their sacrifice illustrates his strenuous suspicion of biological reproduction. Wary Game, showing neither babies nor families, shares these phobia but still focuses on origins. Therefore, it addresses the question of birth from a different angle: how might the heroic all-male world of the rams propagate itself?

Such a project seems strange, yet, as the literary historian Mark Seltzer has shown, turn-of-the-century naturalist fiction explores a "nonbiological and miraculated production . . . that projects an autonomous (and male) technique of creation." Writing about Frank Norris's novel The Octopus (1901), Seltzer notes that the story first casts the generation of wheat as the business of a "colossal mother" who negates the male workers tending and managing the crops. "Men were nothings," Norris writes, "mere animalcules." As Seltzer notes, "The negation of male power is evident." In response, The Octopus develops two countermodels to this threatening female power of generation. The first is "FORCE" —a mechanistic power that, in Norris's words, "brought men into the world . . . that made the wheat grow." Biological generation is thus rewritten, in what Seltzer calls a "curious revaluation," as a kind of impersonal mechanism. The wheat grows, and men are born, not as the result of biological processes but as the result of some disembodied mode of reproduction. The second countermodel, however, reembodies the abstract concept of "FORCE" as the product of a lone and onanistic supermasculinity. The wheat, in Norris's words, is a product of "primordial energy flung out from the hand of the Lord God himself, immortal, calm, infinitely strong." "This new and miraculous body," Seltzer writes, "recovers not merely a male power of production but also projects the autonomy of that power . . . . The third term in Norris's triptych of mother, force, and onanist-machine places power back in the hands of the immortal and autonomous male technology of generation."16
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Fig. 11 Photographer unknown, Carl Rungius and Bighorn Sheep, 1914. Glenbow Archives, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta

The era's hunting literature exemplifies the concept of independent male production. The hunt was often represented as an autonomous sexual act. "Hunting works are full of descriptions of . . . 'the exaltation no civilized world can supply,' the tensions induced by great risk, and the ecstasy of release when the hunter prevails and stands over his kill," writes the historian John MacKenzie. "The sexual analogue of the gradual building up of the chase and the orgasmic character of the kill had long been recognized in writings about and pictorial representations of the hunt." Sheldon's Upper Yukon abounds in descriptions redolent of sexual exertion and release:

Sitting on the rock, I rested and smoked my pipe. . . . Three hard-earned trophies were before me. Under such circumstances, among mountain-crests, when the pulse bounds and the whole being is exhilarated by the intensely vitalizing air, while the senses, stimulated by the vigorous exercise of the mountain climb and the sustained excitement of the stalk, are attuned to the highest pitch of appreciation of the Alpine panorama, there is no state of exaltation more sublime than that immediately following the climax of a day's successful hunt for the noble mountain ram.

Hunting was also a form of giving birth to the animal killed. "He loved the great game as if he were their father," is the first epigraph in Roosevelt's African Game Trails.17 Fathering the game, in this context, meant killing the creature and therefore producing it as an object of study—a scientific specimen of the kind Roosevelt and his son Kermit collected in Africa for the new National Museum in Washington, D.C., now the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. In this sense, the animal did not live until it was generated by the hunter's gun. The animal's body was born of the impregnating bullet that killed it. The bullet was the seed containing the whole animal. It needed only to be planted—to find an object of insemination—to generate pelt, bones, snout, and horns. Thus did the male hunter give birth to what he shot. A photograph of Rungius posing next to a bighorn ram he had just killed shows the two of them, hunter and prey, side by side like father and son. (fig. 11)

Rungius's views about feminine power were complicated. In one sense, he did not feel unduly threatened by women seeking more social and political strength. Louise Rungius, with an A.B. from Adelphi and her M.A. from Columbia, was hardly a picture of retiring femininity. Carl's sister Lise, who early in the century lived with her brother and his wife in Brooklyn, recalled the conversations at the couple's ritual one o'clock Sunday dinners: "Politics was the order of the day, also lively arguments about social philosophy and labor conditions, and to my wonderment, Louise was generally the leader in every heated debate!" According to Lise, Louise "was not quite clear in her thinking in various directions, and did not see suffering and destitution as a result of the existing social system." Louise's "special subject," though, was "politically and socially, justice for women! She walked in the great suffrage parade on Fifth Avenue, much to the disapproval of her father and mother, and to the amusement of the rest of us. My brother was in principle entirely for the emancipation of women, but did not believe it could be achieved in the near future."18
In another sense, however, Rungius's frequent hunting trips indicate his interest in all-masculine realms, separated from the world of women. In fact, Wary Game is deeply concerned with imagining autonomous male reproduction. First, the idea of Heroic Arrival, as in the Doyle stories and Wyeth illustrations, neatly substitutes disembarkation for biology as an explanation of origins. The rams are not born: they simply arrive. (For that matter, "Through the Mists," the title of Doyle's series of tales, is itself an appropriately obfuscatory image of creation: the warriors appear—out of nowhere.) The second way the painting is concerned with male reproduction is the manner in which the rams are pictured. The nearest ram hearkens to an older, romantic pictorial tradition, exemplified by Gericault's Charging Chasseur (1812), in which the haunches and testicles of an animal, openly displayed, assert a vigorous sexual power. Here that power is deployed in an explicitly self-generational way. If we follow the Muybridgean line of rams from left to right, they appear to issue forth from the nearest one, as if flung from that figure like so many extra selves. Indeed, the second ram literally emanates from the first, growing out of its body. This vivid parthenogenesis bypasses a female power of generation.
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Fig. 12 Charles Sheldon, He Stopped Long Enough to Receive a Bullet in His Heart, July 29, 1904. Reproduced in Sheldon, The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), facing p. 214
Yet in Wary Game male production finally makes for worlds of fearful sterility. The self-begetting rams occupy a moonscape of chipped and shattered rock like the kind shown in photographs illustrating Sheldon's book. (fig. 12) The picture most vividly makes this point in the visual connection between the nearest ram's testicles and the foreground rocks. Rungius's rams are satyrs with no place to go, their sexual power countered, even nullified, by the wasteland of rocks and snow in which they live. Fittingly, the area in which the men hunted was called the "barren grounds."
A comparison of Wary Game with another work solidifies this idea as well as shows Rungius to be working within a larger period discourse. Although many differences separate Winslow Homer's High Cliff, Coast of Maine from Rungius's image of the Yukon, their nearly contemporaneous pictures are strikingly similiar. Both feature a diagonal of rock played against a row of repeated, powerful white forms; in Homer the surf exploding against the shore. Both too are fantasies of male production. In High Cliff, made in 1894, the waves hit the shore, as some have noted, like industrial smoke. In art historian Bruce Robertson's reading, Ashcan School artists appropriated Homer's waves in their own explicit images of industrial power. Painters such as George Bellows translated the shape and bursting energy of Homer's waves into paintings of urban smoke and steam.19 The Ashcan painters, in other words, read nature in Homer's paintings as an engine, the waves as a kind of "FORCE." Moreover, these same waves, as commentators have noted, imply a masculine buildup and release of sexual energy: crashing against the shore, they explode in arrays of spume, like "primordial energy flung out from the hand of the Lord God himself." Homer's diluvial imagery thus rewrites the feminized ocean-home of mermaids, sirens, and other femme fatales—as a realm of autonomous masculine fecundity.
Yet for all its Whitmanesque energy, High Cliff, Coast of Maine also depicts a cold and forbidding place. As in Rungius's painting, the rocks are a barren counterpoint to the waves' fantastic imagery of male generative power. Like Wary Game, Homer's painting imagines solitary male creativity only to acknowledge the futility, and not the fertility, of such a dream. In turn-of-the-century imagery, the wastescapes in which masculinity would flourish could not help but attest to the emptiness, the sterility, of the very project of masculine self-production. Sheldon conveys the same point. Climbing a mountain that happened to be called Mount Sheldon, he not surprisingly felt a bond with this mighty image of himself: "My nature was compelled to a stern accord with the upper world of sky, rock, and snow." In this version of the egotistical sublime, Sheldon makes the world around him into his own rugged likeness. Yet, "standing on the summit of that lone, massive mountain peak, isolated from other high ranges by miles of intervening wilderness," he also felt "a profound sense of loneliness."20
Taxidermic Death
In Wary Game, the rams' bodies themselves play out this dialectic of fertility and barrenness, life and death. Specifically, this can be seen in the painting's relation to taxidermy—another of the era's technologies of independent male production. Taxidermy was the result of the process whereby a creature was produced in death. To kill a creature, for Roosevelt, Rungius, Sheldon, and others, did not mean vanquishing a Frankensteinian monster, or one's own violent nature, so much as lovingly killing in order to preserve an idealized second self. In this sense, the ram facing Rungius in Osgood's photograph is not a terrible but a benign double. The hunter's alter ego, though dead, will still snarl, still spring, even after the hunter himself is gone, thanks to various modes of reproduction—drawing, painting, photography, writing, and (best of all) the lifelike art of taxidermy. "The animals in the dioramas," writes Haraway, referring to the taxidermic specimens at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, "have transcended mortal life and hold their pose forever."
For Haraway, this is why taxidermy is "a politics of reproduction." Its ideological purpose at the turn of the century was reactionary, a defense against the decadent city, with its immigrants and suffragists. She summarizes this purpose in these terms: "In immediate vision of the origin, perhaps the future can be fixed. By saving the beginnings, the end can be achieved and the present can be transcended." Taxidermy, then, is a means of immortally preserving early evolutionary time, saving it as a "prophylactic" against unmanning historical change.21
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Fig. 13 Wilfred Osgood, Carl Rungius Sketching the Ram. Reproduced in Sheldon, The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), facing p. 62
Wary Game is a strikingly taxidermic painting. The frozen rams derive from rough-and-ready taxidermic approximations such as the one shown in an Osgood photograph of Rungius sketching a Dall sheep, trussed up to simulate its vigilant appearance in life. (fig. 13) Also, the painting as a whole—with its shallow space and backdrop sky—anticipates the dioramas in which taxidermic specimens were (and are) presented in places such as the American Museum of Natural History in New York and the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. Rungius's painting is dioramic even in the way it shows a progression from more palpably three-dimensional rams in the foreground to the flatter, less detailed figure of the farthest ram against the more two-dimensional background. This last ram anticipates the way "extra" animals would often be painted onto a backdrop in natural history dioramas.
In Wary Game, the taxidermic quality of the rams is another of the painting's showcases of masculine production. As in its display of Muybridgean parthenogenesis, the painting shows heroic males made, fully formed, without the interference of females. These males, moreover, are meant to be immortal, frozen in time. It is fitting, indeed, that Rungius painted his rams not from life but in quasi-taxidermic death: to show a creature merely alive would imply the animal's eventual doom; to paint that creature not just as dead but as resurrected implied its immortality. Each of Rungius's creatures, to borrow Seton's phrase about Krag, is more like a "spirit thing" than a living ram. "This is a spiritual vision," writes Haraway of the diorama, "made possible only by [the animals'] death and literal re-presentation."22
Yet the taxidermic specimen could never quite eliminate the sense of its having been killed to become immortal. Death haunts the creature who would live forever, chiefly in its unnerving and perpetually unlifelike stillness. In Wary Game this stillness is not equated with death; it is rather in the ways the picture strives to animate the rams that it acknowledges, and repeatedly tries to manage, the uncanny deadness of its figures. Adopting a Muybridgean sequence, the painting implies not only six separate rams but also, as we have seen, the movement of one ram in six different moments. In this Frankensteinian way, jolting a static figure to life, the painting employs one reproductive technology to correct the other, the filmic parthenogenesis of the rams defeating, or aiming to defeat, their otherwise deathly taxidermic stillness.
Another technique Rungius used to counter the rams' stillness relates to the composition of the painting. In an image measuring roughly thirty by forty inches, he carefully positions all six rams within the left three-quarters of the composition (thirty-by-thirty inches), thus playing the overall rectangle of the picture against the square in which the rams are pictured. This composition not only makes the scene more dynamic, it also activates the empty quarter of the picture on the right—the area into which the rams stare. By emptying this space, letting the rams' vision play over it, Rungius counters the glassy-eyed, unseeing stare of the quasi-taxidermic specimens from which he worked. Also, the zooming diagonal of the mountainside offsets the largely horizontal orientation of the rams; it provides the energy, the life, the rams lack.
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Fig. 14 Donald Crouch, Re-creation of Rungius's chalk lines on Rams on the Alert, showing Hambidge's theory of dynamic symmetry. Courtesy of Donald Crouch
Events from later in Rungius's career show how important the creation of a "moving" picture space was to the artist. From 1920 on, he employed a densely systematic method of simulating movement developed by aesthetic theorist Jay Hambidge in Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase (1920) and in Hambidge's short-lived periodical, The Diagonal (1919). Following the theorist's prescriptions for imitating the liveliness of Egyptian and Greek art, Rungius gridded his pictures in chalk horizontals, verticals, and diagonals, the better to keep his creatures from appearing in immobile relation to the picture space, to the frame, and to one another. The Rungius scholar Don Crouch has taped white lines over a photograph of one of the artist's late paintings, Rams on the Alert (1953), in order to duplicate the actual chalk marks Rungius drew on a study for the original painting. (fig. 14) Rungius placed the right ram on one of the near-central verticals and the two left rams on the other near-central vertical. One of the diagonals, as well as the lower horizontal, bisects these two left rams. He positioned the three animals diagonally to one another, in both two and implied three dimensions. The overall effect is of an artist striving to dynamize what would otherwise be his static, all-too-dead, figures. Wary Game, made forty-four years earlier, without the benefit of Hambidge's theory, is an early attempt to overcome this same unlifelike stasis.23

The Uncanny Animal: Mixing Descartes with Darwin
Yet in Wary Game the rams are deathly in one final and still more fundamental way—one that does not concern the sterility of male technologies of reproduction. Partly this form of ghostliness relates to a connotation of the hunt: the retribution of the killed creature. In Seton's story, Scotty MacDougall tracks Krag, kills him, and mounts the head and horns in his cabin. Yet Scotty cannot bear to have Krag stare at him. The light from his fireplace, reflecting off the head's glass eyes, lent them "a red and angry glare." Scotty tells acquaintances, "[H]e'll get even with me yet," and "He's sucking my life out now." For this reason Scotty covers the head and horns with a sheet. Yet there is no escape: the sheet anticipates the avalanche, the sheet of snow, which soon crushes the hunter to death in his cabin. The avalanche reincarnates Krag, transforming him into a force many times more powerful than he was even in life:

Down the Gunder Peak there whirled a monstrous mass, charged with a mission of revenge. Down, down, down, loud snoofing as it went, and sliding on from shoulder, ledge, and long incline, now wiping out a forest that would bar its path, then crashing, leaping, rolling, smashing over cliff and steep descent, still gaining as it sped . . . . and Scotty's shanty, in its track . . . was crushed and swiftly blotted out.

The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon features one scene of such vengeful retribution. Sheldon describes killing one ram as it lay on the ground, shooting another in the heart, and killing a third whose jaw he had shattered with a shot the day before. He stops to survey "the Alpine panorama," engaging in the sublimatory reverie cited earlier, and then:

A heavy wind suddenly swept by and dark threatening clouds began to gather directly above me . . . . The clouds above grew black, lightning flashed along the crest, peals of thunder reverberated among the high-walled precipices, and after heavy rain, great balls of hail half an inch in diameter fell in myriads, rattling and bounding among the rocks . . . . The storm was local and directly overhead. The sky to the west was clear . . . . Nature concentrated all her wrath in a short space of time.24

For the most part, however, Sheldon and Rungius did not concern themselves with the animal ghost story. Indeed, it was precisely this fairy tale that they wished their own scientific nature study to correct. In a story in which he was quoted, Theodore Roosevelt criticized Seton's stories in a way Sheldon and Rungius would have supported: "'Mr. Thompson Seton has made interesting observations of fact, and much of his fiction has a real value. But he should make it clear that it is fiction, and not fact.'" To proponents of scientific study, tales of vengeful animals and wrathful nature were mere fantasy. Sheldon's storm anecdote, with the hail "rattling and bounding among the rocks" as a ghostly reincarnation of the dead rams' flight, is a rare moment of residual superstition in a text that relentlessly strives for dispassionate reportage. The irony, however, is that the scientific attitude—informing not just Sheldon's text but also Rungius's painting—was fated to represent creatures as far more supernatural than anything in Seton's story.

Roosevelt understood the scientific attitude to mean that animals are not thinking beings. Though he himself did not fully subscribe to this view, Jack London offered a helpful summary of Roosevelt's thought by recounting the viewpoint of a friend of the president's, the naturalist John Burroughs:

Between man and the lower animals Mr. Burroughs finds a vast gulf. This gulf divides man from the rest of his kin by virtue of the power of reason that he alone possesses. Man is a voluntary agent. Animals are automatons. The robin fights its reflection in the window-pane because it is his instinct to fight and because he cannot reason out the physical laws that make his reflection appear real. An animal is a mechanism that operates according to fore-ordained rules.

London then cites examples drawn from Burroughs's writing:

[Burroughs] tells of . . . the beaver that cut down a tree four times because it was held at the top by the branches of other trees; of the cow that licked the skin off her stuffed calf so affectionately that it came apart, whereupon she proceeded to eat the hay with which it was stuffed . . . . He tells of the migrating lemmings of Norway that plunge into the sea and drown in vast numbers because of their instinct to swim lakes and rivers in the course of their migrations.

Accordingly, in Ways of Nature (1905), the book London refers to, Burroughs repeatedly likens animals to vegetables and inanimate objects: "Many of the actions of the lower animals are as automatic as those of the tin rooster that serves as a weather-vane. See how intelligently the rooster acts, always pointing the direction of the wind without a moment's hesitation."25

Sheldon came down clearly on the side of Roosevelt and Burroughs, most vividly in his book's occasional preoccupation with beavers, the dam-building animal most famously cited to prove the fact of animal intelligence. (Lewis Henry Morgan's book, The American Beaver and His Works [1868] suggested that beavers even have a culture transmitted from one generation to the next.) Dam building, for Sheldon, was nothing but a "marvelous instinct." He noted the haphazard construction of some of the dams in the Yukon and denied the "beaver an intelligence which enables it to reason out a method of felling trees which shall determine the direction of their fall." He included Osgood's photographs of these dams, presumably to show the unplanned nature of their construction. Elsewhere, Sheldon vigorously disputed the idea that beavers slap their tails on the water as a warning sign:"Some other interpretation of the habit must be attempted—perhaps it is caused by a muscular contraction to assist in sudden diving."26 Muscular reflex instead of mind—Sheldon's views were purely Rooseveltian. Accordingly, even as it posits a physical congruity between man and ram, Osgood's photograph of Rungius sketching the ram's head insists upon the space between them, the "vast gulf" separating dumb brute and thinking human being.

The automaton theory of Roosevelt and others bypassed Darwin in favor of older paradigms of animal behavior. As recently as 1871 Darwin had written, "Few persons now dispute that animals possess some power of reasoning. Animals may constantly be seen to pause, deliberate, and resolve. It is a significant fact, that the more the habits of any particular animal are studied by a naturalist, the more he attributes to reason and the less to unlearnt instincts." Darwin then cites the sort of example that Burroughs would interpret differently:

A curious case has been given . . . of a pike, separated by a plate of glass from an adjoining aquarium stocked with fish, and who often dashed himself with such violence against the glass in trying to catch the other fishes, that he was sometimes completely stunned. The pike went on thus for three months, but at last learnt caution, and ceased to do so. The plate of glass was then removed, but the pike would not attack these particular fishes, though he would devour others which were afterwards introduced; so strongly was the idea of a violent shock associated in his feeble mind with the attempt on his former neighbors.27

Going against Darwin, refusing the idea even of a "feeble mind" (or what London called a "pinch of brain stuff"), Roosevelt and the others implicitly looked back to the homocentric theory of René Descartes, the seventeenth-century philosopher who had maintained that animals are mere "machines," creatures of pure instinct, and who set out to separate humans and animals. In The New Ecological Order (1995), the French philosopher Luc Ferry explains Descartes's reasoning:

Because the subject, the cogito, cannot be the sole and unique pole of meaning without nature being ipso facto divested of all moral value . . . Cartesian physics took to the task of eradicating the notion that the universe is a "great living being," of doing away with the animism . . . that still dominated scholastic thought . . . . The material world [in Cartesian physics] is without soul, without life, without even a force; it is entirely reduced to the dimensions of 'extension' and motion . . . . And animals are no exception to this rule.

A main proof is that animals function better than humans: "I know," writes Descartes, "that animals do many things better than we do, but that doesn't surprise me, for even this serves to prove that they act naturally and automatically, like a clock that tells time better than our own senses. Thus when the swallows arrive in the spring, they are no doubt acting as clocks" (Ferry's emphasis). Between Burroughs's tin rooster and Descartes's clocklike swallow there is little difference.

Thus violence to animals was unproblematic. "Animals do not suffer," writes Ferry, summarizing Descartes's position, "and their cries in the course of vivisection have no more meaning than the ticking of a clock." One can now see the Cartesian tone of Sheldon's killing descriptions: "I quickly selected the one with the largest horns and off-hand shot him through the heart."28 The animals are noble; they evince a physiognomic kinship with human beings that allows the imaginative hunter to identify with them; but they are, at last, machines. To kill them is to kill things that neither think nor feel. Tales of retributive nature—of Krag "snoofing" down the mountain slope—show the storyteller's evolutionary reversion to a more primitive, superstitious attitude to nature, the opposite of Sheldon's and Roosevelt's Descartes-inspired Enlightenment science. Moreover, to be haunted by what one killed—to shoot in anything but an "off-hand" way—would be to question one's right to dominate nature.
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Fig.15 Frederic Remington, Among the Led Horses, 1909. Oil. The Sid Richardson Collection of Western Art, Fort Worth, Texas
Wary Game seems at first more a Seton-like than a Sheldon-like painting. Viewers looking at the picture initially often remark on the humane intelligence of the animals' faces. Indeed one could assign to these animals a kind of thought or emotion, perhaps perplexity, at the sight or sound they concentrate upon. Yet this does not fully make sense in a work produced by a member of Sheldon's expedition—and in fact contrasting Wary Game to another animal painting made at roughly the same time illustrates just how machinelike Rungius's rams really are. In Among the Led Horses (fig. 15), Frederic Remington shows three horses looking down, in what may fairly be described as shock and sympathy, at a wounded comrade. The wounded horse, in turn, strains its head upward, as though trying to communicate with the other animals. No matter that these horses interact while—and maybe because—the men are looking away, as if Remington were saying that it is only in moments outside human attention that animals show their intelligence. The point is that between Remington's horses and Rungius's rams, painted in the same years, there exists a "vast gulf." Whereas Remington humanizes his animals, Rungius takes special pains, we can now see, to bestow his creatures with as stupid a stare as possible. If they look a bit perplexed, it is because they exhibit the "overpowering curiosity" that Rungius's friend Bronx Zoo director William Hornaday later ascribed to them. However, this curiosity was merely a reflex, one of a "fore-ordained" set of instincts—it did not amount to thought. It is no wonder then that Roosevelt was an admirer of Rungius's paintings, even to the point of owning one.29
Yet this machine-animal could be far more terrifying than any merely humanized creature. In The Call of the Wild (1903), London describes the dog-hero Buck: "And when . . . he pointed his nose at a star and howled long and wolflike, it was his ancestors, dead and dust, pointing nose at star and howling down through the centuries and through him." London, on the one hand, granted animals some intelligence, that bit of "brain stuff"; on the other, he endorsed the idea that most animal behavior is based on mere inherited instinct, and it is this idea that his passage exemplifies. Evolutionary ancestors, ghosts from earlier eras, inhabit the bodies of animals, just as they do humans. In animals, however, because of the changelessness of their generations, the sense of these deceased ancestors living within the present-day creature is particularly vivid. "Until the existence of proof to the contrary," writes Ferry, "animals have no culture, but only customs and modes of life, and the surest sign of this absence is that they transmit no new legacy from generation to generation" (Ferry's emphasis).30 To see an animal in the present is to be brought uncannily face-to-face with a creature fundamentally unchanged from its ancestors; it is to see a creature whose actions, like Buck's howls, are not its own but those of predecessors, "dead and dust," determining its every move. The machinelike animal, then, is uncanny because its movements, its actions—all its characteristics, for Roosevelt, Sheldon, and other adherents to the automaton theory—are the impulse of something dead and gone. The animal is a ghost.
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Fig. 16 Photographer unknown. Ram's Head, 1904. Glenbow Archives, Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta

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Fig. 17 Photographer unknown, Rams in Pen, n.d. Glenbow Archives, Glenbow Museum, Calgary Alberta

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Fig. 18 Ernest Thompson Seton, Krag. Reproduced in Seton, Lives of the Hunted (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), p. 105

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Fig. 19 Frederick Stuart Church, Girl with Rabbits, 1886. Oil on wood. National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Gift of John Gellatly
Rams look especially uncanny. Photograph after photograph from the Sheldon expedition shows them looking alive in death, even before they have reached the taxidermist. (fig. 16) And if dead rams looked alive, then living rams looked dead, as revealed in a comparison between a photograph of a live ram and Osgood's photograph of Rungius sketching a trussed-up ram carcass. (fig. 17; see fig. 13) The living rams' very habit of standing still was inextricable from their ghostly stillness as taxidermic specimens. The Cartesian machines in Wary Game reveal this same uncanny mixture of life and death. In bestowing them with the dumb blankness of a merely reflexive curiosity, Rungius suggests that their actions, their impulses, are not their own. In this sense, he turns them into far deathlier figures than the retributive Krag, who stares from the final page of Seton's story, having a last laugh from beyond the grave, an intelligent and thus a distinctly canny figure. (fig. 18)
The rams in Wary Game are also deathly because Rungius, without meaning to do so, visualizes the haunting evolutionary messages London describes. The rams are shown, as we know, not just watching but listening for some presence to the right. Their horns emphasize this point. The closest ram's near horn, for example, frames his head, focusing our attention on the creature's open eye and raised ear. This near horn even has something of a human-ear shape to it—a resemblance that further underscores the ram's active listening. Thus, Rungius uses the animal's body in order to emphasize its attentiveness. This is all the more true if we consider that a horn is a device for producing and channeling sound. Although rams, of course, do not literally use them for this purpose, their horns serve in Rungius's painting as metaphorical conductors of sound.
What the rams listen for, in one sense, is of this world: the hunter out there somewhere, the being that has made them "wary game." In another sense, however, this sound is something supernatural. Rungius's painting conforms to period-specific ways of showing the animal entranced by an Orpheus-like song. In Frederick Stuart Church's Girl with Rabbits, painted in 1886, several rabbits listen to the song of a solitary Arcadian piper. (fig. 19) The branch extending over the piper's head signifies the music wafting toward the creatures; the visual rhyme between the piper's hands and the rabbits' ears implies the harmony of player and listeners. Wary Game, was not conceived in such a self-consciously pantheistic spirit as Church's painting, yet Rungius's choice to follow the visual conventions of this kind of image implies that his rams listen for more than just a sound from this world; rather it would seem to be some kind of mystical call they warily hear.
In Church's image, the source of the supernatural sound is visible, whereas in Wary Game, it is not—unless we consider that this sound comes from within the rams themselves. In The Call of the Wild, Buck's ancestors operate within him, "telling him the sounds made by the wild life of the forest, dictating his moods, directing his actions." This, for London, is "the ancient song" that "surged through [Buck]," conforming his habits to those of his ancestors.31 In Wary Game, the rams' horns—as metaphorical conduits of sound—are admirably well suited as visualizations of this form of evolutionary inner voice. Curling round the rams' heads, they suggest the closed circuitry of evolutionary transmission and reception. The sound the rams listen for, in other words, emanates from their own horns. The call, as they say in the horror movies, is coming from inside the house. And the message, as in London's story, comes from a supernatural voice, a voice from beyond the grave, a voice of an ancestor, "dead and dust," speaking—in a kind of onanistic evolutionary phone call—not through but to the rams: I am the death that is within you; I am the death that is you.
Here then, in one last form, is the paradox of Rooseveltian animal painting. Rungius and Sheldon identified with big-game animals, visualizing them as figures of heroic supermasculinity, as primordial white "men" emerging from the mists. Yet, anxious to separate themselves mentally from the world of animals, they also insisted that this very figure of supermasculinity was an automaton, eerily enacting the movements of things long dead and gone. The figure of strength was thus the figure of death. The fantasy of superpower in Rungius's image thus produces a haunting kind of doppelgänger: one's inner barbarian is also one's deathly double. Showing the transmission of an evolutionary inner voice, Wary Game even indicates the moment when strength realizes its own deathliness. Rungius's painting shows the rams' thoughtless lives punctured by a single idea, a fateful inward turn, a faint, spiraling sound of dust.


1. Charles Sheldon, The Wilderness of the Upper Yukon (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1911), pp. 318-22. For Sheldon's rejection of Thayer's ideas, see pp. 310-18. Sheldon expanded on the notion of "races" of rams by talking about mixed breeds: "Near the border-line between the geographical races there is an intermingling and—where two forms come together—no doubt interbreeding, which results in intergrades referable to the race which they most closely resemble on either side of the border" (p. 321).

2. Stephen Jay Gould, The Mismeasure of Man (New York: W.W. Norton, 1981), p. 73 For an excellent reading of mid-nineteenth-century attitudes toward polygenesis, see Dana D. Nelson, "The Haunting of White Manhood: Poe, Fraternal Ritual, and Polygenesis," American Literature 69 (Sept. 1997): 515-46.

3. Sheldon 1911, pp. 308-9, 8.

4. Sheldon 1911, p. 321. For an account of another of the era's Muybridgean paintings, see my reading of Frederic Remington's Cavalry Charge on the Southern Plains in 1860, painted in 1907–8, in Alexander Nemerov, Frederic Remington and Turn-of-the-Century America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), pp. 210-14. Another painting that comes to mind—although I know of no reading of it in these terms—is Howard Pyle's We started to run back to the raft for our lives, an illustration for A.T. Quiller-Couch's "Sinbad on Burrator," Scribner's 32 (Aug.): 147-60. Pyle's painting is now in the collection of the Delaware Art Museum.

5. Sheldon 1911, Upper Yukon, p. 308.

6. José Ortega y Gasset, Meditations on Hunting, trans. Howard B. Westcott (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1972), p. 142.

7. Henry James, "The Jolly Corner," The Ghostly Tales of Henry James, ed. Leon Edel (New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1948), pp. 755, 736, 761.

8. Louise Rungius, "Lessing and Pseudo-Classicism," handwritten master's thesis, Columbia University, 1907, pp. 13-14, 49; Box 3, File 61, collections of the Glenbow Museum, Calgary, Alberta; Louise Rungius, letter to Carl Rungius, 19 Sept. 1914, collections of the Glenbow Museum.

9. On the Rungius family, see Elizabeth Rungius Fulda, "Autobiography," typed unpublished manuscript, 1962, pp. 14, 13, 7; Box 3, File 63, collections of the Glenbow Museum. For its intelligence and insight, its extraordinary acuity of detail, its sensitivity and humor, Elizabeth Rungius Fulda's manuscript is a truly remarkable source of information about the Rungius family.

10. Arthur Conan Doyle, "Through the Mists, I: The Coming of the Huns," Scribner's 48 (Nov. 1910): 656; "Through the Mists, II: The First Cargo," Scribner's 48 (Dec. 1910): 551-2; and "Through the Mists, III: The Red Star," Scribner's 49 (Jan. 1911): 24-8.

11. Jack London, "When the World Was Young," The Saturday Evening Post 183 (Sept. 1910): 16-17, 45-49. The plot of "When the World Was Young" was one of a number of story ideas sold to London by the young Sinclair Lewis in 1910 and 1911. Lewis's title for the plot was "The Garden Terror." See Franklin Walker, "Jack London's Use of Sinclair Lewis Plots, Together with a Printing of Three of the Plots," The Huntington Library Quarterly 17 (Nov. 1953): 59-74.

12. See Sheldon 1911, p. 318. On Owen Wister, see "The Mountain Sheep: His Ways," in Caspar Whitney, George Bird Grinnell, and Owen Wister, Musk-Ox, Bison, Sheep and Goat (New York: Macmillan, 1904), p. 174. For more on Donna Haraway's perspective on the American Museum of Natural History, see "Teddy Bear Patriarchy: Taxidermy in the Garden of Eden, New York City, 1908–1936," in Amy Kaplan and Donald Pease, eds., Cultures of United States Imperialism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993), p. 237.

13. See Roosevelt's chapter, "Lion Hunting on the Kapiti Plains," in African Game Trails (New York: Syndicate Publishing Company, 1909), pp. 67-93.

14. Ernest Thompson Seton, "Krag, the Kootenay Ram," in Lives of the Hunted (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1901), pp. 15-105; Jack London, The Sea-Wolf (1904), quoted in Mark Seltzer, Bodies and Machines (New York: Routledge, 1992), p. 168.

15. Seton 1901, p. 59; Sheldon, Upper Yukon, p. 254.

16. Seltzer 1992, pp. 32, 28-29, 31. The Norris quotes are from The Octopus (Middlesex, England: Penguin, 1986), p. 634.

17. John M. MacKenzie, The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988), pp. 42-43; Sheldon 1911, pp. 214-15; Roosevelt 1910, p. xxiv.

18. The information about Louise Rungius's degrees and her dates of graduation is from Jon Whyte and E. J. Hart, Carl Rungius: Painter of the Western Wilderness (Salem, N. H.: Salem House, 1985), p. 58; Elizabeth Rungius Fulda, "Autobiography," pp. 4-5.

19. Bruce Robertson, Reckoning with Winslow Homer (Cleveland: Cleveland Museum of Art, 1990), pp. 94-96.

20. Jack London, The Call of the Wild (New York: Vintage, 1990), pp. 34, 78; Sheldon 1911, p. 272.

21. Haraway 1993, pp. 243, 238, 237.

22. For the spiritual aspect of the diorama, see Seton 1901, p. 60; and Haraway 1993, p. 243. It is consistent with this spiritual idea that Wary Game took on a "taxidermic" purpose in its original installation. In 1910 the painting was acquired by William Hornaday, Rungius's friend and the director of the New York Zoological Society (now the Bronx Zoo), as the first picture in a projected "Gallery of Wild Animals" at the zoo. For the next twenty years, Rungius supplied paintings to Hornaday until the gallery featured more than twenty of his works. In the racially heterodox realities of early-twentieth-century New York, the gallery, dedicated to preserving vanishing creatures, no doubt was somewhat similar in its "prophylactic" purpose to the American Museum of Natural History with its taxidermic specimens. For another interesting reading of taxidermy, see Karen Wonders, Habitat Dioramas: Illusions of Wilderness in Museums of Natural History (Uppsala: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1993).

23. For more on Hambridge's method, see Jay Hambidge, Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1920). For brief accounts of Hambidge's theories, see Whyte 1985, pp. 170-71; Don Crouch, Carl Rungius: The Complete Prints (Missoula, Mont.: Mountain Press Publishing, 1989), pp. 36-43; and Eva Smithwick, "Carl Rungius: The Development of an Artist," Glenbow 5 (Nov./Dec. 1985): 7. During a conversation in April of 1997 with Smithwick, the conservator at the Glenbow Museum, I learned much about Rungius's use of Hambidge's "dynamic symmetry."

24. Seton 1901, pp. 101, 103; Sheldon 1911, p. 215.

25. Roosevelt is quoted in Edward B. Clark, "Roosevelt and the Nature Fakirs," Everybody's Magazine 16 (June 1907): 773. See London, "The Other Animals," Collier's (Sept. 1908), reprinted in London, No Mentor but Myself: A Collection of Articles, Essays, Reviews, and Letters on Writing and Writers, ed. by Dale L. Walker (Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1979), pp. 112, 111; and John Burroughs, Ways of Nature (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1905), p. 146.

26. See Sheldon 1911, pp. 91-93. The British hunter Frederick Courtenay Selous, who accompanied Sheldon for part of the Yukon trip, also pays perhaps more than ordinary attention to beavers. His book Recent Hunting Trips in British North America (London: Witherby, 1907) includes four photographs of beaver lodges. Henry Morgan, in the chapter called "Animal Psychology," in The American Beaver and His Works (1868, reprint; New York: Ben Franklin, 1970) writes that the beaver's "felling a tree to reach its branches," as well as calculating the tree's distance from a pond or canal, "prove[s] a series of reasoning processes undistinguishable from similar processes of reasoning performed by the human mind." On the subject of the cultural development of the lower animals, Morgan writes, "Within the period of human observation, their progress has seemed to be inconsiderable—but yet not absolutely nothing." He cites "the development and perpetuation of the idea" of beaver lodges, dams, and canals (Morgan, American Beaver, pp. 262-63, 282).

27. Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871; reprint, New York: D. Appleton, 1897), pp. 75-76.

28. See Luc Ferry, The New Ecological Order, trans. Carol Volk (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995), pp. 21-22. For more on Sheldon's killing descriptions, see Sheldon 1911, p. 75. In line with the Cartesian treatment of suffering animals as mere automatons, even such gruesome eighteenth-century images as William Hogarth's First Stage of Cruelty (1751) dwell more on the social deterioration produced by animal cruelty than on the victimization of the creatures themselves. In Hogarth's sequence of four images, Tom Nero, plunging a stick into a yelping dog's anus in First Stage, will eventually murder his mistress (and himself become the object of an awful dissection). Nero's cruelty to animals is significant, then, only insofar as it presages his future life of antisocial behavior. Ferry quotes the scholar Maurice Agulhon, who summarizes the humanist bias of this form of anticruelty sentiment: "'It was a problem of our relationship to humanity, and not of our relationship to nature'" (Ferry 1995, p. 25).

29. William T. Hornaday, The Minds and Manners of Wild Animals (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1922), p. 149. For Roosevelt's admiration of Rungius, see Whyte 1985, p. 47.

30. London 1990, p. 22; Ferry 1995, p. 41.

31. London 1990, pp. 62, 22-23.

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Reading the Animal in Degas's Young Spartans
by Martha Lucy

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Fig. 1 Edgar Degas, Young Spartans, 1860–1; (reworked later) Oil on canvas. Courtesy The National Gallery, London

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Fig. 2 Edgar Degas, Study for Young Spartans, 1860–1. Oil on canvas. Courtesy The Art Institute of Chicago, Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection
In Edgar Degas's studio a work begun in 1860 sat dormant, unfinished, for almost 20 years. It was a large-scale history painting—one of the few Degas would produce—and it pictured classical figures, linear and abstracted, locked in frieze-like arrangement on either side of a silent space. After seeing the abandoned canvas in the artist's studio in 1879, the Italian art critic Diego Martelli described it as "one of the most classicizing paintings imaginable" and suspected that it remained unfinished precisely for that reason: "Degas could not fossilize himself in a composite past," he explained in a lecture later that year.1 Soon after Martelli's remarks, Degas returned to the painting, removing the classicizing architecture and making several compositional changes. And in one of the most unusual revisions of his career, he painted over the classical profiles, replacing them with distinctly unidealized heads.2 The result was his Young Spartans, now at the National Gallery, London; the painting's original appearance is best approximated by the classicizing grisailles in the Art Institute of Chicago. (figs. 1 & 2) What began as a large-scale history painting in the classical tradition resulted in a betrayal of this tradition, a deliberate painting out of its tropes. It is an act that seems strangely pregnant with meaning and that represents an important moment in Degas's negotiation of the modern body.
Scholarship on Young Spartans has centered primarily on its curious iconography. Degas's notes tell us that the picture represents two groups of adolescents on the plains of Sparta, with the elderly Lycurgus and their mothers in the background. Long thought to be a scene of competition between the sexes, it is now generally regarded as a depiction of ancient courtship rituals, thanks to Carol Salus's careful iconographic study.3 Several details, she tells us, including hairstyle and pose, correspond to descriptions of such rituals found in texts by Plutarch and the French writer Abbé Barthélemy. In her interpretation the gesture of the lunging girl is understood as one of enticement rather than provocation; the apparent crossing over of a male figure to the female side also supports the theme of mating rather than competition.4 However, as Linda Nochlin has suggested, the "meaning" of Young Spartans shouldn't be limited to its iconography; it is a layered, multivalent picture that closes off traditional avenues to meaning, opening up new ones in the process.5
The revision to the figures is often noted and generally explained as Degas's attempt to "update" his painting. Lemoisne was the first to remark that the figures look more like contemporary Parisians, like the "gamins of Montmartre" than the youth of ancient Greece; more recent scholars have followed suit, the consensus being that the new anatomies appear somehow more "modern."6 This seems an accurate description, but what does it mean, exactly? What are the terms of this modernity? Others have enlisted the revisions in the project of decoding the painting's subject, with the idea that the new anatomies signal some kind of iconographic or metaphoric turn. Norma Broude, for example, interprets the insertion of these "explicitly contemporary Parisian types" as an indication that the subject had assumed a new significance for Degas that must be related to contemporary life. She argues that the picture in its revised version is a metaphor for the equal relationship between the sexes, and that Degas's attitude on this would have changed between his conception of the painting in 1860 and its revision in 1879 or 1880, due to the intervening rise of the French feminist movement.7
In scholarship addressing the alterations to the body, the visual evidence of the body itself is often relegated to a secondary realm. While the revisions are key to Broude's reading of the painting, they occupy a very tangential place in her argument. Formally speaking, the altered physiognomies are hardly discussed; they serve merely as proof that the subject has a new contemporary relevance. Rather than view the body in Young Spartans as a bridge to a new iconographic reading, the body itself can be understood as the painting's subject, maintaining its narrative role but also producing meanings in addition to those of plot. If Degas's revision yielded a more "modern" body, its modernity resides in its problematization of both the nature of corporeality and the terms of its pictorial representation. It is a problematization that builds its critical foundation on destabilizing principles supplied by evolutionary theory, an emerging discourse that was highly charged during Degas's time, and that offered an account of corporeality that was entirely modern.


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Fig. 3. Edgar Degas, Young Spartans, detail
What is striking, first of all, is how centrally animality figures into Degas's reconceived bodies. These Spartan youths are not just unidealized but are aggressively "bestial," their features resembling those of The Little Dancer, which outraged critics called atavistic and monkey-like.8 It is a statement Degas took pains to articulate: heads that were consistently turned away or carefully obstructed by limbs in the original version are now presented in emphatically clear profile, announcing atavistic contours. (fig. 3) To the far right the standing figure's entire position has shifted so that the newly exposed profile stands boldly against the ground of his neighbor's hair, encouraging maximum legibility. The most striking pronouncement of animality, however, is articulated not through anatomy but through pose, in the figure on all fours. It is perhaps a position meant to convey athleticism; indeed, in its original conception the figure's back is slightly rounded, as if stooping down in a racer stance, and his cropped lower half leaves open the possibility that he crouches on one knee. In the final version all ambiguity dissolves, and the figure is fully in view as a quadruped with knees and palms planted squarely on the ground. The back is now flexed, a position that signals animal alertness and base instinct rather than high-minded Spartan physicality. Athleticism has translated into animality, which is underlined by the insertion of a dog in the background group at the same angle and along the same perspective line. (figs. 1 & 2)
Degas revised Young Spartans apparently with the intention of exhibiting it at the fifth Impressionist show in 1880. The painting was never shown, however, and thus there is no critical record to suggest the meanings these new anatomies may have held for contemporary audiences.9 Yet the critical writing pertaining to other of Degas's animalistic figures often invokes the language of science, and specifically evolution. In 1879, Henri Fouquier described Degas's dancers as resembling a "strange beast who descends from the cow, the hippopotamus, and the crocodile, and who would make the Geoffroy Saint-Hilaires of the future dream."10 (Saint-Hilaire was a famous early nineteenth-century evolutionist.) Degas's oeuvre reveals a continual, almost obsessive, play with the signs of animality, a fascination for the ways in which human and animal seem to slide into one another. Bathers and prostitutes scratch and paw at themselves; they are lumbering beings unselfconsciously attending to their bodies and displaying their wares, betraying a sexuality that is base, instinctive, aggressive. Gustave Geffroy remarked in 1886 that Degas depicted women "in animal terms alone, like high-class illustrations for a zoological treatise." The same year Felix Fénéon described one pastel as follows: "Three peasant women, well-proportioned breasts, wade into a river and, their enormous rumps raked by the sun, stroking the air with their simian, half-extended arms. . ."11
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Fig. 4 Edgar Degas, Four Studies of a Dancer, 1878–9. Chalk drawing. Louvre. Photo RMN/ Art Resource, New York
That this persistent animalizing of human form may be understood in connection with evolutionary theory is often mentioned in passing in the scholarly literature. The connection has been addressed more thoroughly, however, by Anthea Callen in The Spectacular Body, where it is part of a larger discussion concerning the role of contemporary scientific discourse in Degas's work.12 In an opening chapter centering around his sculpture, The Little Dancer, she reveals how the languages of science and medicine, including theories of evolution and degeneration, were absorbed into representation and encoded onto the body. Looking closely at a series of preparatory studies made for the sculpture, she demonstrates how the figure's face and head become increasingly atavistic as the sequence progresses, the end result being "an emphatically primitive cranium."13 Callen focuses especially on a black-chalk drawing in which the head is rendered from four different angles: a sketch at top left seems to be a study in atavism of the lower face, while that at top right reveals an asymmetrical skull shape that is "indicative of excess development of the animal hemispheres of the brain."14 (fig. 4)
Callen discusses evolution as one of several closely interwoven scientific and pseudoscientific discourses of the time—phrenology, physiognomy, comparative anatomy, and anthropology—that shared an obsession with constituting the body as a legible text. Animalistic anatomy and atavistic skull type were indications of a person's low ranking on the evolutionary scale; from this, conclusions about his or her innate criminality, predisposition toward vice, or generally low social ranking could be inferred. It was a complex signifying system in which separate signs reverberated endlessly back and forth and were bound up in one another: animality signified criminality signified lower evolutionary state. This expressive potential lodged in the discourse of science supplied artists with "a new vocabulary of visual signs to modernize conventional pictorial codes and give art new representational powers."15
While animal forms had long been a staple of physiognomic theory, appearing most famously in the work of Charles LeBrun in the late 17th century, its goal was largely metaphoric: the subject was thought to possess the characteristics of the animal he or she resembled. In the Darwinian era, however, the animal sign took on new and distinct meanings, serving in representation as an index to a subject's position on the evolutionary ladder, and moreover, to social status. In the Little Dancer, therefore, Callen explains that Degas "made explicit use of images current in science and medicine to make his figure instantly recognizable as a member of the so-called classes dangereuses."16 Elsewhere she suggests that he was "consciously exploring monkey and other animal physiognomies as scientific signifiers of low class Parisiennes at this period."17 The critical reaction to the sculpture certainly supports her argument. Several reviewers noted the figure's "animal forehead and jaws," which they read as markers of her deviance.


Douglas Druick has also discussed how the discourses of science informed both the production and reception of the Little Dancer. Arguing that Degas intentionally coded the figure as morally deviant, he frames the sculpture in relation to other works bearing similar animalistic physiognomies and describes how those works were constructed and interpreted as degenerate, less evolved types. He focuses on the sculpture's pairing at the 1881 Impressionist show with Criminal Physiognomies, two pastel portraits picturing markedly atavistic profiles, and which in title alone clearly revealed Degas's subscription to the popular idea that criminality was biologically predetermined and physically legible.18 Extending his discussion to the liberal use of the animal sign in the brothel monotypes, he adds that "the artist had relied on the predictability and prejudice of physiognomic codes and stereotypes, endowing the brothels' inhabitants with caricatured faces that. . .underscore their animal—and potentially criminal—natures."19
The intimate relationship between art, science and modernity in the late 19th century that both authors illuminate is crucial for understanding Degas's work. Callen's discussion moves fluidly between the discourses of evolution, anthropology, criminology and physiognomy, evoking a sense of their continual overlapping. Yet this interweaving that so skillfully evokes the complexity of the scientific climate also has a kind of leveling effect: evolution becomes too easily swept up under the broader cultural phenomenon of physiognomy, and is seen only as a buttress to the bourgeois classification systems already in place. Degas's interest in physiognomy is well known and occupies a central place in his work, but was his only goal to make his subjects "instantly recognizable as a member of the so-called classes dangereuses"? Was Darwinian theory so readily and optimistically absorbed that it served only to reassure the bourgeois viewer of his privileged place on the evolutionary scale? While the animal/evolutionary sign undoubtedly served as an immediate signifier of class and social type, to circumscribe its role to one of expressivity is to foreclose the other ways it might have operated within Degas's practice.
The limits of this "social type" interpretation reveal themselves upon considering Young Spartans. If animality is indeed a signifier of the classes dangereuses, how then do we explain its presence on the bodies of ancient Greek youths? Certainly Degas didn't mean to suggest that ancient Greeks were immoral, or lower on the evolutionary scale, or criminal types. Animality in this picture does not easily settle into its physiognomic role; it is strangely—insistently—out of order, chafing against its classical backdrop. Interestingly, Callen does not discuss Young Spartans. The painting contains one of Degas's boldest assertions of the atavistic type and yet she omits it from her broad-ranging study of Degas's scientifically-informed physiognomic project, for reasons we can only assume have to do with its refusal to fit into her argument.20
What I am suggesting is that within Degas's work the animal sign must be understood in connection to evolutionary theory, but that to view it only as a physiognomic marker with specific evolutionary resonances is to overlook the more disruptive effects of its inscription on the human body. The animal sign is first and foremost an anxious sign; its persistent assignment to the body of the other is an indication of its danger. What it signals, even as it codifies a specific type, is a radically different conception of human form. The animal sign operates simultaneously in two different registers, and to two different effects: in the social sphere, it enables legibility; but in the sphere of the psychological and subjective, it confounds and disturbs, producing a fracturing of stable meaning and subjectivity. The animal sign is loaded with critical potential, and it is only when it strays from the context of the modern body, when its physiognomic operation is short-circuited as it is in Young Spartans, that this critical potential moves into the foreground.
The more destabilizing operation of the animal sign arises from the same place that it derives its efficacy as a codifier in the social sphere: the ambiguous zone between man and animal. While an animalistic body could serve as a reassuring index to a person's inner character, it could also produce other, more troubling significances in this new era marked by the rise of Darwinism. What needs to be addressed first is Darwinism's reception among nineteenth-century audiences. Most art historical accounts suggest that evolutionary theory was immediately embraced by a bourgeoisie who viewed it as a march toward progress, or as scientific justification for hierarchies already in place.21 Yet even as it was recruited into the project of cultural and racial hegemony, Darwinism remained a deeply disruptive idea: it introduced the troubling notion of corporeal instability into public consciousness, displacing long-held assumptions about the permanence of human form.
In The Origin of Species, translated into French in 1862, Darwin challenged the long-held definition of species as fixed, individual units, whose forms were intact and eternal. In his view, living organisms were not immutable but constantly in flux, always in the process of transformation. Moreover, Darwin asserted that the naming of organisms into species was perfectly arbitrary; the term was a mere construct invented for the purposes of organization. The notion that species were ever-changing meant that the lines demarcating individual organisms could no longer be easily drawn, an idea that produced considerable anxiety among French audiences.22 As Pierre Flourens, one of evolution's most vocal opponents, described it in his 1864 Examen du Livre de M. Darwin: "We all know that species do not change . . . and yet a man arrives . . . a Monsieur Darwin, who tells us that species do change . . . And already I see a certain public, at first astounded, then stupefied."23 It was precisely the impossibility of demarcating the limits of form—of discerning the body's beginning and end—that propelled the anxiety behind August Laugel's 1860 review of The Origin of Species. "Classification," he writes, "is the thread that guides us through the labyrinth of nature; but. . .our divisions are only the forms that the mind fashions at will, in order to organize the shreds of truth that it is able to grasp."24 The writer grapples throughout his review with the unsettling notion: categories are arbitrary, the mere product of representation, the exponent of our desire.
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Fig. 5 J.-J. Grandville, Transition of the facial angle from man to caterpillar. Reproduced in L'Âme au corps: artes et sciences, 1793–1993. Paris, Réunion des musées nationaux, 1993
J.-J. Grandville's Transition of the facial angle from man to caterpillar seems to translate this idea into visual form.25 (fig. 5) The drawing is not merely an exposition of man's structural likeness to other creatures in the tradition of comparative anatomy illustration but also a chart of the corporeal slippage that defines evolution. Figures are crammed together in a continuous space, overlapping, implying one fluid organism stretched out over time. Even the captions read like one sentence with words flowing together. If physiognomy operates through a controlling, mastering gaze that suppresses the arbitrary and organizes its objects into a readable hierarchy, then evolutionary theory undermines that gaze, confounding legibility and classification, disrupting traditional channels of meaning. If physiognomy is based on the concept of metaphor, then evolution is based on that of metonymy; the body is always not quite what it will be.
Evolution, then, may be understood as a discourse on boundaries, one that rendered the corporeal frame a site of particular anxiety during the late nineteenth century. Degas's inscription of the animal sign onto his Spartan bodies directly engages the newly jeopardized status of the corporeal frame: its presence signals the breaking down of borders that had been constructed as impenetrable in the history of Western art and science. Degas gives us anatomies that slip, slightly, off their classical frames and that stand instead at the edge of categories. He gives us bodies that speak of indeterminacy and ambiguity, and this is precisely the source of their danger.
It is this precarious state of the in-between around which Julia Kristeva builds her formulation of the "abject." In this definition the "abject" refers to an intermediate category of objects that induce loathing, disgust, and repulsion, not because of their inherently repulsive properties, but because of their transitional states; bodily fluids and waste are abject because they traverse corporeal boundaries and cannot be properly categorized as either part of the interior or exterior of the body. Abjection, for Kristeva, is "what disturbs identity, system, order. What does not respect borders, rules. The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite."26 It is that which does not fit neatly into oppositions; or as Elizabeth Grosz explains, that which "necessarily partakes of both polarized forms but cannot be clearly identified with either."27 The evolutionary body, always at the edge of categories, signals a site of possible danger and repulsion. It is an abject body, borderless and forever between states.
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Fig. 6 "The heads and skulls of Apollo, a negro and a chimpanzee compared." from J. C. Nott & G. R. Gliddon, Types of Mankind, (Philadelphia, 1854)
Kristeva's notion of the abject draws upon the work of Mary Douglas, who has discussed the ways in which society defends against elements that resist clear-cut classification. Focusing on the societal constructs of purity and pollution, she defines "dirt" as that which is out of order, as "matter out of place"—like Kristeva, locating danger in transitional states.28 The related condition of "purity" is theorized as society's attempt to organize the ambiguous: "Our pollution behavior is the reaction which condemns any object or idea likely to confuse or contradict cherished classifications."29 For Douglas, boundaries are critical in the maintenance of social order: "Ideas about separating, purifying, demarcating and punishing transgressions have as their main function to impose system on an inherently untidy experience. It is only by exaggerating the difference between within and without, above and below, male and female, with and against, that a semblance of order is created."30 We might understand the persistent assignment of animality to the sexually deviant female body in Degas's work as a kind of "tidying up" of the mess of evolutionary theory, its location on the body of the other a means of containing evolution's threat to corporeal integrity. Such a strategy was prevalent in 19th-century visual culture and is nowhere more evident than in Nott and Gliddon's The heads and skulls of Apollo, a negro and a chimpanzee compared. (fig. 6) Unlike Grandville's drawing, this image makes no suggestion of corporeal slippage; on the contrary, borders are fixed, unassailable. It is a juxtaposition that aims to rid the European body of animal associations, collecting and neatly depositing them into the body of the African. What we have, in other words, is an erecting of racial and cultural boundaries that occurs with the dissolution of corporeal ones.
In Young Spartans the animal sign is neither safely locked away onto the female body nor presented in clear-cut opposition to human. It spills over, undiscriminating, onto all figures in the painting, and it is this "pollution" of the human frame that most directly signifies Degas's engagement with evolutionary theory and its flippant disregard for the limits of form. This primary disavowal of bodily integrity is reiterated in smaller pictorial episodes throughout the painting. The female side is a study in somatic uncertainty: it presents a flurry of legs that fail to match up with bodies, and as Nochlin has noted, the embracing couple in the background seems to "merge pictorially into a monstrous whole, a kind of proto-Picassoid integration of profile and full face that is disconcerting rather than reassuring in the context of 19th-century realism."31 However, it is on the male side where the threat of evolutionary ambiguity is most poignantly articulated, despite the appearance of five distinct, intact bodies.
The male side can be read as one body repeated five times. It is often noted that the male and female groups stand in strange isolation from one another, separated by an empty, unbridgeable space. It is an arrangement that has generated interesting discussions about Degas's attitude toward gender and the relation between the sexes.32 However, we might also look at how this compositional apartheid seems to nominate each group as a self-contained entity, as a study in and of itself. (Self-containment is also suggested by the introduction in the revised version of a stretch of empty space behind the male group, cutting off the possibility that they are part of a larger configuration). If we read the male figures as five points in the trajectory of one body, then, moving from foreground to background, we see how each figure seems to be the logical successor to the one in front of it, almost a Muybridgean study of the figure on all fours in the process of standing up. The more muddled organization in the original version has given way to a clear demarcation of the figures in space so that their position in the sequence is easily comprehended: note that one of the figures in the grisailles, present only as a head, has been removed. A trail of hands leads the eye diagonally upward and backward; the contracted leg of the middle figure gradually extends; the position of the arms shifts from an emphatic downward directional, moving with each figure toward its highest vertical extension. The effect is of one body stretched out, as figures overlap in the manner of Grandville's illustration of formal fluidity.
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Fig. 7 Paul-Joseph Jamin, La fuite devant un mammouth (detail). Oil on canvas. Musée des Antiquités Nationales, Saint-Germain-en-Laye, France. Photo RMN/ Art Resource, New York
What is striking is that it is a body anchored, on either end, by opposites: man at his most vertical and most horizontal. Degas was fixated on these two figures, devoting more time to them than to any others, producing numerous preparatory drawings. Interestingly, these are poses that held enormous significance within the evolutionary literature. Opponents of evolution summoned modern man's upright position as irrefutable evidence of his separateness from animals, of the absolute morphological gulf between man and ape. Paul Topinard, for example, in L'Homme dans la nature of 1891, refuted the blurring of lines between human and animal: he argued that man is the only true bimane, and because of this fact, categorically speaking "he should remain isolated, above the anthropoids and apes."33 The human/vertical vs. animal/horizontal binary was forcefully asserted in an urgent marking of boundaries where they were in danger of eroding. On the other side, evolutionists chipped away at the fiction of man's eternally vertical stance, imagining our ancestors as earth-bound and horizontal. Within the new pictorial genre of scenes of prehistoric life, the intermediary state of prehistoric man was often signified through the quadruped pose, as in Paul Jamin's La fuite devant un mammouth. (fig. 7)
In his opposing male figures Degas seems to deliberately conjure up iconic stances in the evolutionary debate. Yet by collapsing these two poles of human erectness and animal baseness into one species, he effectively levels their difference, undermining the crucial binary asserted by Topinard. It is tempting, then, to read the male group as a sort of "narrative" about one body's evolutionary progress—a chronicle of man's triumph over his originally horizontal/animal state. Yet I think this is not quite right. For in Young Spartans the vertical has no privilege. It is always countered by the horizontal; the painting seems to pivot on the tension between these two axes, as in the silent clash between the stretching male figure and the long, horizontal reach of the lunging girl. The presence of two opposing states in the male group suggests a body caught in between, unable to claim either position: what is vertical is also horizontal, what is human is also animal. The male cluster diagrams not the story of evolution, but rather the condition of corporeality in an evolutionary universe—an abject corporeality that knows no limits and is always between categories, that "necessarily partakes of both polarized forms but cannot be clearly identified with either."
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Fig. 8 Edgar Degas, Woman in the Bath, c. 1876–7. Monotype. Location unknown
The evolutionary abject is particularly apparent in works like Degas's 1876–77 monotype, Woman in the Bath. (fig. 8) It is a familiar subject—a woman engaged in the act of bathing—made strange by the animal rumbling beneath the surface. An unmistakably atavistic profile, with receding forehead and protruding snout, declares itself against the stark white of the tub. The highlighted hand curls into a claw-like form, suggesting a creature scratching itself rather than washing. The figure's head projects forward, while her hunched shoulder, mimicked by the swelling curve of the tub, suggests Neanderthal.34 We are left with a categorical uncertainty, an illegibility that seems to translate into an overall dissolution of form, as the figure dissolves into the ground of the murky water. The competing contours of human and animal continually confound each other so that neither is figured. They are opposing forces, canceling each other out, producing an intermediary body that, despite its specific setting and implied social class, cannot properly signify.
Young Spartans, too, enacts a kind of semiotic failure that seems partly the product of evolutionary indeterminacy. The painting is famous for its refusal to signify, a quality its blank center seems to emblematize and that is the source of the interpretive difficulties surrounding its subject matter. Nochlin has argued that this illegibility is hardly a failure on Degas's part, but that the artist deliberately creates ambiguities, throwing up barriers that work against his iconography. She points to several places where compositional arrangements and especially ambiguous gestures render the subject uncertain, a strategy that ultimately undermines "the very notion of meaning in history painting as a genre."35 Yet the painting's disruption of meaning is performed not just through the ambiguous actions of the body on its surroundings, but at a more inward level: our apprehension is frustrated by the body's resistance to the human contours it seems to claim for itself.
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Fig. 9 "Le Musée de L'École d'anthropologie, à Paris," La Nature (1878, vol. 1)
That Degas would have brought evolutionary principles to his reconceived Young Spartans seems especially likely when we consider that the revisions were made during two of the most crucial years for the absorption of Darwinian ideas into public consciousness in Paris. In 1878, the Société d'Anthropologie, a bastion of evolutionary thought, presented animal and human anatomies in striking comparisons at the new anthropology museum.36 (fig. 9) That same year at the Exposition Universelle, held in Paris, the Société presented a dizzying array of prehistoric tools and over 1,400 skulls and bone fragments, arranged with a distinct evolutionary message. In one room, human and ape skeletons were presented, disconcertingly, side by side. As one reviewer described it, "The public was face to face with these skeletons and brains and skulls of men and apes, and they were struck by the analogies. Imagine the innumerable reflections that these objects raised, the questions they provoked!"37 The analogies were striking enough to prompt another outraged writer to title his piece "Le Darwinisme à L'Exposition Universelle." He described the notion of an intermediary between man and ape as "nauseating"—a "pollution" of the human form.38
The following year, 1879, marked the discovery of prehistoric cave paintings at Altamira, which, on top of recent Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon findings, provided further evidence for the possibility of man's ancient existence. Evolutionary ideas were increasingly fashionable in Parisian intellectual circles, including that of Degas. The critic Edmond Duranty brought Darwinian ideas to a rather eccentric interpretation of figural paintings in the Louvre; Berthe Morisot wrote of Darwin in letters; and Degas's good friend Ludovic Lepic was an avid student of prehistoric times, reconstructing ancient tools for the newly opened Musée des Antiquités Nationales in nearby St.Germain-en-Laye.39 Degas himself was always interested in the latest scientific currents and read the popular science journal La Nature, which frequently featured articles on evolutionism and prehistory.40
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Fig. 10 Fernand Cormon, Cain Fleeing with his Family, 1880. Oil on canvas. Paris, Musée d'Orsay. Photo RMN/ Art Resource, New York
Furthermore, it was between 1878 and 1879 that the Salon painter Fernand Cormon began sketching out a monumental painting with an unmistakably evolutionary tenor: the controversial Cain Fleeing with his Family, in which figures from the biblical story were recast as a tribe of prehistoric cavemen, complete with animal pelts, prehistoric tools, and distinctly atavistic anatomies. (fig. 10) The painting would be the sensation of the 1880 Salon, as much for its thrilling presentation of prehistoric life as for its controversial, scientifically-informed treatment of the human body.41 With the exhibition of this work, Darwinism and its sign entered the official arena of art as well as the critical discourse; reviewers were outraged by bodies they perceived as "filthy, boorish, bony, intermediaries between man and beast (italics mine)."42 Another chastised the artist for giving visual expression to "the ideas of the most adventurous disciples of Darwin."43 Degas surely would have seen the picture at the 1880 Salon, and it is likely that the two artists discussed Cormon's project the previous year, at the Café de la Rouchefoucauld, where they were both regulars.44 While we can't know for sure if Degas had Cormon's painting in mind at the moment of his revision to Young Spartans, certain parallels are hard to ignore. Cain, too, was a history painting on a grand scale devoted to the nude. It, too, was a work that problematized traditional conceptions of the human body, redrawing its boundaries, and that did so under the sign of the animal.
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Fig. 11 "The Lion of the Season," Punch (25 May, 1861)
The objection to Cormon's "intermediary" figures points to this fear of the uncategorizable body that marked the evolutionary era. But what, exactly, is the source of this fear, this nausea? Following Douglas's theory, such an intermediary body would have posed a threat to social systems. Indeed, this idea seems to be subject of a famous cartoon of 1861 from the British magazine, Punch, where the ultimate danger of evolutionary theory is expressed as an overturning of social order. (fig. 11) The horrified gentleman bristles not merely at the suggestion of man's undignified origins, but at the shock of seeing this emblem of undignified origins dressed up as a refined British gentleman. The fragile veneer of civilization is exposed; the ease with which the gorilla assumes the attire of the upper class suggests the frailty of such artificial social boundaries in the face of evolution's slippery slope. The cartoon is about the traversing of boundaries, corporeal and social, and its humor and shock derives precisely from the animal sign's location: it appears more out of place here than in a brothel.
Yet despite the obvious class anxiety that the concept of evolution introduced, the threat of the boundless, intermediary body resides more at the psychological than societal level. If the Punch cartoon addresses the horror of the animalized human in terms of its threat to social order, it also locates its horror in threat to the status of the self. The unwelcome guest suggests the appalled gentleman's own animality. This beast in similar attire is his mirror image; his repulsion is a product of the collapse of boundaries between self and other. The gorilla in this cartoon represents the emergence of something the ego wishes to represses: man's abject state, which by virtue of its in-betweenness destabilizes not just the boundaries of the body, but the boundaries of the self.
While Douglas's interest is in the social significance of corporeal boundaries, Kristeva finds their primary significance in their role in the constitution of the subject. Drawing on psychoanalytic models in which the ego is conceived of not as a disembodied psychical entity but rather as determined by corporeality and its limits, she argues that an awareness of the distinctions between inside and outside of the body are what constitute the subject, giving it a sense of autonomy and self-identity. When bodily fluids traverse corporeal boundaries, they adumbrate the subject's potential to collapse into the outside from which it struggles to distinguish itself. If, as Kristeva theorizes, stable subjectivity depends on the image of one's own body as with fixed corporeal limits, then the body as it is conceived of in evolutionary terms fails to provide this image. Fluid, edgeless, forever in formation, the evolutionary body by definition can never be regarded as a distinct, proper entity. The mark of this body, written onto the Bather and even more strangely onto Spartan youths, suggest a troubling failure of form, a resistance to closure which ultimately threatened disruption to the notion of a stable, unified, self. As the body's limits cannot be determined, the self cannot be mapped.
What makes Degas's revision of Young Spartans so interesting, finally, is what it eliminates. The base onto which the animal mark is inscribed was hardly a neutral one. During the Darwinian era, the classical body was actively constituted as the evolutionary body's antithesis. Nott and Gliddon's drawing, in which the head of Apollo is positioned as the ape's opposite, is just one of many 19th-century articulations of this dynamic. Such imagery suggests that the classical body's role in the evolutionary era was first of all cultural, claiming ancient Greece as European man's true origins and simultaneously positioning Western culture at the top of the evolutionary hierarchy.
But what the classical tradition also represented during the evolutionary era was pure, unvarying form. If the evolutionary body suggests the absence of boundaries, the failure of form, the classical body is the icon of invariability. Characterized by the finitude of its formal contours, it presents the body as a closed system with clearly defined limits—a promise of stable boundaries and unified subjectivity. It emblematized everything that was human, rational, and vertical: the antithesis of animality. Indeed, classical canons of art were often called upon to decry notions of corporeal variability increasingly asserted by anthropologists. Topinard, for example, in L'homme dans la nature, differentiates between classical and anthropological canons of the body and the limits of form that each intones: "Art by nature is idealist, unitary; it permits only one canon, only one human type. . .while that of anthropology, necessarily realist, accepts multiple types and multiple canons."45
If the classical figures in Degas's original conception of Young Spartans may be understood as a fantasy of wholeness in body and self, then it is this fantasy that is shattered in his revision. The painting positions itself within the classical tradition and then proceeds to retract its promises, breaking down crucial oppositions between man and animal, mind and body, civilized and primitive. But most significantly, it enacts a dismantling of secure classical form, and with it, the conception of corporeality it implicitly upheld. Degas used the principles of evolutionary theory to take apart the classical body from within. The stretching figure emblematizes the presence of form and secure boundaries embodied by the classical tradition—vertical, resilient, he is almost Vitruvian man—and the inclusion of this figure's base, horizontal opposite may be understood as form's undoing. Indeed, for Rosalind Krauss, horizontality is a primary expression of the formless.46 In Grandville's drawing, as well, we see that the conclusion of form's unraveling is an emblem of horizontality: the legless, ground-hugging caterpillar.
If the classical body is a repression of man's baseness, then the evolutionary body is a return of that which has been repressed. And if the classical nude represents pure form, intellect, rationality—a Cartesian rejection of the corporeal—then the evolutionary body figures the subject as hopelessly bound to his corporeality. What Degas seems to have staged in his revision is subjectivity not merely destabilized, but reconstituted as purely corporeal. He exchanges form for its base other, displacing the ideal with an evolutionary, and altogether modern, body.


1. Cited in Norma Broude, "Edgar Degas and French Feminism, ca. 1880: 'The Young Spartans,' the Brothel Monotypes, and the Bathers Revisited" Art Bulletin 70 (December 1988), p. 642.

2. I am working from Broude's dating of the revision, which she convincingly places between 1879 or 1880 rather than the mid-1860s, as has also been suggested. Broude's chronology is based on a reference to the painting in a lecture by Diego Martelli. Martelli had seen Young Spartans in Degas's studio at some point during his sojourn in Paris from April 1878 to April 1879, and in his lecture in 1879 described it as "one of the most classicizing paintings imaginable." Broude reasons that "at the time Martelli saw the picture, Degas had not yet carried out the major modifications that X-ray examination of the canvas in its present state has revealed—that is to say, the alteration of the figures from their original classicizing models to the more obviously contemporary types that we see here." Broude 1988, p. 642.

3.Carol Salus, "Degas's Young Spartans Exercising" Art Bulletin 67 (September 1985), pp. 501-06.

4. Other details such as hairstyle support this interpretation. Salus argues that the lunging figure's cropped hair seems to follow Plutarch's description of Spartan girls having shorter hair following marriage. Degas has adopted it to his own ends, however: here cropped hair means the figure is ready for marriage.

5. See Linda Nochlin, "Degas's Young Spartans Exercising" Art Bulletin (September 1986) 68, 486-488.

6. See P-A. Lemoisne, Degas et son oeuvre, vol. 1 (Paris, 1946-9) p. 42. Douglas Druick suggests that "they appear more like contemporary Parisians than antique statuary." See Douglas Druick in "Framing The Little Dancer Aged Fourteen" in Richard Kendall, Degas and the Little Dancer (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988), p. 93. Henri Loyrette similarly describes the new features as the "commonplace faces of the children of the streets of Paris." Loyrette, in Jean Sutherland Boggs et. al. Degas (Paris, Ottawa, New York, 1988), cat. 40.

7. See Broude, "Edgar Degas and French Feminism."

8. Druick notes the resemblance between their features and the "much discussed 'bestial mugs' reviewers discerned in Little Dancer and in the Criminal Physiognomies." Druick 1988, p. 94.

9.The painting was included in the catalogue for the 1880 Impressionist show as no. 33, "Petites filles spartiates provoquant des garçons (1860)." Several critics noted its absence in their reviews of the exhibition.

10. Cited in Carol Armstrong, Odd Man Out: Readings of the Work and Reputation of Edgar Degas (University of Chicago Press, 1991), p. 43.

11. Cited in Richard Thomson, Degas: The Nudes (New York and London: Thames and Hudson, 1988). The use of animal analogies so common in the critical writing of the time continues in the scholarship today. Regarding a group of bather pastels probably from the 1890s, Jean Sutherland Boggs writes, "The sheer animality of their pleasure seems underlined by the ghostly presence of a faint red cow in one large pastel. . ." Boggs, 346-350. Theodore Reff, describing At the Café-Concert, notes the "animality of their performers and their audience." Theodore Reff, Degas: The Artist's Mind (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1976), p. 34.

12. See A. Callen, The Spectacular Body: Science, Method and Meaning in the Work of Degas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995). In other discussions the relationship between bestial figure types and evolutionary theory is implied rather than stated directly. Thomson, for example, describes Degas's prostitutes in the brothel monotypes as "bestial, keyed up for sex, beyond the bounds of decency," adding that "they are shown as women of a baser race." Thomson 1988, p. 117.

13. Callen 1995, p. 22.

14. Callen 1995, p. 22.

15. Callen 1995, p. 3.

16. Callen 1995, p. 1.

17. Callen 1995, p. 22.

18. See Druick 1988. By exhibiting these works together in the same room, Druick argues, Degas invited comparison between their atavistic anatomies and was perhaps making a moral statement about the degeneration of the French race.

19. Druick 1988, p. 92.

20. Druick, on the other hand, does discuss Young Spartans. He reasons that had the painting been included in the 1880 show (as was originally intended), its strong, healthy Spartan protagonists would have functioned as an example of the good effects of environment on the prosperity of the race, especially when set against Criminal Physiognomies. See Druick 1988.

21. Bram Dijkstra, for example, calls evolutionary theory a "resplendent white knight in the service of discrimination." See his chapter "Evolution and the Brain" in Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture (Oxford University Press, 1986).

22. Thomas Huxley carried Darwin's arguments even farther. Far from constituting a separate order, man was, from a zoological point of view, a primate. His Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (London, 1863) was translated into French and included diagrams in which the profile of a modern skull was superimposed onto that of prehistoric man to reveal a shift in form; such diagrams were icons of evolutionism and succinctly expressed the fiction of corporeal permanence.

23. Cited in T. Appel, The Cuvier-Geoffroy Debate: French Biology in the Decades Before Darwin (Oxford University Press, 1987), p. 233. On the reception of Darwin in France see George Stebbins, "France" in The Comparative Reception of Darwinism, ed. T. Glick (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1988); Yvette Conry, L'introduction du Darwinisme en France aux XIXe siècle (Paris: J. Vrin, 1974); and C. Grimoult, Evolutionnisme et fixisme en France: Histoire d'un combat, 1800–1882 (Paris, 1998).

24. August Laugel, "Nouvelle Théorie d'Histoire Naturelle: L'Origine des Espèces" Revue des Deux Mondes (April 1, 1860) p. 645. Laugel's review was written two years before The Origin of Species was translated into French, by Clemence Royer, in 1862.

25. Grandville's drawing was produced years before Darwin's theories emerged, and is more a reflection of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck's earlier evolutionist theories. Though Lamarck is now regarded by the French as the father of evolutionism, during his own time his theories were largely dismissed by the scientific community. It wasn't until Darwin's publication, which provided a theory as to how transformism occurred, that evolutionism made a real impact in the European scientific community and with the general public.

26. Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982), p. 4.

27. E. Grosz, Volatile Bodies: Toward a Corporeal Feminism (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 1994) p. 192.

28. "Dirt is only dirt in certain contexts," she writes. "Shoes are not dirty in themselves, but it is dirty to place them on the dining table; food is not dirty in itself, but it is dirty to leave cooking utensils in the bedroom." M. Douglas, Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo (New York and Washington: Praeger Publishers, 1966). A discussion of Douglas's influence on Kristeva's conception of the abject can be found in Grosz, Volatile Bodies, pp. 193-195; see also Grosz's essay "The Body of Signification" in Abjection, Melancholia and Love: The Work of Julia Kristeva, ed. John Fletcher & Andrew Benjamin (London & New York: Routledge, 1990).

29. Douglas 1966, p. 35.

30. Douglas 1966, p. 4.

31. Nochlin 1986, p. 487.

32. Nochlin 1986 and Broude 1988

33. "Il doit rester isolé, au-dessus des anthropoïdes et des singes. . ." Paul Topinard, L'homme dans la nature (Paris, 1891), p. 338.

34. Richard Thomson has suggested that the less-than-ideal appearance of the bather owes simply to the difficult nature of the medium. He reasons that with these dark-field monotypes "Degas had no time for anatomical nicety, for genuflection to the traditional ideal of the female nude." (Thomson 1988, p. 78). But the anatomical distortions seem too intentional to chalk up to a recalcitrant medium; the boundary between leg and arm, for example, is literally rubbed out by the artist's thumbprint in a deliberate blurring of corporeal legibility.

35. Nochlin 1986, p. 487.

36. The Société d'Anthropologie was founded in 1859 by Paul Broca. Because of its frequent exhibitions and publications, the Société was an important vehicle in the diffusion of evolutionary thought among the French scientific community and the general public. On Paul Broca and the Société see Francis Schiller, Paul Broca: Founder of French Anthropology, Explorer of the Brain (University of California Press, 1979).

37. "Le public voyait face à face des squelettes, des cerveaux, des crânes, d'hommes et de singes. Vous vous doutez des réflexions sans nombre que soulevaient ces objects, des questions qu'ils povoquaient!" H.-M. Vincent, L'Homme et le Singe à l'Exposition Universelle (1878), Section d'Anthropologie (Nimes, 1879), pp. 5-6.

38. See Constantine James, "Le Darwinisme à L'Exposition Universelle" in his Moïse et Darwin. L'homme de la Genèse comparé a l'Homme-singe (Paris, n.d.) p. 414.

39. Druick tells us that Morisot wrote in a letter that she was reading Darwin. Druick 1988, p. 183, fn 35. Duranty's piece, in which he discusses the evolution of gesture using a Darwinian model, was titled "Promenades au Louvre " Gazette des Beaux-Arts (January, 1877). On Ludovic Lepic, his interest in prehistoric archaeology, and his work at the Musée des Antiquités Nationales, see Harvey Buchanan, "Edgar Degas and Ludovic Lepic: An Impressionist Friendship" Cleveland Studies in the History of Art, vol. 2 (1997), pp. 32-120.

40. On Degas's interest in science see Callen 1995. See also Douglas Druick and Peter Zegers, "Scientific Realism, 1873–1881" in Boggs 1988. They write, "Degas, like his friend the writer Edmond Duranty, believed that modern art should aim to create images of modern life informed by the findings of science."

41. For a discussion of Cormon's controversial painting in the context of the evolutionary discourse, see M. Lucy, "Cormon's 'Cain' and the Problem of the Prehistoric Body" Oxford Art Journal 25 (Autumn 2002), pp. 107-126. See also Geneviève Lacambre, "Le Caïn de Cormon" in Gloire de Victor Hugo (Paris: Grand Palais, 1985), pp. 625-7.

42. "Il est donc tenté de les faires sordides, énormes, grossiers, intermédiaires entre l'homme et la brute." E. About, "Salon de 1880," Le XIXe Siècle, 18-19, May 1880.

43. "Il a voulu soutenir à sa manière les idées des disciples les plus adventureux de Darwin." C. Clément, "Exposition de 1880," Journal des débats, 1 May 1880.

44. Sophie Monneret writes that Cormon was a regular at the Café de La Rouchefoucauld, like Degas, "avec lequel il aimait discuter." See S. Monneret, L'Impressionisme et son époque, vol. 1 (Paris, 1978). Degas's frequent presence at the café during those years is confirmed in his 1879 letter to Bracquemond: "Je déjeuner tous le jours (à rares exceptions près) au café de la Rouchefoucauld, devant le petit marché, au coin de la rue Notre Dame de Lorette et de la rue de la Rouchefoucauld." See Marcel Guérin, ed. Lettres de Degas, (Paris, 1931), p. 45.

45. "L'art de sa nature est idéaliste, unitaire; il n'admet qu'un canon, qu'un type humain. . .tandis que l'anthropologie, nécessairement réaliste, accepte des types et des canons multiples." Topinard 1891, p. 125.

46. See Rosalind Krauss, "Horizontality" in Yves-Alain Bois & Rosalind Krauss, Formless: A User's Guide (New York: Zone Books, 1997), pp. 93-103.