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Moore, George [Augustus]      "GM"

Date born: 1852

Place born: Moore Hall, near Lough Carra, County Mayo, Ireland

Date died: 1933

Place died: London, United Kingdom

Writer and art critic whose essays Modern Painting brought Impressionist sensibilities to acceptance among the British public. Moore's father was the wealthy landowner George Henry Moore (1810–1870), a Liberal MP for county Mayo and horse breeder, and his mother Mary Blake (Moore) (1830–1895). Moore attended St Mary's College, a Roman Catholic boarding school in Oscott, near Birmingham. In 1868 while the family lived in London, he enrolled in drawing classes at the South Kensington School of Art and elsewhere. His family discouraged these studies, but at his father's death in 1870 he inherited the Irish estates and could determine his own life. In 1873 he moved to Paris to study painting again, first under Alexandre Cabanel at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and then at the Académie Julian, with Gustave Boulanger and Jules Lefebvre. He briefly returned to London in1874 before again moving to Paris in 1875, this time as a bohemian at the Café de la Nouvelle-Athènes, a literati bistro. Moore gradually realized his talent was literary rather than graphic. He met Edouard Manet, who painted as least three portraits of Moore, Edgar Degas, who drew him as well, and August Renoir. He soon began to champion Impressionism, Degas and particularly Manet. He also met Émile Zola, and decided to introduce the French writer to England. Returning to Ireland, he began to write, but his early attempts at drama and poetry were largely failures. The revolt of tenants from their landlords in Ireland meant Moore's income was drastically reduced; he moved to London in 1879 and took up journalism. For the next thirty years, he traveled between London and Ireland writing books and journal articles and participating in artistic circles such as the Hogarth Club. He championed the paintings of the French Impressionists. His 1883 novel, his first, A Modern Lover is set in the contemporary art world. Recognizable characters from the novel, mimicking Zola's realism, include the art dealer Paul Durand-Ruel (1831-1922) as "Mr. Bendish." Like so much of his output, he subsequently rewrote and republished the work continually. A Mummer's Wife (1885) followed, perhaps the first of literary realism set in a British context. Other novels followed. Moore's abrasive stories resulted in their censoring from many libraries and Moore launched a crusade against them "A New Censorship of Literature," in Pall Mall Gazette 1884 and elsewhere attacked Victorian sensibilities. His 1891 novel Vain Fortune made a deep impression on James Joyce who used it in his story "The Dead" in the Dubliners (1914). From 1891 to 1895 Moore wrote art criticism--one of the first in England--for the magazine The Hawk. He was also art critic for The Speaker. Echoing the sentiments of the painters of the Salon des Refusés, he attacked French formal art education in his book Impressions and Opinions in1891, singling out his alma maters, the Ecole des Beaux-Arts and the Académie Julian, as suppressing an artist’s individuality. His most important art book, Modern Painting (1893) attacked public taste and consumerism that drove much of art production. Key among those artists Moore disparaged for appealing to the public were James McNeil Whistler; Manet and Degas were praised for what Moore saw as following their personal and unique visions. Moore was one of the founders of the Independent Theatre in London, devoted to performing the drama of Ibsen, Strindberg. Moore revised this work continually after publication, as well. During the 1890s, he maintained a long affair with Maud Alice Burke, Lady Emerald Cunard (1872-1948), an American heiress, married to Sir Bache Cunard; their daughter, the bohemian Nancy Clare Cunard (1896-1965), may have been Moore's daughter. Moore was enlisted in 1899 by William Butler Yeats to help create the Irish Literary Theatre, collaborating with Yeats on Diarmuid and Grania. He lived in Dublin between 1901 and 1911. There he produced a small book of his experiences with the artists he knew, Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters, 1906. Moore returned to London, traveling only once more to the middle east in 1914 to research a novel. He took to issuing expensive editions of his books to counteract the censorship he continued to meet. He died of uraemia (renal failure) at his home in Belgravia, London while working on his recollections, A Communication to My Friends, which were posthumously published in 1933. His ashes are buried on Castle Island in Lough Carra, County Mayo. In his lifetime, Moore owned a large collection of works by his friends, Manet, Monet, Degas, Berthe Morisot, Charles Conder and Ford Madox Brown.

Moore was engaged in a quest of literary perfection, his literary works, though groundbreaking, are now almost forgotten by the general public.

Home Country: Ireland/United Kingdom

Sources: Moore, George. A Communication to My Friends. London: The Nonesuch Press, 1933; Hone, Joseph M., et al. The Life of George Moore. New York: Macmillan, 1936; Salinger, Margaretta. "Manet and George Moore." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 15, no. 5 (January 1957): 117-119; Farrow, Anthony. George Moore. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1978 [discussion of art theory] pp. 32-33; Frazier, Adrian Woods. George Moore, 1852-1933. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2000.

Bibliography: Impressions and Opinions. London: David Nutt, 1891; Modern Painting. London: Walter Scott, 1893; Reminiscences of the Impressionist Painters. Dublin: Maunsel, 1906 A Communication to my Friends. London: The Nonesuch Press, 1933.