Author, militant, journalist, political agitator, friend of musicians, lover, artist, and baroness, George Sand lived with revolutionary flair for a woman in 19th-century France. Reviled and regaled by her contemporaries, Sand is celebrated as a prolific writer and a role model for contemporary women, balancing family life, love, and a multifaceted career.
On today, her birthday, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at George Sand refracted through a medley of cultural mediums.
1) Sand en Caricature
With her masculine garb, cigar smoking, and bawdy public love life, George Sand was a frequent and often easy target of caricature. She scandalized high society, while still taking time to teach and raise her children. While caricatures and articles lambasting her lifestyle often turned virulent–labeling her frigid, bisexual, and a nymphomaniac, among other epithets–the image featured above is one of the more mild critiques.
2) Sand in Song
These two songs–one by Celine Dion and one by Cole Porter–provide a musical testament to how Sand’s life can be interpreted in many different ways. From Celine Dion’s 2007 peaceful romantic ballad based on Sand’s love letters to Cole Porter’s frolicsome treatment of George Sand in the 1933 musical Nymph Errant (recently revived on Broadway), Sand has a colorfully varied musical heritage–one she would likely appreciate because of her close ties to musicians.
3) Sand on Screen
Perhaps the most infamous film adaptation of George Sand’s life is Impromptu, one of Hugh Grant’s first leading roles in a major motion picture (as Chopin, not George Sand). The New Yorker called Impromptu “ an ebullient and absurdly entertaining account of the famous love affair of George Sand and Frédéric Chopin.” The film has since fallen by the wayside; however, the overacting and melodrama still make for a good laugh. The trailer is also especially funny.
4) Sand on the Telly
Good old BBC. If you, like me, are missing your Masterpiece Classics like Downton Abbey and Mr. Selfridge, look no further. In their fifth season, Masterpiece Classics aired a seven-part miniseries about Sand’s life entitled Notorious Woman. Although it was filmed in the 1970s, as always, BBC is timeless.
5) Sand in Biography and Fiction
The Last Love of George Sand: A Literary Biography was just released in February of 2013 with a starred review from Kirkus–a rousing vote of confidence. The author, Evelyne Bloch-Dano, has written previously about famous French women of the same century, including the wives of writers Emile Zola and Proust, for which she has received much acclaim.
Becoming George Sand tells the story of Maria Jameson, a modern day woman who develops a deep relationship with George Sand despite the historical gulf between them. As Maria begins to question the meaning of love while engaging in an affair, she turns to Sand’s writing and experiences to help her sort out her own feelings about love and liberated living.
Happy George Sand day!
This New York Times article from back in 2000 is a great overview of Sand’s complex life: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/j/jack-sand.html