Bohemianism and Counter-Culture


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"The figure of the artist was central to bohemianism not because Bohemia
was made up of artists but because the nineteenth century made
the artist's preoccupation with self-examination and self-development
symbolic of wider issues in individual and social life."
--Jerrold Siegel


Although many Bohemians had a budget provided to them by their parents or guardians, others had to support themselves, and many chose to follow a career in spite of their financial circumstances. To many outsiders, Bohemians were defined by their work - any painter, writer, or student was automatically assumed to life a Bohemian life.

There were three main occupations held by Bohemians:

  • Painters - The most popular image of the Bohemian shows him at an easel, as in the engraving at right by George du Maurier. Indeed, many did take up the brush to pay the rent.
  • Writers - Others followed a literary path, selling their works to magazines or attempting to write great novels. Because it was extremely difficult to make a living by writing poetry or fiction, many wrote
  • Students - Not a way to make money, but a vocation that allowed for plenty of free time to spend at cafes. Those who were not studying the liberal arts or a profession such as law or medicine attended Arts Academies to become better painters.

 Illustration by George du Maurier from Trilby