For other uses, see Bohemian (disambiguation)

Though a Bohemian is a native of the Czech province of Bohemia, a secondary meaning for bohemian emerged in 19th century France. The term was used to describe artists, writers, and disenchanted people of all sorts who wished to live non-traditional lifestyles.

"The term 'bohemian' has come to be very commonly accepted in our day as the description of a certain kind of literary gipsey, no matter in what language he speaks, or what city he inhabits .... A bohemian is simply an artist or littérateur who, consciously or unconsciously, secedes from conventionality in life and in art." (Westminster Review, 1862, noted at Etomology Dictionary. (|Online))

The term reflects the French perception, since the 15th century, that the gypsies had come from Bohemia. Literary bohemians were associated in the French imagination with roving gypsies, outsiders apart from conventional society and untroubled by its disapproval. There is perhaps a connotation of being the bearers of arcane enlightenment (the opposite of 'Philistines') and silently accused too of being careless of personal hygiene.

Henri Murger's collection of short stories, Scènes de la Vie de Bohème (Scenes of Bohemian Life), published in 1845, popularized the term's usage in France. Ideas from Murger's collection formed the theme of Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème (1896).

In English, bohemian in this sense was first popularized in William Makepeace Thackeray's novel, Vanity Fair, published in 1848. Even the Spanish gypsy in a French opera Carmen set in Seville is referred to as a bohémienne in Meilhac and Halévy's libretto (1875).

Missing image
Pierre-Auguste Renoir, The Bohemian (or Lise the bohemian), 1868, oil on canvas, Berlin, Germany: Nationalgalerie.

The term has become associated with various artistic or academic communities and is used as a generalized adjective describing such people, environs, or situations: bohemian' (boho - informal) is defined in The American College Dictionary as "a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior."

Bohemians were often associated with drugs and self-induced poverty, but, overall, many of the most talented European and American literary figures of the last 150 years had a bohemian cast, so that a list of bohemians would be tediously long. Even a bourgeois writer like Honoré de Balzac approved of bohemianism, although most bourgeois did not. In fact, the two groups were often cited as opposites. David Brooks's book Bobos in Paradise describes the history of this clash and the modern melding of bohemia and the bourgeoisie into a new educated upper class — Bourgeois bohemian, abbreviated to bobos.

Bohemia meant any place where you could live and work cheaply, and behave unconventionally; a community of free souls far beyond the pale of respectable society. Bohemia flourished in many cities in the 19th and early 20th century — in Schwabing in Munich, Germany; Montmartre and Montparnasse in Paris, France; Greenwich Village in New York City, North Beach and later Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco, USA; and in Chelsea, Fitzrovia and Soho in London. Modern bohemias include Dali in China; Chiang Rai in Thailand; Kathmandu in Nepal; Amsterdam in the Netherlands; and Užupis in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The current Broadway hit Rent is set in New York City and gives a glimpse into a more recent bohemia. This show was written by Jonathan Larson and is based on La bohème. One of the feature numbers, La Vie Boheme, addresses the death of bohemia as an end to the neighborhood as a haven for these bohemians, while celebrating the ideals and history that formed this counter-culture.

Related links

External link

de:Bohème fi:Boheemi sv:Bohem zh:波希米亞主義


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