The Poet and the Dentist: Stéphane Mallarmé and Thomas Evans

With material from the Thomas Evans Collection, this small exhibition looks at many aspects of his relationship with the poet Stéphane Mallarmé.

July 24, 2017 - November 24, 2017 @ Leon Levy Dental Medicine Library
Édouard Manet, painting of Stéphane Mallarmé, 1876.  Collection of the Musée d' Orsay, Paris

Writing to his parents in 1859, Thomas W. Evans (1823-1897) told them that he had “determined at an early age to make a high reputation to gain celebrity Position and fortune . . . to build up a dinasty that I should be no less Proud of than Napoleon was of his—because mine should be as his was founded upon industry activity and having for its object a benefit to mankind.” His egotism (if “egotism” really is how we understand his determination) did not keep Evans from displaying a genius for friendship. His patients and associations included the French Emperor Napoleon III, his wife, the Empress Eugénie, and—the subject of this show—French poet and essayist Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898). Evans, a Philadelphia native, left his estate to the University of Pennsylvania to create and maintain a dental school that would be "second to none."

Highly regarded in his own time, Mallarmé remains significant. His work influenced such 20th-century American poets as Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and Wallace Stevens. He was interested in American as well as British English language and literature. One contact bringing Evans and Mallarmé together was Paris’s “club américain.” But theirs was more than a purely professional or business-like relationship. This small exhibition looks at many aspects of the relationship between the poet and the dentist.

Featured Image: Édouard Manet, painting of Stéphane Mallarmé, 1876. Collection of the Musée d' Orsay, Paris