His formal education in the capital was followed by the study of painting. Recognizing his technical limitations, Gautier early turned from art to literature, to which he brought the artist's love of color and form.
In February 1830, Gautier was the most brilliant of the young men supporting Victor Hugo against the classical critics; the scarlet doublet which he wore at the premièrepremiere of Hugo's Hernani has become legendary. Gautier's first book of lyrics, PremièresPremieres poésies,poesies, published that same year, was almost purely romantic, as was his narrative poem Albertus (1832). In the preface to the book of lyrics, however, he announced a lack of interest in politics, society, science, and even nature (except as seen through a window from the fireside) that was scarcely characteristic of romanticism. Rejecting the romantic ideal of grandiose nature, he rejected likewise its ideal love. For the rarefied emotion of his contemporaries he substituted a pagan eroticism, as in Mademoiselle de Maupin (1835).
Rarely a creator but always an impeccable craftsman, Gautier gave a much needed corrective to the undisciplined style of the romantics. Unfortunately, Gautier's verse does not have emotional or intellectual content equal to its perfection of form. ÉmauxEmaux et CaméesCamees (1852) is his best and most characteristic collection. It includes the famous Art, in which Gautier sets up technical difficulty as a prime requirement of art. It is Gautier's weakness that he rarely finds inspiration in life but rather in other men's interpretation of life, whether books, paintings, or music. Thus his long novel Le Capitaine Fracasse (1863) is a rehandling of the 17th-century Roman comique of Paul Scarron. Gautier's prose works include also the posthumously published Histoire du romantisme (1874).