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  • gerard van weyenbergh

Symbolism, a basic description.

Symbolism, just like neo-classicism or romanticism, is a multidisciplinary European movement, which comes in both literature and art. Appeared at the end of the XIXth century, with France and Belgium for the main centers, it is opposed to naturalism and gives the imagination and fantasy to date. Symbolism offers to explore the invisible of the world, not without a certain mysticism, and makes prevail the idea and the subjectivity. Among the painters, France recognized in Gustave Moreau one of the masters of pictorial symbolism, and in the domain of poetry, Baudelaire and Mallarmé.

Its history, its key ideas

The symbolism is a powerful literary movement of the late nineteenth century, embodied in particular by Jean Moréas, author of a manifesto published in 1886. The current is carried by the proliferation of journals, especially in Belgium. In the pictorial field, it is announced in France by Puvis de Chavannes, then Gustave Moreau , and is embodied, for example in Austria at Gustav Klimt. The movement was born in a context of questioning the positivist doctrine. It is a real crisis of mind which generates a return of mystical beliefs, the sacred and spirituality. Symbolist painters have a weakness for the landscape, but also cultivate a taste for the strange. His detractors accuse him of being too utopian. Many groups of artists are linked to the history of the movement, notably the Nabis and the Neo-Impressionists. Its effects are important in the history of the art of the XXth century, from Redon to Dalí and Picasso.

Gustave Moreau, Oedipus and the Sphinx , 1864

Born in 1826 and died in 1898, Moreau is one of the great French symbolist painters. His imagination draws from the source of mythological fables and biblical allegories. One of his major works, Oedipus and the Sphinx, was exhibited at the Salon in 1864. Moreau, professor at the School of Fine Arts, encouraged Matisse to develop his personality. Some consider it a precursor of surrealism. read more


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