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Symbolist Artists | History and Sitemap

Symbolism initially developed as a French literary movement in the 1880s, gaining popular credence with the publication in 1886 of Jean Moréas’ manifesto in Le Figaro.
Reacting against the rationalism and materialism that had come to dominate Western European culture, Moréas proclaimed the validity of pure subjectivity and the expression of an idea over a realistic description of the natural world.
This philosophy, which would incorporate the poet Stéphane Mallarmé’s conviction that reality was best expressed through poetry because it paralleled nature rather than replicating it, became a central tenet of the movement.

Marie Spartali Stillman (1844-1927) Love's Messenger, 1885

In Mallarmé’s words “To name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the enjoyment to be found in the poem… suggestion, that is the dream”.
Though it began as a literary concept, Symbolism was soon identified with the artwork of a younger generation of painters who were similarly rejecting the conventions of Naturalism.
Symbolist painters believed that art should reflect an emotion or idea rather than represent the natural world in the objective, quasi-scientific manner embodied by Realism and Impressionism.

Returning to the personal expressivity advocated by the Romantics earlier in the nineteenth century, they felt that the symbolic value or meaning of a work of art stemmed from the re-creation of emotional experiences in the viewer through color, line, and composition.
In painting, Symbolism represents a synthesis of form and feeling, of reality and the artist’s inner subjectivity.
In an article on Paul Gauguin published in 1891, Albert Aurier gave the first definition of symbolism as an aesthetic, describing it as the subjective vision of an artist expressed through a simplified and non-naturalistic style and hailing Gauguin as its leader. However, the groundwork for pictorial Symbolism was laid as early as the 1870s by an older generation of artists such as:
Gustave Moreau (1826-1898),
Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898),
Odilon Redon (1840-1916),
Eugène Carrière (1849-1906),
Arnold Böcklin (1827-1901),
Edward Burne-Jones (1833-1898).
All would have a profound influence on Gauguin and his contemporaries in the later nineteenth century.

Odilon Redon (French, Bordeaux 1840–1916 Paris) Pandora, 1914

Wanting to imbue their works with spiritual value, these progenitors of Symbolism produced imaginary dream worlds populated with mysterious figures from biblical stories and Greek mythology as well as fantastical, often monstrous, creatures.

Their suggestive imagery established what would become the most pervasive themes in Symbolist art: love, fear, anguish, death, sexual awakening, and unrequited desire.
Woman became the favored symbol for the expression of these universal emotions, appearing alternately as wistful virgins and menacing femmes fatales.
In this latter category, Moreau popularized the motifs of Salome brandishing the head of John the Baptist and the man-eating sphinx through paintings such as Oedipus and the Sphinx in the Salons of the mid-1860s and 1870s.
These two mythical female types—the virgin and the femme fatale—would become staples of Symbolist imagery, appearing frequently in both visual and literary sources from the 1880s through the first decade of the twentieth century.

Arnold Böcklin | Island of the Dead, 1880

Unlike the Impressionists, the Symbolists who emerged in the 1880s were a diverse group of artists often working independently with varying aesthetic goals.
Rather than sharing a single artistic style, they were unified by a shared pessimism and weariness of the decadence they perceived in modern society.
The Symbolists sought escape from reality, expressing their personal dreams and visions through color, form, and composition. Their almost universal preference for broad strokes of unmodulated color and flat, often abstract forms was inspired by Puvis de Chavannes, who created greatly simplified forms in order to clearly express abstract ideas.
His muted palette and decorative treatment of forms made a considerable impact on a new generation of artists, most notably Gauguin (1848-1903) and the young Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

Gauguin’s Symbolism was unique in that he sought escape from civilization in less industrialized, so-called primitive cultures rather than in the imaginary dream world of his predecessors.

Vision of the Sermon (1888; National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh) marks his first intentionally Symbolist picture painted in the Synthetic style that he developed with Émile Bernard (1868-1941) in Brittany in 1888, which aimed to synthesize abstracted form with emotional or spiritual experience.

Here, Gauguin combined heavily outlined, simplified shapes with solid patches of vivid color to symbolically express the ardent piety of simple Breton women.

This painting exerted a tremendous influence on the group of artists known as the Nabis, who enthusiastically adopted his aesthetic in the late 1880s and 1890s.

Dante Gabriel Rossetti | Beata Beatrix (1864-70) | Tate

Gauguin’s search for a lost paradise ultimately led him to the South Seas, where he filled his canvases, prints, and sculptures with highly personal and esoteric imagery that deliberately eludes a clear or finite interpretation.

Describing his greatest Symbolist masterpiece, the monumental Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (1897-98; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Gauguin echoed Mallarmé in proclaiming that “explanatory attributes—known symbols—would congeal the canvas into a melancholy reality, and the problem indicated would no longer be a poem”.

Odilon Redon | Profile of a Woman with a Vase of Flowers, 1895-1905 | Tate

Though it began in France, Symbolism was an international avant-garde movement that spread across Europe and North America during the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

The Norwegian Edvard Munch (1863-1944) was closely associated with Symbolist circles, spending time in Paris before settling in Germany in the early 1890s.
Munch’s intensely personal style is often referred to as Symbolic Naturalism as his subjects are not exotic or fantastical but based on the real anxieties of modern existence. Virtually all of the canvases he produced between 1893-1902 belong to a series called the Frieze of Life.

These paintings explore themes of illness, loneliness, despair, and mental suffering associated with love, conditions that Munch deemed emblematic of “modern psychic life”.
The Scream of 1893 (Munch-Museet, Oslo) best exemplifies fin-de-siècle feelings of isolation, disillusionment, and psychological anguish conveyed through distorted forms, expressive colors, and fluid brushwork.

Edvard Munch | The Scream, 1893

In 1892, the eccentric “Sâr” Péladan founded the Salon de la Rose + Croix, inviting artists with strong Symbolist tendencies to exhibit their artwork.

Ferdinand Hodler (Swiss, 1853-1918), Jan Toorop (Dutch, 1858-1928), and a number of Belgians, including Fernand Khnopff (1858-1921), were among the international participants. Also working in Belgium, though rarely exhibiting his work, was James Ensor (1860-1949), who developed a unique Symbolist style based on grotesque and carnivalesque figures.
Picasso, an avid admirer of Gauguin, whose works he first encountered while visiting Paris in 1901, enthusiastically embraced Symbolism during his formative years in Barcelona.

His Blue Period works, such as The Blind Man’s Meal, depict mentally and physically downtrodden characters in the greatly simplified style characteristic of pictorial Symbolism.

Arnold Böcklin | Island of the Dead, 1880 (detail)

In Central Europe, Symbolism witnessed a late flourishing in the works of the Vienna Secession and Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) in particular, whose canvases display a deep fascination with both the productive and destructive forces of female sexuality (Salome, 1909; Museo Ca’ Pesaro, Venice).
Klimt’s highly ornamental style reveals the close connection between Symbolism and parallel movements in the decorative arts such as Art Nouveau.

The Symbolists’ rejection of naturalism and narrative in favor of the subjective representation of an idea or emotion would have a significant effect on the artwork of the twentieth century, particularly the formulation of German Expressionism and Abstraction. | Nicole Myers - © Department of European Paintings, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Symbolist Artists at Tutt'Art@

Nabis Art | History and Sitemap
Victor Nizovtsev, 1965 | Symbolism / Fantasy painter
Jean-Pierre Alaux, 1925 | Surrealist / Symbolist painter
Poonam Chandrika Tyagi, 1964 | Symbolist painter
Eduard Zentsik, 1975 | Symbolist / Surrealist painter
Gustav Klimt | Art Nouveau painter
Brad Kunkle, 1978 | Surrealist painter
Salvador Dali | Surrealist painter and sculptor
David Graux, 1970 | Abstract Figurative painter
Walter Girotto, 1953 | Symbolic / Figurative painter
Harald Slott-Møller | Symbolist painter
Galla Fattah, 1970 | Symbolist painter | Touching Egypt
Bellor (1911-2000) | Symbolist painter
Federico Beltran Masses | Symbolist / Art Déco painter
Montserrat Gudiol (1933-2015) | Symbolist / Figurative painter
Caspar David Friedrich | Romantic / Symbolist painter
Paul Serusier | Symbolist / Post-impressionist painter
Angelo Barabino | Pointillist / Symbolist painter
Francisco Goya | Drawing
Joan Brull (1863-1912) | Symbolist painter
Salvatore Quasimodo | Ora che sale il giorno / Now that the day rises..
Felice Pedretti, 1961 | Metaphysical / Symbolist painter
Charles Conder | Symbolist / Impressionist painter
Nikolaos Gyzis / Νικόλαος Γύζης | Genre painter
Eugène Delacroix | La Liberté guidant le peuple, 1830
Rupert Bunny | Pastorale, 1893 | Art in Detail
Thor Lindeneg, 1941 | Surrealist / Symbolist painter
Laurits Andersen Ring | Symbolist / Genre painter
Louis Janmot | Pre-Raphaelite painter | The Lyon School of art
Arnold Bocklin | Symbolist / Romantic painter
Caspar David Friedrich | Two Men Contemplating the Moon, 1825-30
Arnold Bocklin | Symbolist painter
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer | Symbolist | Art Nouveau painter*
Oleg Supereco, 1974 | Renaissance style painter
Oleg Supereco, 1974 | Venice painting
Oleg Supereco, 1974 | Symbolist / Renaissance style painter
Alush Shima, 1942 | Colorist / Fauvist / Symbolist painter
Paul Verlaine | Kiss! / Bacio! Rosa malva nel giardino delle carezze..
Stefano Di Stasio, 1948 | The Anacronisti group painters
Piero Bresciani, 1945 | Symbolist / Surrealist painter

Federico Beltrán-Masses | Symbolist / Art Déco painter | Part. 2
Federico Beltrán Masses / Lorca | Tres Para Uno / Three for one, 1934
Paul Gauguin | Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? 1897
Yana Movchan, 1971 | Magic Realism painter
Alphonse Osbert | Symbolist / Pointillist painter
Masaaki Sasamoto 笹本正明, 1966 | Symbolist painter
Paul Gauguin | Still life
Symbolist Artists | Sitemap
František Drtikol | Symbolist /Visionary photographer
Odilon Redon | Hommage a Goya, 1885 | The series
Odilon Redon | Apollo's Chariot, 1905-1916 | The Series
Odilon Redon | Portrait of Marie Botkine, 1900 | Art in Detail
Pablo Picasso | Il Guernica, 1937 | Art in Detail
Paul Gauguin | Post-Impressionist / Symbolist painter
Paul Gauguin | Barbarian poems, 1896 | Art in Detail
Dimitri Vojnov, 1946 | Symbolist / Surrealist painter
Kevin Sloan | Allegorical Realism painter
Victor Hugo | Symbolist /Surrealist / Abstract Expressionism painter
Arturo Martini | Symbolist sculptor
Charles-Clos Olsommer | Symbolist / Art Nouveau painter
Lilliana Comes | Symbolist Figurative painter
Carmelo Blandino, 1966 | Abstract Symbolism painter
Safet Zec, 1943 | Allegories of Fate
Francois Lassere, 1960 | Oppositionist Art Movement
William Blake | Symbolist painter
Jeanne Saint Chéron, 1973 | Symbolist Figurative painter
Bruno Catalano, 1960 | Symbolist / Surrealist sculptor | Public Art
Anna Wypych, 1986 | Figurative Symbolist painter
Pierre Chevassu | Symbolist Portrait painter
George Owen Wynne Apperley | Portrait /Figure /Symbolist painter
Gail Potocki, 1961 | Symbolist painter
Dan Quintana, 1982 | Pop Surrealism /Symbolist painter
François Cauvin | Symbolism /Abstract painter
Shaun Berke, 1983 | Symbolist /Portrait /Figurative painter
Kelly Denato | Pop Surrealism painter
Giampaolo Talani, 1955 | Abstract Symbolism painter and sculptor
Francis De Saint-Genies, 1925 | Surrealist / Symbolist Painter / Lithographer
Lyne Lafontaine, 1959 | Symbolist /Fantasy painter
Botticelli | Venus and Mars, c. 1483 | Art in Detail
Victor Nizovtsev /Виктор Низовцев, 1965 | Fantasy painter
Aurelio Bruni, 1955 | Hyperrealist /Symbolist painter
Salvador Dali | Surrealist Newton, 1977
Franz Borghese | Expressionist / Cubist / Symbolist painter /sculptor
Nguyen Khac Chinh, 1984 | Symbolist / Surrealist painter
Salvador Dali | Surrealist / Dadaist / Cubist painter and sculptor | Part. 3
Salvador Dali | Surrealist / Dadaist / Cubist painter and sculptor | Part. 2
Salvador Dali | Watercolors
Salvador Dali | Drawing
Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale | Pre-Raphaelite painter
Kuzma Petrov-Vodkin | Symbolist painter
Francisco de Goya | La maja desnuda and La maja vestida, 1820-1823
Francisco Goya | The Marquise of Santa Cruz / La marchesa di Santa Cruz, 1805
Andrew Kish III, 1980 | Conceptual /Symbolist /Master Watercolor painter
Max Nonnenbruch | Junge Schönheit, 1892
Derek Boshier, 1937 | Pop painter
Ernesto Canto da Maia | Symbolist sculptor
Sandro Botticelli | Mystic Nativity / Natività mistica, 1501
Sandro Botticelli | Calumny of Apelles / La calunnia di Apelle, 1496
Michael Bilotta | Conceptual Surrealist Photographer
Henry Ossawa Tanner | Realist / Symbolist painter
Georg Pauli | Symbolist /Cubist painter
Wieslaw Smetek, 1955 | Conceptual Illustrator
Hartwig Kopp-Delaney | Symbolist / Mystical Digital painter
Stephen Cefalo, 1976 | Symbolist / Baroque style painter
Kostas Rigoula Tsigris, 1954 | Symbolist /Figurative painter
Andy Scott | The Kelpies in Falkirk, Scotland
Henry Moret ~ Impressionist /Symbolist painter
Camille Claudel ~ L'âge mûr /L'Età matura, 1902
Jan Mankes | Symbolist / Realist painter
Pellizza da Volpedo ~ Il Quarto Stato /The Fourth Estate
Rainer Maria Rilke ~ La sera/The evening
Mother Teresa /Jeanie Tomanek ~ Love life /Ama la vita
Cristina Troufa, 1974 | Surrealist/Symbolist painter
Antonio Canova | Psyché et l'Amour, 1788-1793
Olha (Olga) Akasi, 1970 ~ Figure/Symbolist painter
Rubens and Brueghel ~ The Five Senses Allegory | Art workshops
Follower of Jan van Scorel | A Man with a Pansy and a Skull, 1535
Ettore Tito | Genre/Symbolist/Modern painter
Beppe Ciardi | The Venetian lagoon
Klimt's Schubert am Klavier, burned by the Nazis in 1945
Jules Combarieau: La musica è l'arte di pensare attraverso i suoni
Ernst Barlach ~ Expressionist sculptor | Degenerate Art
Maurice Denis | Les Nabis Group
Gustave Moreau | Symbolist painter
Domenico Morelli | Symbolist painter
Andrew Salgado, 1982 | Figurative Abstract painter
Artur Muharremi, 1958 | Allegorical painter
Antoni Gaudí | Symbolism/Art Nouveau Architect
Alexei Butirskiy, 1974 | Symbolist cityscape painter
Wojciech Weiss ~ Expressionist/Colourist painter
Pelle Swedlund | Symbolist painter
Albert Ryder | Tonalist / Symbolist painter
Eugène Carrière | Symbolist painter
Santiago Rusiñol i Prats ~ Modernist/Symbolist painter
GC Myers, 1959 ~ Stylized Symbolic Landscapes
Cayley Robinson ~ Symbolist painter and illustrator
Wang Zhongqi 王忠齐, 1958 ~ Symbolist painter
Yuko Nagayama 永山裕子, 1963 ~ Symbolic Watercolor painter
Andrea Kowch, 1986 ~ Symbolist painter
Agnes Slott-Moller ~ Symbolist painter
John White Alexander ~ Symbolist painter
Giorgio Kienerk ~ Post Impressionist/Symbolist painter
Jeanie Tomanek, 1949 ~ Allegorical/Narrative painter
Mark Kostabi, 1960 ~ Pop Symbolism painter
Giovanni Segantini ~ Italian Divisionism/Neo-Impressionism
Hans Thoma ~ Symbolist painter
Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach ~ Symbolist and Art Nouveau painter
Walter Girotto, 1953 | Figurative painter
Stephan Sinding | Romantic / Symbolist sculptor
Rupert Bunny | Colorist / Symbolist painter
Jacques Prévert ~ Paris at night
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes | Symbolist painter
Roger Suraud ~ French Symbolist painter
Felice Casorati | Magic Realism painter
Henri Le Sidaner ~ Intimist painter
John Burden, 1943
La Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi /The fountain of the four rivers, 1651
Yannick Bouchard, 1982 | Surrealist / Symbolist painter
Leonardo Bistolfi | Symbolist sculptor
Helene Schjerfbeck ~ Espressionist painter
Étienne Pirot, 1952 | Abstract/Symbolist sculptor
Sydney Long ~ Art Nouveau and Symbolist painter
Dino Buzzati | Symbolist /Surrealist painter
Kim Nelson ~ Australian Symbolist painter
Claude Debussy / Paul Verlaine | Clair de Lune, 1869
Paul Verlaine | Art Poétique / L'Arte Poetica, 1882
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer | Symbolist / Art Nouveau painter
Pedro Salinas / Jean Delville ~ L'Invito
Luis Miguel Rodriguez, 1959 | Symbolist painter
Rose Frantzen, 1965 ~ American Symbolist painter
Jazz-minh Moore, 1978 ~ American Symbolist painter
Emily Dickinson ~ Dear March /Caro Marzo | Allegory of Spring /Allegoria della Primavera
Franz Von Stuck ~ Symbolist/Expressionist painter
Henri Martin | Post-Impressionist painter
Henri Martin | Post-Impressionist painter | Part.2
La Monna Lisa di Afghanistan
Odilon Redon 1840-1916 ~ Still Life
Oleg Korolev, 1968 | Visionary painter
Paul Gauguin | Post-Impressionist painter | Still life
Jacques Prévert / Jean Hildebrant | Bussano...
Talon Abraxas, 1980 ~ Surrealist/Symbolist painter
Clarence Holbrook Carter ~ Realist/Symbolist painter
Arnold Böcklin | A Modern Visionary | Symbolist painter
Henri Fantin-Latour ~ Symbolist painter
Paul Gauguin | Post-Impressionist painter | The portraits
Paul Gauguin: Innanzi tutto, l'emozione!
Armand Point ~ Symbolist painter
John Duncan ~ Symbolist painter
Tina Blondell, 1953 | Visionary / Figurative painter
Gala, la passione surreale di Salvador Dali
Renzo Verdone, 1939 ~ Symbolist painter
Gaetano Previati ~ Symbolist painter
Paul Martin, 1948 ~ Symbolist painter
Daiva Staškevičienė, 1968 ~ Symbolist painter
Leonor Fini | Surrealist painter
Salvador Dali | Quotes / Aforismi
Duy Huynh, 1975 ~ Symbolist Surrealist painter
Bogusław Jagiełło, 1960 ~ Symbolist painter
Berit Kruger-Johnsen | Surrealist / Symbolist painter
Alex Alemany, 1943 | Hyperrealist / Symbolist painter
Henri Fantin-Latour ~ Still life
Victor Wang | Symbolist / Figurative painter
Elihu Vedder | Symbolist painter
Aung Kyaw Htet, 1965 | Figurative painter | VideoArt
Armen Gasparian 1966 ~ Symbolist painter
Aung Kyaw Htet, 1965 | Figurative painter
Thierry Garnier-Lafond, 1960 | Surrealist / Symbolist painter
Angela Betta Casale, 1954 | Figurative / Symbolist painter
Nathalie Vogel, 1980 ~ The liquid women
August Gillé [1892-1989]
Ciro Palumbo, 1965 | Surrealist / Symbolist painter
Jose De la Barra, 1956 ~ Surrealist/Symbolist painter
Odilon Redon | Symbolist / Colorist painter
Edvard Munch ~ Norwegian Symbolist/Expressionist painter
Agim Sulaj, 1960 ~ Hyperrealist painter
George Frederic Watts ~ Pre-Raphaelite painter
Ric Nagualero | Symbolist painter
David Michael Bowers, 1956 | Symbolists /Surrealists painter
Alberto Aragòn Reyes, 1980 ~ Symbolist painter / Figurative sculptor
Salvador Dali ~ Zodiac sign
Salvador Dalì ~ Toreador allucinogeno
Francisco Goya | Rococo Era /Romantic painter and Printmaker
Salvador Dali | Self-portraits
Jake Baddeley 1964 ~ Symbolist painter | VideoArt
Sandro Botticelli | Renaissance painter | Portraits
Robert Fowler ~ Victorian-Era painter
Confucio /Hartwig Kopp-Delaney | Aforismi /Quotes
Jacques Prévert ~ Prima colazione...
Jacques Prévert ~ Alicante ...

Il Simbolismo è un movimento culturale sviluppatosi in Francia nel XIX secolo che si manifestò nella letteratura, nelle arti figurative e di riflesso nella musica.
Sebbene manifestazioni di arte simbolista si siano avute anche prima, convenzionalmente si fa coincidere la data di nascita del Simbolismo con la pubblicazione di Corrispondenze, Manifesto del Simbolismo del poeta Charles Baudelaire.
Nelle arti figurative il simbolismo nasce in accordo con le teorie e i lavori dei neo-impressionisti soprattutto per quanto riguarda la rappresentazione di soggetti ispirati dalla natura a cui i simbolisti attingono fermamente. Il simbolismo è dedicato ad un pubblico colto e sensibile per via dei suoi contenuti molto complessi da decifrare.
Scopo dei simbolisti è quello di superare la pura visività dell'impressionismo in senso spiritualistico (e non scientifico, come avviene invece tra i neo-impressionisti), cercando di trovare delle corrispondenze tra mondo oggettivo e sensazioni soggettive.

Influenzati dalla letteratura simbolista francese, soprattutto da Stéphane Mallarmé e da Baudelaire, tentano di recuperare nei loro quadri la spiritualità di tutto ciò che esiste nella realtà ma non è direttamente visibile dall'occhio umano.
Alla nuova tendenza si accostarono i pittori postimpressionisti per superare la rappresentazione dell'oggetto e sostituirla con l'espressione del proprio "io".
Questi pittori rifiutarono la resa dell'illusione nella pittura, che per loro doveva essere in grado infatti di trasfigurare la realtà, nell'esaltazione delle linee e dei colori che avevano maggiormente suscitato la loro reazione emotiva.

In Francia gli artisti simbolisti più rappresentativi furono Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, creatore di immagini fortemente evocative e Odilon Redon, personalità complessa dall'opera molto diversificata.
Si possono stabilire dei canoni fondamentali per il simbolismo: l'ideismo, cioè l'espressione delle idee per mezzo delle forme; la sintesi, cioè la riduzione in essenza dei simboli per meglio suggerire l'evocazione; il soggettivismo, cioè il considerare l'oggetto come segno dell'idea concepita dal soggetto. Tutto questo è generalmente accompagnato da un'intensa emotività, più o meno velata. | © Wikipedia