SYMBOLISM

H

GROUPS:    PRE-RAPHAELITES    LES XX    PONT-AVEN    NABIS    ROSE+CROIX    VIENNA SECESSION

BELGIAN

Felician Rops
Xavier Mellery
Ferdinand Khnopff
James Ensor
Emile Fabry
Georges Minne
Carlos Schwabe
Jean Delville

William Degouve
Leon Spilliaert
 

FRENCH

Gustave Moreau
Puvis de Chavannes
Odilon Redon
Eugene Carriere
Paul Gauguin

Alexandre Seon
Alphonse Osbert
Armand Point
Charles Filiger
Paul Serusier
Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer
Emile Bernard
Armand Seguin

Maurice Denis

INTERNATIONAL

Austrian
Gustave Klimt

Norwegian
Edvard Munch

Swiss
Arnold Bocklin
Ferdinand Hodler

Dutch
Jan Toorop
Jan Verkade

Johan Thorn-Prikker
 

 

German
Max Klinger
Franz von Stuck
Wassily Kandinsky

English
Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Edward C. Burne-Jones

Aubrey Beardsley

American
Elihu Vedder

Hungarian
Jozsef Rippl-Ronai

Czech
Alfred Kubin

See Full Bibliography and a List of Exhibitions

Skip Ahead to Countries or Timeline

OVERVIEW

Symbolism defined:

Elizabeth Prelinger on Symbolism:

The psychology, philosophy and spiritual doctrines ranging from orthodox Catholicism, to theosophy, to the occult were critical in the formation of the symbolist doctrine. The symbolists associated with the following groups: Last Pagans, Swedenborgians, Eclectic Buddhists, Neo-Catholicism, Luciferians, Gnostics, Satanists, Rosicrucians, the Cult of Isis, and the Cult of Light.

Many "symbolists" lived in Montmartre, to the left bank. They walked the paths of the Luxembourg Gardens. The small revues (journals) held their offices on St Germain des Pres.

A dislike for Zola and naturalism. A Salon Rose+Croix poster depicts Art holding Zola's severed head. See Huysmans famous 1885 repudiation of Zola. In 1891 Leon Bloy gives the lecture, "The Funeral Rites of Naturalism" in Copenhagen. Also disliked the Neo-Classical painters Bougereau, Gerome, Gervex, and Meissonier.

Tone of anarchism. Note Jean Grave's La Revolte. Alphonse Germain, who began? the journal L'Ermitage in 1890, wrote Pour le Beau (Forward Beauty) which expresses his disgust with politics. It is this distaste for the political which better expresses the symbolist point of view, not anarchism.

FORERUNNERS

Di Duccio (1418-81), Del Cossa (c1435-77), Mantegna (c1431-1506), Botticelli (1445-1510), Durer (1471-1528), Giorgione (c1477-1510), Titian (c1485-1576), Rubens (1577-1640), Jacques de Gheyn II (c1565-1629), Claude Lorrain (c1602-82), Tiepolo (1696-1770), Piranesi (1720-78)

The Romantic Period: Fuseli (1741-1825), Goya (1746-1828), Watteau (1758-1823), Casper David Friedrich (1774-1840), Delacroix (1798-1863), Victor Hugo (1802-85), Chasseriau (1819-56), Rodolphe Bresdin (1822-85), Gustave Dore (1832-83), and Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904)

LITERARY MOVEMENT

Main Writers

Swendenborg 1688-1772
Arthur Schopenhauer 1788-1860
Baudelaire 1821-1867
Stephane Mallarme 1842-1898
Paul Verlaine 1844-1896
Joris-Karl Huysmans 1848-1907
Arthur Rimbaud 1854-1891
Emile Verhaeren 1855-1916
Jean Moreas 1856-1910
Josephin Peladan c1856-c1918
Remy de Gourmont 1858-1915
Albert Samain 1858-1900
Gustave Kahn 1859-1936
Maurice Maeterlinck 1862-1949
Gabriel-Albert Aurier 1865-1883
Andre Gide 1869-1951
Paul Valery 1871-1945
Apollinaire 1880-1918

Other Poets and Novelists

Novalis 1772-1801
Honore de Balzac 1799-1850
Victor Hugo 1802-1885
Barbey d'Aurevilly 1808-1889
Edgar Allen Poe 1809-1849
Eliphas Levi 1810-1875
Gustave Flaubert 1821-1880
Count of Villiers de L'Isle-Adam 1838-1889
Leon Bloy 1846-1917
Comte de Lautreamont 1846-1870
Oscar Wilde 1854-1900
Jean Lorrain 1855-1906
Georges Rodenbach 1855-1898
Jules Laforgue 1860-1887
Saint-Pol-Roux 1861-1940
Gregoire Le Roy 1862-1941
Max Elskamp 1862-1931
Maurice Barres 1862-?
Stuart Merrill 1863-1915
Francis Viele-Griffin 1864-1937
Henri de Regnier 1864-1936
Francis Jammes 1868-1938
Marcel Proust 1871-1922
Henri Bataille 1872-1922

Journals

Le Figaro 1826-present
Revue Contemporaine 1852-1870 (1885-6)
Revue Wagnerienne 1885-1888
L'Ermitage 1890-1906
L'Initiation 1892-1903
La Plume 1889-?
Mercure de France 1890-1965
Revue Blanche 1891-1903
Revue Independante
L'Art Romantique
Le Symboliste
Le Decadent
La Pleiade
La Vogue
Voile d'Isis (Veil of Isis)
Psyche, La Haute Science
Coeur Illustre (Illustrated Heart)

Philosophers

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel 1770-1831

The journals would hold banquets where artists would interact with journalists, politicians and members of society.

MUSIC

Composers: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) [9th Symphony and Palestrina], Franz Schubert (1797-1828), Richard Wagner (1813-1883), Gabriel Faure (1845-1924), Claude Debussey (1862-1918) [Demoiselle Elue], Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915), Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), Cesar Franck (1882-1890), Vinteuil, and the Voice of Mary Garden (1874-1967).

1893 Salon de la Libre Esthetique (Salon of Free Aesthetics) held in Brussels. Maurice Denis was in demand for music covers. Musicians who played: Vincent d'Indy, ALbeniz, Duparc, Ravel and Chabrier. Paintings by Khnopff and Redon.

THEATER

Juillian says only Maeterlink's plays Les Sept Princesses (The Seven Princesses), Pelleas et Melisande, and Les Aveugles (The Blind) had influence on the visual arts. He called most Symbolist plays a bore. Only Claudel's L'Annonce faite a Marie (The Annunciation) survives to this day. Much more on page 25.

See The Nabis movement for set design work among those artists. Theatre de l'Oeuvre employed Denis, Bonnard, Vuillard, and Munch. The director was Lugne-Poe. He staged Strindberg and Ibsen plays.

COUNTRIES

IN ENGLAND

Influence of Neo-Classicists in England: John Flaxman, Sculptor, (1755-1826) and John Constable (1776-1837), had an impact on Delacroix.

J.M.W Turner (1775-1851) possibly effected Monet.

William Blake (1757-1827) was the grandfather of the Pre-Raphaelites. Blake was self taught, his principle influences being Raphael, Durer and Michelangelo.

His immediate predecessors were the ‘Ancients’: Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) and Edward Calvert (1799-1883).

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: (1848-1856). English Aesthetic Movement.

Also there Whistler (1834-1903), the American working in Europe, mostly Italy and England.

IN GERMANY

The Nazarenes. Wassily Kandinsky. A climate of Wagnerian Romanticism. Ended by merging with Expressionism.

Wagner's Parsifal and Tristan and Isolde. Delville painted the latter.

IN BELGIUM

The Les XX (The Twenty) Exhibitions began in 1884.

IN FRANCE

Puvis de Chavannes may be more of an academic allegorist, but all contemporary artists from Gauguin to the Nabis claimed him as a precursor. Aurier and Denis refer to his motivations in their theoretical articles: intensification of drawing and an ornamental tendency. Gauguin would stress the differences, however always acknowledged a debt.10

Odilon Redon, friend of Mallarme, Gide, Valery and Jammes, followed the example of Puvis and Moreau, sought in his work "human beauty with the glamour of thought." While Moreau and Puvis were impeded by academic thought, Redon, "succeeded in creating the plastic counterpart of his dreams."10

TIMELINE

1857

Baudelaire's poem Correspondences.

1884

Joris-Karl Huysmans' novel A Rebours (Against Nature) published. It refers to works by Moreau and Redon. He also wrote La-bas (Down There). Novels concern Satanism. He later converted to Catholicism and joined a monastery. In his earlier years he was considered a naturalist, and a disciple of Zola, praising Impressionism.

1886

September 18, the poet Jean Moreas uses the term Symbolism in a manifesto appearing in Le Figaro, "as the only word capable of adequately describing the current tendency of the creative spirit in art... To clothe the idea in sensitive form."

Moreau's Life of Humanity, Seurat's La Grand Jatte exhibited, Gauguin goes to Pont Aven.

1887

The central figure of the Symbolist literary movement, Stephane Mallarme's Poesies published. He had receptions every Tuesday at his flat in the rue de Rome. Friendly with Redon and Whistler, knew Gauguin and Munch, but closest friendship is with Manet.

1888

Dujardin discusses Cloisonnistes in the Revue Independante.

1889

Cafe Volpani exhibition "Impressionist and Synthetist Group" of Paul Gauguin and Pont-Aven school.

G. Albert Aurier's Le Moderniste and the journal La Plume. Paul Verlaine's Parallelement. Henri Bergson's  Essai sur les Donnees Immediates de la Conscience, and Edouard Schure's Les Grands Inities, which discusses the mystical and theosophical current of Symbolism.

1890

The journal, Le Mercure de France begins.

Maurice Denis discusses Neo-traditionnistes in his Art et Critique.

1891

Most typical year and year of greatest acclaim.1

The Nathanson brothers publish the first issue of La Revue Blanche.

Albert Auier's article in the Symbolist publication Le Mercure de France, "Le Symbolisme en Peinture: Paul Gauguin" Called his art "Ideiste" lists the five qualifications of Symbolist Art. (see source Lucie-Smith)

Le Mercure de France also held a banquet in February presided over by Mallarme. The guest of Honor was Moreas. Also there: Chabrier, Redon, Vanor, Seurat, Gide, Samain and Rops.

April: Cafe Voltaire holds a celebration for Gauguin's departure to Tahiti. In attendance: Mallarme, Saint-Pol-Roux, Redon, Trachsel, Carriere and Willumsen.

Symbolistes defarmateurs defined by Alphonse Germain in La Plume.

1893

Salon de la Libre Esthetique (Salon of Free Aesthetics) held in Brussels. Maurice Denis was in demand for music covers. Musicians who played: Vincent d'Indy, ALbeniz, Duparc, Ravel and Chabrier. Paintings by Khnopff and Redon.

1895

Waning.1

1896

Andre Mellerio's The Idealist Movement in Painting which distinguished four separate groups: the Chromo-Luminarists, the Neo-Impressionists, the Synthetists, and the Mystics.

1900

Symbolism becoming academic, as it is pushed into oblivion and ridiculed.1

1909

Metzinger began publishing what Jacob called, 'Mallarmeen' poetry, in neo-Symbolist journals like lle sonnante and Pan. Italian Futurist Gino Severini lived in Montmartre from 1906 to 1913 and recalled that the cafe La Closerie des Lilas, on the corner of boulevard Montparnasse and avenue de l'Observatoire, was at the epicenter of the movement. In the winter of 1908 Salmon was the secretary of a group associated with the neo-Symbolist journal Vers et Prose whom gathered around Symbolist poet Paul Fort during their weekly Tuesday soirees at the cafe. Severini notes among the attendees older Symbolist writers and the younger admirers Gustave Kahn, Maurice Maeterlinck, Apollinaire and Allard as well as 'Unanimist' poet Jules Romains (1885-1972) and art critic Alexandre Mercereau. Severini also mentions Metzinger, Gleizes, Le Fauconnier, Villon, Duchamp-Villon, Duchamp and Leger. According to literary historian Roger Shattuck, Jacob and Picasso joined these meetings.

 

 

SOURCES

1)     The Symbolists, Philippe Jullian, 1972, NX 549 A1 J8413 C.1
2)     The Art of the Nabis: From Symbolism to Modernism. Elizabeth Prelinger.
3)     The Nabis and their period. Charles Chasse’. Translated by Michael Bullock 1969. Lund Humphries, London. First published French 1960.
4)     Symbolist Art, Edward Lucie-Smith, Thames & Hudson, London, 1972.
5)    
10)   Praeger Encyclopedia of Art Luc-Reinhardt. Praeger Publishers, 1971.
11)   Four French Symbolists: A sourcebook on Puvis, Moreau, Redon, Denis, Russell T. Clement.