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SYMBOLISM

Symbolism was a movement which originated in France in the 19th Century. Symbolism was an umbrella term covering different forms of art including writing, poetry and painting.

 

Symbolism in art was a reaction against Realism which produced paintings depicting subjects in a, well, realistic or literal manner. Realism favoured humble, ordinary subjects over idealised and mystical religious themes.

 

Symbolists wanted a return to romanticism in paintings. They argued that subjects could and be idealised and idolised, they could be put in mystical settings rather than a rigid adherence to real life.

 

Below, “Oedipus and The Sphinx” Gustave Moreau

 

Symbolism, as the name suggests, featured the use of symbolic imagery from mysticism, religion, dreams. They believed that the result was pictures which had more depth and more meaning than the paintings of the realists that symbolists were reacting against.

 

So symbols were used in paintings allegorically to convey something more than just the subject matter in hand. Subjects and symbols were used as metaphors to tell a bigger story.

 

 

Symbolist paintings often featured the artists’ own personal symbols rather than traditional iconography. Many dealt with a darker side of life and featured the big themes of life, love, death, sex, birth et al.

 

Shown Below, “Death and Life”, Gustav Klimt 1916

Gustav Klimt, the Austrian artist, often featured the female form in his paintings. At the time many were considered controversial and even pornographic. Some were banned. Ironically they are now amongst the best selling prints and posters bought by people the world over, to hang in their homes.

 

Another key Symbolist was Edward Munch whose most famous work, The Scream was part of a series of paintings where he depicted love, fear, death, melancholia and anxiety.He painted several versions of ‘The Scream’ also known as ‘The Cry’.

 

Gustave Moreau was a famous Symbolist painter and was the teacher of Henri Matisse. Symbolism in art undoubtedly had an influence on subsequent art movements of the twentieth century. Symbolist work is still incredibly popular in the 21st Century well over a hundred years after its inception.

Baudelaire was a symbolist poet who believed that sounds and rhythm could express ideas equally as well as words themselves.

Symbolist paintings are undoubtedly amongst the best selling prints, posters and canvases gracing living rooms, bedrooms and offices the world over. We hope you’ve enjoyed our facts about Symbolism and we’ve inspired you to own some Symbolist art for yourself.

You may be interested in our article on Gustav Klimt

Top Left, “Madonna”, Edvard Munch

Above Right, “Pornokrates”, Felicien Rops 1879

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Symbolism 1885-1910

Originated in France but spread Europewide

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Gustav Klimt - Austrian painter of ‘The Kiss’

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Edward Munch – Norwegian painter of ‘The Scream’

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Was a reaction to and a rejection of Realism with its literal depiction of subjects

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Used mystical, religious and dream imagery to create work intended to have deeper meaning than simply representing  a straightforward one dimensional subject

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Symbolism included writers, poets and musicians as well as painters

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Used universal ‘big’ themes of life, love, death, birth, fear et al

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Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch Bauer I, is the most expensive Symbolist painting ever. It was sold in 2006 for 135 million dollars

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Symbolism explored Perversion, Debauchery and Eroticism, some of the work was banned at the time
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Symbolism encompassed many different styles of painting, their common “Symbolist” bond was the ideology of the artists

SYMBOLISM
SYMBOLISM

10 fast and fab facts about Symbolism

Facts about Symbolism
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