Four French Symbolists: A Sourcebook on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Maurice Denis

Four French Symbolists: A Sourcebook on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Maurice Denis

Four French Symbolists: A Sourcebook on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Maurice Denis

Four French Symbolists: A Sourcebook on Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Maurice Denis

Synopsis

The first comprehensive, scholarly sourcebook/research guide/bibliography on the major French Symbolist painters, this work includes nearly 3,000 entries covering a variety of materials. Each artist receives a primary and secondary bibliography with many annotated entries. Art works, personal names, and subject indexes facilitate easy access. The volume is designed for art historians, art students, museum and gallery curators, and others interested in this major art style of the last half of the 19th century and the first quarter of the 20th century. Art museums and art libraries, in both the United States and abroad were gleaned for sources. This is a unique and substantial research tool.

Excerpt

Symbolism describes a movement and style in literature and art that developed in the last half of the nineteenth century. Like the Romantics before them and the Surrealists later, artistic Symbolists found highly idiosyncratic and frequently contradictory means to communicate individual moods, emotions, and ideas through the expressive use of form, line, and color. As an art movement, Symbolist defies categorical definition and chronological restrictions. As this research guide and bibliography demonstrate, for over one hundred years critics, scholars, and connoisseurs have struggled to reconcile the movements a bewildering diversity of styles and terminology.

The word Symbolism entered French around 1830. Its primary meaning was the practice of representing things by symbols. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Gustave Moreau, seers of the French Symbolist art generation of the 1870s and 1880s, both preferred painting to writing theoretical manifestos. People outside the academic, beaux-arts tradition quickly filled the void. The result is a proliferation of confusing terminology. Gauguin applied the term "synthétiste" to paintings inspired by his surroundings in Brittany. Critic and theorist Gabriel-Albert Aurier defined Gauguin's work as "idésiste." Maurice Denis characterized the paintings of the Nabis and their mentor Gauguin as "néo-traditionniste." Critic André Mellerio's concept of the "mouvement idéaliste" differed considerably from that of Rose+Croix founder, Sâr Péladan.

What the Symbolist artists held in common was the belief that, by means of forms, colors, and moods, they could communicate personal messages of a spiritual, moral, and religious nature. The Naturalists and Impressionists, on the other hand, sought to scientifically reproduce the natural world. In reaction, Symbolist painters no longer faithfully represented the physical world but aimed for imaginative suggestions of their dreams through symbolic allusion and luxuriant decorative forms. The year 1886 -- with the appearance of Arthur Rimbaud Illuminations and Emile Zola's L'Ouvre, the arrival of Vincent van Gogh in Paris, and Paul Gauguin's first stay at Pont-Aven in Brittany -- was a significant turning point. It confirmed the break with Impressionism and marked on the one hand the official birth of Neo- Impressionism, a scientific extension of Impressionism, and of Symbolism on the other, in opposition to it.

What was labelled as the Symbolist movement first appeared in literature, officially proclaimed in a manifesto by the poet Jean Moréas published in a supplement to Le Figaro, also in 1886. The literary Symbolists acknowledged . . .

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