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The Golden Age of Russian Impressionism




Art Fortune | Symbolism


What originally began as a literary movement in France during the 1880s, the Symbolist movement in art was not as much an aesthetic style then it was an international ideological trend. This movement was a response against rationalism and materialism that was beginning to have a stronghold over the Western world at the time, and as a result, ideals of this movement carried on elements of the mysticism that can be seen in late Romantic works from Goya and others, and is characterized by fanaticism and dream like imagery. Symbolist philosophy believed that artwork should reflect ideas or emotions rather than the natural world, and ultimately was a step backward from what the Impressionist and Realism painters from just a few years before were trying to achieve. The iconography used in Symbolist paintings were somber and ambiguous images that were very personal to the artist.  As a result, the meanings of these painting do not necessarily represent anything that is fully understood by mainstream standards. Though the Symbolist artists worked independently from one another and each had varying aesthetic goals, broad brushworks, dulled color and flat, abstract forms was a common theme throughout many of the Symbolist works.

The symbolist movement in art paved the way for future art movements like Surrealism and Expressionism, both of which used obscure imagery and entailed vague messages. 


Well known artists from this time include Gustave Mareau, (creator of the benchmark Symbolist piece, Oedipus and the Sphinx), Carlos Schwabe, (La Mort du Fossoyeur) and Fernand Khnopff (The Caress). In each of these well known Symbolist paintings, we can see the bizarre and puzzling nature that later became the movement’s trademark.




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