Symbolist Movement

Symbolist Movement, a movement in literature and the visual arts that originated in France in the late 19th century.

Symbolism in Literature

In literature

In literature, symbolism was an aesthetic movement that encouraged writers to express their ideas, feelings, and values by means of symbols or suggestions rather than by direct statements. Symbolist writers, in reaction to earlier 19th-century trends (the romanticism of novelists such as Victor Hugo, the realism and naturalism of Gustave Flaubert and mile Zola), proclaimed that the imagination was the true interpreter of reality. They also discarded rigid rules of versification and the stereotyped poetic images of their predecessors, the so-called Parnassians. Important precursors of symbolist poetry were American writer Edgar Allan Poe and French poet Gerard de Nerval.

The symbolist movement had its beginning

The symbolist movement had its beginning in the poetry of Charles Baudelaire, whose "Les fleurs du mal" (The Flowers of Evil, 1857) and "Le spleen de Paris" (1869) were judged as decadent by his contemporaries. Stephane Mallarme`s literary salon and poetry, such as "L`aprs-midi d`un faune" (The Afternoon of a Faun, 1876), carried on the movement; his prose studies "Divagations" (Ramblings, 1897) formed one of the most important statements of symbolist aesthetics. Three works of poetry chiefly associated with the movement are Paul Verlaine`s "Romances sans paroles" (Songs Without Words, 1874) and Arthur Rimbaud`s Le bateau ivre (The Drunken Boat, 1871) and "Une saison en enfers" (A Season in Hell, 1873).

The symbolist movement survived well into

The symbolist movement survived well into the 1890s, in the works of such French poets as Jules Laforgue and Paul Valery, as well as those of the writer and critic Remy de Gourmont. "Pelleas et Melisande," by Belgian playwright Maurice Maeterlinck, is one of the few symbolist dramas. From France, symbolism spread worldwidenotably to Russia, where it was evidenced in the work of poet Aleksandr Blokand had great influence on the shaping of 20th-century literature.

Symbolism in the Visual Arts

In the visual arts

In the visual arts, symbolism has both a general and a specific meaning. It refers, in one sense, to the use of certain pictorial conventions (pose, gesture, or a repertoire of attributes) to express a latent allegorical meaning in a work of art ( "see "Iconography). In another sense, the term "symbolism" refers to a movement that began in France in the 1880s, as a reaction both to romanticism and to the realistic approach implicit in impressionism. Not so much a style per se, symbolism in art was an international ideological trend that served as a catalyst in the development away from representation in art and toward abstraction.

Inspiration was found initially in the

Inspiration was found initially in the work of French painters Pierre Cecile Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, and Odilon Redon, who used brilliant colors and exaggerated expressiveness of line to represent emotionally charged dream visions, often verging on the macabre, inspired by literary, religious, or mythological subjects. Their followers included Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, renowned for his use of color to express emotions, and French painters Paul Gauguin and mile Bernard. Gauguin and Bernard, working together at Pont-Aven, in Brittany, between 1888 and 1890, adopted a style that made use of pure, brilliant colors and forms defined by heavy contour lines, resulting in flat, decoratively patterned compositionsexemplified by Gauguin`s "Spirit of the Dead Watching" (1892, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York). This style they dubbed "synthetist," or "symbolist" (using the two terms interchangeably), in opposition to the analytic approach of impressionism. The first symbolist exhibition was organized by Gauguin in 1889-1890 at the Paris World`s Fair.

Influenced by contemporary French symbolist

Influenced by contemporary French symbolist poetry, the symbolist trend in painting led in one directionfrom 1889 to 1900to the work of Paul Serusier, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, and douard Vuillard. Calling themselves the Nabis, they emphasized art as decoration and used color subjectively. Symbolism also was basic to the very different styles of Ferdinand Hodler, a Swiss painter; James Ensor in Belgium; Norwegian painter Edvard Munch; and Aubrey Beardsley in England. In Beardsley`s art, the link between the erotic aspects of symbolism and the sinuous forms of the art nouveau style is clearly seen. Symbolism, with its concern for the subjective, allusive employment of color and form, can be seen to underlie successive later 20th-century art styles as well: fauvism, expressionism, and surrealism.

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