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The result of over ten years of research, this work offers a new analysis of European Symbolist art. It situates the Symbolist artistic movement in its historical context-industrial Europe at the end of the nineteenth century-and retraces its links with the evolution of ideas, particularly in literature. This work includes new, rare, and previously unpublished archival documents among its sources, alongside a large number of iconic and lesser-known Symbolist images, all carefully analyzed and beautifully reproduced in color.Symbolism had a huge impact on the arts and literature of its day, but also prefigured numerous aspects of modern art from Abstraction to Surrealism. Symbolist artists sought to merge the cultural spheres of art, painting, and poetry through color and line. Works by key figures-including Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustav Moreau, Ford Madox Brown, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rosetti, and Paul Gauguin-illustrate the Symbolists' fascination with eroticism, perversity, mysticism, religion, and the occult.
"Symbolism in the visual arts emerged in the late 19th century in reaction to naturalism, accepted academic practice, and modernity. In its "demand for an aesthetics detached from objective reality," it celebrated imagination and introspection with new vigor. Linked to such contemporary trends as art nouveau and primitivism, it attracted its share of famous adherents such as Gauguin, James Ensor, Munch, and Klimt, as Symbolism demonstrates. Yet it is the attention to a range of lesser-known figures like Gabriel Previati, Ferdinand Hodler, Félicien (Felicien) Rops, and Mikalojus Ciurlionis that adds to this book's appeal. Rapetti (Musée ((Musee) d'Orsay, Paris) has written widely on the art of this era and his closely argued text reflects considerable scholarship. Although the translation from the original French does not make for easy reading, Symbolism does provide a thorough, insightful overview of a fascinating movement that, while reflective of many of the period's concerns and anxieties, also looked ahead to 20th-century surrealism and abstraction. The index, limited to proper names, should have been augmented with thematic and contextual references. Extensive endnote citations; comprehensive bibliography; nearly 200 good, mostly color, illustrations. Primarily for art historians and college and university libraries. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."
—W. S. Rodner, Tidewater Community College, CHOICE Magazine