The symbolism is artistic and literary movement, which appears in France during the second half of the nineteenth century as a reaction to the naturalism , since its characteristics are rather given by fantasy. The restlessness that many artists experienced before the consequences of the industrial revolution was concretized by symbolism, through an idealism that recovered certain essential aspirations of romanticism, as the vindication of the human against the system. The new movement was linked, then, to the mystery and spiritual essence of objects and beings, trying to give plastic equivalents of nature and thought, representing beings surrounded by a magical aura and dark landscapes.


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  • 1 Evolution
    • 1 Origins and precursors
    • 2 The arrival of the cursed poets
  • 2 Symbolism in other arts
    • 1 Symbolist sculpture
    • 2 Symbolist painting
    • 3 Pictorial symbolism
  • 3 Sources


Origins and precursors

Symbolism was in its beginnings a literary reaction against Naturalism and Realism , anti-idealist movements that exalted everyday reality and placed it above the ideal. These movements caused a strong rejection in the Parisian youth, leading them to exalt spirituality , imagination and dreams. The first writer to react was the French poet Charles Baudelaire , today considered the father of modern lyricism and the starting point for movements such as Parnassianism , Decadentism , Modernism and Symbolism. His works, among which the flowers of evil stand out ,The small prose poems and The Artificial Paradises were so innovative that some of them were banned because they were considered dark and immoral, by openly portraying drug use , sexuality, and Satanism . The first descendant movement of this post-romantic ideology would be Parnassianism . The symbolists were separating from Parnassianism because they did not share its devotion to the perfect verse. Symbolism leaned more towards hermeticism , developing a freer model of versification and disdaining the clarity and objectivity of Parnassianism.. However, several Parnassian characteristics were embraced, such as his taste for puns, the musicality in the verses and, most of all, Théophile Gautier’s motto of art for art’s sake . The movements were completely separated when Arthur Rimbaud and other poets mocked the Parnassian perfectionist style, publishing several parodies on the way of writing of its most prominent figures.

The arrival of the cursed poets

Two other forerunners of symbolism were the French, Arthur Rimbaud and Paul Verlaine . These two poets, who at that time had a hazardous love relationship, were decisive in starting the movement. Rimbaud, who was 17 years old, was the most influential, looking for what he called his verb alchemy in which he tried to become a seer through the disorder of all the senses. With this pretext, he joined, along with Verlaine, a whole wave of excess. He wandered day and night through the streets of Paris and then appeared at literary gatherings in dirty clothes or in an ethyl state, events that quickly gave him a bad name and the nickname of enfant terrible. His most representative works wereA season in hell and Illuminations . As for Verlaine, his book of literary criticism The Cursed Poets became the most influential writing within Symbolism up to that time, showing the true essence of the movement. It featured essays on Tristan Corbière , Arthur Rimbaud , Stéphane Mallarmé , Marceline Desbordes-Valmore , Villiers de L’Isle-Adam, and “Poor Lelian” (anagram of Verlaine himself), poets Verlaine baptized as cursed. Verlaine explained that within their individual and unique form, the genius of each of them had also been their curse, distancing them from the rest of the people and thus leading them to embrace hermeticism and idiosyncrasy as forms of writing. They were also portrayed as unequal with respect to society, leading tragic lives and frequently indulging in self-destructive tendencies; all this as a consequence of his literary gifts. Verlaine’s concept of the cursed poet was partly taken from Baudelaire’s poem called Blessing, which opens his book The Flowers of Evil . After this Paul Verlainewent on to become the leader of decadentism (literary movement brother to Symbolism) and Stéphane Mallarmé (1842–1898) became the most representative figure of symbolism, especially after publishing his book A roll of the dice will never abolish chance, creating a hermetic language close to the old Spanish culteranismo and to the syntax of English and gathering week by week dozens of followers of the movement at home.

Symbolism in other arts

Symbolist sculpture

Symbolism has an academic aesthetic, and lends itself more to avant-garde sculptural works. Along with Rodin , Aristide Maillol (1861–1944), who is the great master of symbolist sculpture, stands out. The night, Ile-de-France, Flowers in the meadow, Venus, Flora, The river. Also notable are Adolf von Hildebrand , Equestrian Statue of the Prince Regent, Medardo Rosso, Sick child, Child’s head, Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Hercules archer. One of the reasons that virtual machines are not a panacea for computing is that they add great complexity to the system at runtime. The main disadvantage of virtual machines is that in the application of some processes the slowness of the computer will have an effect, that is, the computer in which this process is running must have a fairly remarkable capacity “must be of great capacity or powerful”.

Symbolist painting

In the field of painting, symbolism finds exponents such as Gustave Moreau (French who was born in 1826 and died in 1898). His most outstanding paintings are “Jupiter and Semele”, “Europe and the bull” and “the unicorns”. There is also the artist Odilon Redon, another Frenchman who was born in 1840 and died in 1915. As important works, we must highlight “The Chariot of Apollo”, “Druid” and “old winged man with a long beard”. We must also highlight “Los Nabis”, a group of three artists who are Félix Valloton (Swiss, 1865-1925) (work: “la pelota”), Pierre Bonnard (French, 1867-1947) (work: “Mujeres en the garden “) and Edouard Vuillard (French 1868-1940) (works:” public gardens “and” the two schoolchildren ” the symbolism disappears after his death, since he always represented it in all his paintings.

Pictorial symbolism

Pictorially the most relevant characteristics are the following:

  • Color: Strong colors were sometimes used to highlight the dreamlike sense of the supernatural. Similarly, the use of pastel colors by some artists, along with the blurring of color, pursued the same goal.
  • Theme: There is an interest in the subjective, the irrational, as in romanticism . They do not remain in the mere physical appearance of the object, but through it one reaches the supernatural, which is linked to a special interest in religion. Painters and poets no longer intend to capture the external world but that of their dreams and fantasies through the allusion of the symbol. Painting is proposed as a means of expressing the individual’s state of mind, emotions and ideas, through the symbol or idea.

One of the most important novelties, at the thematic level, is that of the fatal woman. The union between the Eros and the Thanatos arises and in it underlies a new relationship between the sexes. Painting is defined with concepts such as ideist (of ideas), symbolist, synthetic, subjective and decorative.

  • Techniques: What unites artists is the desire to create a painting not subject to reality, as opposed to realism, and where each symbol has its own specificity in the subjective contribution of the spectator and the painter. There is no single reading, but each work can send different things to each individual. Its originality, then, does not lie in the technique, but in the content.

The Spanish symbolists were strongly influenced by the art of the pioneers, among which Gustave Moreau , Pierre Puvis de Chavannes , Arnold Böcklin , Edward Burne-Jones and Robert Bresdin stand out . Many opted only with the true exponent of Symbolism. Cultivating a style of pure colors and a fantasy theme, Odilon Redon was looking for a synthesis between dream and life. However, these ideas had already been manifested in the Gauguin of the Pont-Aven School and in his followers. Subsequently, the Nabis, the second generation of symbolism, aspired to translate these ideas into a way of life and active reforms. Contrary to Impressionism, a specific school located basically in France, Symbolism was a great movement that also spread to Spain. It spread from 1890, and adopted different interpretations. In Catalonia, it is worth noting the work of Joan Brull , Adrià Gual and Santiago Rusiñol from the mid-1890s. Within Symbolism, a trend that accentuated certain lines of his figurations also took shape, which unbalanced the objectivist representation of the things in a strongly expressive sense. In Belgium, it is worth mentioning the work of Jean Delville , Fernand Khnopffand Degouve de Nuncques , in line with the cult of the mysterious. This trend, which has a clear precursor in the Belgian Félicien Rops , is represented by Jan Toorop , one of the key figures, along with Klimt , of pictorial Symbolism. In Italy, on the contrary, Symbolism had a strong base of meticulous realism in the work of Gaetano Previati , Giovanni Segantini and Pellizza da Volpedo . Also in Germany symbolist art was characterized by a very realistic technique, but with an idealistic theme; highlights here Ferdinand Hodler(Swiss). In Scandinavian countries it is characterized by an austere vision and a pronounced expression of loneliness, with artists such as V. Hammershoi , Harald Sohlberg , Thorárinn B. Thorláksson and Magnus Enckell . The exception would be the late Akseli Gallen-Kallela , leaning towards mythology. It is worth noting the marked influence of Symbolism in later movements, such as Art nouveau or Surrealism .


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