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Chapter 13

Symbolism

Symbolists sought to express personal ideas and universal truths. In order to do so, they explored new technical and compositional strategies. Symbolist experimentation is the foundation of many twentieth-century artistic developments. While united in their rejection of Naturalism and disillusioned with the contemporary world, Symbolists divided into two camps. Optimists belonged to the Idealist camp and pessimists to the Decadent camp.

Readings:

Dorra, Henri. Symbolist Art Theories: A Critical Anthology. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1994

Dreams of a Summer Night. Exhibition catalogue. London: Arts Council of Great Britain, 1986

Facos, Michelle. Symbolist Art in Context. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008

Frèches-Thory, Claire and Ursula Perucchi-Petri, eds. Die Nabis, Propheten der Moderne. Munich: Prestel, 1993 (in German)

Heller, Reinhold. “Concerning Symbolism and the Structure of Surface,” Art Journal, vol.  45, no. 2 (Summer 1985): 146-53

Hirsh, Sharon. Symbolism and Modern Urban Society. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004

Hobsbawm, Eric. The Age of Empire: 1875-1914. New York: Vintage: 1989

Ives, Colta. “Prints in the Era of Impressionism and Symbolism,” The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, vol. 46, no. 1 (Summer 1988): 8-56

Loos, Sigrun. Eros and Death: Belgian Symbolism. Zurich: Edition Oehrli, 1999

Lövgren, Sven. The Genesis of Modernism: Seurat, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and French Symbolism in the 1880s. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1971

Mathews, Patricia. Passionate Discontent: Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1999

Morawinska, Agnieszka. Symbolism in Polish Painting 1880-1914. Exhibition catalogue. Detroit Institute of Arts, 1985

Pingeot, Anne. Paris-Bruxelles, Bruxelles-Paris: réalism, impressionnisme, symbolisme, art nouveau : les relations artistiques entre la France et la Belgique 1848-1914. Exhibition catalogue. Paris: Réunion des musées nationaux, 1997 (in French)

Rapetti, Rodolphe. Symbolism. Paris: Flammarion, 2006

Rewald, John. Post-Impressionism: from Van Gogh to Gauguin. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1956

Rubin, James Henry. Impressionism and the Modern Landscape: Productivity, Technology, and Urbanization from Manet to Van Gogh. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2008

Stevens, Mary Anne. Impressionism to Symbolism: the Belgian Avant-Garde 1880-1900. Exhibition catalogue. London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1994

Varnedoe, Kirk. Northern Light: Nordic Art at the Turn of the Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988

Weber, Eugene. France, Fin de Siècle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986