Symbolist Painting : The Age of Decadence

Symbolism is an important art movement which is still relatively unknown in this country. This study day reveals the work of many artists who deserve to be much better known. It also reveals the links between Symbolism and Art Nouveau. It is an exciting day which explores themes and images which are largely unknown and for many years have been considered outside the mainstream of art history.

Lecture 1 The Background to Symbolism

The Pre-Raphaelites were important for the development of Symbolism and Edward Burne-Jones was considered a Symbolist hero. Paul Gauguin was also an important influence. We look at the concepts of painting from memory rather than the Impressionist idea of painting on he spot, and the idea that an artist should use fantasy and imagination as a basis for his work. We look at the literary basis of Symbolism – Baudelaire, Edgar Allen Poe, and Mallarme. The work of Gustave Moreau, Arnold Bocklin, Puvis de Chavannes are discussed.

Lecture 2 Some Symbolist Themes – Death, The Femme Fatale, Night, Fear and Silence

The life and work of Edvard Munch is examined leading to the theme of death as painted by Rops, Schwabe, and Ensor. Redon’s extraordinary animals and insects which he created from his imagination are compared to Khnopff’s vision of the Femme Fatale. Degouve de Nunques and Sidaner’s night scenes and Levy-Dhurmer’s mysterious works are also explored.

Lecture 3 Symbolism in Britain and Continental Art Nouveau

This lecture looks at the wonderful Symbolist paintings of Rossetti, Burne-Jones, Watts, Soloman and Beardsley and Waterhouse. We then explore the eccentric work of Hodler and Toorop before looking at Klimt and the relationship between Symbolist painting and Art Nouveau design in Vienna and Brussels.