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Symbolism

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The Sphinx or The Caresses (Fernand Khnopff) Enlarge

The Sphinx or The Caresses
(Fernand Khnopff, 1896, Public domain)

Symbolism

Linked to the literary movement of the same name, Pictorial Symbolism appeared first in France, then everywhere else in Europe by 1880. The Symbolists rose up against materialism, generated by the progress of industrialization, as well as against Naturalism, a movement which presented according to them failings on the spiritual level. They drew their inspiration from the English Pre-Raphaelites and artists like the Swiss Arnold Böcklin (Island of the Dead, 1880).

The works of the Symbolists left a large place for mystery, imagination, dreams, and moods. In painting, Symbolism was illustrated by the Frenchmen Odilon Redon, Gustave Moreau and the Belgian Fernand Khnopff, to name only some. The works of French sculptors Auguste Rodin and Camille Claudel also fell within this movement. Symbolism continued for some twenty years and was to play a key role in the transition of the visual arts to modernity (Abstract Art and Surrealism).

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