Symbolism

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Symbolism

  1. 1. Symbolism (Late 19th century)  In an article on Paul Gauguin published in 1891, Albert Aurier gave the first definition of symbolism as an aesthetic, describing it as “The subjective vision of an artist expressed through a simplified and nonnaturalistic style” and hailing Gauguin as its leader.   Symbolism originated in France, and was part of a 19th-century movement in which art became infused with mysticism (religion). According to the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, “the Symbolists sought escape from reality, expressing their personal dreams and visions through color, form, and composition.”
  2. 2. Symbolism is continuation of romanticism       'The Morning' by Philipp Otto Runge The Morning is elevating in color, stunning in technique, and unexpectedly meaningful. This painting is one of the most mysterious works of the German early Romantic era,. Runge loved his children. You see this in his family portraits, where neighbor boys are playing with his son. Life is hard, but they are hopeful. This is the message in the portrait of his old parents, in which he painted the little ones next to a lily and thistles growing in the garden. Runge was so touched by the purity of the children’s hearts that it is no wonder that he made children the main protagonists of his “Morning” painting. The break of day becomes a symbol for the divine spark in every being, emerging, heralding new life. The composition is strictly symmetrical, which gives the whole scene a very sacred and dignified character. One feels as if looking at an old altarpiece, yet there is a very different feeling.
  3. 3.     The woman in the middle represents the goddess Aurora. She stands on a bench of clouds, holding up a huge lily bloom. The little baby in the middle foreground is like the new day. The others welcome it. The ones on top of the flower are like the spirits of each petal. They are six so they stand for the six petals. Not only the flower has its spirit, each petal has its spirit. This represents life on different levels: connection, interaction, harmony, and creation. That Runge depicts an inward and an outward, a hidden and a visible state of progression, makes this picture so special. The middle part is on canvas. The frame is of wood but still indispensable to the whole composition and meaning because the frame shows us what happens under the earth: A life that starts under the earth in the root of the plant breaks through the stalk and the blossom. The sun is still under the earth, invisible behind the horizon in the lower part of the frame. The little cherubs seem to creep up through the plants’ stalks. They become an image of the life and spirit of each flower.
  4. 4. Everything has life and soul. This was a very prevalent idea of the Romantic era, prominently featured in Goethe’s works. The divine is in everything and omnipresent. The white lily is very pure and innocent. It appears in the middle but also on both sides of the frame. The little angels evolve through a red amaryllis first and then through a white lily, as if experiencing the same journey on a higher level. These represent two stages of evolution, one on earth, one in heaven. The angels on the roots are holding hands and seem to help each other to get through. The ones on top are protecting themselves softly with crossed arms the moment they come out. Above all, there shines the morning star, and even higher, in the frame, we see a firmament formed out of little angel heads, also strictly arranged, an architectural dome of shining smiles. The beaming white rays of light virtually become the continuance of the tiny morning stars shining on a higher level. A circle of little children forms around the woman in the middle (the goddess Aurora, or dawn). Notice how this circle draws your view into the boundless space and sky. The children forming it are located in the foreground as well as the background. Nobody is dominating the scene; everyone is important in his or her place. You cannot take anyone out of the composition. Each one is strictly required to stay in his place. On the other hand, the whole landscape is so soft and open that the picture almost levitates. The coloring of the picture is vivid. There is so much light to perceive, yet so much darkness is needed make it visible. The black framing around the inner part is necessary to make it solid. It is not a sharp black line , but rather it is gentle like the branch of a tree that appears black in front of the dawning sky. Warm and cold are perfectly balanced. The colors are precious and pure. Radiant and luminous, they are applied in delicate, transparent layers. Runge managed to paint a flawless transition between the yellow and the blue in the upper part of the heaven, in the background.
  5. 5. It served as a catalyst in the outgrowth of the darker sides of romanticism and toward abstraction. According to the metropolitan museum of art website, “The symbolists sought escape from reality, expressing their personal dreams and visions through color, form, and composition.”    In this “hand-painted dream photograph” as Dali generally called his paintings we find a seascape of distant horizons and calm waters, perhaps Port Lligat, amidst which Gala is the subject of the scene. Next to the naked body of the sleeping woman, which levitates above a flat rock that floats above the sea, Dali depicts two suspended droplets of water and a pomegranate, a Christian symbol of fertility and resurrection. Above the pomegranate flies a bee, an insect that traditionally symbolizes the Virgin. In the upper left of the painting a fish bursts out of the pomegranate, and in turn spews out a tiger who then spews out another tiger and a rifle with fixed bayonet. A second later the bayonet will sting Gala in the arm. Above them an elephant with long flamingo legs, found in other compositions of the period such as Dali's The Temptations of St. Anthony, carries on its back an obelisk like Bernini’s Elephant and Obelisk in the Piazza Santa Maria sopra Minerva in Rome. Sting Caused by the Flight of a Bee by Salvador Dali
  6. 6. What is Symbolism in Art?  Symbolism is an important element of most religious arts and reading symbols plays a main role in psychoanalysis.  The Symbolist painters used to mythology and dream imagery for a visual language of the soul.  Symbolist painters believed that art should reflect an emotion or idea rather than represent the natural world.  Symbolists believed that art should apprehend more absolute truths which could only be accessed indirectly, They painted scenes from nature, human activities, and all other real world phenomena.
  7. 7. The death of gravedigger   This painting is known as “The death of gravedigger” by Carlos schwabe. The scene is within a graveyard covered with a thin layer of snow. The main visual is of an old gravedigger standing within a grave and looking up to an angel dressed in black. She holds a green light in her hand and it reflects on her neck. He holds his heart as he watches her, therefore the light symbolizes his soul the angel is taking.
  8. 8.     The gravedigger and angel clearly show death, but there is life surrounding them. In the forefront there are small buds growing out of the snowy ground and a tree branch cascades over them. Death is the major symbol and captures attention at first glance. The angel in this painting is representing death which is a unique technique at the time to connect death with angels and beauty. In his painting he captures emotions through his powerful image.
  9. 9. What are the characteristics of Symbolism?  The most common themes in symbolist art include “love, fear, anguish, death, sexual awakening, and unrequited desire.”  Symbolist painters used a wide variety of subjects including heroes, women, animals, and landscapes.  They typically gave these subjects deep meanings such as love, death, sin, religion, or disease.  They would use metaphors (or symbols) rather than real life to represent something.
  10. 10. Symbolism    The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. Symbolism represents a synthesis of form and feeling, of reality and the artist's inner subjectivity. Symbolist painters believed that art should reflect an emotion or idea rather than represent the natural world in the objective, quasi-scientific manner embodied by Realism and Impressionism.
  11. 11. Symbolist artists  Odilon Redon, artists Gustave Moreau, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Ferdinand Hodler, Edward Munch, and Paul Gauguin were also connected to Symbolism.
  12. 12. Interesting Facts about Symbolism  Symbolism had a great influence on Expressionism and Surrealism, two future artistic movements. The Scream By Edward Munch The Persistence of Memory By Salvador Dali
  13. 13. Interesting Facts about Symbolism  The Symbolist Manifesto was published by essayist and poet Jean More as in 1886.  Many Symbolist artists would deliberately make the meaning of their work obscure and not explain it.  This way the viewer could make their own interpretation.
  14. 14. To help you make sense of such symbolisms, here is a short guide to help decipher some of the most commonly used symbols in art:      B l a c k B i r d s : (Crows, Ravens, Etc. ) These birds typically symbolize death and destruction. S c y t h e : A scythe (more commonly known as a sickle) is a curved, sharp blade at the end of a long handle. It represents death. C a r n a t i o n : A symbol of engagement or intimate relationship. c l o s e d b o o k : The futility of knowledge in dealing with human stupidity. A c a n d l e : A lighted candle generally indicates the passing of time or perhaps faith in God. An extinguished candle, on the other hand, symbolizes death or the loss of virginity.
  15. 15.  Rising Sun:  Setting sun:    Birth, Creation, enlightenment Endings, Death N i g h t a n d d a r k : death, Evil, Shadiness of equality. Darkness can also be calming, restful. W a t e r : Mystery of creation, purification, cleansing, the unconscious and rebirth. L i g h t : Associated with the sun and light, purification, passionate emotions , Power, destruction and sexuality. While this guide provides you with the many common for of symbolism, there exist many thousands. These may start you on your path toward gaining the artist’s intent, but an accurate understanding can only be found by taking in the entire work as a whole.
  16. 16. Wounded Angle   Hugo Simberg painted The Wounded Angel between 1898 and 1903. It is a large oil painting, height 127 cm (50 inches) and width 154 cm (60 inches). In the painting, two boys, looking very solemn, walk along a deserted road by a body of water. Between them they carry a makeshift wooden stretcher on which sits an angel-girl, who has injured her wing.
  17. 17.    The color scheme of the painting is very subdued. The light fragility of the angelgirl creates a stark contrast to the earthy, solemn figures of the boys. The angel sits on the stretcher hunched forward, head held down, and holding onto the sides of the stretcher with her hands. She is wearing a long white gown, whose hem sweeps the ground. Her feet are bare. In her right hand the angel holds a small bunch of flowers, already wilting. There is a white kerchief around her head, shading her eyes. The painting does not reveal what has happened to the angel-girl. On closer inspection, you can see that her left wing is slightly torn at the bottom. The bright white wing has also been stained with some drops of blood. The composition of The Wounded Angel is simple: the road in the foreground, the shore in the middle ground and the water and the opposite shore are all horizontal elements. The vertical figures of the boys, stretching nearly the whole height of the painting, and the slumped figure of the angel create the dynamics in the painting.
  18. 18. Life Born April 20, 1840 - July 6, 1916 Bertrand-Jean Redon better known as Odilon Redon. He was a Symbolist painter and printmaker, born in Bordeaux, Aquitaine, France .
  19. 19. THE SMILLING SPIDER,1881 ,CHARCOAL, BY ODELON REDON.
  20. 20.  Redon explained himself by saying: My drawings inspire, and are not to be defined. They place us, as does music, in the ambiguous(unclear) realm(land) of the undetermined.
  21. 21. The Golden Cell    1892 Oil and metallic gold paint on paper prepared with white grind . British Museum, England .
  22. 22. Analysis    One of many studies of female profiles in Redon's work, La Cellule d'Or ('The Golden Cell') suggests introspection, its golden glow embodying the power of thought. The intense color and strict composition recall the portraits of the early Florentine Renaissance. Here however, the feeling dominates over objective representation; the blue and gold halo are the traditional colors of the Virgin Mary, but no further religious message intrudes.
  23. 23. Life Moreau was born in Paris. He was a French Symbolist painter. As a painter, Moreau appealed to the imaginations of some Symbolist writers and artists.
  24. 24. Oedipus and the Sphinx    To Moreau, the work represented man facing the eternal mystery with moral strength and self-confidence. "In Oedipus and the Sphinx (1864), for instance, the winged creature—half nude female, half lion, an incubus clawed into Oedipus' breast— does not seem to inflict pain at all”. Instead, the grotesque creature and its placid victim appear to be dreamily engrossed in each other, although Oedipus is soon to answer the Sphinx's riddle .
  25. 25. Analysis of Painting    The Apparition portrays Salome who, according to the Gospels, bewitched the ruler Herod Antipas, the husband of her mother Herodiad, with her dancing. As a reward she was given the head of John the Baptist. Is Moreau illustrating the end of Salome's dance in this watercolour? The head would then appear to her as the image of her terrifying wish. Or is it a scene after the beheading, an image of remorse? For Huysmans the "murder had been committed". Salome remains a femme fatale, even when filled with horror, in a long description he wrote about the work in chapter five of Against Nature (1884). According to other critics, it was the painter's consumption of opium which produced hallucinations like this. Although unfounded, this accusation has persisted over many years. At the 1876 Salon, The Apparition was bought by the Belgian art dealer Léon Gauchez (1825-1907). The following year he loaned it for the first exhibition at the Grosvenor Gallery in London. Gauchez had already sent a Sappho painting by Moreau for exhibition in London in 1871. This interaction gives an idea of how Moreau's reputation in literary and artistic circles spread rapidly across Europe.
  26. 26. The End

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