Dates: 1885-1910

Origin: Europe

Key Artists: Odilon Redon

A European cultural phenomenon of the late 19th century which originated in France and was first defined as a literary movement by Jean Moréas in the Symbolist manifesto of 1886, and then in relation to visual art by Albert Aurier (1892) as the ‘painting of ideas’. In painting, Symbolism was viewed as having developed from later Impressionism and from Neo-Impressionism which, in the 1880s, had increasingly concentrated on the suggestive rather than the descriptive. Significant predecessors of Symbolism included Gustave Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Edward Burne-Jones, and Arnold Böcklin. A basic feature of Symbolist art was the notion that another world lies beyond the world of appearances. The painter most often cited in this respect is Paul Gauguin and works such as his Vision after the Sermon of 1888 (National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). However, a very wide range of art came to be labelled Symbolist and exact definition of the term is probably foolhardy.

“Symbolism.” The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Art Terms. Oxford Art Online. 11 Mar. 2010 <;

Odilon Redon

Comments are closed.