Symbolism (arts)

Last updated
Death and the Grave Digger (La Mort et le Fossoyeur) (c. 1895) by Carlos Schwabe is a visual compendium of symbolist motifs. The angel of Death, pristine snow, and the dramatic poses of the characters all express symbolist longings for transfiguration "anywhere, out of the world". The Death of the Grave Digger.jpg
Death and the Grave Digger (La Mort et le Fossoyeur) (c. 1895) by Carlos Schwabe is a visual compendium of symbolist motifs. The angel of Death, pristine snow, and the dramatic poses of the characters all express symbolist longings for transfiguration "anywhere, out of the world".

Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts.

Art movement tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, possibly associated with a specific historical period

An art movement is a tendency or style in art with a specific common philosophy or goal, followed by a group of artists during a restricted period of time, or, at least, with the heyday of the movement defined within a number of years. Art movements were especially important in modern art, when each consecutive movement was considered as a new avant-garde.

French art

French art consists of the visual and plastic arts originating from the geographical area of France. Modern France was the main centre for the European art of the Upper Paleolithic, then left many megalithic monuments, and in the Iron Age many of the most impressive finds of early Celtic art. The Gallo-Roman period left a distinctive provincial style of sculpture, and the region around the modern Franco-German border led the empire in the mass production of finely decorated Ancient Roman pottery, which was exported to Italy and elsewhere on a large scale. With Merovingian art the story of French styles as a distinct and influential element in the wider development of the art of Christian Europe begins.

Despite its size, Belgium has a long and distinguished artistic tradition that goes back to the Middle Ages, considerably pre-dating the foundation of the current state in 1830. Art from the areas making up modern Belgium is called in English Netherlandish up to the separation with the Netherlands from 1570 on, and Flemish until the 18th century.

Contents

In literature, the style originates with the 1857 publication of Charles Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du mal . The works of Edgar Allan Poe, which Baudelaire admired greatly and translated into French, were a significant influence and the source of many stock tropes and images. The aesthetic was developed by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine during the 1860s and 1870s. In the 1880s, the aesthetic was articulated by a series of manifestos and attracted a generation of writers. The term "symbolist" was first applied by the critic Jean Moréas, who invented the term to distinguish the Symbolists from the related Decadents of literature and of art.

Charles Baudelaire French poet

Charles Pierre Baudelaire was a French poet who also produced notable work as an essayist, art critic, and pioneering translator of Edgar Allan Poe.

<i>Les Fleurs du mal</i> volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire

Les Fleurs du mal is a volume of French poetry by Charles Baudelaire. First published in 1857, it was important in the symbolist and modernist movements. The poems deal with themes relating to decadence and eroticism.

Edgar Allan Poe 19th-century American author, poet, editor and literary critic

Edgar Allan Poe was an American writer, editor, and literary critic. Poe is best known for his poetry and short stories, particularly his tales of mystery and the macabre. He is widely regarded as a central figure of Romanticism in the United States and of American literature as a whole, and he was one of the country's earliest practitioners of the short story. He is generally considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre and is further credited with contributing to the emerging genre of science fiction. He was the first well-known American writer to earn a living through writing alone, resulting in a financially difficult life and career.

Distinct from, but related to, the style of literature, symbolism in art is related to the gothic component of Romanticism and Impressionism.

Romanticism period of artistic, literary, and intellectual movement that started in 18th century Europe

Romanticism was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe toward the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1850. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism and nationalism.

Influenced by the European Impressionist art movement, many writers adopted a style that relied on associations. The Dutch Tachtigers explicitly tried to incorporate impressionism into their prose, poems, and other literary works. Much of what has been called "impressionist" literature is subsumed into several other categories, especially Symbolism, its chief exponents being Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Rimbaud, Verlaine and Laforgue. It focuses on a particular character's perception of events. The edges of reality are blurred by choosing points of view that lie outside the norm.

Etymology

The term "symbolism" is derived from the word "symbol" which derives from the Latin symbolum, a symbol of faith, and symbolus, a sign of recognition, in turn from classical Greek σύμβολον symbolon, an object cut in half constituting a sign of recognition when the carriers were able to reassemble the two halves. In ancient Greece, the symbolon was a shard of pottery which was inscribed and then broken into two pieces which were given to the ambassadors from two allied city states as a record of the alliance.

Precursors and origins

Symbolism was largely a reaction against naturalism and realism, anti-idealistic styles which were attempts to represent reality in its gritty particularity, and to elevate the humble and the ordinary over the ideal. Symbolism was a reaction in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and dreams. [1] Some writers, such as Joris-Karl Huysmans, began as naturalists before becoming symbolists; for Huysmans, this change represented his increasing interest in religion and spirituality. Certain of the characteristic subjects of the Decadents represent naturalist interest in sexuality and taboo topics, but in their case this was mixed with Byronic romanticism and the world-weariness characteristic of the fin de siècle period.

Naturalism is a literary movement beginning in the late nineteenth century, similar to literary realism in its rejection of Romanticism, but distinct in its embrace of determinism, detachment, scientific objectivism, and social commentary. The movement largely traces to the theories of French author Émile Zola.

Realism (arts) Artistic style of representing subjects realistically

Realism, sometimes called naturalism, in the arts is generally the attempt to represent subject matter truthfully, without artificiality and avoiding artistic conventions, or implausible, exotic, and supernatural elements. Realism has been prevalent in the arts at many periods, and can be in large part a matter of technique and training, and the avoidance of stylization.

Spirituality Philosophical / theological term

The meaning of spirituality has developed and expanded over time, and various connotations can be found alongside each other.

The Symbolist poets have a more complex relationship with Parnassianism, a French literary style that immediately preceded it. While being influenced by hermeticism, allowing freer versification, and rejecting Parnassian clarity and objectivity, it retained Parnassianism's love of word play and concern for the musical qualities of verse. The Symbolists continued to admire Théophile Gautier's motto of "art for art's sake", and retained – and modified – Parnassianism's mood of ironic detachment. [2] Many Symbolist poets, including Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine, published early works in Le Parnasse contemporain , the poetry anthologies that gave Parnassianism its name. But Arthur Rimbaud publicly mocked prominent Parnassians and published scatological parodies of some of their main authors, including François Coppée – misattributed to Coppée himself – in L'Album zutique . [3]

Parnassianism was a French literary style that began during the positivist period of the 19th century, occurring after romanticism and prior to symbolism. The style was influenced by the author Théophile Gautier as well as by the philosophical ideas of Arthur Schopenhauer.

Hermeticism set of beliefs and practices whose aim is the influencing of the world through contact with the heavenly forces

Hermeticism, also called as Hermetism, is a religious, philosophical, and esoteric tradition based primarily upon writings attributed to Hermes Trismegistus. These writings have greatly influenced the Western esoteric tradition and were considered to be of great importance during both the Renaissance and the Reformation. The tradition traces its origin to a prisca theologia, a doctrine that affirms the existence of a single, true theology that is present in all religions and that was given by God to man in antiquity.

Free verse is an open form of poetry which in its modern form arose through the French vers libre form. It does not use consistent meter patterns, rhyme, or any musical pattern. It thus tends to follow the rhythm of natural speech.

One of Symbolism's most colourful promoters in Paris was art and literary critic (and occultist) Joséphin Péladan, who established the Salon de la Rose + Croix. The Salon hosted a series of six presentations of avant-garde art, writing and music during the 1890s, to give a presentation space for artists embracing spiritualism, mysticism, and idealism in their work. A number of Symbolists were associated with the Salon.

The term occult sciences was used in the 16th century to refer to astrology, alchemy, and natural magic. The term occultism emerged in 19th-century France, where it came to be associated with various French esoteric groups connected to Éliphas Lévi and Papus, and in 1875 was introduced into the English language by the esotericist Helena Blavatsky. Throughout the 20th century, the term was used idiosyncratically by a range of different authors, but by the 21st century was commonly employed – including by academic scholars of esotericism – to refer to a range of esoteric currents that developed in the mid-19th century and their descendants. Occultism is thus often used to categorise such esoteric traditions as Spiritualism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and New Age.

Joséphin Péladan French writer

Joséphin Péladan was a French novelist and Martinist. His father was a journalist who had written on prophecies, and professed a philosophic-occult Catholicism. He established the Salon de la Rose + Croix for painters, writers, and musicians sharing his artistic ideals, the Symbolists in particular.

<i>Salon de la Rose + Croix</i>

The Salon de la Rose + Croix was a series of six art and music salons hosted by Joséphin Péladan in 1890s Paris. The Salon de la Rose + Croix grew out of Péladan's Mystic Order of the Rose + Croix, a cultic religious movement that he established in Paris. The avant-garde Salon artists included many of the prominent Symbolist painters, writers, and music composers of the period.

Movement

The Symbolist Manifesto

Henri Fantin-Latour, By the Table, 1872, depicting: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Leon Valade, Ernest d'Hervilly and Camille Pelletan (seated); Pierre Elzear, Emile Blemont and Jean Aicard (standing) Henri Fantin-Latour - By the Table - Google Art Project.jpg
Henri Fantin-Latour, By the Table, 1872, depicting: Paul Verlaine, Arthur Rimbaud, Léon Valade, Ernest d'Hervilly and Camille Pelletan (seated); Pierre Elzéar, Emile Blémont and Jean Aicard (standing)

Symbolists believed that art should represent absolute truths that could only be described indirectly. Thus, they wrote in a very metaphorical and suggestive manner, endowing particular images or objects with symbolic meaning. Jean Moréas published the Symbolist Manifesto ("Le Symbolisme") in Le Figaro on 18 September 1886 (see 1886 in poetry). The Symbolist Manifesto names Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarmé, and Paul Verlaine as the three leading poets of the movement. Moréas announced that symbolism was hostile to "plain meanings, declamations, false sentimentality and matter-of-fact description", and that its goal instead was to "clothe the Ideal in a perceptible form" whose "goal was not in itself, but whose sole purpose was to express the Ideal."

Ainsi, dans cet art, les tableaux de la nature, les actions des humains, tous les phénomènes concrets ne sauraient se manifester eux-mêmes ; ce sont là des apparences sensibles destinées à représenter leurs affinités ésotériques avec des Idées primordiales.
(In this art, scenes from nature, human activities, and all other real world phenomena will not be described for their own sake; here, they are perceptible surfaces created to represent their esoteric affinities with the primordial Ideals.) [4]

In a nutshell, as Mallarmé writes in a letter to his friend Cazalis, 'to depict not the thing but the effect it produces'. [5]

Techniques

Portrait of Charles Baudelaire (c. 1862), whose writing was a precursor of the symbolist style Etienne Carjat, Portrait of Charles Baudelaire, circa 1862.jpg
Portrait of Charles Baudelaire (c. 1862), whose writing was a precursor of the symbolist style

The symbolist poets wished to liberate techniques of versification in order to allow greater room for "fluidity", and as such were sympathetic with the trend toward free verse, as evident in the poems of Gustave Kahn and Ezra Pound. Symbolist poems were attempts to evoke, rather than primarily to describe; symbolic imagery was used to signify the state of the poet's soul. T. S. Eliot was influenced by the poets Jules Laforgue, Paul Valéry and Arthur Rimbaud who used the techniques of the Symbolist school, [6] though it has also been said[ by whom? ] that 'Imagism' was the style to which both Pound and Eliot subscribed (see Pound's Des Imagistes). Synesthesia was a prized experience[ citation needed ]; poets sought to identify and confound the separate senses of scent, sound, and colour. In Baudelaire's poem Correspondences, (considered to be the touchstone of French Symbolism) [7] also mentions forêts de symboles – forests of symbols –

Il est des parfums frais comme des chairs d'enfants,
Doux comme les hautbois, verts comme les prairies,
– Et d'autres, corrompus, riches et triomphants,

Ayant l'expansion des choses infinies,
Comme l'ambre, le musc, le benjoin et l'encens,
Qui chantent les transports de l'esprit et des sens.
(There are perfumes that are fresh like children's flesh,
sweet like oboes, green like meadows
– And others, corrupt, rich, and triumphant,

having the expansiveness of infinite things,
like amber, musc, benzoin, and incense,
which sing of the raptures of the soul and senses.)

and Rimbaud's poem Voyelles:

A noir, E blanc, I rouge, U vert, O bleu : voyelles…
(A black, E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels…)

– both poets seek to identify one sense experience with another. The earlier Romanticism of poetry used symbols, but these symbols were unique and privileged objects. The symbolists were more extreme, investing all things, even vowels and perfumes, with potential symbolic value. "The physical universe, then, is a kind of language that invites a privileged spectator to decipher it, although this does not yield a single message so much as a superior network of associations." [8] Symbolist symbols are not allegories, intended to represent; they are instead intended to evoke particular states of mind. The nominal subject of Mallarmé's "Le cygne" ("The Swan") is of a swan trapped in a frozen lake. Significantly, in French, cygne is a homophone of signe , a sign. The overall effect is of overwhelming whiteness; and the presentation of the narrative elements of the description is quite indirect:

Le vierge, le vivace, et le bel aujourd'hui
Va-t-il nous déchirer avec un coup d’aile ivre
Ce lac dur oublié que hante sous le givre
Le transparent glacier des vols qui n’ont pas fui!
Un cygne d’autrefois se souvient que c’est lui
Magnifique mais qui sans espoir se délivre…
(The virgin, lively, and beautiful today – will it tear for us this hard forgotten lake that lurks beneath the frost, the transparent glacier of flights not taken with a blow from a drunken wing? A swan of long ago remembers that it is he, magnificent but without hope, who breaks free…)

Paul Verlaine and the poètes maudits

Of the several attempts at defining the essence of symbolism, perhaps none was more influential than Paul Verlaine's 1884 publication of a series of essays on Tristan Corbière, Arthur Rimbaud, Stéphane Mallarmé, Marceline Desbordes-Valmore, Gérard de Nerval, and "Pauvre Lelian" ("Poor Lelian", an anagram of Paul Verlaine's own name), each of whom Verlaine numbered among the poètes maudits , "accursed poets."

Eugen Bracht, The Shore of Oblivion, 1889 Eugen Bracht - Das Gestade der Vergessenheit (1889).jpg
Eugen Bracht, The Shore of Oblivion, 1889

Verlaine argued that in their individual and very different ways, each of these hitherto neglected poets found genius a curse; it isolated them from their contemporaries, and as a result these poets were not at all concerned to avoid hermeticism and idiosyncratic writing styles. [9] They were also portrayed as at odds with society, having tragic lives, and often given to self-destructive tendencies. These traits were not hindrances but consequences of their literary gifts. Verlaine's concept of the poète maudit in turn borrows from Baudelaire, who opened his collection Les fleurs du mal with the poem Bénédiction , which describes a poet whose internal serenity remains undisturbed by the contempt of the people surrounding him. [10]

In this conception of genius and the role of the poet, Verlaine referred indirectly to the aesthetics of Arthur Schopenhauer, the philosopher of pessimism, who maintained that the purpose of art was to provide a temporary refuge from the world of strife of the will. [11]

Philosophy

Schopenhauer's aesthetics represented shared concerns with the symbolist programme; they both tended to consider Art as a contemplative refuge from the world of strife and will. As a result of this desire for an artistic refuge, the symbolists used characteristic themes of mysticism and otherworldliness, a keen sense of mortality, and a sense of the malign power of sexuality, which Albert Samain termed a "fruit of death upon the tree of life." [12] Mallarmé's poem Les fenêtres [13] expresses all of these themes clearly. A dying man in a hospital bed, seeking escape from the pain and dreariness of his physical surroundings, turns toward his window but then turns away in disgust from

Pornocrates, by Felicien Rops, etching and aquatint, 1878 Felicien Rops - Pornokrates - 1878 (2).jpg
Pornocrates , by Félicien Rops, etching and aquatint, 1878
… l'homme à l'âme dure
Vautré dans le bonheur, où ses seuls appétits
Mangent, et qui s'entête à chercher cette ordure
Pour l'offrir à la femme allaitant ses petits, …
(… the hard-souled man,
Wallowing in happiness, where only his appetites
Feed, and who insists on seeking out this filth
To offer to the wife suckling his children, …)

and in contrast, he "turns his back on life" (tourne l’épaule à la vie) and he exclaims:

Je me mire et me vois ange! Et je meurs, et j'aime
– Que la vitre soit l'art, soit la mysticité –
A renaître, portant mon rêve en diadème,
Au ciel antérieur où fleurit la Beauté!
(I marvel at myself, I seem an angel! and I die, and I love
– Whether the glass might be art, or mysticism –
To be reborn, bearing my dream as a diadem,
Under that former sky where Beauty once flourished!)

Symbolists and decadents

The symbolist style has frequently been confused with decadence, the name derived from French literary critics in the 1880s, suggesting the writers were self indulgent and obsessed with taboo subjects. [14] A few writers embraced the term while most avoided it. Jean Moréas' manifesto was largely a response to this polemic. By the late 1880s, the terms "symbolism" and "decadence" were understood to be almost synonymous. [15] Though the aesthetics of the styles can be considered similar in some ways, the two remain distinct. The symbolists were those artists who emphasized dreams and ideals; the Decadents cultivated précieux , ornamented, or hermetic styles, and morbid subject matters. [16] The subject of the decadence of the Roman Empire was a frequent source of literary images and appears in the works of many poets of the period, regardless of which name they chose for their style, as in Verlaine's "Langueur": [17]

Je suis l'Empire à la fin de la Décadence,
Qui regarde passer les grands Barbares blancs
En composant des acrostiches indolents
D'un style d'or où la langueur du soleil danse.
(I am the Empire at the end of the decadence, who watches the large, white barbarians passing, while composing lazy acrostic poems in a gilded style in which the languor of the sun dances.)

Periodical literature

Victor Vasnetsov, The Knight at the Crossroads, 1878 TheKnightAtTheCrossroads.jpg
Victor Vasnetsov, The Knight at the Crossroads, 1878

A number of important literary publications were founded by symbolists or became associated with the style. The first was La Vogue initiated in April 1886. In October of that same year, Jean Moréas, Gustave Kahn, and Paul Adam began the periodical Le Symboliste . One of the most important symbolist journals was Mercure de France , edited by Alfred Vallette, which succeeded La Pléiade; founded in 1890, this periodical endured until 1965. Pierre Louÿs initiated La conque , a periodical whose symbolist influences were alluded to by Jorge Luis Borges in his story Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote . Other symbolist literary magazines included La Revue blanche , La Revue wagnérienne , La Plume and La Wallonie .

Rémy de Gourmont and Félix Fénéon were literary critics associated with symbolism. The symbolist and decadent literary styles were satirized by a book of poetry, Les Déliquescences d'Adoré Floupette , published in 1885 by Henri Beauclair and Gabriel Vicaire. [18]

In other media

Visual arts

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Jeunes Filles au Bord de la Mer ("Young Girls on the Edge of the Sea"), 1879, Musee d'Orsay, Paris On the Edge of the Sea.jpg
Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Jeunes Filles au Bord de la Mer ("Young Girls on the Edge of the Sea"), 1879, Musée d'Orsay, Paris

Symbolism in literature is distinct from symbolism in art although the two were similar in many aspects. In painting, symbolism can be seen as a revival of some mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition, and was close to the self-consciously morbid and private decadent movement.

There were several rather dissimilar groups of Symbolist painters and visual artists, which included Gustave Moreau, Gustav Klimt, Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis, Jacek Malczewski, Odilon Redon, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, Henri Fantin-Latour, Gaston Bussière, Edvard Munch, Félicien Rops, and Jan Toorop. Symbolism in painting was even more widespread geographically than symbolism in poetry, affecting Mikhail Vrubel, Nicholas Roerich, Victor Borisov-Musatov, Martiros Saryan, Mikhail Nesterov, Léon Bakst, Elena Gorokhova in Russia, as well as Frida Kahlo in Mexico[ citation needed ], Elihu Vedder, Remedios Varo, Morris Graves and David Chetlahe Paladin in the United States. Auguste Rodin is sometimes considered a symbolist sculptor.

The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery. The symbols used by symbolism are not the familiar emblems of mainstream iconography but intensely personal, private, obscure and ambiguous references. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, symbolism in painting influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau style and Les Nabis. [11]

Music

Symbolism had some influence on music as well. Many symbolist writers and critics were early enthusiasts of the music of Richard Wagner, [19] an avid reader of Schopenhauer.

John William Waterhouse, Saint Cecilia, 1895 Waterhouse, John William - Saint Cecilia - 1895.jpg
John William Waterhouse, Saint Cecilia, 1895

The symbolist aesthetic affected the works of Claude Debussy. His choices of libretti , texts, and themes come almost exclusively from the symbolist canon. Compositions such as his settings of Cinq poèmes de Charles Baudelaire , various art songs on poems by Verlaine, the opera Pelléas et Mélisande with a libretto by Maurice Maeterlinck, and his unfinished sketches that illustrate two Poe stories, The Devil in the Belfry and The Fall of the House of Usher , all indicate that Debussy was profoundly influenced by symbolist themes and tastes. His best known work, the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune , was inspired by Mallarmé's poem, L'après-midi d'un faune . [20]

The symbolist aesthetic also influenced Aleksandr Scriabin's compositions. Arnold Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire takes its text from German translations of the symbolist poems by Albert Giraud, showing an association between German expressionism and symbolism. Richard Strauss's 1905 opera Salomé , based on the play by Oscar Wilde, uses a subject frequently depicted by symbolist artists.

Prose fiction

Symbolism's style of the static and hieratic adapted less well to narrative fiction than it did to poetry. Joris-Karl Huysmans' 1884 novel À rebours (English title: Against Nature or Against the Grain) explored many themes that became associated with the symbolist aesthetic. This novel, in which very little happens, catalogues the psychology of Des Esseintes, an eccentric, reclusive antihero. Oscar Wilde was influenced by the novel, it being a major influence in writing his play Salome and Huysman's book appears in The Picture of Dorian Gray , with the titular character becoming corrupted after reading the book. [21]

Paul Adam was the most prolific and representative author of symbolist novels. Les Demoiselles Goubert (1886), co-written with Jean Moréas, is an important transitional work between naturalism and symbolism. Few symbolists used this form. One exception was Gustave Kahn, who published Le Roi fou in 1896. In 1892, Georges Rodenbach wrote the short novel Bruges-la-morte , set in the Flemish town of Bruges, which Rodenbach described as a dying, medieval city of mourning and quiet contemplation: in a typically symbolist juxtaposition, the dead city contrasts with the diabolical re-awakening of sexual desire. [22] The cynical, misanthropic, misogynistic fiction of Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly is sometimes considered symbolist, as well. Gabriele d'Annunzio wrote his first novels in the symbolist manner.

Theatre

Alexandre Benois' set for Stravinsky's Petrushka in 1911 Petrutxca de Fokine-1911.jpg
Alexandre Benois' set for Stravinsky's Petrushka in 1911

The characteristic emphasis on an internal life of dreams and fantasies have made symbolist theatre difficult to reconcile with more recent trends. Auguste Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's drama Axël (rev. ed. 1890) is a definitive symbolist play. In it, two Rosicrucian aristocrats become enamored of each other while trying to kill each other, only to agree to commit suicide mutually because nothing in life could equal their fantasies. From this play, Edmund Wilson adopted the title Axel's Castle for his influential study of the symbolist literary aftermath.

Maurice Maeterlinck, also a symbolist playwright, wrote The Blind (1890), The Intruder (1890), Interior (1891), Pelléas and Mélisande (1892), and The Blue Bird (1908). Eugénio de Castro is considered one of the introducers of Symbolism in the Iberian Peninsula. He wrote Belkiss, "dramatic prose-poem" as he called it, about the doomed passion of Belkiss, The Queen of Sheba, to Solomon, depicting in a avant-guard and violent style the psychological tension and recreating very accurately the tenth century BC Israel. He also wrote King Galaor and Polycrates' Ring, being one the most prolific Symbolist theoriticians. [23]

Lugné-Poe (1869–1940) was an actor, director, and theatre producer of the late nineteenth century. Lugné-Poe "sought to create a unified nonrealistic theatre of poetry and dreams through atmospheric staging and stylized acting". [24] Upon learning about symbolist theatre, he never wanted to practice any other form. After beginning as an actor in the Théâtre Libre and Théâtre d'Art, Lugné-Poe grasped on to the symbolist movement and founded the Théâtre de l'Œuvre where he was manager from 1892 until 1929. Some of his greatest successes include opening his own symbolist theatre, producing the first staging of Alfred Jarry's Ubu Roi (1896), and introducing French theatregoers to playwrights such as Ibsen and Strindberg. [24]

The later works of the Russian playwright Anton Chekhov have been identified by essayist Paul Schmidt as being much influenced by symbolist pessimism. [25] Both Konstantin Stanislavski and Vsevolod Meyerhold experimented with symbolist modes of staging in their theatrical endeavors.

Drama by symbolist authors formed an important part of the repertoire of the Théâtre de l'Œuvre and the Théâtre d'Art .

Effect

Black night.
White snow.
The wind, the wind!
It will not let you go. The wind, the wind!
Through God's whole world it blows

The wind is weaving
The white snow.
Brother ice peeps from below
Stumbling and tumbling
Folk slip and fall.
God pity all!

From "The Twelve" (1918)
Trans. Babette Deutsch and Avrahm Yarmolinsky [26]

Night, street and streetlight, drug store,
The purposeless, half-dim, drab light.
For all the use live on a quarter century –
Nothing will change. There's no way out.

You'll die – and start all over, live twice,
Everything repeats itself, just as it was:
Night, the canal's rippled icy surface,
The drug store, the street, and streetlight.

"Night, street and streetlight, drugstore..." (1912) Trans. by Alex Cigale

Among English-speaking artists, the closest counterpart to symbolism was aestheticism. The Pre-Raphaelites were contemporaries of the earlier symbolists, and have much in common with them. Symbolism had a significant influence on modernism, (Remy de Gourmont considered the Imagists were its descendants) [27] and its traces can also be detected in the work of many modernist poets, including T. S. Eliot, Wallace Stevens, Conrad Aiken, Hart Crane, and W. B. Yeats in the anglophone tradition and Rubén Darío in Hispanic literature. The early poems of Guillaume Apollinaire have strong affinities with symbolism. Early Portuguese Modernism was heavily influenced by Symbolist poets, especially Camilo Pessanha; Fernando Pessoa had many affinities to Symbolism, such as mysticism, musical versification, subjectivism and transcendatilism.

Edmund Wilson's 1931 study Axel's Castle focuses on the continuity with symbolism and several important writers of the early twentieth century, with a particular emphasis on Yeats, Eliot, Paul Valéry, Marcel Proust, James Joyce, and Gertrude Stein. Wilson concluded that the symbolists represented a dreaming retreat into

things that are dying–the whole belle-lettristic tradition of Renaissance culture perhaps, compelled to specialize more and more, more and more driven in on itself, as industrialism and democratic education have come to press it closer and closer. [28]

Mikhail Nesterov's The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew, 1890 Mikhail Nesterov 001.jpg
Mikhail Nesterov's The Vision of the Youth Bartholomew , 1890

After the beginning of the 20th century, symbolism had a major effect on Russian poetry even as it became less popular in France. Russian symbolism, steeped in the Eastern Orthodoxy and the religious doctrines of Vladimir Solovyov, had little in common with the French style of the same name. It began the careers of several major poets such as Alexander Blok, Andrei Bely, and Marina Tsvetaeva. Bely's novel Petersburg (1912) is considered the greatest example of Russian symbolist prose.

Primary influences on the style of Russian Symbolism were the irrationalistic and mystical poetry and philosophy of Fyodor Tyutchev and Solovyov, the novels of Fyodor Dostoyevsky, the operas of Richard Wagner, [29] the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer [ citation needed ] and Friedrich Nietzsche, [30] French symbolist and decadent poets (such as Stéphane Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine and Charles Baudelaire), and the dramas of Henrik Ibsen.

The style was largely inaugurated by Nikolai Minsky's article The Ancient Debate (1884) and Dmitry Merezhkovsky's book On the Causes of the Decline and on the New Trends in Contemporary Russian Literature (1892). Both writers promoted extreme individualism and the act of creation. Merezhkovsky was known for his poetry as well as a series of novels on god-men, among whom he counted Christ, Joan of Arc, Dante, Leonardo da Vinci, Napoleon, and (later) Hitler. His wife, Zinaida Gippius, also a major poet of early symbolism, opened a salon in St Petersburg, which came to be known as the "headquarters of Russian decadence". Andrei Bely's Petersburg (novel) a portrait of the social strata of the Russian capital, is frequently cited as a late example of Symbolism in 20th century Russian literature.

In Romania, symbolists directly influenced by French poetry first gained influence during the 1880s, when Alexandru Macedonski reunited a group of young poets associated with his magazine Literatorul . Polemicizing with the established Junimea and overshadowed by the influence of Mihai Eminescu, Romanian symbolism was recovered as an inspiration during and after the 1910s, when it was exampled by the works of Tudor Arghezi, Ion Minulescu, George Bacovia, Mateiu Caragiale, Tristan Tzara and Tudor Vianu, and praised by the modernist magazine Sburătorul .

The symbolist painters were an important influence on expressionism and surrealism in painting, two movements which descend directly from symbolism proper. The harlequins, paupers, and clowns of Pablo Picasso's "Blue Period" show the influence of symbolism, and especially of Puvis de Chavannes. In Belgium, symbolism became so popular that it came to be known as a national style, particularly in landscape painting [31] : the static strangeness of painters like René Magritte can be considered as a direct continuation of symbolism. The work of some symbolist visual artists, such as Jan Toorop, directly affected the curvilinear forms of art nouveau.

Many early motion pictures also employ symbolist visual imagery and themes in their staging, set designs, and imagery. The films of German expressionism owe a great deal to symbolist imagery. The virginal "good girls" seen in the cinema of D. W. Griffith, and the silent film "bad girls" portrayed by Theda Bara, both show the continuing influence of symbolism, as do the Babylonian scenes from Griffith's Intolerance . Symbolist imagery lived on longest in horror film: as late as 1932, Carl Theodor Dreyer's Vampyr showed the obvious influence of symbolist imagery; parts of the film resemble tableau vivant re-creations of the early paintings of Edvard Munch. [32]

Symbolists

Salammbo (1907) by Gaston Bussiere Bussiere,Gaston - Salammbo, 1907.jpg
Salammbô (1907) by Gaston Bussière

Precursors

Authors

(listed by year of birth)

French

French Uruguayan

Belgian

German and Austrian

Portuguese

Russian

Serbian

Armenian

Georgian

Polish

See Also: Young Poland movement

English

Others

Influence in English literature

English language authors who influenced or were influenced by symbolism include:

Symbolist visual artists

(listed by year of birth)

French

Russian

See Also: Russian Symbolism and the Blue Rose group.

Belgian

Romanian See also: Symbolist Movement in Romania

German

Swiss

Austrian

Others

Symbolist playwrights

Composers affected by symbolist ideas

See also

Related Research Articles

Stéphane Mallarmé French Symbolist poet

Stéphane Mallarmé, pen name of Étienne Mallarmé, was a French poet and critic. He was a major French symbolist poet, and his work anticipated and inspired several revolutionary artistic schools of the early 20th century, such as Cubism, Futurism, Dadaism, and Surrealism.

Paul Fort French poet and playwright

Paul Fort was a French poet associated with the Symbolist movement. At the age of 18, reacting against the Naturalistic theatre, Fort founded the Théâtre d'Art (1890–93). He also founded and edited the literary reviews Livre d'Art with Alfred Jarry and Vers et Prose (1905–14) with poet Guillaume Apollinaire, which published the work of Paul Valéry and other important Symbolist writers. Fort is notable for his enormous volume of poetry, having published more than thirty volumes of ballads and, according to Amy Lowell for creating the polyphonic prose form in his 'Ballades francaises'.

Paul Verlaine French poet

Paul-Marie Verlaine was a French poet associated with the Decadent movement. He is considered one of the greatest representatives of the fin de siècle in international and French poetry.

Jean Moréas Greek writer

Jean Moréas, was a Greek poet, essayist, and art critic, who wrote mostly in the French language but also in Greek during his youth.

Gustave Kahn French Symbolist poet and art critic

Gustave Kahn was a French Symbolist poet and art critic. He was also active, via publishing and essay-writing, in defining Symbolism and distinguishing it from the Decadent Movement.

Illuminations is an uncompleted suite of prose poems by the French poet Arthur Rimbaud, first published partially in La Vogue, a Paris literary review, in May–June 1886. The texts were reprinted in book form in October 1886 by Les publications de La Vogue under the title Les Illuminations proposed by the poet Paul Verlaine, Rimbaud's former lover. In his preface, Verlaine explained that the title was based on the English word illuminations, in the sense of coloured plates, and a sub-title that Rimbaud had already given the work. Verlaine dated its composition between 1873 and 1875.

Henri de Régnier French poet

Henri-François-Joseph de Régnier was a French symbolist poet, considered one of the most important of France during the early 20th century.

French poetry is a category of French literature. It may include Francophone poetry composed outside France and poetry written in other languages of France.

Russian symbolism

Russian symbolism was an intellectual and artistic movement predominant at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th century. It represented the Russian branch of the symbolist movement in European art, and was mostly known for its contributions to Russian poetry.

19th-century French literature literature-related events in France during the 19th century

19th-century French literature concerns the developments in French literature during a dynamic period in French history that saw the rise of Democracy and the fitful end of Monarchy and Empire. The period covered spans the following political regimes: Napoleon Bonaparte's Consulate (1799–1804) and Empire (1804–1814), the Restoration under Louis XVIII and Charles X (1814–1830), the July Monarchy under Louis Philippe d'Orléans (1830–1848), the Second Republic (1848–1852), the Second Empire under Napoleon III (1852–1871), and the first decades of the Third Republic (1871–1940).

Decadent movement late 19th century artistic and literary movement of Western Europe

The Decadent movement was a late-19th-century artistic and literary movement, centered in Western Europe, that followed an aesthetic ideology of excess and artificiality. The visual artist Félicien Rops's body of work and Joris-Karl Huysmans's novel Against Nature (1884) are considered the prime examples of the decadent movement. It first flourished in France and then spread throughout Europe and to the United States. The movement was characterized by self-disgust, sickness at the world, general skepticism, delight in perversion and employment of crude humor and a belief in the superiority of human creativity over logic and the natural world.

José María Eguren Peruvian writer

José María Eguren Rodríguez was a Peruvian writer. Although principally known for his poetry, Eguren was also a journalist, painter, photographer and even an inventor.

Dai Wangshu Chinese poet

Dai Wangshu, also Tai Van-chou, was a Chinese poet, essayist and translator active from the late 1920s to the end of the 1940s. A native of Hangzhou, Zhejiang, he graduated from the Aurora University, Shanghai in 1926, majoring in French.

The Symbolist Movement in Literature, first published in 1899, and with additional material in 1919, is a work by Arthur Symons largely credited with bringing French Symbolism to the attention of Anglo-American literary circles. Its first two editions were vital influences on W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot—a note that, for nothing else, would assure its historical place with the most important early Modernist criticism. Richard Ellmann has contributed an Introduction to most modern editions.

Le Parnasse contemporain is composed of three volumes of poetry collections, published in 1866, 1871 and 1876 by the editor Alphonse Lemerre, which included a hundred French poets, such as Leconte de Lisle, Théodore de Banville, Heredia, Gautier, Catulle Mendès, Baudelaire, Sully Prudhomme, Mallarmé, François Coppée, Charles Cros, Léon Dierx, Louis Ménard, Verlaine, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam and Anatole France.

The Symbolist Manifesto was published on 18 September 1886 in the French newspaper Le Figaro by the Greek-born poet and essayist Jean Moréas. It describes a new literary movement, an evolution from and rebellion against both romanticism and naturalism, and it asserts the name of Symbolism as not only the appropriate for that movement, but also uniquely reflective of how creative minds approach the creation of art.

Alphonse Lemerre was a 19th-century French editor and publisher, known especially for having been the first to publish many of the Parnassian poets.

René Ghil French poet

René François Ghilbert, known as René Ghil, was a French poet. He was a disciple of Stéphane Mallarmé, a major contributor to the symbolist movement in France, although they later had a falling out over ideological differences. Ghil published a series a short stories which together were called the Traité du Verbe. He worked extensively on a new system of poetic language in reaction to the Decadent Movement and Symbolism. Owing to his widespread use of personal syntax and neological vocabulary, much of Ghil's work was inaccessible, and his own contemporaries labelled it confusing. However, his works gained wider attention after his death.

References

  1. Balakian, Anna, The Symbolist Movement: a critical appraisal. Random House, 1967, ch. 2.
  2. Balakian, see above; see also Houston, introduction.
  3. "Album zutique - Wikisource". fr.wikisource.org.
  4. Jean Moreas, Le Manifeste du Symbolisme, Le Figaro , 1886
  5. Conway Morris, Roderick "The Elusive Symbolist movement" – International Herald Tribune, March 17, 2007.
  6. Untermeyer, Louis, Preface to Modern American Poetry Harcourt Brace & Co New York 1950
  7. Pratt, William. The Imagist Poem, Modern Poetry in Miniature (Story Line Press, 1963, expanded 2001). ISBN   1-58654-009-2
  8. Olds, Marshal C. "Literary Symbolism", originally published (as Chapter 14) in A Companion to Modernist Literature and Culture, edited by David Bradshaw and Kevin J. H. Dettmar. Malden, MA : Blackwell Publishing, 2006. Pages 155–162.
  9. Paul Verlaine, Les Poètes maudits
  10. Charles Baudelaire, Bénédiction
  11. 1 2 Delvaille, Bernard, La poésie symboliste: anthologie, introduction. ISBN   2-221-50161-6
  12. Luxure, fruit de mort à l'arbre de la vie... , Albert Samain, "Luxure", in the publication Au jardin de l'infante (1889)
  13. Stéphane Mallarmé, Les fenêtres Archived 9 December 2004 at the Wayback Machine
  14. "What Was the Decadent Movement in Literature? (with pictures)". wiseGEEK.
  15. David Schimmelpenninck van der Oye, Russian orientalism: Asia in the Russian mind from Peter the Great to the emigration, New Haven: Yale UP, 2010, p. 211 (online).
  16. Olds, see above, p. 160.
  17. Langueur, from Jadis et Naguère, 1884
  18. Henri Beauclair and Gabriel Vicaire, Les Déliquescences d'Adoré Floupette (1885)
    Les Déliquescences – poèmes décadents d'Adoré Floupette, avec sa vie par Marius Tapora by Henri Beauclair and Gabriel Vicaire (in French)
  19. Jullian Phillipe, The Symbolists, 1977, p.8
  20. "Symbolism - Symbolism And Music". science.jrank.org.
  21. Joris–Karl Huysmans, Decadent novel À rebours, or, Against Nature, Paris, 1891
  22. Alan Hollinghurst, "Bruges of sighs" ( The Guardian , 29 Jan. 2005, accessed 26 Apr 2009
  23. Saraiva, Lopes, António José, Óscar (2017). História da Literatura Portuguesa (17th ed.). Lisboa: Porto Editora. ISBN   978-972-0-30170-3.
  24. 1 2 "Symbolist Movement". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 3 April 2012.
  25. The Plays of Anton Chekhov, trans. Paul Schmidt (1997)
  26. Blok, Alexander; Yarmolinsky, Avrahm; Deutsch, Babette (1929). "The Twelve". The Slavonic and East European Review. 8 (22): 188–198. JSTOR   4202372.
  27. de Gourmont, Remy. La France (1915)
  28. Quoted in Brooker, Joseph (2004). Joyce's Critics: Transitions in Reading and Culture. Madison, Wisc.: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 73. ISBN   978-0299196042.
  29. "Symbolist Visions; The role of music in the paintings of M. K. Ciurlionis - Nathalie Lorand". www.lituanus.org.
  30. Boris Christa, 'Andrey Bely and the Symbolist Movement in Russia' in The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages John Benjamins Publishing Company, 1984, p. 389
  31. Philippe Jullian, The Symbolists, 1977, p.55
  32. Jullian, Philippe, The Symbolists. (Dutton, 1977) ISBN   0-7148-1739-2

Further reading