Symbolism and the pre-Raphaelites

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Symbolism and the pre-Raphaelites

The Symbolist movement was given its name in 1886 by Jean Moréas: " Symbolist poetry seeks to clothe the Idea with a tangible form… ".

The second half of the 19th century saw a genuine explosion of artistic passions and ideas that seemed to free themselves from the yoke of wars and rigorism in which art was confined. Two generations of artists born between 1820 and 1860, unlike the Impressionists, turned to the use of symbols to depict ideas, both in literature and in painting. The subjects chosen tended to be historical, biblical, mythological or legendary.

This was the approach of the Pre-Raphaelites and later of Art Nouveau. The Pre-Raphaelites and their influence began in England, with John Ruskin and Ford Madox Brown. " Shocking! ", was the English response to their first paintings.

William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne-Jones and the poet and designer William Morris were among the most well-known of these artists. On the continent, they included in Paris: Puvis de Chavannes whose murals can be seen in the Pantheon and Gustave Moreau in his studio (75009). The Belgian painter Félicien Rops, the Swiss painters Arnold Böcklin and Ferdinand Hodler were influenced by Symbolism.

Realism and the ideal were the favourite themes of painters and writers in search of creativity and a precision that sometimes foreshadows Expressionism.