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Styles & Periods
Symbolism

An aspect of the painting styles of the Post-Impressionist period, Symbolism arose as not only a movement in the visual arts, but as a literary and musical movement as well. Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe in literature, and Claude Debussy and Richard Wagner in music, all contributed to Symbolism and based their work on the Romantic ideals of intuition and spirituality. The Symbolists were the first modern artists to express inner, abstract ideas of mysticism and other non-visual elements so clearly in paint. Their work became the foundation on which Dadaism, Expressionism and Surrealism would build their visual vocabularies. The common thread that runs through the diverse landscape of symbolist art, is a commitment to personalization, a departure from conventional iconography in favor of a world cultivated in the mind of the artist. Paul Gauguin was one of the leaders of the Symbolists in the visual arts. His work represents the search for new meaning in forms and colors, and yields a uniquely personal, emotional, result. Other artists of Symbolism included Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau. The legacy of the Symbolists is apparent in the freedom artists have today from the reality of what is seen and the ability to depict the abstractions of the mind.


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