Dictionary of Art and Artists



 

 


History of

Architecture and Sculpture

 
 

 

 
 

 
 

CONTENTS:

 
 

PART ONE
THE ANCIENT WORLD
PREHISTORIC ART
EGYPTIAN ART

ANCIENT NEAR EASTERN ART
AEGEAN ART
GREEK ART
ETRUSCAN ART
ROMAN ART
EARLY CHRISTIAN AND BYZANTINE ART

PART TWO
THE MIDDLE AGES
EARLY MEDIEVAL ART
ROMANESQUE ART
GOTHIC ART

PART THREE
THE RENAISSANCE THROUGH THE ROCOCO
LATE GOTHIC
THE EARLY RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
THE HIGH RENAISSANCE IN ITALY
MANNERISM AND OTHER TRENDS
THE RENAISSANCE IN THE NORTH
THE BAROQUE IN ITALY AND SPAIN
THE BAROQUE IN FLANDERS AND HOLLAND
THE BAROQUE
THE ROCOCO

PART FOUR
THE MODERN WORLD
NEOCLASSICISM AND ROMANTICISM
REALISM AND IMPRESSIONISM
POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM, AND ART NOUVEAU

PART FIVE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY
TWENTIETH-CENTURY SCULPTURE
TWENTIETH-CENTURY ARCHITECTURE


INDEX
FIGURES
 

 
 

 
 

CHAPTER THREE
 

POST-IMPRESSIONISM, SYMBOLISM,

AND ART NOUVEAU
 

PAINTING

SCULPTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

ARCHITECTURE - Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

PHOTOGRAPHY
 

 

PAINTING


Post-Impressionism
 

In 1882, just before his death, Manet was made a chevalier of the Legion of Honor by the French government. This event marks the turn of the tide: Impressionism had gained wide acceptance among artists and the public—but by the same token it was no longer a pioneering movement. When the Impressionists held their last group show four years later, the future already belonged to the "Post-Impressionists." Taken literally, this colorless label applies to all painters of significance in the 1880s and 1890s. In a more specific sense, it designates a group of artists who passed through an Impressionist phase but became dissatisfied with the limitations of the style and pursued a variety of directions. Because they did not share one common goal, we have no more descriptive term for them than Post-Impressionists. In any event, they were not "anti-Impressionists." Far from trying to undo the effects of the "Manet Revolution," they wanted to carry it further. Thus Post-Impressionism is in essence just a later stage, though a very important one, of the development that had begun in the 1860s with such pictures as Manet's Luncheon on the Grass.


CEZANNE.

Paul Cezanne
(1839-1906), the oldest of the Post-Impressionists, was born in Aix-en-Provence, near the Mediterranean coast, where he formed a close friendship with the writer Emile Zola, later a champion of the Impressionists. A man of intensely emotional temperament, he came to Paris in 1861 imbued with enthusiasm for the Romantics. Delacroix was his first love among painters, and he never lost his admiration for him. Cezanne, however, quickly grasped the nature of the "Manet Revolution," but utterly transformed it. A Modern Olympia (fig. 983) was painted in response to an Olympica by Manet featuring a prostitute whose frank nakedness scandalized the art world. As in Luncheon on the Grass, executed by Manet the same year as the Olympia, Cezanne's nude is in the company of a man wearing contemporary garb; his features are plainly those of Cezanne himself (see fig. 984). Like many of his early works, A Modern Olympia is sexually charged, albeit in a curiously ambivalent way that suggests why he never formed a durable relationship. While the setting is a boudoir, the picture is one of the first to treat what was to become one of the recurring themes in modern art: the artist and his model, a subject often fraught with erotic overtones. He sits in mute adoration of the young woman, whose sumptuous surroundings suggest that she is indeed a modern goddess. Yet the juxtaposition of the two figures is strange indeed. Although separated in space, they are placed so near each other on the picture plane that she seems almost to recoil from his dark presence! Equally disturbing is the brushwork, which communicates the turbulent passion repressed by the seemingly impassive artist. Never before have we seen such brusqueness, not even in Cezanne's ideal, Delacroix. The subtitle The Pasha pays homage to the Orientalism of Delacroix, whose Odalisque (fig. 889) nevertheless has a sensuousness absent from Cezanne's Olympia. This artist-as-potentate can admire, but not possess, his "harem girl."

After passing through this Neo-Baroque phase, Cezanne began to paint bright outdoor scenes with Pissarro, but he never shared his fellow Impressionists' interest in "slice-of-life" subjects, in movement and change. About 1879, when he painted the Self-Portrait in figure 984, he had decided "to make of Impressionism something solid and durable, like the art of the museums." His Romantic impulsiveness of the 1860s has now given way to a patient, disciplined search for harmony of form and color. Every brushstroke is like a building block, firmly placed within the pictorial architecture, which creates a subtle balance of "two-D" and "three-D." (Note how the pattern of wallpaper in the background frames the rounded shape of the head.) The colors, too, are deliberately controlled so as to produce "chords" of warm and cool tones that reverberate throughout the canvas.

In Cezanne's still lifes, such as Still Life with Apples (fig. 985), this quest for the "solid and durable" can be seen even more clearly. Not since Chardin have simple everyday objects assumed such importance in a painter's eye. Again the ornamental backdrop is integrated with the three-dimensional shapes, and the brushstrokes have a rhythmic pattern that gives the canvas its shimmering texture. We also notice aspects of Cezanne's mature style that are more conspicuous here than in the Self-Portrait and may puzzle us at first. The forms are deliberately simplified and outlined with dark contours, and the perspective is "incorrect" for both the fruit bowl and the horizontal surfaces, which seem to tilt upward. The longer we study the picture, the more we realize the Tightness of these apparently arbitrary distortions. When Cezanne took these liberties with reality, his purpose was to uncover the permanent qualities beneath the accidents of appearance. All forms in nature, he believed, are based on the cone, the sphere, and the cylinder. This order underlying the external world was the true subject of his pictures, but he had to interpret it to fit the separate, closed world of the canvas.

To apply this method to landscape became the greatest challenge of Cezanne's career. From 1882 on, he lived in isolation near his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, exploring its environs as Claude Lorraine and Corot had explored the Roman countryside. One feature, the distinctive shape of a mountain called Mont Sainte-Victoire, seemed almost to obsess him. Its craggy profile looming against the blue Mediterranean sky appears in a long series of compositions, such as the monumental late work in figure 986. There are no hints of human presence here—houses and roads would only disturb the lonely grandeur of this view. Above the wall of rocky cliffs that bar our way like a chain of fortifications, the mountain rises in triumphant clarity, infinitely remote yet as solid and palpable as the shapes in the foreground. For all its architectural stability, the scene is alive with movement; but the forces at work here have been brought into equilibrium, subdued by the greater power of the artist's will. This disciplined energy, distilled from the trials of a stormy youth, gives the mature style of Cezanne its enduring strength.


983. Paul Cezanne. Modern Olympia (The Pasha).
984. Paul Cezanne. Self-Portrait.
985. Paul Cezanne. Still-Life with Apples.
986. Paul Cezanne. Mont Saint-Victoire.



SEURAT.

Georges Seurat (1859-1891) shared Cezanne's aim to make Impressionism "solid and durable," but he went about it very differently. His goal, he once stated, was to make "modern people, in their essential traits, move about as if on friezes, and place them on canvases organized by harmonies of color, by directions of the tones in harmony with the lines, and by the directions of the lines." Seurat's career was as brief as those of Masaccio, Giorgione, and Gericault, and his achievement just as astonishing. Although he participated in the last Impressionist show, it is an indication of the Post-Impressionist revolution that thereafter he exhibited with an entirely new-group, the Society of Independents.

Seurat devoted his main efforts to a few very large paintings, spending a year or more on each of them and making endless series of preliminary studies before he felt sure enough to tackle the definitive version. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte— I884 (fig. 987), his greatest masterpiece, had its genesis in this painstaking method. The subject is of the sort that had long been popular among Impressionist painters. Impressionist, too, are the brilliant colors and the effect of intense sunlight. Otherwise, however, the picture is the very opposite of a quick "impression." The firm, simple contours and the relaxed, immobile figures give the scene a stability that recalls Piero della Francesca (see fig. 601) and shows a clear awareness of Puvis de Chavannes.

In the Grande Jatte, modeling and foreshortening are reduced to a minimum, and the figures appear mostly in either strict profile or frontal views, as if Seurat had adopted the rules of ancient Egyptian art. Moreover, he has fitted them within the composition as tightly as the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. So exactly are they fixed in relation to each other that not a single one could be moved by even a millimeter. Frozen in time and space, they act out their roles with ritualized gravity, in contrast to the joyous abandon of the relaxed crowd in Renoir's he Moulin de la Colette (fig. 951), who are free to move about in the open air. Thus despite the period costumes, we read this cross section of Parisian society as timeless. Small wonder the picture remains so spellbinding more than a century after it was painted.

Even the brushwork demonstrates Seurat's passion for order and permanence. The canvas surface is covered with systematic, impersonal "flicks" that make Cezanne's architectural brushstrokes seem temperamental and dynamic by comparison. These tiny dots of brilliant color were supposed to merge in the beholder's eye and produce intermediary tints more luminous than those obtainable from pigments mixed on the palette. This procedure was variously known as Neo-Impressionism, Pointillism, or Divisionism (the term preferred by Seurat). The actual result, however, did not conform to the theory. Looking at the Grande Jatte from a comfortable distance (seven to ten feet from the original), we find that the mixing of colors in the eye remains incomplete; the dots do not disappear, but are as clearly visible as the tesserae of a mosaic (compare figs. 323 and 324). Seurat himself must have liked this unexpected effect, which gives the canvas the quality of a shimmering, translucent screen. Otherwise he would have reduced the size of the dots.

The painting has a dignity and simplicity suggesting a new classicism, but it is a distinctly modern classicism based on scientific theory. Seurat adapted the laws of color discovered by Eugene Chevreul, O. N. Rood, and David Sutter, as part of a comprehensive approach to art. Like Degas, he had studied with a follower of Ingres, and his theoretical interests grew out of this experience. He came to believe that art must be based on a system. With the help of his friend Charles Henry (who was, like Rood and Sutter, an American), he formulated a series of artistic "laws" based on early experiments in the psychology of visual perception. These principles helped him to control every aesthetic and expressive aspect of his paintings. But, as with all artists of genius, Seurat's theories do not really explain his pictures. It is the pictures, rather, that explain the theories.

Strange as it may seem, color was an adjunct to form in Seurat's work—the very opposite of the Impressionists' technique. Most of his output consists of drawings done in conte crayon, made of graphite and clay, which provides rich, velvety blacks (fig. 988). These have a haunting mystery all their own, in contrast to the festive colors of his paintings. In sheets such as ours, Seurat's forms achieve a machinelike quality through rigorous abstraction. This is the first expression of a peculiarly modern outlook leading to Futurism. Seurat's systematic approach to art has the internal logic of modern engineering, which he and his followers hoped would transform society for the better. This social consciousness was allied to a form of anarchism descended from Courbet's friend Proudhon, and contrasts with the general political indifference of the Impressionists. The fact that Seurat shares the same subject matter as the Impressionists serves only to emphasize further the fundamental difference in attitude.

Toward the end of his brief career, Seurat's paintings acquired a new liveliness, seen in Chahut (fig. 989). True, everything is held very precisely in place by a system of vertical and horizontal coordinates that defines the canvas as a self-contained rectilinear field. Only in the work of Vermeer have we encountered a similar "area-consciousness" (compare fig. 804). But while these dancers move in lockstep, the decorative arabesques within the flat design possess an unexpected energy. Consciously or unconsciously, Seurat here moves close to the world of commercial art. The speckled surface resembles the cheap offset printing then coming into use. The subject and composition, too, directly anticipate the posters of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec—even in the marvelous wit and insight with which the facial expressions are observed.


987.  Georges Seurat. A Sunday on La Grande Jatte
— I884.
988. Georges Seurat. The Couple.
989. Georges Seurat. Chahut.

 

TOULOUSE-LAUTREC.

Physically a dwarf, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) was an artist of superb talent who led a dissolute life in the night spots and brothels of Paris and died of alcoholism. He was a great admirer of Degas, and his At the Moulin Rouge (fig. 990) recalls the zigzag pattern of Degas' The Glass of Absinthe (see fig. 953). Yet this view of the well-known nightclub is no Impressionist "slice of life." Toulouse-Lautrec sees through the gay surface of the scene, viewing performers and customers with a pitilessly sharp eye for their character—including his own: he is the tiny bearded man next to the very tall one in the back of the room. The large areas of flat color, however, and the emphatic, smoothly curving outlines, reflect the influence of Gauguin (compare fig. 995). The Moulin Rouge that Toulouse-Lautrec shows here has an atmosphere so joyless and oppressive that we have to wonder if the artist did not regard it as a place of evil.

If his paintings inevitably bring to mind Degas and Gauguin, Toulouse-Lautrec is without precedent as a graphic artist. His posters, done in a distinctive style of his own invention, are ideally suited to inexpensive lithography, which enforces an equal economy of form and color. His first poster, La Goulue (fig. 991), which established his fame, lends this seedy demimonde an air of glamour that is at once captivating and mysterious. As advertising it sets a standard that has rarely been matched. The design is wed to the text so seamlessly that they cannot live without each other.
 


990.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. At the Moulin Rouge. 1892
991. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. La Goulue.



VAN GOGH.

While Cezanne and Seurat were converting Impressionism into a more severe, classical style, Vincent Van Gogh (1853-1890) pursued the opposite direction. He believed that Impressionism did not provide the artist with enough freedom to express his emotions. Since this was his main concern, he is sometimes called an Expressionist, although the term ought to be reserved for certain later painters. Van Gogh, the first great Dutch master since the seventeenth century, did not become an artist until 1880; as he died only ten years later, his career was even briefer than Seurat's. His early interests were in literature and religion. Proroundly dissatisfied with the values of industrial society and imbued with a strong sense of mission, he worked for a while as a lay preacher among poverty-stricken coal miners in Belgium. This same intense feeling for the poor dominates the paintings of his pre-Impressionist period, 1880-85. In The Potato Eaters (fig. 992), the last and most ambitious work of those years, there remains a naive clumsiness that comes from his lack of conventional training, but this only adds to the expressive power of his style. We are reminded of Daumier and Millet (see figs. 892 and 897), and of Rembrandt and Le Nain (see figs. 795 and 806). For this peasant family, the evening meal has the solemn importance of a rite.

When he painted The Potato Eaters, Van Gogh had not yet discovered the importance of color. A year later in Paris, where his brother Theo had a gallery devoted to modern art, he met Degas, Seurat, and other leading French artists. Their effect on him was electrifying. His pictures now blazed with color, and he even experimented briefly with the Divisionist technique of Seurat. This Impressionist phase, however, lasted less than two years. Although it was vitally important for his development, he had to integrate it with the style of his earlier years before his genius could fully unfold. Paris had opened his eyes to the sensuous beauty of the visible world and had taught him the pictorial language of the color patch, but painting continued to be nevertheless a vessel for his personal emotions. To investigate this spiritual reality with the new means at his command, he went to Aries, in the south of France. It was there, between 1888 and 1890, that he produced his greatest pictures.

Like Cezanne, Van Gogh now devoted his main energies to landscape painting, but the sun-drenched Mediterranean countryside evoked a very different response in him: he saw it filled with ecstatic movement, not architectural stability and permanence. In Wheat Field and Cypress Trees (fig. 993), both earth and sky pulsate with an overpowering turbulence. The wheat field resembles a stormy sea, the trees spring flamelike from the ground, and the hills and clouds heave with the same undulant motion. The dynamism contained in every brushstroke makes of each one not merely a deposit of color, but an incisive graphic gesture. The artist's personal "handwriting" is here an even more dominant factor than in the canvases of Daumier (compare figs. 892 and 893). Yet to Van Gogh himself it was the color, not the form, that determined the expressive content of his pictures. The letters he wrote to his brother include many eloquent descriptions of his choice of hues and the emotional meanings he attached to them. He had learned about Impressionist color from Pissarro, but his personal color symbolism probably stemmed from discussions with Paul Gauguin, who stayed with Van Gogh at Aries for several months. (Yellow, for example, meant faith or triumph or love to Van Gogh, while carmine was a spiritual color, cobalt a divine one; red and green, on the other hand, stood for the terrible human passions.) Although he acknowledged that his desire "to exaggerate the essential and to leave the obvious vague" made his colors look arbitrary by Impressionist standards, he nevertheless remained deeply committed to the visible world.

Compared to Monet's The River (see fig. 948), the colors of Wheat Field and Cypress Trees are stronger, simpler, and more vibrant, but in no sense "unnatural." They speak to us of that "kingdom of light" Van Gogh had found in the South, and of his mystic faith in a creative force animating all forms of life—a faith no less ardent than the sectarian Christianity of his early years. His Self-Portrait (fig. 994) will remind us of Durer's (fig. 714), and with good reason: the missionary had now become a prophet. His emaciated, luminous head with its burning eyes is set off against a whirlpool of darkness. "I want to paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize," Van Gogh had written, groping to define for his brother the human essence that was his aim in pictures such as this. At the time of the Self-Portrait, he had already begun to suffer fits of a mental illness that made painting increasingly difficult for him. Despairing of a cure, he committed suicide a year later, for he felt very deeply that art alone made his life worth living.

992. Vincent Van Gogh. The Potato Eaters. 1885.
993.
Vincent Van Gogh. Wheat Field and Cypress Trees. 1889.
994.
Vincent Van Gogh. Self-Portrait. 1889.



GAUGUIN.

The quest for religious experience also played an important part in the work, if not in the life, of another great Post-Impressionist, Paul Gauguin
(1848-1903). He began as a prosperous stockbroker in Paris and an amateur painter and collector of modern pictures. At the age of 35, however, he became convinced that he must devote himself entirely to art. He abandoned his business career, separated from his family, and by 1889 was the central figure of a new movement called Synthetism or Symbolism.

Gauguin started out as a follower of Cezanne and once owned one of his still lifes. He then developed a style that, though less intensely personal than Van Gogh's, was in some ways an even bolder advance beyond Impressionism. Gauguin believed that Western civilization was "out of joint," that industrial society had forced people into an incomplete life dedicated to material gain, while their emotions lay neglected. To rediscover for himself this hidden world of feeling, Gauguin left Paris in 1886 to live among the peasants of Brittany at Pont Aven in western France. There two years later he met the painters Emile Bernard (1868-1941) and Louis Anquetin (1861— 1932), who had rejected Impressionism and began to evolve a new style which they called Cloissonism (after an enamel technique), for its strong outlines. Gauguin incorporated their approach into his own, and emerged as the most forceful member of the Pont-Aven group, which quickly came to center on him.

The Pont-Aven style was first developed fully in the works Gauguin and Bernard painted at Pont Aven during the summer of 1888. Gauguin noticed particularly that religion was still part of the everyday life of the country people, and in pictures such as The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel) (fig. 995), he tried to depict their simple, direct faith. Here at last is what no Romantic artist had achieved: a style based on pre-Renaissance sources. Modeling and perspective have given way to flat, simplified shapes outlined heavily in black, and the brilliant colors are equally "unnatural." This style, inspired by folk art and medieval stained glass, is meant to re-create both the imagined reality of the vision and the trancelike rapture of the peasant women. The painting fulfills the goal of Synthetism: by treating the canvas in this decorative manner, the artist has turned it from a representation of the external world into an aesthetic object that projects an internal idea without using narrative or literal symbols. Yet we sense that although he tried to share this experience, Gauguin remains an outsider. He could paint pictures about faith, but not from faith.



995. Paul Gauguin. The Vision After the Sermon
(Jacob Wrestling with the Angel).
1888.

Two years later, Gauguin's search for the unspoiled life led him even farther afield. He went to Tahiti—he had already visited Martinique in 1887—as a sort of "missionary in reverse," to learn from the natives instead of teaching them. Although he spent the rest of his life in the South Pacific (he returned home only once, from 1893 to 1895), he never found the virgin Eden he was seeking. Indeed, he often had to rely on the writings and photographs of those who had recorded its culture before him. Nonetheless his Tahitian canvases conjure up an ideal world filled with the beauty and meaning he sought so futilely in real life.

His masterpiece in this vein is Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (fig. 996), painted as a summation of his art shortly before he was driven by despair to attempt suicide. Even without the suggestive title, we would recognize the painting's allegorical purpose from its monumental scale, the carefully thought out poses and placement of the figures within the tapestrylike landscape, and their pensive air. Although Gauguin intended the surface to be the sole conveyer of meaning, we know from his letters that the huge canvas represents an epic cycle of life. The scene unfolds from right to left, beginning with the sleeping girl, continuing with the beautiful young woman (a Tahitian Eve) in the center picking fruit, and ending with "an old woman approaching death who seems reconciled and resigned to her thoughts." In effect, the picture constitutes a variation on the Three Ages of Man found in Death and the Maiden by Hans Baldung Grien (see fig. 721). The enigmatic Maori god overseeing everything acts as a counterpart to the figure of Death in Baldung Grien's painting. Gauguin has cast the answer to his title in distinctly Western terms. Moreover, he painted the composition in response to Puvis de Chavannes' classical allegories, such as those in the Lyons museum—especially The Sacred Grove (fig. 999). In this primitive Eden, Gauguin tell us, lies the real secret to the central mystery of life, not in some mythical past.



996. Paul Gauguin. Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?

The works that come closest in flavor to Tahitian culture are Gauguin's woodcuts. Offerings of Gratitude (fig.
997), like the Vision, presents the theme of religious worship, but the image of a local god replaces the biblical subject. In its frankly "carved" look and its bold white-on-black pattern, we can feel the influences of the native art of the South Seas and of other non-European styles. The renewal of Western art and civilization as a whole, Gauguin believed, must come from "the Primitives." He advised other Symbolists to shun the Greek tradition and to turn instead to Persia, the Far East, and ancient Egypt.

The idea of primitivism itself was not new. It stems from the Romantic myth of the Noble Savage, propagated by the thinkers of the Enlightenment more than a century before, and its ultimate source is the age-old tradition of an earthly paradise where human societies once dwelled—and might perhaps live again—in a state of nature and innocence. But no one before Gauguin had gone as far to put the doctrine of primitivism into practice. His pilgrimage to the South Pacific had more than a purely private meaning. It symbolizes the end of the 400 years of colonial expansion which had brought almost the entire globe under Western domination. The "white man's burden," once so cheerfully and ruthlessly shouldered by the empire builders, was becoming unbearable.


997. Paul Gauguin. Offerings of Gratitude. 1893-94.




Symbolism

Van Gogh's and Gauguin's discontent with the spiritual ills of Western civilization was part of a sentiment widely shared at the end of the nineteenth century. It reflected an intellectual and moral upheaval that rejected the modern world and its materialism in favor of irrational states of mind. A self-conscious preoccupation with decadence, evil, and darkness pervaded the artistic and literary climate. Even those who saw no escape analyzed their predicament in fascinated horror. Yet, somewhat paradoxically, this very awareness proved to be a source of strength, for it gave rise to the remarkable movement known as Symbolism. (The truly decadent, we may assume, are unable to realize their plight.)

Symbolism in art was at first an outgrowth of the literary movement that arose in 1885-86, with Jean Moreas and Gustave Kahn at its helm. Reacting against the Naturalism of the novelist Emile Zola, they reasserted the primacy of subjective ideas and championed the poetes maudits (the doomed poets) Stephane Mallarme and Paul Verlaine. There was a natural sympathy between the Pont-Aven painters and the Symbolist poets, and in a long article defining Symbolism published in April 1892, the writer G. Albert Aurier insisted on Gauguin's leadership. Nevertheless, unlike Post-Impressionism, which was a stylistic tendency, Symbolism was a general outlook, one that allowed for a wide variety of styles—whatever would embody its peculiar frame of mind.

 

The Nabis.

Gauguin's Symbolist followers, who called themselves Nabis (from the Hebrew word for "prophet"), were less remarkable for creative talent than for their ability to spell out and justify the aims of Post-Impressionism in theoretical form. One of them, Maurice Denis, coined the statement that was to become the First Article of Faith for modernist painters of the twentieth century: "A picture
— before being a war horse, a female nude, or some anecdote— is essentially a flat surface covered with colors in a particular order." He added that "every work of art is a transposition, a caricature, the passionate equivalent of a received sensation." The theory of equivalents gave the Nabis their independence from Gauguin. "We supplemented the rudimentary teaching of Gauguin by substituting for his over-simplified idea of pure colors the idea of beautiful harmonies, infinitely varied like nature; we adapted all the resources of the palette to all the states of our sensibility; and the sights which caused them became to us so many signs of our own subjectivity. We sought equivalents, but equivalents in beauty!"



VUILLARD.

We can now understand why paintings by the Nabis soon came to look so different from Gauguin's. They became involved with decorative projects which, like Whistler's Peacock Room (see fig. 982), participate in the late nineteenth century's retreat into a world of beauty. The pictures of the 1890s by Edouard Vuillard  (1868-1940), the most gifted member of the Nabis, share this quality. They consist mainly of domestic scenes, small in scale and intimate in effect, like the Interior at l'Etang-la-Ville (fig. 998). These combine into a remarkable new entity the flat planes and emphatic contours of Gauguin (fig. 995) with the shimmering Divisionist "color mosaic" and the geometric surface organization of Seurat (see fig. 989). This seemingly casual view of his mother's corset-shop workroom has a delicate balance of "two-D" and "three-D" effects. Indeed, Vuillard probably derived his flat patterns from the fabrics themselves. The picture's quiet magic makes us think of Vermeer and Chardin (compare figs. 804 and 836), whose subject matter, too, was the snug life of the middle class. In both subject and treatment, the painting has counterparts as well in Symbolist literature and theater: the poetry of Paul Verlaine, the novels of Stephane Mallarme, and the productions of Aurelien Lugne-ΠξΈ, for whom Vuillard designed stage sets. It evokes a host of feelings through purely formal means that could never be conveyed by naturalism alone. The Nabis established an important precedent for Matisse a decade later (see fig. 1037).
By then, however, the movement had disintegrated as its members became more conservative. Vuillard himself turned more to naturalism, and he never recaptured the delicacy and daring of his early canvases.


998. Edouard Vuillard .
Interior at l'Etang-la-Ville (The Suitor).
1893.




PUVIS DE CHAVANNES.

The Symbolists discovered that there were some older artists, descendants of the Romantics, whose work, like their own, placed inner vision above the observation of nature. Many of them, as well as other Post-Impressionists, took their inspiration from the classicism of Pierre Puvis de Chavannes
(1824-1898), a follower of Ingres who succeeded in becoming the leading muralist of his day. Rejecting academic conventions, he sought a radical simplification of style, which at first seemed anachronistic but was soon hailed by the critics and artists of all persuasions. The effectiveness of the murals he executed in the 1880s for the museum at Lyons (fig. 999) depends in large part on Puvis' formal devices—the compressed space, schematic forms, and restricted palette, which imitates in oil the chalky surface of old frescoes. The antinaturalism of his style emphasizes the allegorical character of the scene, lending it a gravity and mystery absent from other decorative paintings by his contemporaries. Anecdotal interest is replaced by nostalgia for an idealized, mythical past. The stiff, ritualistic poses serve both to freeze time and to convey a poetry that is at once elegiac and serene. Puvis' economy of means was intended to present his ideas with maximum clarity, but it has just the opposite effect: it heightens their suggestiveness. His popularity resulted precisely from this ambiguity, which permitted a wide variety of interpretation. Symbolists from Gauguin through the young Picasso could thus claim him as one of their own; nevertheless, he vehemently protested any association with the Symbolist movement, although he reciprocated an admiration with the English Pre-Raphaelite Burne-Jones.
 


999.
Pierre
Puvis de Chavannes. The Sacred Grove. c. 1883-84;
Vision of Antiquity
. c. 1888-89;
and Christian Inspiration. c. 1888-89.





MOREAU.

One of the Symbolists, Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), a recluse who admired Delacroix, created a world of personal fantasy that has much in common with the medieval reveries of some of the English Pre-Raphaelites. The Apparition (fig. 1000) shows one of his favorite themes: the head of John the Baptist, in a blinding radiance of light, appears to the dancing Salome. Her odalisquelike sensuousness, the stream of blood pouring from the severed head, the vast, mysterious space of the setting suggestive of an exotic temple rather than of Herod's palace, all these summon up the dreams of Oriental splendor and cruelty so dear to the Romantic imagination, combined with an insistence on the reality of the supernatural. Only late in life did Moreau achieve a measure of recognition. Suddenly, his art was in tune with the times. During his last six years, he even held a professorship at the conservative Ecole des Beaux-Arts, the successor of the official art academy that had been founded under Louis XIV. There he attracted the most gifted students, among them such future modernists as Matisse and Rouault.


1000. Gustave Moreau.
The Apparition.
1876.





BEARDSLEY.

How prophetic Moreau's work was of the taste prevailing at the end of the century is evident from a comparison with Aubrey Beardsley (1872—1898),
a gifted young Englishman whose elegantly "decadent" black-and-white drawings were the very epitome of that taste. They include a Salome illustration (fig. 1001) that might well be the final scene of the drama depicted by Moreau: Salome has taken up John's severed head and triumphantly kissed it. Whereas Beardsley's erotic meaning is plain—Salome is passionately in love with John and has asked for his head because she could not have him in any other way—Moreau's remains ambiguous. Nevertheless, the parallel is striking, and there are formal similarities as well, such as the "stem" of trickling blood from which John's head rises like a flower. Yet Beardsley's Salome cannot be said to derive from Moreau's. The sources of his style are English—the graphic art of the Pre-Raphaelites (see fig. 981)— with a strong mixture of Japanese influence.


1001. Aubrey Beardsley. Salome. 1892.




REDON.

Another solitary artist whom the Symbolists discovered and claimed as one of their own was
Odilon Redon (1840-1916). Like Moreau, he had a haunted imagination, but his imagery was even more personal and disturbing. A master of etching and lithography, he drew inspiration from the fantastic visions of Goya (see fig. 877) as well as Romantic literature. The lithograph shown in figure 1002 is one of a set he issued in 1882 and dedicated to Edgar Allan Πξε. The American poet had been dead for 33 years; but his tormented life and his equally tortured imagination made him the very model of the poete maudit, and his works, excellently translated by Baudelaire and Mallarme, were greatly admired in France. Redon's lithographs do not illustrate Πξε. They are, rather, "visual poems" in their own right, evoking the macabre, hallucinatory world of Poe's imagination. In our example, the artist has revived an ancient device, the single eye representing the all-seeing mind of God. But, in contrast to the traditional form of the symbol, Redon shows the whole eyeball removed from its socket and converted into a balloon that drifts aimlessly in the sky.
 


1002. Odilon Redon.
The Eye like a strange ballon mounts
toward infinity.





ENSOR.

The disquieting visual paradoxes in Redon's lithographs express the pessimism of a troubled mind struggling to find itself; only after 1900 did his outlook give way to a new serenity laden with spiritual overtones. In the art of the Belgian painter James Ensor (1860-1949), a cynical view of the human condition reaches obsessive intensity, and for much the same reason. In Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889 (fig. 1003) the demon-ridden world of Bosch and Schongauer has come to life again in modern guise (compare figs. 554 and 564). The painting, showing the Second Coming of Christ in contemporary Belgium, is a grotesque parody of a subject familiar to us since the Late Gothic (compare figs. 518 and 521). Here Christ is virtually lost in a sea of leering faces, which are treated as the epitome of evil. As we scrutinize these masks we become aware that they are the crowd's true faces, revealing the depravity ordinarily hidden behind the facade of everyday appearances. At the time, Ensor identified with Christ, whose suffering he felt paralleled his own at the hands of hostile critics and an indifferent public. Later, when his art began to gain wide acceptance, he abandoned this bitter attitude.

1003. James Ensor. Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889.




MUNCH.

Something of the same macabre quality pervades the early work of Edvard Munch (1863-1944), a far more gifted artist who came to Paris from Norway in 1889 and based his starkly expressive style on Toulouse-Lautrec, Van Gogh, and Gauguin. The Scream (fig. 1004) shows the influences of all three. It is an image of fear, the terrifying, unreasoned fear we feel in a nightmare. Unlike Goya and Fuseli (see figs. 877 and 899), Munch visualizes this experience without the aid of frightening apparitions, and his achievement is the more persuasive for that very reason. The rhythm of the long, wavy lines seems to carry the echo of the scream into every corner of the picture, making of earth and sky one great sounding board of fear.
 


1004. Edvard Munch. The Scream. 1893




KLIMT.

Munch's works generated such controversy when they were exhibited in Berlin in 1892 that a number of young radicals broke from the artists association and formed the Berlin Secession, which took its name from a similar group that had been founded in Munich earlier that year. The Secession quickly became a loosely allied international movement. In 1897 it spread to Austria, where Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) established the Vienna Secession with the purpose of raising the level of the arts and crafts in Austria through close ties to Art Nouveau.  (fig. 1005) by Klimt expresses a different kind of anxiety from Munch's The Scream. The image will remind us of Beardsley's Salome (fig. 1001), but here the barely suppressed eroticism has burst into desire. Engulfed in mosaiclike robes that create an illusion of rich beauty, the angular figures steal a moment of passion whose brevity emphasizes their joyless existence.
 


1005. Gustav Klimt. The Kiss.1907




PICASSO'S BLUE PERIOD.

When he came to Paris from his native Spain in 1900, Pablo Picasso (1881-1974) felt the spell of the same artistic atmosphere that had generated the style of Munch. His so-called Blue Period (the term refers to the prevailing color of his canvases as well as to their mood) consists almost exclusively of pictures of beggars and derelicts, such as The Old Guitarist (fig. 1006). These outcasts or victims of society have a pathos that reflects the artist's own sense of isolation. Yet they convey poetic melancholy more than outright despair. The aged musician accepts his fate with a resignation that seems almost saintly, and the attenuated grace of his limbs reminds us of El Greco (compare fig. 687). The Old Guitarist is a strange amalgam of Mannerism and of the art of Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec (note the smoothly curved contours), imbued with the personal gloom of a 22-year-old genius.
 


1006. Pablo Picasso.
The Old Guitarist.
1903




ROUSSEAU.

A few years later, Picasso and his friends discovered a painter who until then had attracted no attention, although he had been exhibiting his work since 1886. He was Henri Rousseau (1844-1910), a retired customs collector who had started to paint in his middle age without training of any sort. His ideal—which, fortunately, he never achieved—was the arid academic style of the followers of Ingres. Rousseau is that paradox, a folk artist of genius. How else could he have done a picture like The Dream (fig. 1007)? What goes on in the enchanted world of this canvas needs no explanation, because none is possible. Perhaps for that very reason its magic becomes believably real to us. Rousseau himself described the scene in a little poem:

Yadwigha, peacefully asleep
Enjoys a lovely dream:
She hears a kind snake charmer
Playing upon his reed.
On stream and foliage glisten
The silvery beams of the moon.
And savage serpents listen
To the gay, entrancing tune.

Here at last was an innocent directness of feeling that Cauguin thought was so necessary for the age. Picasso and his friends were the first to recognize this quality in Rousseau's work. They revered him as the godfather of twentieth-century painting.
 


1007. Henri Rousseau. The Dream. 1910



MODERSOHN-BECKER.

The inspiration of primitivism that Gauguin had traveled so far to find was discovered by Paula Modersohn-Becker  (1876-1907) in the village of Worpswede, near her family home in Bremen, Germany. Among the artists and writers who congregated there was the Symbolist lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke, Rodin's friend and briefly his personal secretary. Rilke had visited Russia and been deeply impressed with what he viewed as the purity of Russian peasant lite. His influence on the colony at Worpswede affected Modersohn-Becker, whose last works are direct precursors of modern art. Her gentle but powerful Self-Portrait (fig. 1008), painted the year before her early death, presents a transition from the Symbolism of Gauguin and his followers, which she absorbed during several stays in Paris, to Expressionism. The color has the intensity of Matisse and the Fauves. At the same time, her deliberately simplified treatment of forms parallels the experiments of Picasso, which were to culminate in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon (fig. 1048).
 


1008. Paula Modersohn-Becker.
Self-Portrait.
1906.

 
 

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