Symbolist Art in Context 9780520943834, 9780520255821

The Symbolist art movement of the late nineteenth century forms an important bridge between Impressionism and Modernism.

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Symbolist Art in Context
 9780520943834, 9780520255821

Table of contents :
Introduction: What Is Symbolist Art?
1 Beginnings
2 Precursors
3 Decadence and Degeneration
4 Idealism, Religion, and Reform
5 Contested Gender
6 National Romanticism
7 Promoting Symbolist Art
Symbolist Currents in the Twentieth Century
Select Bibliography
List of Illustrations

Citation preview

A H M A N S O N • M U R P H Y F I N E



   has endowed this imprint to honor the memory of       


   

who for half a century served arts and letters, beauty and learning, in equal measure by shaping with a brilliant devotion those institutions upon which they rely.

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the generous contribution to this book provided by the Art Endowment Fund of the University of California Press Foundation, which is supported by a major gift from the Ahmanson Foundation.

Symbolist Art in Context


Michelle Facos

university of california press berkeley   los angeles   london

University of California Press, one of the most distinguished university presses in the United States, enriches lives around the world by advancing scholarship in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Its activities are supported by the UC Press Foundation and by philanthropic contributions from individuals and institutions. For more information, visit University of California Press Berkeley and Los Angeles, California University of California Press, Ltd. London, England © 2009 by The Regents of the University of California Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Facos, Michelle.    Symbolist art in context / Michelle Facos.     p. cm.    Includes bibliographical references and index.   isbn 978-0-520-25499-2 (cloth : alk. paper)—   isbn 978-0-520-25582-1 (pbk : alk. paper)   1.  Symbolism (Art movement)—Europe.  2.  Art and society— Europe—History—19th century.   3.  Art and society—Europe— History—20th century.   I.  Title. n6465.s9f33  2009 709.03'47—dc22 2008034395 Manufactured in Canada 18  17  16  15  14  13  12  11  10  09 10  9  8  7  6  5  4  3  2  1 The paper used in this publication meets the minimum requirements of ansi/niso z 39.48-1992 (r 1997) (Permanence of Paper).

To Peter Christopher Facos (1923–2003), who taught me from earliest childhood that “my mind to me a kingdom is”


Acknowledgments Introduction: What Is Symbolist Art?

ix 1








Decadence and Degeneration



Idealism, Religion, and Reform



Contested Gender



National Romanticism



Promoting Symbolist Art



Symbolist Currents in the Twentieth Century


Notes Select Bibliography List of Illustrations Index

209 239 251 255



n international symposium at Dickinson College in the spring of 1983 first stimulated my interested in Symbolism. Since that time, a number of scholars have helped to shape, but not determine, my views of this complex movement. Patricia G. Berman, Sharon Hirsh, and Reinhold Heller have played especially formative roles, as did my teachers Kirk Varnedoe and Gert Schiff and my students, particularly Michelle Kaiserlian, Thor J. Mednick, Janet S. Rauscher, John Rowland, Laine Nyden Snyder, and Terri Switzer. Intellectual exchanges with other scholars also played a crucial role. In this regard I would like to acknowledge the insights of Katja Brandes, Jonas Gavel, Nina Gourianova, Beth Harris, Andrei Molotiu, and Michael Zimmermann. This project benefited from invitations to present my ideas at an early stage of development at Århus University and Helsinki University. Research was conducted in many different archives and libraries, but I owe a special debt of gratitude to the staffs of the Herman B. Wells and Fine Arts Libraries at Indiana University, the Bibliothèque Nationale, the Musée d’Orsay, the Royal and Nationalmuseum libraries in Stockholm, the Zentralinstitut für Kunstgeschichte in Munich, the Stadtsbibliothek in Berlin, and the university libraries in Hamburg, Germany, and Växjö, Sweden. I am deeply appreciative of those who have facilitated my research: Nicole Beatty, Anne-Marie Binger, Kim Brooks, Madeleine Burks, Susan Canning, Jay Clark, Lena Daun, Sven Eliaesson, Renate and Herman Fiedler, Fenella Flinn, Hanna Francis, Björn Fredlund, Jane Glaubinger, Lena Holger, Jeffrey Grove, Julius Jüpner, Jürgen Jüpner, Marion Knauf, Wolfgang Kemp, Ellen Lee, Joanna Matuszak, Dane Milanovich, Marsha Morton, Kalle Nässlund, Cäcilia Nauderer, Emil Nordahl, Brad Ost, Carmen Popescu, Alan Rocke, Marlene Rowley, Susan Szegedy-Maszak, Angel Vidić, Barbara Weindling, Albert Wertheim, and Justin Zuschalg. The staff of the Bridgeman Art Library, especially Thomas Haggerty; Art Resource, especially Márta Fodor; and the Artists Rights Society, especially Sophie Gay, secured images with admirable swiftness. The research and writing of this book was generously supported by Indiana University. A semester leave under the auspices of its College Art & Humanities Institute came at a crucial ix

x          a c k n o w l e d g m e n t s juncture, and funding for images and permissions by the Ruth Halls Fund and Grants-in-Aid was indispensable. I am indebted to my colleagues George Alter, Sarah Burns, Andrea Cicarelli, William Cohen, Bruce Cole, Henry Cooper, Molly Faries, Eileen Fry, Christiane Gruber, Janet Kennedy, Giles Knox, Patrick McNaughton, and Bronislava Volkova for their assistance. Thoughtful comments on the manuscript by Patricia G. Berman, Wessel Krul, Steven Mansbach, and Stephanie Fay improved the content immensely, and expert editorial assis­tance of Sue Heinemann, Janet S. Rauscher, and Charles Dibble improved its readability; Eric Schmidt shepherded it through the editorial process with expert efficiency. Finally, I am extremely grateful to Patricia G. Berman, Regina R. Facos, Per Nordahl, Steven Powell, and Bogdan and Svetlana Rakić, who provided crucial support and encouragement at decisive moments.

What Is Symbolist Art?



his book offers a straightforward definition of Symbolism as the starting point for investigating a complex and imprecisely understood art movement. The definition is based on two factors: authorial intention and aesthetic qualities. It contends that a Symbolist work of art is characterized by (1) an artist’s desire to represent ideas and (2) a manipulation of color, form, and composition that signals the artist’s relative indifference to worldly appearances. As with any other definition of an art movement, many examples of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Symbolist art manifest these attributes only partially or in conjunction with characteristics associated with other movements. For the most part, these works have been omitted from consideration in this book in favor of presenting a set of principles for exploring Symbolist art.

scholarly approaches Scholars have distinguished Symbolist art by its composition or technique and by its content. The more common approach emphasizes content, as evidenced by such exhibitions as “Lost Paradise: Symbolist Art in Europe” and “Kingdom of the Soul: Symbolist Art in Germany, 1870–1920.”1 These exhibitions were indebted to the ideas of Philippe Jullian, who in the early 1980s deemed “the discussion of content in painting . . . the most appropriate approach to the study of the history of Symbolist art.”2 Almost twenty years later, Hans Hofstätter affirmed that position: “Symbolism might be defined as a mental attitude, manifested in literature and visual art, which had recourse to motifs and depictions that were unreal.”3 This content-based definition arises from literary studies of Symbolism’s main themes: myth, nostalgia, psychological states, and spirituality. Edward Lucie-Smith went so far as to treat Symbolist visual art as a late stage of Romanticism and merely an auxiliary of Symbolist literature.4 The content-based approach to Symbolist art, however, is limited by its failure to distinguish Symbolist works clearly from those that followed the pictorial conventions against which Symbolists rebelled. 1



Because Symbolists, academic artists, and the preceding generations of rebels—Naturalists, Realists, and Impressionists—treated similar subjects, other criteria are needed to make the designation “Symbolist” meaningful. In “The Art Work as Symbol,” Reinhold Heller defines Symbolism on the basis of composition and technique.5 Heller reasons that anti-illusionism and palpable artifice are crucial to Symbolist art because they prevent the viewer from interpreting images as illusions of reality. This approach has two advantages: it clearly distinguishes Symbolism from other artistic movements, and it affirms Symbolism’s subversive character. For Heller, Symbolism is an antecedent to important twentieth-century movements—abstraction, nonobjective art, Expressionism, and Surrealism—that similarly assign art a distinctive, nonimitative role. For this reason, as Rodolphe Rapetti has observed, “Symbolism becomes inseparably linked to the notion of modernity.” Concurring with Heller’s technical definition of Symbolism, Rapetti explains: “Despite the lack of a single coherent aesthetic, a Symbolist conception of art truly existed, a conception whose rejection of all realism was only the first element.”6 Symbolists were not, however, the first nineteenth-century artists whose composition and technique valued qualities other than realism: Édouard Manet (1832–1883) experimented in the 1860s with visual disruptions to the illusionistic integrity of a painting. Symbolist artists, working several decades later, probed the implications of Manet’s experiments with various strategies that renounced illusionism: non-natural colors, unrecognizable forms, decorative lines, incoherent space, illogical scale, irrational juxtaposition, and an emphasis on the tactile qualities of art materials. One could argue that a technical definition of Symbolism is linked to a formalist conception of art history. Formalism values artworks that proclaim their status as the products of an individual’s creative efforts. Formalist art theory emerged about 1900 in the work of scholars such as Heinrich Wöfflin and Julius Meier-Graefe, whose ideological aim privileged the formal aspects of artworks. These scholars belonged to a group of influential German intellectuals who opposed the authoritarian German government, which favored Realism for its legibility and associations with beloved artists from the national past such as Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528) and Hans Holbein (1497–1543).7 The characteristics by which Meier-Graefe distinguished Realism from other schools—detailed execution and unambiguous narrative—went hand-inhand with authoritarian politics. Wöfflin and Meier-Graefe linked French Impressionism, which emphasized subjectivity and personal technique, to egalitarian politics and progressive taste. The American art critic Clement Greenberg codified this view in the 1930s when he described the evolution of art toward its “inevitable” goal of nonobjective abstraction.8 For­ malism was largely discredited in the 1970s, however, when many scholars concluded that its evolutionary scheme distorted the history of art. Still, the limitations of formalism are insufficient grounds for abandoning a technical definition of Symbolism. Heller points out that viewers aware of art’s artificiality could better appreciate the capacity of Symbolist art to illuminate a world beyond appearances. His technical definition is more circumscribed and cogent than the content-based definition. Robert Goldwater offered


a similar view: “One of the chief characteristics of symbolist painting (and its graphic derivatives) is the stress it puts upon the pictorial surface and its organization. . . . The work of art was freed from its impossible task of attempting to imitate nature and assumed its proper role of an equivalent by independent representation.”9 Goldwater unraveled the confusing tangle of artistic impulses at the end of the nineteenth century by identifying two related tendencies that are often confused with Symbolism: Gedankenmalerei (“thought painting”), which shared Symbolism’s engagement with feelings, emotions, and ideas but represented them in a more concrete, allegorical style, and Art Nouveau, which shared Symbolism’s anti-illusionistic tendency but did not seek to delineate a hidden realm. The integrity of the technical/compositional definition of Symbolism derives from its origin in a systematic and comprehensive consideration of art rather than from the application to art of criteria established for Symbolist literature. What makes the technical/compositional approach even more persuasive is that it stresses Symbolism’s crucial role in the development of a modernist aesthetic. As a result, the technical/­ compositional definition provides a suitable starting point for a discussion of Symbolist art, although it seems insufficient as the sole criterion. The intentions of the artist must also be taken into consideration.

the importance of titles In the nineteenth century an artwork’s title constituted a crucial and considered aspect of its public presence; artists had the power to incite controversy with the titles they used when exhibiting their work. Consider Woman Bitten by a Snake (1847, Musée d’Orsay, Paris) by Auguste Clésinger (1814–1883). Although the sculpture satisfied all of the jury’s technical and compositional criteria, it provoked controversy at the Salon of 1847 (the official exhibition of painting and sculpture held annually by France’s state-sponsored art academy) because of a discrepancy between the title, with its historical allusion, and the subject: the famous courtesan Apollonie Sabatier. When the art critic Théophile Gautier revealed the model’s identity in an exhibition review, a scandal erupted, particularly when the sculpture’s lively realism made some suspect that Clésinger had cheated by resorting to body casting. At that time nudity was acceptable only if the viewer could pretend that the motivation for it was aesthetically justified. Manet defied accepted Salon standards and provoked scandal even at the Salon des Refusés (the salon of rejected paintings) sponsored by the French government in 1863, when he exhibited a painting titled The Bath (now known as Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 1863, Musée d’Orsay, Paris). None of its subjects seems to be bathing, although a woman in the background, wearing only undergarments, appears calf-deep in water. The title was only the beginning of Manet’s problems, however. The painting confused and irritated contemporary viewers because of its uneven treatment of objects (some detailed, some sketchy), inconsistent representation of space (some areas are flat, while others are illusionistic), and its subject: a picnic at which there was very little food and one nude participant. The controversies surrounding these works underscore the




importance of authorial intention and titles to an artwork’s identity and significance in the nineteenth century.

what symbolism is not For a work to be considered Symbolist, its purpose must be to suggest something other than what is actually represented. To this end, title, content, technique, and composition figure prominently. A Symbolist work of art may not (consistent with the technical/compositional definition of Symbolism) include conventional illustration or allegory (in which a figure, usually female, stands for a concept such as Liberty). The work also must have unambiguously signaled (to contemporary audiences) that it refers primarily to ideas. Rapetti observes that “the roots of Symbolism seem inalienably linked to a subversive attitude toward the image and its very structure,”10 and thereby to conventional expectations about the relationship between subject and meaning.

method and geographical scope Few scholars have fully integrated artists outside of France into their consideration of Symbolist art, although the urge to express the inexpressible inspired painters, sculptors, and printmakers from Bergen to Budapest during the decades preceding and following the turn of the century. This book broadens the geographical scope of Symbolism to reveal European artists’ diverse responses to contemporary concerns and to consider how they used art to address issues of personal or local importance.11 It explores the contexts that are essential to the artworks, combining historical analysis and the “thick description”12 of individual works and events in an effort to present a balanced portrayal of Symbolist art. Symbolist artists believed that art had a special mission. Just as individuals and nations struggled to define their singular identities during the final decades of the nineteenth century, Symbolist artists sought to discover the special identity of art. The artworks and writings of the era’s vanguard artists and critics convey exhilaration at the liberation of art from its role as an imitator of nature. A new world of possibilities had opened.

historical context: art and truth Because Symbolism redirected the viewers’ attention to a realm beyond that perceived by the five senses, it can be considered the first modern art movement. Since the early fourteenth century, when Giotto (1266 or 1267–1337) depicted emotion, naturalistic gesture, and plausible settings in frescoes on the walls of Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel, artists sought to represent reality


truthfully. They tried to imitate the visible world, although their notions of truth and persuasiveness differed from place to place and changed over time. The works of such artists as the champion of academic values Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), the Romantics Eugène Delacroix (1798–1863) and J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851), the Pre-Raphaelite William Hol­ man Hunt (1827–1910), the Realist Gustave Courbet (1819–1877), and Manet—Impressionism’s precursor—attest to the diversity of ideas regarding artistic truth during the middle decades of the nineteenth century. Symbolism can be understood as a late stage in the evolution away from academic values. In the late seventeenth century, the state-sponsored art academies in western Europe established a hierarchy of subject matter and standard technical practices for painting and sculpture.13 In the nineteenth century, when the influence of academies waned, artists became freer to define the content and form of their works. They drew to an ever-greater extent on their own temperament and goals as well as their environment to make their art. Some chose to conform to academic guidelines; others pursued hitherto unexplored paths, trying new styles, depicting new subjects, or experimenting on both fronts. Symbolist artists belong to the latter group, experimenting with subject and technique. Like maverick artists before them, the Symbolists wanted to distinguish themselves by devising distinctive individual styles and to convey their ideas effectively. The degree to which they championed self-expression or communication affected their choices, but Symbolists were united in their belief in a reality beyond the limits of sense perception and in their commitment to drawing attention to it in their art. They conceived this unseen reality in many different ways.14 For some, it constituted the realm of human thought, experience, and emotion; for others, it affirmed the validity of dreams; a few believed that it represented transcendent Truth or an invisible world organized by a higher power.

intellectual milieu Although many Symbolist artists fostered the belief that they lived, isolated, in worlds of their own making, they were in fact profoundly interested in contemporary events, scientific discov­ eries, and intellectual trends. Many, for instance, agreed with the assertion of the Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure in the late 1870s that the relationship between a word and its meaning is constructed and contingent.15 The different words that different languages have for the same object seemed to demonstrate the origin of definitions in social consensus. And the fact that a single word could communicate different meanings depending on context and language suggested the arbitrary relationship between an object and its visual or verbal representation. In English, for example, soup can be hot, as can a date or a fashion, but in Swedish hot means “threat.” Since individuals communicate experience in both words and images, a partition similar to that between an object and the word that conveys it separates an object from the image that describes it. To a far greater extent than did their predecessors, Symbolist artists understood




the artificial relationship between object and image. In acts of resistance, subversion, and transgression, they refused to subscribe to the normative, time-honored, imitative relationship between object and image.16 They abandoned the mimetic goal of resemblance that had preoccupied artists for centuries. Symbolist artists generally fall into well-defined temperamental categories that informed their aesthetic choices. The stubborn nonconformity of Symbolists may be attributed either to apathy or to the impulse to reform. Those possessing a pessimistic temperament produced art aimed primarily at self-expression. Optimists, on the other hand, responded with an urge to reform, seeking new ways to communicate ideas. Optimistic and pessimistic Symbolists can be further subdivided into two additional categories: introverts and extroverts. Extroverted pessimists often behaved with hedonistic abandon depicting scenes that celebrated sensual pleasures and condoned social apathy. Extroverted optimists believed that images could effect social and psychological reform. Introverted pessimists isolated themselves from society to escape the tribulations of modern life, whereas introverted optimists sequestered themselves in the hope of achieving enlightenment. Like reformers, introverted optimists engaged actively with issues, but these issues were metaphysical rather than social. Both optimists and pessimists asserted the individual’s power to create new meanings and functions for images. As a result, “Symbolism was a weapon with which to strike a blow at conservatism and traditionalism in poetry and in society alike,” Miklós Szabolcsi observes.17 Visual language often had political connotations in the nineteenth century, and artists were well aware of the meaning embedded in their choice of style, subject matter, and technique.

understanding symbolism Having established that Symbolist art addressed ideas through unconventional pictorial practices, we are left with four questions: Why did Symbolism arise? How can it help us to understand the period from 1880 to 1910? What did individual works mean to the artists who produced them? How did the audiences that viewed Symbolist works interpret them? Although scholars such as Anna Balakian, Charles Chassé, Robert Delevoy, and Jean Pierrot illuminated the literary context of Symbolism decades ago, only recently have others begun to consider the economic, political, and social factors that shaped Symbolism. Until recently, art historical scholarship followed the lead of literary scholarship by regarding Symbolism as an esoteric movement isolated from the pandemonium of late nineteenth-century life. Fortunately, Sharon Hirsh, Barbara Larson, and Patricia Mathews have reinscribed Symbolism in its proper fin-de-siècle milieu. While focusing on different topics—Hirsh on urbanism, Larson on science, and Mathews on gender—all three situate Symbolism in a complex social context defined by the growth of cities and free-market capitalism, medical and technological advances, class conflict, gender relations, demographic shifts, religious debates, and colonialism. As a result, they offer more nuanced understandings of the era and its cultural production than do discussions based


exclusively on stylistic or iconographical analysis. Their work provides the point of departure for the present study. Symbolist art is art whose composition, technique, and often title conveyed to contemporary audiences its maker’s intention to suggest ideas. These ideas reflected the wide spectrum of how citizens of the late nineteenth century, particularly Europeans, responded to the seismic economic, intellectual, and social changes shaping their world. Sometimes an artist’s intentions are clear to modern viewers, but in other instances, insight into the cultural and intellectual conditions of the late nineteenth century is required in order to apprehend the artist’s purpose. Only by considering the various ways in which artists throughout Europe responded to Symbolist ideas is a more accurate and inclusive understanding of this pivotal modern movement possible.





he Symbolist movement was born on September 18, 1886, when Jean Moréas, a Greek poet living in Paris, published his manifesto on Symbolism in the literary supplement to Le Figaro.1 By publishing his manifesto in Paris’s oldest newspaper—which had the highest circulation of any daily in the city—Moréas established his theory of Symbolism as authoritative. Moréas’s article provoked an avalanche of writings about Symbolism in French newspapers and journals.2 Artists, critics, and writers presented views that differed considerably but offered somewhat consistent formulations of the character, objectives, and processes of Symbolist works. All opposed Naturalism and advocated that works of art suggest ideas rather than describe appearances. They defined artists as gifted individuals, geniuses, who possessed a special capacity to discern and convey invisible realities. These realities were often accessed through the unconscious, particularly dreams.

a movement is born Moréas delineated a growing literary theme discussed by leading Parisian poets and critics, who proclaimed the superiority of this new, antiestablishment movement. Moréas’s manifesto responded to an article published by a rival critic, Polish-born Téodor de Wyzéwa, about the con­ temporary poet Stéphane Mallarmé. In that article, published in Paris’s first Symbolist journal, La Vogue, Wyzéwa declared: “Everything is a symbol, every molecule contains the handwriting of the universe . . . and art, the expression of all symbols, ought to be an idealized drama, summarizing and annulling the naturalistic representations whose deepest meanings are found in the soul of the poet.”3 Here Wyzéwa drew on the authority of science to validate his ideas; his reference to molecules suggests a familiarity with biochemistry. Significant strides in bacteri­ ology had heightened awareness that cells are the building blocks of all living matter and the




corollary that all entities in the universe are physically interconnected. Investigations in comparative anatomy, psychology, and physiology led to the related belief in a collective human unconscious, whose depths only geniuses could comprehend. Wyzéwa’s formulation of Symbolism as a school of thought might have struck Moréas as vague, but his own was also ambiguous. Moréas—referring to the poet’s special intuition— announced that the goal of Symbolism was “to clothe the Idea in a form perceptible to the senses.” The “Idea” could be any thought that the artist wanted to express, and Moréas suggested two ways to accomplish this. The more conservative approach involved representing “concrete phenomena” such as nature and human action as embodiments of “primordial ideas.”4 The second, more subversive approach was to use “an archetypal and complex style: pure sounds, densely convoluted sentences” to effect Symbolism’s synthesis.”5 “Archetypal” and “complex,” “pure” and “convoluted”—such terms suggest baffling paradoxes. And indeed, straightforward communication mattered little to some artists. Moréas’s statement is particularly significant in the context of visual art because he proposed that ideas could best be conveyed through abstract signifiers, a notion supporting the technical/compositional definition of Symbolism. Moréas concluded his manifesto on a wistful note: “Symbolism requires . . . the good, luxuriant, and lively French from the days . . . of François Rabelais, of Villon, of Rutebeuf, and of so many other writers who were free and took aim with the sharpest words, like the archers of ancient Thrace.”6 For Moréas, who considered Symbolism in militant opposition to the status quo, these free-spirited and outspoken fifteenth- and sixteenth-century French literary mavericks were models of daring and originality who could inspire the Symbolists. On the one hand, Moréas called for a new kind of literary product; on the other, he directed writers to mine the national past for the raw materials from which to construct it. While drawing inspiration from the national past might seem incompatible with the production of modern works, such a paradoxical strategy was characteristic of the way in which artists and intellectuals expressed dissatisfaction with life in the final decades of the nineteenth century. There was much to grumble about in the 1880s, particularly in Paris. Those needing continuity and stability to ensure their well-being would not have found it there. During the second half of the nineteenth century, Paris underwent a demographic and physical transformation unlike that of any other European capital. To begin with, the city’s population nearly tripled (from 1 million to 2.7 million), an increase due to the relocation of peasants from all over France. Forced to abandon rural areas as a result of land reform, mechanization, and growing family size, they arrived at a rate of almost thirty thousand per year; they brought with them unfamiliar customs and incomprehensible dialects. By 1880, fewer than half of Parisians had been born in Paris (Moréas and Wyzéwa were both foreigners), and most of the buildings within the city limits had been constructed during the preceding thirty years.7 Paris’s medieval center had been razed in the 1850s and its inhabitants evicted. The city’s maze of narrow, crooked streets, lined with buildings both majestic and modest—which documented centuries of architectural history— was demolished during the modernization campaign of Emperor Napoleon III (r. 1852–70).8


1  E. von Baumgarten, Civilisation, from Jugend 1, no. 25 (1896): 407. Photo: Per Nordahl.

The German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies’s investigations of contemporary social change clarify the context in which Symbolism evolved.9 Tönnies studied the problematic transition from traditional village life, with its security and networks of kinship, to a modern industrial society that reduced an individual’s worth to the cash value of his labor. In Community and Civil Society, published in 1887, Tönnies observed that the shift from traditional to modern society required that cultural practice, consensus, and personal relationships based on trust yield to legal policy, coercion, and official relationships based on fear. He concluded that the consequences for individuals were catastrophic, a judgment with which many of his contemporaries concurred. Reduced to cogs in the wheel of industrial capitalism, people were forced to sacrifice self-esteem, health, happiness, pride in labor, and even their personal morality to benefit mostly the affluent members of society. Community and Civil Society seemed to confirm the increasingly widespread cynicism about industrialization. It was the bourgeoisie’s cynical disregard for the working and peasant classes that E. von Baumgarten depicted in an illustration, sarcastically titled Civilisation, for the German journal Jugend (Fig. 1). Here an elegantly dressed couple walks daintily across a field littered with skeletons that seem to pose more of an inconvenience than a stimulus to remorse. Moréas expressed dissatisfaction with contemporary conditions and admired independent thought and freedom, a common response among progressive intellectuals to escalating political polarization in France.10 France’s defeat in the Franco-Prussian War (1870–71) exacerbated




internal tensions, particularly when Emperor Napoleon III abdicated and was replaced by the politician Adolphe Thiers, who became the first president of France’s Third Republic. Thiers had opposed the disastrous decision to declare war and made many concessions to the Germans as part of the peace settlement. Parisians were enraged by Thiers’s capitulation. In defiance, sympathetic national guardsmen assumed control of the city, which was run for a brief period by a coalition of democratically elected committees (the Commune). These committees fought German occupation, restored essential services, and provided relief for those suffering under the four-month siege. The Commune operated according to the principles established by the French Revolution of 1789: freedom, equality, and solidarity. When Thiers retook the city with the aid of army troops in late May 1871, more than twenty thousand citizens were executed as traitors during “Bloody Week,” and Thiers established the democratic Third Republic, which lasted until 1940. Since France experienced a change of regime on average every fifteen years in the nineteenth century, the founding of the Third Republic did not immediately inspire confidence. Indeed, the final three decades of the nineteenth century were tumultuous, with two periods of particularly acrimonious political volatility: 1885–89 under Georges Boulanger and 1894–99 during the Dreyfus Affair.11 Anarchists, Bonapartists, republicans, royalists, and socialists all struggled for control of the government. At the time Moréas was writing, at the beginning of 1886, President Jules Grévy had recently appointed the reactionary General Boulanger minister of war. Boulanger’s desire for retribution (against Germany), revision (of the constitution), and restoration (of the Bourbon monarchy) attracted the support of both Bonapartists and royalists and threatened the liberal, egalitarian foundation of the fledgling Third Republic. In 1889 Boulanger contemplated a coup d’état that, had he succeeded, would have fulfilled the pessimistic expectations of those who considered France incapable of maintaining a stable government. In this context, the nostalgia, social alienation, and yearning for autonomy and novelty that Moréas expressed in his manifesto seem understandable, if not predictable.

evocation, not narration Two weeks after Moréas published his manifesto, René Ghil, another critic in the crowded circle of Parisian Symbolist intellectuals, addressed the readers of the Symbolist journal La Décadence—numbering in the hundreds in contrast to Le Figaro’s tens of thousands. In his piece, Ghil for the first time linked art to Symbolism, although he did not suggest that art might be used to achieve Symbolist objectives: “To symbolize is to evoke, not to say and narrate and paint.”12 Ghil clearly had a limited vision of art’s capacities: for him, painting involved detailed and realistic description; he evidently could not envision its evocative potential. Still, Ghil’s declaration of Symbolism’s boundaries clarified the ideas Moréas had presented. To Ghil, evocation, insinuation, and suggestion were acceptable modes of expression, but description, logical


action, and realism were not. Symbolist artists endorsed these restrictions but interpreted them in different ways. Like their writer colleagues, Symbolist artists sought to clothe ideas in perceptible forms, while believing that art should direct viewers toward immaterial entities and metaphysical truths. The particular artist’s goals, instincts, and imagination determined the specific forms that these creations assumed. In 1889 the critic Georges Vanor described an ambitious mission for Symbolists in his book L’Art symboliste: “The task of the symbolist poet will be to discover the idea through its figural representation; to understand the relation of things visible, perceptible, and tangible in the world to the intelligible essence in which they participate . . . to clothe the idea in a figural signification and to express truths by images and analogies.”13 The Austrian painter Gustav Klimt (1862–1918) echoed the ideas of Vanor in his pictorial manifesto, Nuda Veritas (Naked Truth), which declared the presentation of unadorned truth as the artist’s mission (Plate 1).14 Truth stands between gilded inscriptions bearing the painting’s title and an aphorism by the German Romantic poet Friedrich Schiller that encourages artists to remain faithful to their individual vision: “You can’t please everyone through your effort and artwork—that makes it less right. To please many is bad.”15 The woman is an alle­gorical figure whose nudity symbolizes unadorned truth. Indeed, this beautiful figure hides nothing: her flowing tresses signify both naturalness and intimacy, whereas the genteel women of Klimt’s time always wore their hair up in public. In depicting her pubic hair, a violation of the rules of decorum promulgated by art academies, Klimt was insisting on honesty. He trans­formed Truth into a modern symbol through what Reinhold Heller describes as “the pronounced artificiality of the image and its pronounced reference to its own flat surface.”16 The inscriptions, stylized scrolls, random daisies, swirling blue vapor, and slithering serpent rein­force the unreality of the scene, as does Klimt’s use of gold leaf, a nontraditional material that Symbolist artists favored because it explicitly signaled artificiality (as it suggested richness and spirituality for medieval artists). Viewed through a misty vapor, Truth, motionless and entranced, holds a magnifying glass to enhance perception, which here is intuitive rather than visual. While nakedness is often associated with moral purity, the presence of the serpent recalls Eve and original sin. Did Klimt intend to suggest that the procreative impulse represented the naked truth? Was he proposing the shocking idea that erotic urges were honest and decent? Did he intend to subvert the customary interpretation of naked truth?17 Conventional mores were certainly on the artist’s mind. The year before he painted Nuda Veritas, Klimt fell under the critique of the Austrian censors, who forced him to conceal the genitalia of the mythic hero Theseus in a poster that he had designed for a Vienna Secessionist exhibition. That Nuda Veritas condoned the free exercise of erotic impulses seems plausible in light of Klimt’s biography. Klimt, who never married but had a series of concurrent relationships rumored to have produced more than a dozen children, had a lifelong fascination with the erotic. Thus, despite its text and legible details, Nuda Veritas’s ambiguity permits multiple interpretations. Uncertainty was a part of the modern condition that found expression in Symbolist artworks.




music Moréas’s suggestion of using “pure sounds” as a strategy for conveying ideas evokes music, one of the most important influences on Symbolist artists.18 Indeed, the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, whose writings helped shape Symbolist theory, proclaimed music “the most powerful of all arts.”19 Schopenhauer, a skilled flutist, believed that music’s direct appeal to the emotions and the imagination made it superior to all other arts. This notion emerged earlier in the writing and artistic practice of Romantics such as Eugène Delacroix20 and Philipp Otto Runge and continued as an undercurrent throughout the nineteenth century. A belief in the superiority of music resurfaced as a key aspect of Symbolism and was reflected in titles (“Death Listens,” “The Voice of Evil”), in subject matter, and in compositions that aspired to the fluidity and suggestiveness of music. An interest in music can be attributed partly to artistic goals and partly to changes in the sonic environment. For artists who rejected mimesis, music provided inspiration for the reformulation of their artistic approach. Music’s appeal was also understandable in an era when noise from the industrial and urban environment supplanted both silence and the sounds of nature.

naturalism and a world of flux Symbolism in the visual arts was first described in April 1887, half a year after the publication of Moréas’s manifesto. In an article titled “A Symbolist Painter,” published in the Brussels journal L’Art moderne, the art critic Émile Verhaeren defined Symbolism in opposition to Naturalism, which had “led to the fragmentation of the object through merciless description, painstaking microscopic analysis.”21 Verhaeren’s condemnation of Naturalism reflected transformations in art and society since the 1830s, when Naturalism had initially rebelled against academic art. After fifty years, in his opinion, Naturalism was no longer modern. Certainly, Naturalism originated as a culturally and politically progressive alternative to the then-dominant academic art, which favored formulaic depictions of episodes from history, myth, or literature, as well as a narrow range of nature subjects, composed in accordance with longstanding guidelines. Because of its beginnings in eighteenth-century academies sponsored by absolutist monarchs, academic art was perceived as implicitly antidemocratic, anti-individualistic, and antagonistic to originality and inventiveness. In contrast, Naturalist artists acted independently, seeking to represent the visible world objectively and accurately without any other restrictions on subject matter or technique. With its focus on outward appearances, Naturalism was ideally suited to record the rapidly evolving everyday world of the second half of the nineteenth century. The pace of this evolution was epitomized by changes in transportation.22 In 1873, when Jules Verne published his bestseller Around the World in Eighty Days, such a feat was still a fantasy, but by 1889 the American journalist Nellie Bly could circle the earth in seventy-two days; three years later an American


2 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876, oil on canvas, 131 × 175 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 2739). Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

businessman, George Train, did it in sixty. Spreading railway networks linked major cities to industrial areas and ports and later to each other. Once national networks had been created, international connections followed: the Orient Express, a luxury train linking London with Constantinople (present-day Istanbul), began service in 1883. The development of steel-plated steamships, particularly the replacement of the paddle wheel with the propeller in the 1880s, streamlined the transportation of goods and people across oceans. The improvements in transportation during this period profoundly changed the character of cities. Streetcars began to appear in the 1830s, at first powered by horses and later by steam and electricity; they facilitated the rapid growth of cities by enabling people to live farther from their place of work. The bicycle and later the automobile let individuals (initially only the affluent) move rapidly on their own terms. The invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876 further accelerated the exchange of information. In 1880 a concert was broadcast by telephone (from Zurich to Basel), and in the same year the London Times installed a telephone in the House of Commons for quicker reporting of political events. By 1885, thirty-three German cities were linked by telephone to Berlin (but not to each other), and by 1887, private telephone subscriptions were becoming common: there were 150,000 in the United States (one phone per 400 inhabitants), 26,000 in Great Britain (one per 1,200), and 22,000 in Germany (one per 2,200). This exponential expansion of communications made the world seem a much smaller place within one generation.23 Vanguard artists, especially the Impressionists, documented this exhilarating world. Paintings such as Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette (1876; Fig. 2) by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841–1919)




depicted popular locales where social classes mixed with a freedom unimaginable a generation earlier. Hovering above the dancers are newly installed gaslights, which allowed this popular outdoor Parisian café to extend its hours and let summer socializing continue late into the evening. Renoir captured the perceptible light and atmosphere, visible as they affect surrounding objects. The documentation of light and atmosphere was a primary concern of Impressionist artists, who pursued the naturalist impulse to represent the visible world accurately by examining the subtle factors that influenced it.24 Many Impressionists studied scientific developments in color theory and optics to better understand the forces shaping their perception of the visible world.25

the secret space of dreams In the opening line of his manifesto, Moréas declared Symbolism “an enemy . . . of declama­ tion . . . of objective description,”26 an assessment that Verhaeren subsequently endorsed. “Symbolism will do the opposite [of Naturalism]. . . . In Symbolism fact and world become mere pretexts for ideas; they are handled as appearances, ceaselessly variable, and ultimately manifest themselves only as the dreams of our brains.”27 Moréas and Verhaeren renounced Naturalism’s preoccupation with detachment and the realm of the senses; they placed empiricism at the service of imagination. Verhaeren’s wording was especially appropriate given the central importance of dreams to the Symbolists. The French artist Paul Gauguin (1848–1903) alluded to the inspirational character of dreams in his letters and diaries, acknowledging their power to resolve paradoxes that the intellect could not penetrate: “my dream, with the boldness of the unconscious, solves many questions that my understanding does not approach.”28 In a letter to Gauguin’s protégé Émile Bernard (1868–1941), the writer Joris-Karl Huysmans endorsed the primacy of dreams: “You are, I think, absolutely right regarding your concept of art. The dream should be the construction, the act of faith of a soul, and the manifestation of a single soul representing all others, changing while remaining itself and affirming itself by liturgies that are at once different and the same; architecture, sculpture, painting, the glass conceived by itself.”29 Three decades earlier in his “Poem of Hashish,” the poet Charles Baudelaire recognized two distinct types of dreams: those related to the everyday life of the dreamer and those that are “absurd and unforeseen,” which Baudelaire referred to as “hieroglyphic” and in which he discerned “the supernatural side of life.”30 It was the supernatural that fascinated the Symbolists, who saw in dreams a gateway to universal truths. Artists as well as writers explored this gate­ way, and it became a central motif in the work of Odilon Redon (1840–1916), whose first lithographic series, In the Dream, appeared in 1882.31 The Smiling Spider (Fig. 3), a charcoal drawing produced while Redon was working on In the Dream, is a hybrid creature that could emerge only in the secret space of dreams.32 The spider’s friendly eyes and toothy grin look weird but not threatening; it appears amiable, not evil and dangerous, as it balances on three legs as


3 Odilon Redon, The Smiling Spider, 1881, charcoal on paper, 49.5 × 39 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris (RF 29932). Photo © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York (photographer: Michèle Bellot).

if dancing: Redon signals the fantastic nature of his spider by giving it ten, rather than eight, legs. The position of the viewer—at eye-level with the creature—indicates its colossal size. Redon’s affable spider subverted the normative view, recorded by Hippolyte Taine in On Intelligence (1870). There, Taine described a man arriving home to find “objects transformed into specters, representing sometimes huge spiders which ran at him to drink his blood.”33 A satirical




4  À Bientôt le coup de balai (Soon, the Sweep), in Actualités, no. 34, n.d. Photo: Per Nordahl.

print from 1870 using similar imagery represented France’s optimism at the onset of the FrancoPrussian War (Fig. 4). Here, Wilhelm, the emperor of Prussia and the first emperor of a unified Germany, is depicted as a spider standing his ground on his web amid ensnared flies representing Denmark and the German provinces of Bavaria, Hanover, and Hesse. Republican France is a broom about to sweep away the anxious Wilhelm-spider, who in reality swiftly vanquished French forces and besieged Paris. Scientists were eager to understand dreams and dreaming. While Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams (1899) was the most influential investigation, it was by no means the first. In 1861 the Breslau philosophy professor Karl Albert Scherner sought to document and analyze dreams in The Life of the Dream.34 There he explained that dreams clothe themselves in a symbolic language (often sexual) that could be decoded. While the boundaries between conscious and unconscious, normal and deviant were clearly defined among “civilized” peoples, the German psychologist Paul Radestock posited that the situation was different in “un-civilized” regions—from Queensland to Greenland. In Sleep and Dream (1879), Radestock observed that many indigenous peoples believed that the dead were constantly present although they appeared to the living only in dreams.35 Radestock’s notion of cultural differences in what people dreamed about relied on the racialist theories of Arthur de Gobineau’s four-volume Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races (1853 and 1855).36 Radestock discerned special powers among “primitive”


5 Paul Gauguin, Manao tupaupau, or Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892, oil on burlap mounted on canvas, 72.4 × 92.4 cm. Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York. A. Conger Goodyear Collection, 1965.

peoples, such as a mystical bond to the unseen realm.37 Dreams, according to this interpretation, could be sources of comfort to the living; mediums provided a vehicle for communication between this world and the world beyond.38 Gauguin’s Manao tupaupau, or Spirit of the Dead Watching (Fig. 5),39 painted during his two-year stay in Tahiti (June 1891–September 1893), implied the inferiority of darker races as well as their privileged rapport with the beyond. Clues to its meaning are found in Gauguin’s letters and journals, in which he explicated his works, but these sources, combined with information about his life, also provide evidence for alternate explanations. Gauguin’s motivations for highlighting a particular reading of his works are themselves often suspect. In his autobiographical novel Noa Noa (1891), Gauguin wrote: “When I opened the door . . . I saw Tehura . . . immobile, naked, lying face downward flat on the bed with her eyes inordinately large with fear. She looked at me, and seemed not to recognize me. . . . Might she not with frightened face take me for one of the demons and specters, one of the Tupapaüs, with which the legends of her race people sleepless nights?”40 While Gauguin’s remarks suggest that Spirit of the Dead Watching is explicitly autobiographical, an examination of the painting yields another interpretation. Noting the oddly androgynous physique of Gauguin’s thirteen-year-old mistress, whose gender is concealed by her position on the bed, Stephen Eisenman speculates that Gauguin launched “an assault upon the tradition of the European female nude,” as Édouard Manet had done before him.41




6 Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863–65, oil on canvas, 130.5 × 190 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 644). Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

Eisenman’s interpretation is strengthened by the fact that Gauguin considered Manet a role model and brought a reproduction of Manet’s controversial Olympia (exhibited at the Paris Salon of 1865) with him to Tahiti. Olympia (Fig. 6) outraged audiences because it violated contemporary norms. While female nudes were traditional artistic subjects, the confrontational gaze of Manet’s model was unusually aggressive. The subject’s very name was a common pseudonym for high-class prostitutes, an unsuit­ able subject for Europe’s most prestigious art exhibition. Manet’s uneven finish—Olympia appears flat and unmodeled, while the flowers are highly detailed—violated the standards of both academic art and Naturalism. In Spirit of the Dead Watching, Gauguin transformed Manet’s insolent figure into a Tahitian girl whose dark complexion contrasts with Olympia’s pallor. This inversion emerges in other ways as well: Tehura lies on her stomach and faces the opposite direction. Instead of an elegant Parisian boudoir, Tehura inhabits a rustic, incoherent space of brightly patterned fabric. The abstract landscape on the wall behind Tehura contains faces, feathers, leaves, and birds, and a column partially conceals a masked and cowled figure: the spirit of the dead. Real and imaginary beings coexist on the canvas. Gauguin’s emphasis on surface—paint soaked into the coarse canvas, conspicuous brushwork, thick outlines, title inscribed in the upper left—further inhibits a reading of Spirit of the Dead Watching as realistic.


7 Max Klinger, Anxieties, Plate 7 from A Glove, 1881 (published 1893), etching on chine collé. Indiana University Art Museum (76.133g). Photo by Michael Cavanaugh and Kevin Montague.

While the fluidity between wakefulness and dreaming had long been accepted by non-Western cultures, by the late nineteenth century psychologists, as well as artists and poets, had begun to recognize its presence in Western cultures as well. Freud claimed, for example, that dreams function universally as mediators between consciousness and unconsciousness because they translate hidden desires and anxieties into symbolic form.42 This is the subject of a series of etchings by Max Klinger (1857–1920), A Glove, in which a lady’s glove retrieved from the ice by an admiring fellow skater (Klinger) at a rink in Berlin becomes a fetish object that initiates a strange journey into the artist-subject’s unconscious. In Anxieties (Fig. 7), Klinger sleeps, his pillow leaning against the treasured glove, which has assumed gigantic proportions that no doubt correspond to its psychological significance. A bald swimmer keeps an assortment of weird creatures, some mammalian, some amphibian, at bay and tries to warn Klinger of the hands that reach out in apparent search of their glove. All of this takes place in a watery environment (symbolic of the unconscious) during a lunar eclipse. Klinger shows how in the secret space of dreams psychological states are transformed into symbolic forms that are incoherent by normative conscious standards. Similarly, in Night (Fig. 8), the Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853–1918) substantiates Freud’s hypothesis by revealing how dreams expose hidden fears.43 Hodler, like Klinger, captures the irrational yet intensely real space of dreams, furnished with components that seem logical but are not, that communicates meanings intelligible only when present within the magical boundaries of the unconscious. Night, like Anxieties, is autobiographical. Hodler portrayed himself awakening frightened in the night with a cowled figure—as in Gauguin’s Spirit of the Dead Watching—hovering over his lower torso. Draped in black and of indeterminate gender, the specter occupies a central position both in the composition and in Hodler’s consciousness:




8  Ferdinand Hodler, Night, 1890, oil on canvas, 116 × 299 cm. Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland.

Hodler gazes at it in terror. The specter’s position on, over, or beside Hodler’s genitalia charges the image with erotic tension. The specter appears bent over and busy, but the nature of this activity is obscure and therefore unsettling. We can only infer from Hodler’s expression that it is far from pleasurable. Might it relate to castration anxiety, which Freud describes in The Interpretation of Dreams? Freud posited that castration anxiety had two aspects: physical and metaphorical. This anxiety was aggravated in the late nineteenth century by parents threatening children’s genitals with physical punishment (noted by Freud) and by fears prompted by sexual myths. For instance, doctors warned of sperm depletion resulting from frequent copulation, devices designed to prevent masturbation proliferated, and experts advised men over fifty to abstain from intercourse in order to postpone death.44 Metaphorical castration expressed fear of authority and loss of power. The latter particularly affected men, whose absolute social control was steadily being eroded. If the cowled figure in Hodler’s Night is female, another interpretation, one informed by the predominant Roman Catholicism of Hodler’s Geneva audience, emerges. The cowled figure assumes the “horse-ride” coitus position that the Catholic Church (dominant in the western part of Switzerland, where Hodler resided) banned because of the belief that it impeded procreation. To discourage its use, the church warned of dire consequences for men: hernias, ulceration of the bladder and penis, or worse yet, effeminacy.45 This interpretation is especially compelling. For Hodler’s acquaintances, Night’s sexual tension was confirmed by the presence of his former mistress and his then-wife (whom he divorced in 1891) among the sleepers.46 Hodler directed viewers toward a particular interpretation by inscribing on the back of the painting, “Some who go peacefully to bed in the evening will not wake up in the morning.” Vanguard artists often had conflicts with the art establishment, which controlled an artist’s access to the public through exhibitions. Hodler, for instance, constantly battled the conservative taste of art officials and his Swiss public. Although the mayor of Geneva ordered Night


withdrawn from an 1891 exhibition, it appeared in Paris the same year at the Salon du Champsde-Mars organized by France’s Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. The French art critic Joséphin Péladan wrote: “the nightmare kneeling, black and vaguely formed upon a chest, is really frightening. . . . The picture is unforgettable.”47 Following uneventful showings abroad, Hodler did not expect Night to provoke controversy when he submitted it to the Swiss National Exposition held in Geneva in 1896. But it did: Swiss censors hung a black cloth in its place.48

expressing the inexpressible Verhaeren’s statement that “Fact and world become mere pretexts for ideas” was echoed more than a decade later by French artist-theorist Maurice Denis (1870–1943): “Symbolism was . . . neo-platonic. Writers and painters came to agree that natural objects are signs denoting ideas; that the visible is the manifestation of the invisible.”49 The urge to represent intangible entities reflected a current of antimaterialism in European intellectual circles and an urge to explore new subjects in art. The growth of a free-market economy forced individuals to fend for themselves under conditions in which an investment of time and labor did not guarantee survival. The resultant fixation with making money led to a psychological imbalance addressed by nineteenth-century reformers—including optimistic Symbolists. At the same time, by the 1880s, a younger generation of artists wanted to pursue a path more innovative than that of their Naturalist predecessors. Representing nonphysical entities appealed to young artists in part because the subjects were seldom explored in visual art and in part because such subjects relied on feeling and intuition, cherished qualities that had seemingly vanished from modern life. Denis indicated that states of mind attracted artists’ attention. Whereas Naturalist artists documented actions, Symbolists documented feelings and thoughts. The quest for visual equivalents to psychological states such as despair, hope, jealousy, and sorrow preoccupied Symbolist artists. Breton Eve, or Melancholy (Fig. 9), by Paul Sérusier (1864–1927) evokes sadness through both title and form. Before eating the forbidden fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, Eve lived a carefree existence in Paradise. Afterwards, her conscience awakened with her realization that she had made a decision with dire consequences. Sérusier represented the profound sadness that accompanies such knowledge in Breton Eve, while attributing primitive, biblical innocence to contemporary Breton peasants. Sérusier’s Eve sits naked in a rocky pasture in Brittany. Her posture is self-contained, her head bowed in thought. The figure’s nudity, combined with the painting’s title, evokes the punishment for Eve and Adam’s disobedience, the consequence of which was a variety of impulses, including the urge to procreate. Does Sérusier’s Eve regret succumbing to temptation, the assumption of responsibilities, her awareness of mortality? Because Symbolist art suggests rather than narrates, Sérusier’s painting resists attempts to limit its meaning. At the same time, the painting’s historical context and the artist’s personal views restrict the range of plausible interpretations. Sérusier employed the traditional medium of oil on canvas for this picture, but he




9 Paul Sérusier, Breton Eve, or Melancholy, 1891, oil on canvas, 73 × 60 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 1981-5). Photo © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York (photographer: J. Schormans).

strayed from a conventional rendering by simplifying forms (clouds, rocky outcroppings), distorting colors (blue rocks, orange bushes), and painting with clearly discernible brushstrokes. His technique emphasizes that the image is artifice, reinforcing the painting’s function as the visual equivalent of a state of mind—melancholy—rather than a traditional “window” onto a view. The 1896 woodcut Melancholy, or Evening (Plate 2), by Edvard Munch (1863–1944) depicts the same emotion in a different way.50 Based on a painting of the same title executed in 1892,


the woodcut expresses Munch’s conviction that meditation while in an unhappy state stimulates creativity.51 Here, a man sits in a traditional reflective pose, his chin resting on his hand and his elbow on his knee. The woodcut’s gloomy subject reflects a sequence of reverses in the artist’s life during 1892: his friend August Strindberg had recently fled Munch’s company, convinced that Munch sought to kill him; a potentially lucrative commission by the Société des Cent Bibliophiles to illustrate Charles Baudelaire’s poetry collection Les Fleurs du mal (1857) was abruptly withdrawn; and Munch was desperately poor.52 The figure in Melancholy has an ambiguous relationship to its setting: silhouetted against, yet integrated into, the bleak coastal landscape. The trope of a melancholy man by the sea appeared in earlier works with which Munch was likely familiar: Max Klinger’s Night (from the series of etchings On Death, Part I, 1889) and Monk by the Sea (1809–10, Nationalgalerie, Berlin) by Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840). In both of these works, the expanse of the sea and the lapping of the waves evoke the subject’s profound and relentlessness thoughts. The unrealistic character of the landscape in Munch’s Melancholy makes it uncertain whether it is imaginary or remembered, but an 1892 diary entry resolves the issue: “One evening I walked along the seashore. It sighed and sucked around the stones. Long grey clouds streaked the horizon. It looked as if everything was dead—as in another world. A landscape of death. Life began over there by the landing dock. There was a man and a woman—and there came another man. With oars over his shoulder. And the boat was tied up down there—ready to leave.”53 Munch conflates this moment with another situation: the figure resembles his friend Jappe Nilssen, who in 1892 was in the midst of a love triangle that ended in disappointment.54 Munch experimented with print media in the 1890s as part of his search for new means of expression. In 1896 he began making woodcuts, having already explored lithography and etching. While Munch liked the reproducibility of the medium, many of his prints (including this one) are singular works; after printing and hand-coloring these images, he continued to carve the wood block.55 The coarse contours and exaggerations in form and color—particularly noticeable in the foreground swirls and arabesques alluding to rocks and waves—reinforce an awareness that this work resulted from artistic choices intended to convey a psychological state. Consistent with Moréas’s advice, both Sérusier and Munch incorporated traditional elements in their works. Sérusier presupposed that his Roman Catholic French audience would be familiar with the figure of Eve, while Munch alluded to conventional representations of melancholy. The most famous of these is Albrecht Dürer’s 1514 engraving Melancholia, in which a sullen female figure sits with her elbow resting on her knee and her chin in her hand. Dürer’s image belonged to a long tradition of interest in this psychological state, as evidenced by the publication of Robert Burton’s three-volume study, The Anatomy of Melancholy, in 1621. Burton classified melancholy as a pathological state, its symptoms of despair, fear, hallucinations, and erotic desire caused by an excess of black bile.56 The title page of the 1621 edition consists of nine scenes framing the author’s portrait and the title and publisher boxes (Fig. 10). Two feature men seated with their heads resting in their hands, a pose reminiscent of Dürer’s Melancholia. The third volume of Burton’s study, “Love Melancholy,” is particularly relevant to Munch’s Melancholy.


10 Title page of The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, 1628 edition. Courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.


In addition to this familiar concept of melancholy, a competing interpretation of melancholy emerged in the fifteenth century, which held, as did Munch, that it inspired creativity. For the Florentine philosopher Marsilio Ficino (1433–1499), melancholy signified genius in men and insanity in women, a theory that accords with nineteenth-century attitudes about women as the inferior antipode of men.57 Denis’s notion that phenomena “signify states of mind,” emerged in Auguste Rodin’s Gates of Hell (Fig. 11).58 The Gates embody the conviction articulated by the critic Albert Aurier that artists possessing a “transcendental capacity for emotion” force “symbols—that is, ideas—[to] rise out of the darkness and become animated, start living a life that is no longer our contingent and relative life but a life of dazzling light that is the essential life, the life of art, the life of the being.”59 Begun in 1880 as the portal for a new museum of decorative arts in Paris, the commission was never finished because the museum project was abandoned. In the two decades during which Rodin (1840–1917) actively worked on the Gates, it functioned as a crucible for new works and aesthetic experiments. In typical Symbolist fashion, the subject of the Gates—Dante’s Inferno—was not directly relevant to a museum of decorative arts but rather to more generalized ideas about creativity and human desire. The poem was part of The Divine Comedy trilogy composed between 1308 and 1321. The Inferno, the place of eternal suffering in the afterlife, was populated by those whose yearnings and anguish (psychological as well as physical) remained unresolved, such as the tragic historical figures Ugolino della Gherardesca and Paolo Maltesta and Francesca di Rimini. When her neglectful husband caught Francesca, impassioned by love poetry, on the verge of her first kiss with her brother-in-law, Paolo (the subject of Rodin’s famous sculpture The Kiss, c. 1884, Rodin Museum, Philadelphia), he murdered them on the spot. Their spirits remained united but tormented by the physical consummation denied them. Count Ugolino della Gherardesca was unjustly accused of treason in the late thirteenth century by Archbishop Ruggieri, who sentenced Ugolino, along with his sons and grandsons, to imprisonment and starvation. As the boys weakened and died, the survivors begged Ugolino to devour them so that he could live longer. Ugolino, torn between hunger and love, desire and guilt, perished in a state of extreme physical and psychological distress. For Rodin, the frustration, guilt, and regret described in Dante’s Inferno represented the universal suffering of humanity.60 Rodin’s preliminary sketches reveal that he initially intended to organize the Gates into discrete panels (Fig. 12), in the tradition of Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Gates of Paradise, illustrations of episodes from the New Testament created in the fifteenth century for the baptistery of Florence Cathedral.61 Instead of designing a sequential narrative, however, Rodin created swirling confusion that functioned as a pictorial metaphor for the uncertainty and suffering that epitomize the human condition. Above the doors sits a figure, an image of melancholy that represents both Dante and Rodin. The unnatural torque of Dante/Rodin’s body—right elbow on left thigh—expressed the turmoil of the creative process as well as the modern human psyche. Like the setting in Munch’s Melancholy, the Gates are a giant thoughtbubble, a compositional strategy that emerged frequently in Symbolist art as a way of showing the artist’s feelings and ideas.


11 Auguste Rodin, Gates of Hell, begun 1880, bronze, 600 × 400 × 100 cm. Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University, gift of the B. Gerald Cantor Collection (1985.86).


12 Auguste Rodin, Project for the Gates of Hell with The Thinker, Adam, and Eve, 1880, pen and brown ink on paper, 16.5 × 11.2 cm. Musée Rodin, Paris (D. 6940). Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

The Symbolist presumption that images could represent ideas implied the modernist notion that the meaning was contextual: new surroundings produced new meanings. Rodin’s practice of combining single figures to make new ones exemplified this concept. The head of Paolo, for example, appears on both the Prodigal Son (1880–82, Los Angeles County Museum of Art) and the male figure in Fugitive Love (1880–82, Musée Rodin, Paris). The Dante/Rodin figure on the Gates has at least three identities depending on context: Dante (on the Gates), Rodin (on the Gates and as Rodin’s grave marker), and, as discrete sculpture, The Thinker: a symbol of




thought or melancholy.62 Rodin would have embraced further interpretations: in a 1911 interview with Paul Gsell, he concurred with Aurier’s belief that “the forms [art] created should only provide a pretext for the emotion to expand indefinitely.”63

genius For the Symbolists, art was allied to genius. In his influential book Contemporary Literature (1889), Charles Morice asserted: “Genius consists—like Love and Death—in disengaging from accidents, habits, prejudices, conventions, and all the contingencies [in favor of ] the element of eternity and unity that lie behind appearances, at the heart of every human essence.”64 Symbolists claimed that insight into the human condition was a special gift—like musical or athletic ability—which distinguished artists of genius. Vanor and Wyzéwa noted the special insight of the true artist-poet, and Aurier—in his landmark article “Symbolism in Painting: Paul Gauguin” (1891)—accorded special status to the artist-genius, citing Gauguin as a prime example. Aurier based his assertion of Symbolism’s superiority over Realism and Naturalism on its intellectual roots in the philosophy of Plato (quoting from The Republic) and legitimized Symbolist art as “identical to primitive art, to art as it was intuited by the instinctual geniuses of the dawn of humanity.”65 An aversion to materialism, urbanism, and the rapid pace of modern life stimulated the belief among Symbolists that primitive life—cultures that preceded or were otherwise removed from historical time—was better than that of the present day. This belief was corroborated by the presumed perfection of Paradise and the modernist myth that asserted the simple contentedness of African and Oceanic natives.66 Aurier considered Symbolist artists superior by virtue of their retention of an original and unmediated relationship with the universe characteristic of children and “primitives,” whose demise was an inevitable byproduct of civilization. Aurier proclaimed: “the strict duty of the ideist painter is to make a reasoned selection from the multiple elements of objective reality,”67 an oddly conservative strategy rooted in academic practice that Naturalist artists rejected as a deceptive vision of the world. In a further effort to assign Symbolism a rational character, Aurier compared Gauguin favorably to a mathematician and a “scientific genius.” Aurier’s conservative values contrasted with those of Moréas and Verhaeren, who asserted the primacy of dreams and irrational forces. Aurier’s disdain for “the popular herd” betrays an elitist attitude confirmed by his assertion that “only the genius knows how to read” everyday objects as signs of transcendent ideas. As a result, only geniuses could escape the limitations of a superficial, materialistic existence. Genius came with a price: artist-geniuses risked ridicule, misunderstanding, and even rejection, a situation confirmed by the research of the forensic anthropologist Cesare Lombroso. Lombroso claimed: “And the fact, now unquestioned, that certain great men of genius have been insane, permits us to presume the existence of a lesser degree of psychosis in other men of


genius” in The Man of Genius (1889).68 In fact, Lombroso deemed genius a neurosis.69 He claimed that Jews had a rate of genius five times higher than the general population, a notion whose implications he explored in Anti-Semitism and Modern Science (1894).

artist as creator Optimally, reward for the Symbolist artist-genius came through public appreciation, even veneration: Symbolist literature often refers to the artist as God/creator and Christ/sufferer. In an era of escalating friction between secular and religious interests, Symbolist rhetoric celebrated art as a means of pursuing spirituality. Baudelaire declared: “The imagination is an almost divine faculty which perceives at once, quite without resort to philosophic methods, the intimate and secret connections between things, correspondences and analogies,” in the introduction to his 1857 translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s writings.70 Forty years later, Péladan echoed this belief: “Artist, you are a priest: Art is the grand mystery and, as a result of your efforts to create a masterpiece, a ray of divinity descends as on an altar.”71 Artist-geniuses—by virtue of their special insight into life’s mysteries—could bypass the usual deductive method of ascertaining truth. Some of Aurier’s ideas were nonetheless radical for their time. He deemed the artist a quasidivine creator: “ideas—rise out of the darkness, become animated, start living a life—the life of art, the life of being,”72 an idea in apparent conflict with the notion of the artist-genius as a selector who assembles elements from the visible world in a way that the “popular herd” will find intelligible. Both approaches—the one relying on “concrete phenomena,” the other on “an archetypal and complex style”—nonetheless call to mind Moréas’s Symbolist manifesto. The bizarre, biological hybrids of Redon fulfilled Aurier’s notion of the artist as creator, fabricating new life from the depths of his imagination. During his early career, Redon preferred black and white because they most effectively conveyed the fantastic; color, he felt, referred to the natural world. In his journal To Oneself (1922) Redon claimed: “My whole originality therefore consists in making the most implausible beings live human lives according to the laws of the plausible, placing the logic of the visible, insofar as it is possible, at the service of the invisible.”73 Redon followed a conceptual process similar to Rodin’s by combining elements from disparate sources. In his charcoal drawing Cactus Man (Fig. 13), he produced a hybrid humanoid growing from a planter. His conflation of animal and vegetable recalls the earlier works of Jean Grandville (1803–1847, Fig. 14) and may be indebted to the displays of Africans and Oceanic natives at the Jardin d’Acclimatation in Paris.74 The hair-thorns and despondent expression of Redon’s figure recall the mocked Christ, evoking Symbolist conceptions of the suffering artist. This hypothesis is supported by Émile Bernard’s evaluation of Redon as an unjustly maligned artist: “Loving solitude, misunderstood and rejected due to a lack of public comprehension of his works, he therefore developed and realized that total expansion of himself only by which an artist can achieve originality.”75


13 Odilon Redon, Cactus Man, 1881, various charcoals with stumping, wiping, erasing, incising, and sponge work, on light brown wove paper, 49 × 32.2 cm. Woodner Collections. Image © 2009 Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.


14  Jean Grandville, Newborn Mushrooms, from Another World, 1844. Photo: Per Nordahl.

The planter displays a low-relief scene depicting a woman standing and holding a pole with her left hand while leaning toward a man and grabbing his elbow with her right hand. The man, unsteady on what appear to be stumps severed at the knee, lurches sideways and reaches toward his throat with his free right hand. Does this scene represent a moment from the life of the man whose head rests in the planter? Although the woman appears to be attacking the man, the murky details make it impossible to judge whether Redon represented a familiar story.76 The artist refused to reveal his intention: Redon suggested but did not state. Odd juxtapositions combine with a technique of visible, multidirectional strokes and unfinished contours to distinguish the image from the natural world. Redon’s use of charcoal, a medium considered appropriate only for preliminary studies, indicates a subversive technique as well as subject matter. The assertion that an artist’s creative powers were divine, arrogant though it might seem, found a measure of support in contemporary scientific findings. The research of the Russian scientist Ivan Pavlov in the 1870s suggested that animals draw logical conclusions about experiences and modify their behavior accordingly.77 Pavlov’s findings required the formulation of new criteria for differentiating human intellect from animal thought processes. Many investigators concluded that the decisive criterion was creativity rather than a capacity for rational thought, as had long been assumed. According to this hypothesis, because the greatest act of the Creator had been the creation of the world, the artist who drew on his imagination to envision new worlds took full advantage of human potential. As Gauguin explained in an


15  August Strindberg, Celestograph, 1894. Strindberg Museum, Stockholm.


August 14, 1888, letter to Émile Schuffenecker: “think more about the act of creation than about the rest; it is the only way to ascend to God while imitating our divine master in the process of creation.”78 This paradigm of imitating the process rather than the appearance of nature was crucial for some Symbolist artists. August Strindberg (1849–1912) advised in his November 1894 essay “New Directions in Art! Or the Role of Chance in Artistic Creation”: “Imitate nature in an appropriate way, imitate in particular nature’s way of creating!”79 Strindberg did this in plays, short stories, paintings, and experimental photographs. Among the latter were Strindberg’s “celestographs”: images fixed on photographic plates exposed to the night sky without the intermediary of a lens or camera. They reflect a similarly nonconformist pursuit of scientific experimentation as a means of original creation (Fig. 15). To make them, Strindberg poured salt solutions onto glass plates, allowed the solutions to crystallize, and printed them on photographic paper, a process motivated by a conviction that Strindberg shared with Wyzéwa: “every molecule contains the handwriting of the universe.” To Strindberg, the serendipitous assemblage of mineral salts into landscapelike compositions confirmed creativity’s source in unconscious processes that corresponded to divine creativity. His disregard for conventional imagery and artistic processes affirmed his freedom from authority and validated his individualism. These values harmonized with political anarchism, which envisioned an egalitarian society of happy, healthy individuals that functioned in a collaborative and altruistic manner, free from the oppression of central governments.80 For Symbolists, the divine gifts of insight and invention were a blessing and a curse. In an 1899 biography, The “Christ” of Carrière, Charles Morice compared the painter Eugène Carrière (1849–1906)—ignored, condemned, and finally respected—to Christ,81 who had been described in similar terms by the French archaeologist Ernest Renan in his pioneering work of biblical archaeology, Life of Jesus (1863). Gauguin’s Agony in the Garden (Fig. 16) represented the artist as a selfless savior of humanity.82 Gauguin depicted Christ in his final days of psychological and physical anguish, using his own visage for Christ’s, evidenced by the prominent nose and sturdy physique. Here Christ awaits betrayal by Judas, who accompanies the Roman soldiers in the background. Christ’s bright cap of red hair and the coarsely woven brushstrokes in nonnatural colors signal to the viewer that Gauguin’s purpose was not simple description. In a November 1889 letter to Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890), Gauguin confided, “This canvas is fated to be misunderstood, so I shall keep it for a long time.”83 In an interview published in L’Écho de Paris in 1891, he described the painting as a visualization of a feeling: “The crushing of an ideal, and a pain that is both divine and human.”84 Agony in the Garden might equally be an illustration of the Passion, a self-portrait, or a display of raw emotion. Gauguin conflated past and present, sacred and profane, in representing himself as Christ. His dual sense of isolation and mission was typical of Symbolist artists, who depicted Saint Anthony—the hermit saint tortured by (imaginary) demons—almost as frequently as the suffering Christ. In a materialistic world in which art no longer served church and state, artists risked marginalization and commoditization. Attributing to themselves the divine power of genius—through which they could




16 Paul Gauguin, Agony in the Garden, 1889, oil on canvas, 72.4 × 91.4 cm. Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, Gift of Elizabeth C. Norton (46.5).

enlighten and perhaps even save humanity—not only defined a social role for artists but elevated them to the status of spiritual leaders. In an 1891 Mercure de France article, Aurier set forth the parameters of Symbolist art: Ideist, since its unique ideal is the expression of the idea; Symbolist, since it expresses the idea by means of forms; Synthetic, since it writes out those forms, these signs, according to a mode susceptible to general comprehension; Subjective, since the object depicted is not considered as an object, but as a sign of an idea perceived by the subject [viewer]; And consequently decorative—insofar as decorative painting . . . is only a manifestation of an art that is simultaneously subjective, synthetic, symbolist, and ideist.85

Aurier’s summary was both authoritative and influential; it has been the basis for discussions of Symbolist art ever since its publication. His description of Symbolism as “ideist”—intended to convey an idea (rather than imitate nature)—articulated the most fundamental principle of


Symbolist art. That Symbolist art expressed ideas and was “subjective” would not have been contested. But the proposition that Symbolism should be “synthetic” and therefore generally comprehensible was not shared by reclusive Symbolists concerned primarily with exploring their own imaginations or expressing metaphysical concepts—in other words, artists whose “ideas rise out of the darkness.” Aurier’s support of Synthetism as an appropriate technique or medium of expression resulted from his desire to promote artists like Gauguin who belonged to the “concrete” camp of Symbolism. To Aurier, art that was ideist, symbolist, synthetist, and subjective was intrinsically decorative—a concept quite different from the pejorative connotation with which that term is now burdened. During the late nineteenth century, however, “decorative” was opposed to “imitative,” and indicated reliance on imagination rather than sense perception. The British poet and playwright Oscar Wilde observed that “art begins with abstract decoration with purely imaginative and pleasurable work dealing with what is unreal and non-existent.”86 Gauguin included flowers in the background of Spirit of the Dead Watching to satisfy his “decorative sense.” Decoration resulted when an artist-genius was guided by his aesthetic instinct. Despite its modern elements, Symbolism’s roots were embedded in earlier aesthetic and philosophical currents, as we shall see in the next chapter. Symbolism arose first in Paris as the city was undergoing unprecedented demographic and physical changes during the second half of the nineteenth century. Throughout Europe, a combination of demographic, economic, and political circumstances reduced the individual to the cash value of his labor. Writers were the first to lament the condition of Western society, and Moréas’s manifesto on Symbolism coincided with a surge of Symbolist art and literature, which often idealized temporally or physically remote cultures. Although no single definition of Symbolism emerged, artists and intellectuals distinguished it from Naturalism, whose preoccupation with visible reality, they believed, led to degeneration, materialism, and superficiality. Symbolists advocated turning inward, to the worlds of dream and imagination; thought and feeling took precedence over action. Symbolists accorded privileged (genius) status to individuals able to penetrate appearances in order to reveal underlying, eternal truths, the recognition of which were essential to humanity’s salvation. The special powers of such individuals endowed them with a creative ability comparable to the Creator’s. Because their contemporaries often failed to appreciate the efforts of such geniuses, they often envisioned themselves as martyrs, even as Christ figures.





ymbolism’s foundations were embedded in earlier progressive movements— Romanticism especially, but also Realism and Naturalism. Symbolists borrowed and transformed elements of preexisting aesthetic, philosophical, and social doctrines to redefine the purpose and appearance of art and the mission of the artist. The notions that works of art should represent ideas rather than describe objects, for example, and that true artists were extraordinary individuals gifted with special insight had their origins in Romanticism. Symbolist artists borrowed widely and eclectically from artists, composers, philosophers, and writers. Understanding which ideas they appropriated and from which sources helps situate Symbolism more securely in its historical context.

artist as oracle Symbolist artists and writers believed that the artist-genius had the ability to penetrate everyday appearances and to access universal truths. This discourse arose at a moment when many people felt the need to assert individuality in the face of an emerging mass culture.1 The waning of institutional support for the arts, in the form of church and state patronage, threatened the professional status of the artist. The development and expansion of free-market economies, moreover, placed a higher value on the contributions of inventors and entrepreneurs than on those of artists and intellectuals. Artists understandably wanted to recapture their former status. During the Romantic era (c. 1815–48), the imagination trumped intellect, which Enlightenment philosophers had promoted as the highest human attribute. Along with emotion, Romantics valued feeling and intuition, and they emphasized subjectivity as the proper means to discerning truth. 2 For this reason, Edmund Burke’s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757) was an important sourcebook for Romantics. In it, Burke explained how sensation and imagination stimulate emotional responses, associating




pleasure with the beautiful and—by contrast— pain, fear, obscurity, and uncertainty with the Sublime. Although Burke drew his examples from nature, he could have turned to the Industrial Revolution, a catalyst for such feelings in his own time. Disenchantment with modern industrial life—which began in England—stimulated interest in metaphysics and the paranormal. It inspired the first gothic novels, the best known of which is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1816), in which the protagonist emulates the divine creative process by constructing a living being.3 That same year, the German author E. T. A. Hoffmann asserted in The Devil’s Elixir: “I came to feel that what we call simply dream and imagination might represent the secret thread that runs through our lives and links its various facets.”4 Hoffmann attributed exceptional perception to the artist-genius, an observation affirmed by Thomas Carlyle in Sartor Resartus: Life and Opinions of Herr Teufelsdrockh (1831), a favorite novel of the Symbolist generation. There, Carlyle observed: “All visible things are emblems; what thou seest is not there on its own account; strictly taken, is not there at all: matter exists only spiritually, and to represent some Idea, and body it forth.”5

swedenborg For the Symbolists, the Swedish philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) was a key source for mystical ideas.6 Swedenborg began as a scientist specializing in metallurgy and physiology and made significant discoveries related to brain function and molecular theory.7 His scientific pursuits ceased in 1743, when an epiphany inspired him to publish divine truths. Swedenborg’s revelations appeared in Heavenly Secrets (1749–56), an eight-volume testament published in Latin (the universal language of scholars since the Middle Ages). Based on conversations he claimed to have had with Jesus, Moses, Plato, Dante, and other historical figures, Swedenborg proposed a radical new Christianity that asserted the unity of creation and of religion. Swedenborg’s monistic creed contested the opposition of body and soul, matter and spirit, God and creation. Instead, he argued for the existence of a unified higher power invisible to most of humanity because of underdeveloped perception, intellect, and imagination. A Swedenborg Society formed in London in 1810, popularizing his ideas through lectures and publications. The most influential of Swedenborg’s ideas for the Symbolists was his theory of correspondences, which described the physical world as the external manifestation of a spiritual one. According to Swedenborg, “the whole natural world corresponds to the spiritual world, and not only the natural world in general, but also in its particulars. Whatever, therefore in the natural world exists from the spiritual world is called its correspondent. It is to be known that the natural world exists and subsists from the spiritual world.”8 The Symbolists encountered Swedenborg’s ideas through several channels,9 including the essays and poetry of Charles Baudelaire (1821–1867), who was introduced to Swedenborg by the French novelist Honoré de Balzac (1799–1850). Balzac declared “Swedenborgianism” his religion, and Swedenborg’s spiri-


tual ideas infused Balzac’s novel Séraphita (1835), a story of mystical androgyny set in the fjords of Norway that was widely read by French artists and intellectuals.

blake While there is little evidence that the works of the English artist-poet William Blake (1757–1827) were widely known among Symbolist artists outside of Britain, scholars recognize Blake as the “forefather of contemporary Symbolists.”10 The Welsh writer and translator Arthur Symons, a member of Parisian Symbolist circles beginning in 1890, compared the French painter and printmaker Odilon Redon with Blake in an 1890 article.11 In England, the 1863 publication of Alexander Gilchrist’s biography of Blake brought the artist to the attention of progressive cultural circles in London and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in particular, as it was William Rossetti—the brother of Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828–1882)—who finished the biography when Gilchrist died unexpectedly in 1861. Blake’s connection to Swedenborg—combined with his proto-Symbolist qualities—confirms his status as a Symbolist precursor. Blake’s father and his close friend the sculptor John Flaxman (1755–1826) were Swedenborgians, and Swedenborg’s ideas formed the basis of Blake’s own metaphysical system.12 The title of Blake’s 1793 illuminated book The Marriage of Heaven and Hell recalls Swedenborg’s 1758 Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell from Things Heard and Seen; in fact, a portrait of Swedenborg appears in Blake’s book as the Angel of the Millennium (Fig. 17). Like Swedenborg, Blake experienced visions that purported to reveal divine truths— from which he formulated a kind of anti-religion. For Blake, organized religion resulted from intellectual, physical, and spiritual oppression under the fraudulent guise of divine commandments. The physical world, as Blake conceived of it, did not parallel the spiritual world (as it did for Swedenborg and many Symbolists), but operated in dynamic interaction with it. In the transition from childhood to adulthood, wisdom was lost—not gained. Children, Blake believed, operated in unselfconscious harmony with the universe, and Adam and Eve’s Expulsion from Paradise was a metaphor for this loss. For Blake, the adult world was an alienated realm governed by false values. He would have agreed with Baudelaire’s assertion that “genius is nothing more nor less than childhood recovered at will.”13 Blake believed that the only true liberation from the limitations imposed by adult consciousness is the embrace of sensual pleasure and the human imagination.14 In “Auguries of Innocence,” Blake described the imagination as a way to salvation: To see a World in a Grain of Sand And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour.15




17 William Blake, As a New Heaven Is Begun, c. 1790, from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, etching with watercolor. Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge.

poe Works by the American author Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849) reached the French public in the 1850s through Charles Baudelaire’s translations,16 and they exerted a profound influence on the Symbolists. Stéphane Mallarmé, Teodor de Wyzéwa, and Camille Mauclair wrote celebratory essays about the author; Paul Verlaine drew inspiration for his poem “Nevermore” from the enigmatic reply of the bird in Poe’s poem “The Raven”;17 and Paul Gauguin, Gaetano Previati (1852–1920), Odilon Redon, and Félicien Rops (1833–1898) were among many artists who


dedicated works to his memory.18 Poe’s methodical probing of the human psyche fascinated the Symbolists, who similarly explored the imagination’s outer limits. He was intrigued by what he referred to as the “perverse,” an uncontrollable impulse to defy the rules of convention—to act subversively, even destructively. This force is the subject of Poe’s short story “The Imp of the Perverse” (1845), in which the narrator reflects after murdering a man for no apparent cause: “I am not more certain that I breathe, than that the assurance of the wrong or error of any action is often the one unconquerable force which impels us, and alone impels us to its prosecution. Nor will this overwhelming tendency to do wrong for the wrong’s sake, admit of analysis, or resolution into ulterior elements. It is a radical, a primitive impulse—elementary.”19 Poe identified this irrational power as a distressingly random, nontheological explanation for the presence of evil in the world: “perversity.” Perversity to the point of self-destruction characterized some of the century’s most original minds; the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche died insane, Poe himself is thought to have died of an overdose of opium and alcohol, Vincent van Gogh committed suicide, and Baudelaire squandered his inherited fortune on opium, women, and art, dying after a year of paralysis at the age of forty-six. Poe asserted that perversity was a natural tendency that had existed since the beginning of time. In the nineteenth century, two prevailing explanations were advanced to explain such behavior—environmental and genetic—and Poe explored both. He exploited contemporary anxiety about the inheritance of mental and physical defects, which could even strengthen over time. In his short story “The Fall of the House of Usher” (1839), Poe described the degeneration of an aristocratic family. The narrator visits his school friend Roderick Usher, who suffers from “acute bodily illness—of a mental disorder which oppressed him,”20 and lives with his twin, Madeleine, who is dying from a mysterious illness with symptoms of anorexia, apathy, and catalepsy. Upon his initial approach to the house, the narrator experiences a foreboding: “about the whole mansion and domain there hung an atmosphere peculiar to themselves and their immediate vicinity . . . which had reeked up from the decayed trees, and the gray wall, and the silent tarn—a pestilent and mystic vapor, dull, sluggish, faintly discernible and leaden-hued.”21 Following Madeleine’s apparent death, the friends place her corpse in the manor’s dungeon. Roderick never mentions that the strange noises subsequently heard in the ancient house were her desperate cries for rescue. After a week of imprisonment, the frail Madeleine escapes, embraces her brother, and they die in each other’s arms. Employing a botanical metaphor, the narrator explains to the reader the tragic abnormality of the Usher family: I had learned, too, the very remarkable fact, that the stem of the Usher race, all time-honored as it was, had put forth, at no period, any enduring branch; in other words, that the entire family lay in the direct line of descent . . . it was this deficiency, perhaps of collateral issue, and the consequent undeviating transmission, from sire to son, of the patrimony with the name, which had, at length, so identified the two as to merge the original title of the estate into the quaint and equivocal appellation of the “House of Usher”—an appellation which seemed to include, in the minds of the peasantry who used it, both the family and the family mansion.22




Genetic defects were not the sole threats to the individual and society: the crowd—and its evil twin, the mob—posed an equally dangerous threat. With the rapid increase in urban population during the nineteenth century, the impact of crowds escalated dramatically, making them forces for social and political change as well as threats to law and order. As Poe observed in “The Man of the Crowd” (1840), the anonymous individual “is the type and genius of deep crime. He refuses to be alone. He is the man of the crowd.”23 The crowd’s dangerous potential inspired intensive study: Ferdinand Tönnies, in Community and Civil Society, analyzed the harmful effects of urbanization. The French sociologist Gabriel Tarde asserted in The Laws of Imitation (1890) that densely populated areas facilitated the diffusion of new ideas, like a hospitable environment for a dangerous pathogen. Tarde’s premise was verified by Gustave Le Bon’s 1895 landmark study The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind, in which the author observed that urbanism fostered the loss of individuality, a prized quality among Symbolists. In 1872, the French novelist Gustave Flaubert wrote to his niece: “I have learned in Paris that several people (among others, Gustave Moreau [1826–1898], the painter), are suffering from the same ailment as myself—the unbearableness of the crowd is a common ailment since our disasters, apparently.”24 In Poe’s world, danger also lurked in the uncontrollable and inexplicable forces of nature and human biology. Romantic artists and writers focused on the fear aroused by climatic or geographic catastrophe or human violence. Poe investigated something more sinister and uncontrollable: disease.25 He conveyed the dread of certain death by communicable disease in the short story “The Masque of the Red Death” (1839, translated into French by Baudelaire and published in 1856), a tale that inspired Rops’s painting Death at the Ball (Fig. 18). Cholera pandemics, each lasting for several years, began in 1817, 1832, 1854, 1865, and 1884, killing millions of people. Poe found himself in the midst of two of them: in Baltimore in 1832 and in Philadelphia in 1847.26 In “The Masque of the Red Death,” Prince Prospero sequesters himself and a thousand members of his court in a remote abbey to escape a plague. After several tense but uneventful weeks, the prince organizes a costume ball to relieve the monotony, encouraging his guests to wear outlandish costumes. One guest appears shrouded in a cloak splashed with blood. Outraged by this reminder of the danger beyond the abbey walls, the prince attacks the guest with a dagger—only to discover that the mask and costume conceal the Red Death itself. Wealth and title are useless against the superhuman force of contagion: “Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.”27 By representing the moment of Red Death’s unmasking, Rops evoked the terror of a confrontation with death. The painting was inspired by Poe’s text, but the careless, even violent, appearance of the surface indicates that this is no simple illustration. Paint bleeds from one area to another, sometimes thick, sometimes thin, as if an acid had eaten away the upper layers to expose the coarse canvas beneath. A veil of gray paint spreads across the white cloak like a fungus, and patches of color are applied with frantic haste. The contrast between the white, bloodspattered cloak and the dark ball gown and murky background of horrified ballgoers is an unintended effect of the artist’s use of bitumen, which darkens, irreversibly, over time.

18 Félicien Rops, Death at the Ball, c. 1865–75, oil on canvas, 151 × 85 cm. KröllerMüller Museum, Otterlo.



baudelaire In a June 1864 letter to his friend the critic Théophile Thoré, Baudelaire confessed: “Do you know why I translate Poe so patiently? Because he was like me. The first time I opened one of his books, I saw with terror and delight not only subjects that I had dreamt of, but sentences that I had written and that he had imitated twenty years before.”28 Baudelaire is often cited as the most important literary influence on Symbolism, bridging Romantic and Symbolist artists and writers.29 Unlike the Romantic poets, Baudelaire used language to suggest ideas by means of eclectic, diffuse, and often irrational images rather than description, and his poetry—with themes of dreams, euphoria, fragility, imaginary landscapes, nostalgia, and self-indulgence— anticipated the decadent branch of Symbolism. His poetry collection Les Fleurs du mal (1857) was one of the most controversial, innovative, and influential literary works of the nineteenth century because of its frank celebration of drugs, eroticism, and self-indulgence: Mallarmé copied excerpts of it into his notebook in 1860. Baudelaire was tried on obscenity charges stemming from thirteen of Les Fleurs du mal’s one hundred poems; six of the poems were officially banned in France until 1949. Rops met Baudelaire in 1864 and designed the frontispiece to Les Épaves (1866), which contained the banned poems from Les Fleurs du mal. The collection’s best-known poem, “Correspondences,” was a literary talisman for Symbolists, and its title acknowledged Baudelaire’s appreciation of Swedenborg: Nature is a temple in which living pillars Sometimes emit confused words; Man crosses it through forests of symbols That observe him with familiar glances. Like long echoes that mingle in the distance In a profound tenebrous unity, Vast as the night and vast as light, Perfumes, sounds, and colors respond to one another. Some perfumes are as fresh as the flesh of children, Sweet as the sound of oboes, green as pastures, —And others, corrupt, rich, and triumphant, Having the expanse of things infinite, Such as amber, musk, benzoin, and incense, That sing of the flight of spirit and the senses.30

“Correspondences” contains several concepts central to Symbolism: sensuality, suggestion, incomprehensibility, and nature as a hieroglyph—the coded symbol of an idea that the artistgenius could decipher and interpret for others. In his 1891 essay “Symbolism in Painting,” Albert Aurier expressed admiration for Gauguin’s ability to “write ideas like . . . a page of ideographic writing reminiscent of the hieroglyphic texts of the obelisks of ancient Egypt.”31 To Aurier, good


Symbolist art, like Egyptian hieroglyphs, suggested the eternal truth beneath the contingencies of sense perception, thereby embodying permanence and universality. The term appears frequently in Symbolist writings; ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs had been a particular object of fascination since Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign of 1798–99. By the end of the nineteenth century, inscribed obelisks, appropriated and brought by ship from Egypt, had been erected in prominent public spaces in London, New York, Paris, and Rome. The belief that hieroglyphs conveyed magical knowledge began in late antiquity, since neither Greeks nor Romans could read the symbols, which by the Hellenistic period, were intelligible solely to Egyptian priests. The idea of art as hieroglyph, however, can be traced back to Romanticism. The French painter Eugène Delacroix remarked in an October 20, 1853, diary entry: “These figures are like a solid bridge by which the imagination penetrating them reaches the mysterious and profound sensation of which the forms are, in some way, the hieroglyph.”32 Hieroglyphs captured the Symbolist artistic and literary imagination: Rémy de Gourmont published his poetry collection Les Hiéroglyphes in 1894, the same year that Joséphin Péladan declared: “The line is an ideogram, the hieroglyph which translates the sensible world for human intelligence” in Idealist and Mystic Art.33 Even though the ancient hieroglyphic language had been decoded by the late nineteenth century, Aurier and Péladan persisted in articulating a willful misconception about its impenetrability.34 For Baudelaire, poetry conveyed the ultimate incomprehensibility of the universe through the mystic use of language. Spiritual strength required a correspondingly robust personality. The true artist and poet, according to Baudelaire, “must avoid like the plague borrowing the eyes and feelings of another man . . . for then his productions would be lies in relation to himself, and not realities.”35 Herbert Spencer, an influential British social scientist who formulated the theory of Social Darwinism, observed in First Principles (1862) that individualism and heterogeneity characterized “advanced” or “complex” cultures and organisms. Symbolist theorists encouraged artists to express their originality through the truthful representation of perceptions and emotions, a directive that addressed the psychological need to feel singular in an era of conformity and anonymity. The emphasis on originality encouraged artists to develop a signature style; this often resulted in an artifice that reminded viewers that they were looking at a created object. In his “Definition of Neo-traditionalism” (1890), the painter Maurice Denis made the seemingly obvious but nonetheless revolutionary observation: “One must remember that before it is a war-horse, a nude woman, or whatever anecdote, a painting is essentially a flat surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order”—in other words, a creation conceived and carried out by the artist.36

beethoven For many Symbolist artists and writers, the German Romantic composer Ludwig von Beethoven, whose deafness toward the end of his career prevented him from hearing his own compositions performed, epitomized the figure of the artist-genius.37 Beethoven’s achievement was celebrated




in the 1902 Vienna Secessionist exhibition, in which Max Klinger’s mixed-media, life-size seated portrait in heroic partial nudity (Plate 3) was the focal point. On the walls of the exhibition hall, Gustave Klimt’s Beethoven Frieze presented an allegory of themes from the Ninth Symphony, while an orchestra of wind-players led by Gustave Mahler played Mahler’s arrangement of the symphony’s concluding theme, immersing visitors in a multisensory experience. Klinger envisioned Beethoven as a paradoxical conflation of Zeus, the self-regarding king of the gods, and Prometheus, the demigod punished for sharing the gift of fire with humans. The composer, his brow furrowed with concentration, is seated on a bronze throne ornamented with cryptic reliefs combining pagan and Christian motifs. The right side of the throne, for instance, alludes to the high price paid for divine secrets: Tantalus, who stole ambrosia and was punished by having food and water kept just out of his reach, and the tree of knowledge, entwined by a serpent, which alludes to Adam and Eve’s expulsion from Eden. These figures—like Beethoven, Klinger seems to suggest—made painful, perhaps regrettable sacrifices for the knowledge they gained. At the same time, the figure of Beethoven embodied the triumph of creative genius over adversity. The reviewer for the British art journal Brush and Pencil invoked a scientific metaphor to praise Beethoven: “So far as I know, it is wholly unlike anything ever attempted in the line of commemorative statuary. In a sense it seems like a daring experiment brought to a successful issue.”38 Klinger conceived the memorial and made a plaster model while living in Paris in 1886. Anecdotal evidence recounts that he came up with the idea while playing the piano.39 Is Klinger’s Beethoven a Symbolist artwork?40 On the one hand, it contains many realistic elements: the head of Beethoven, for example, is modeled on the composer’s death mask, and one of the heads decorating the upper edge of the throne is based on a childhood portrait of Klinger’s partner, Elsa Asenijeff, who gave birth to their daughter Desirée in 1900. Klinger used a variety of materials—marble, bronze, gold leaf, amber, and ivory—to enhance the realistic effect. The figure’s proportions are plausible (if idealized), and the surfaces of skin and drapery are smooth. Life-size nude sculptures of famous men in the guise of Greek gods were a common artistic trope from the eighteenth century forward; the most controversial example was Antonio Canova’s nude Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker (1806, Apsley House, London). On the other hand, the hybrid character of Klinger’s memorial deviates from all precedents, as the Brush and Pencil critic noted. Beethoven, Zeus, and Prometheus are conflated in a single figure (like Dante-Rodin on the latter’s Gates of Hell ), and a confusing assortment of pagan and Christian images on the throne (Fig. 19)—a crucifixion, Venus on her shell, a Nereid, Saint John, the rising sun (on the back), and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from Paradise (on one of the sides)— invites the viewer to reflect on possible interpretations. Memorials on the scale of Beethoven, life-size, technically complex, and made of costly materials, were usually executed on commission, but Klinger undertook this project on his own initiative and paid the more than 150,000 German marks that it cost to produce the sculpture. It must therefore have been of tremendous personal significance to the artist. What did Klinger want to express? We cannot be sure, since Klinger never specifically addressed the meaning of Beethoven. However, the artist’s remark that “art is about the extension of that which we seek


19 Max Klinger, Beethoven, 1899–1902: back of the throne, Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig. Photo: Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, New York (photographer: HansDieter Kluge).

above all in life—the feeling of the outer world, but without its physical aspect,”41 indicates that he sought to express his desire for a transcendent yet intense affirmation of existence. In Beethoven, Klinger—consistent with Symbolist practice—clothed an idea in visible form.

schopenhauer The works of the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) were an important source for Symbolist ideas, including the value of solitude, the exalted status of subjectivity, the power of irrational forces, the transcendent quality of music, and the inferiority of women.42 French audiences were first exposed to his ideas during the 1870s, when Schopenhauer’s writings




were translated and published in literary journals. This initiative was reinforced by the publication of Thomas Ribot’s La Philosophie de Schopenhauer (1874), M. Bourdeau’s Schopenhauer: Pensées, maximes et fragments (1880), and the lectures of the philosophy professor Elme-Marie Caro of the Sorbonne, during the winter of 1878–79. The critic Ferdinand Bruntière observed in an article in the Parisian Revue des deux mondes that “it may well turn out one day that Schopenhauer, along with Darwin, will have proved to be the man whose ideas have exerted the profoundest influence of all on the last years of this century.”43 Schopenhauer’s influential treatise The World as Will and Representation (1818) asserted the existence of as many realities as there were people to imagine them. He maintained that everything beyond the self exists only to the extent that one is conscious of it. The negative corollary of this premise is that man is fundamentally alone and isolated. Many Symbolists subscribed to this outlook, fetishizing psychological and emotional estrangement.44 One example was the gifted French artist Rodolphe Bresdin (1822–1885). A printmaker who taught etching and lithography to Odilon Redon and was appreciated by a small circle of connoisseurs, Bresdin lived an itinerant life of bohemian poverty.45 For many Symbolist artists, Bresdin’s life, like Blake’s, epitomized the tragedy of the artist-genius who endures a life of suffering as a price for his nonconformity. Bresdin was sickly and so passionately devoted to creating and teaching that he neglected pragmatic concerns such as completing commissions on time, marketing his works, and paying his debts. In his 1883 etching My Dream (Fig. 20), minute details describe a plausible yet fantastic world dominated by water—identified by Sigmund Freud as a symbol of the unconscious. In a harbor packed with sailing ships, rowboats convey passengers between the medieval town and the vessels. The scale of objects is plausible, yet the picture lacks a coherent narrative: a partially nude female—who more resembles a live figure than a sculpture— stands atop a column holding a shield and standard in a pose that suggests fatigue. Reclining below her on the shore, a cowled melancholic figure resembles the portrait of Michelangelo in Raphael’s School of Athens (1510–11, Apostolic Palace, Vatican City). Bresdin, like the Symbolists he influenced, left the image’s meaning indeterminate. According to Schopenhauer, irrational urges dominated the human will. Edvard Munch made these urges the subject of his art. In 1889, he wrote: “In the future [one will paint] people who breathe, who suffer, and who love. I felt it was my duty to paint such scenes.”46 According to Schopenhauer, the will (an unconscious entity propelled by the survival instinct) was more often than not a negative force and a catalyst for suffering. Schopenhauer saw the “inner necessity”47 that mobilizes will in nature as well: in the roots of a plant seeking water, in territorial struggles among animals, and in the force of gravity. For Schopenhauer, music manifested the will, or life force: “That music acts directly upon the will, i.e. the feelings, passions, and emotions of the hearer, so that it quickly raises them or changes them, may be explained from the fact that, unlike all the other arts, it does not express the Ideas . . . of the will, but directly the will itself.” 48 Schopenhauer’s conviction was confirmed even by ancient authors. The Greek historian Polybius (second century bce) observed that “the primitive Arcadians welded music into their whole political structure to such a degree that


20 Rodolphe Bresdin, My Dream, 1883, etching, 33.7 × 24.7 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Dudley P. Allen Fund (1945.349). Photo © The Cleveland Museum of Art.

it was necessary not only for children but also for youths up to the age of thirty years to make it an integral part of their lives.”49 Symbolists subscribed to Schopenhauer’s belief that music is essential, direct, accessible, and all-embracing. Schopenhauer’s essay “On Women” (1851) provided Symbolists with a philosophical justification for their contempt for women. A classic of misogynist vitriol, “On Women” asserted that women were inferior to men: intellectually, morally, and physically. Conveniently, women could do nothing to improve the situation. Developed to the fullest extent of their capabilities, women were no more than children—eternally immature. As a result, they were unreliable; woman’s




will to live was motivated solely by a biological desire to procreate. According to Schopenhauer, women were incapable of aesthetic appreciation, which meant that they could not attain the state of tranquil­ity and contemplation that permitted transcendence of the human will and led to salvation. Women were, quite simply, creatures of a lower order. Baudelaire’s view of women, articulated in his 1860 book Artificial Paradises, was more tempered, but similarly polarized: “Woman is the creature who casts the largest shadow or projects the greatest light in our dreams . . . she lives spiritually in the imaginations she haunts and which feed upon her.”50

nietzsche Schopenhauer had a formative influence on the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900): Nietzsche’s Dionysian impulse corresponded to Schopenhauer’s will and to Poe’s perversity.51 In The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music (1872), Nietzsche compared the hedonistic excesses of the Dionysian impulse with the Apollonian impulse, which inspires the creation of beauty and is characterized by moderation and self-knowledge. Nietzsche identified these opposing tendencies as the fundamental operating principles in ancient Greece and all subsequent civilizations. Like many of his contemporaries, Nietzsche felt that the Dionysian impulse dominated in his own time.52 Nietzsche considered music superior to all other arts because of its direct emotional impact and its ability to induce a state in which individual consciousness merges in transcendent unity with that of other listeners. Music thus facilitated a spiritual—as opposed to a physical— experience and promoted an understanding of universal and inexpressible truths.53 According to Nietzsche, “music, when considered as an expression of the world, is universal to the highest degree.”54 His ideas about music were influenced by Schopenhauer’s philosophy, from which Nietzsche quoted extensively in Birth of Tragedy. He initially valued Richard Wagner’s music for its Apollonian integration of art and life, but by 1888 Nietzsche had retreated from his favorable assessment of the composer. In The Case of Wagner, Nietzsche described Wagner’s music as the Dionysian nadir of an alienated, narcissistic, pessimistic escapism that threatened the survival of Western civilization. Nietzsche (who suffered bouts of mental illness) described Wagner’s ideas about fate and suffering as a social contagion and reasoned that those resilient enough to survive infection and a period of sickness would emerge as supermen. That Wagner’s music could support two conflicting interpretations reflects an ambiguity characteristic of modernism; Nietzsche would undoubtedly have been chagrined to discover that his writings would soon meet the same fate. Marshall Berman regards this ambiguity as an essential element of modernism: “All forms of modernist art and thought have a dual character: they are at once expressions of and protests against the process of modernization. In relatively advanced countries, where economic, social and technological modernization are dynamic and thriving, the relationship of modernist art and thought to the real world around it is clear, even when . . . that relationship is also complex and contradictory.”55


German intellectuals were stimulated by Nietzsche’s ideas as they were published, beginning in the 1870s, but it was not until more than a decade later that his ideas circulated more widely.56 Nietzsche began to attract attention among French writers and artists after the publication in 1891 of the French translation of The Case of Wagner.57 Wyzéwa (a colleague of Wagner’s son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain) condemned Nietzsche as pessimistic, nihilistic, and destructive in his article “Nietzsche, the Last Metaphysician,” which appeared in the November 7, 1891, issue of La Revue bleue. A few months later, Daniel Halévy and Fernand Gregh—protégés of Stéphane Mallarmé who translated and published The Case of Wagner— counterattacked in the inaugural (April 1892) issue of their newly established (and short-lived) journal Le Banquet, declaring Nietzsche “the philosopher of confidence, of health, of joy.”58 These conflicting interpretations of Nietzsche—as a champion of decadence and seclusion or of vitalism and engagement—were symptomatic of the psychological crisis pervading late nineteenth-century society.59

wagner Richard Wagner (1813–1883) became a presence in Parisian intellectual circles beginning in 1858, when he began frequent and extended visits to Paris. Between 1859 and 1861, Wagner regularly held a salon on Wednesday evenings attended by the Parisian cultural vanguard.60 In 1860, he conducted several concerts in Paris, and in 1861, his opera Tannhäuser was first performed at the Paris Opéra for an audience that included Charles Baudelaire, Wagner’s earliest and most passionate French champion. This experience inspired Baudelaire to write his only essay on music, “Richard Wagner and Tannhäuser in Paris” (1861), in which he compared Wagner’s ideas with his own theory of correspondences.61 For Wagner, a synthesis of the arts was integral to his larger notion of Gesamtkunstwerk (total work of art). In The Artwork of the Future (1849), Wagner defined the Gesamtkunstwerk as a unity of media (movement, music, poetry) that created a grand, single work of art with the power to effect ideological change.62 The French government objected to the nationalistic content of some of Wagner’s operas and banned their performance in Paris following France’s 1871 defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.63 A recurring theme in the operas is the search for national identity in the historic or mythic past, a subject that some critics felt constituted an assertion of Germany’s cultural superiority and deemed an inappropriate theme in light of France’s crushing loss. The situation changed in the 1890s, when intellectuals like Halévy and Gregh cited Nietzsche in support of their efforts to revitalize the French nation. Beginning in 1881, the conductor Charles Lamoureux gave weekly concerts at the Eden Theater in Paris that regularly included compositions by Wagner.64 Artists and writers later labeled Symbolist—among them, Stéphane Mallarmé, Émile Bernard, and Maurice Denis—attended Lamoureux’s recitals. The French critic and writer Édouard Schuré’s two-volume study, The Musical Drama, published in 1875 and reprinted in a revised edition in 1886, declared the direct, unmediated expression of ideas the essence of music:




“The other arts affect us by the intervention of reflection and the imagination; music, on the contrary, affects us without the help of the notion of causality and touches us directly at the essence of our being. . . . It gives us the quintessence of life without its visible forms, passions without their accidental causes, nature without its envelope.”65 Adrien Remacle’s article “The Wagnerian Movement in France” appeared in the May 1884 edition of the Parisian journal La Revue indépendante and attested to Wagner’s formidable presence in French intellectual circles. The publication of a monthly journal for Wagnerites, the Revue wagnérienne, from February 1885 until December 1888, was evidence of the extent of Wagner’s popularity. Its international editorial board included the musicians Édouard Dujardin and Wyzéwa as well as Wagner’s notoriously anti-Semitic son-in-law, Houston Stewart Chamberlain. Mallarmé contributed “Richard Wagner: Reverie of a French Poet” to the August 8, 1885, issue; Wyzéwa published “Notes on Wagnerian Painting and the Salon of 1886” in the May 8, 1886, issue. In his article, Wyzéwa asserted that Redon and Henri Fantin-Latour (1836–1904) came closest to Wagner’s Gesamtkunstwerk by incorporating into their paintings sensation, emotion, and ideas—the “three modes” that compose the human soul. Wagner’s influence was widespread. In March 1889, for instance, Paul Sérusier inscribed a quotation from Wagner on the wall of his room at the Pension Le Gloanec in the Breton village of Le Pouldu. “This is our credo,” he wrote to Denis: “I believe in a last judgment where all those who in this world have dared to traffic in art sublime and chaste, all those who have been sullied and degraded by the baseness of their sentiments, by their vile greed for material pleasures will be condemned to terrible suffering. I believe in revenge where the loyal disciples of grand art will be glorified and enveloped in a celestial fabric of rays, perfumes, and melodious harmonies, they will return to disappear for eternity in the heart of the divine source of all harmony.”66 This artistic credo articulated the contempt that Sérusier and his colleagues (including Bernard and Gauguin) harbored for the materialism, dishonesty, and selfishness they discerned in the modern art world. Joining Wagner in his pessimism about achieving fame in his own time, Sérusier also imagined salvation in spiritual terms. The Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh attributed a therapeutic power to Wagner’s music in a letter to his brother Theo written in January 1889,67 and when Denis described Leonardo’s Mona Lisa (c. 1505, Musée du Louvre, Paris), he compared its background to the Tannhäuser overture.68 Gauguin reinterpreted Wagner’s notion of Gesamtkunstwerk in “Notes synthétiques,” an unpublished manuscript written in 1888. In it, Gauguin identified painting, not music, as the most perfect of all the arts: “Painting is the most beautiful of all arts. In it, all sensations are condensed . . . everything is summed up in one instant. A complete art which sums up all the others and completes them. Like music, it acts on the soul through the intermediary of the senses . . . But in painting, a unity is obtained which is not possible in music . . . The ear is actually a sense inferior to the eye. The hearing can only grasp a single sound at a time, whereas sight takes in everything and simultaneously simplifies it at will.”69 Typically, Gauguin elevated his own enterprise in defining Wagner’s ideas of unity, simplicity, and direct communication as supreme values.


21 James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne: Silver and Opal—Chelsea, c. 1882, oil on canvas, 203 × 257 cm. Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., Gift of Charles Lang Freer (F1902. 146a–b).

whistler The Anglo-American painter James McNeill Whistler (1834–1903) frequently chose musical titles for his paintings: arrangement, caprice, harmony, variation. In his famous “Ten O’Clock” lecture of 1888, Whistler explained: “Nature contains the elements, in color and form, of all pictures, as the keyboard contains the notes of all music,”70 an idea informing Nocturne: Silver and Opal—Chelsea (Fig. 21). Many Symbolist artists and writers saw this painting: it was exhibited in London in 1884 and 1892, and in Paris in 1887 at Georges Petit’s gallery. Whistler painted the work in the early 1880s, using a narrow range of tones, mostly cool blue-gray, only hinting at the suspension bridge and the artificial lights that came on at twilight. Brushwork rather than color or line delineates the minimal visual differences between sea and sky, and the prevailing mistiness suggests that the painting may represent a memory or a mirage. Whistler’s desire to evoke rather than to describe produced compositions that were radically simplified in form and color. The now-forgotten French painter Jacques-Émile Blanche (1861–1942) observed that “the Whistler cult became entangled in men’s minds with symbolism, the Mallarmé and . . . Wagner cults.”71




the pre-raphaelite brotherhood The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood was an association of London-based artists formed in 1849. Its activities anticipated aspects of Symbolism: the emphasis on spirituality, the polarized vision of women, and the founding of a journal (The Germ, 1850) to articulate new ideas about art and literature.72 William Holman Hunt, a founding member, described the group’s view as follows: “Every age brings new knowledge into the world: the artists of past days imagined and composed their works for the intelligence of their contemporaries, and we should work with equal desire to address the intelligence of our own day.”73 For the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, these goals conflicted with the artifice and convention encouraged by art academies. Its members valued works that they considered free from convention and motivated by inner passion, such as those produced in Italy prior to Raphael. Although the Pre-Raphaelites’ paintings first attracted international attention at the 1855 Exposition Universelle in Paris,74 it was not until the 1880s that Parisian artists became receptive to the Brotherhood’s ideas. Much of the movement’s influence in France was due to the secondgeneration Pre-Raphaelite painter Edward Burne-Jones (1833–1898), who first exhibited in France at the 1878 Exposition Universelle, but left little apparent impression on his fellow artists until 1889, when King Cophetua (Fig. 22) won the Exposition’s Legion of Honor award. The painting recounts a story of true love similar to that of the Cinderella fable, inspired by Alfred Tennyson’s 1833 poem, “The Beggar Maid”: young King Cophetua, disillusioned by the pretension and vanity of available princesses, had given up hope of finding a wife. While hunting one day, Cophetua encountered an elderly beggar and his daughter, Penelophon, whose honesty and simplicity so enthralled the king that he proposed to her on the spot; they reigned together happily ever after. Many narrative elements in King Cophetua would have appealed to Symbolists: medievalism; nostalgia; the generosity, kindness, and modesty of Cophetua; and the beauty, honesty, and simplicity of Penelophon. This life-affirming legend could be viewed as a futile yearning for times past, but for the Symbolists it was also an inspirational tale of true love and an affirmation of the values needed to drive social reform.

puvis de chavannes Together with Gustave Moreau and Arnold Böcklin, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824–1898) exerted an important influence on Symbolist artists.75 Puvis’s impact exceeded that of Moreau and Böcklin because his works addressed a broader range of issues relevant to Symbolism— mood, subject matter, composition, and technique—and were more accessible: he executed public murals in Paris for the Napoleon Museum (1864), the Panthéon (1878 and 1898), the Sorbonne (1891), and the Hôtel de Ville (1892). His most admired work was The Poor Fisherman (Plate 4), shown at the 1881 Salon. Puvis painted at least four versions of the theme, and The

22 Edward Burne-Jones, King Cophetua, 1884, oil on canvas, 109 × 46 cm. Tate Gallery, London. Photo © Tate London, 2009.



Poor Fisherman was included in the lithographic Album of Painter-Engravers published by the art dealer Ambrose Vollard in 1897. Both Georges Seurat (1859–1891) and Aristide Maillol (1861–1944) painted copies of it, and it was admired by the Swedish playwright and painter August Strindberg, who found it calming; 76 Maurice Denis declared that The Poor Fisherman’s “enormous influence on late-nineteenth-century painting can never sufficiently be stressed.”77 Indeed, the Swiss painter Paul Klee (1879–1940) recorded in his diary during a 1905 visit to Paris that “the earliest [Ferdinand] Hodler stems from The Poor Fisherman by Puvis de Chavannes. The color gray within a mild color scheme.”78 On January 16, 1895, a banquet was held in Paris to celebrate Puvis’s seventieth birthday; the size of the guest list, which exceeded five hundred, indicates the extent to which he was esteemed by other artists (Carrière, Gauguin, Monet, Renoir, Rodin, Signac), critics (Gustave Geffroy, Octave Mirbeau, Roger Marx), and writers (Émile Zola). The imagery of The Poor Fisherman is simultaneously religious, secular, timeless, and modern. The humble, pious fisherman recalls Jesus, a connection reinforced by the fisherman’s scrawny physique, beard, and hairstyle; the inclusion of a woman and baby recalls the holy family. While submissive and devout peasants were common themes in genre painting by the 1880s, Puvis’s generic group frustrates attempts to define its historical moment or geographical location; Puvis avoided the norms of certainty and specificity expected by his nineteenth-century audience. He distilled his subject to its essential elements, suggesting, rather than specifying, its meaning. Similarly, Puvis simplified the composition, descriptive detail, and palette in such a way that viewers could easily interpret the painting as an evocation of an idea or feeling. The narrow tonal range of pale, soothing hues avoids illusionism, and the static composition and generalized figures convey a sense of timelessness and induce a contemplative mood; land and water create an almost abstract pattern of interlocking forms. Puvis’s Poor Fisherman incorporated elements soon to be categorized as Symbolist.

böcklin The popularity of the Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin (1827–1901) was such that by 1893 one could speak of a “Böcklin cult.”79 He was compared favorably with William Shakespeare and the German Romantic poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and his paintings influenced contemporary German literature. Klinger dedicated his 1887 etching series A Love to Böcklin, while Ferdinand Keller paid homage to the artist with his painting Böcklin’s Tomb (1901–2, Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe).80 Böcklin’s Isle of the Dead (1880, Fig. 23) was one of the most celebrated paintings of the late nineteenth century.81 He painted five versions (with either a nocturnal or daytime setting), and reproductions found their way into the collections of artists and intellectuals: Freud received one as a gift from a patient in 1900, Klinger copied it, and Strindberg used it as the backdrop for the final scene of his play A Ghost Sonata (1907).82 Böcklin lived in Florence begin-


23 Arnold Böcklin, The Isle of the Dead (Toteninsel), 1880, oil on canvas, 80 × 150 cm. Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

ning in 1874 (having fled a cholera epidemic in Munich); German audiences became acquainted with his works through exhibitions at the Berlin and Dresden galleries of Fritz Gurlitt. Böcklin painted The Isle of the Dead on commission for a recently widowed woman who wanted “a landscape over which one could dream.”83 Unlike Puvis, Böcklin included a conspicuous narrative: an oarsman steers a boat carrying a bereaved, cowled woman and a coffin toward a cemetery island. The painting’s melancholic mood derives directly from its narrative: someone has recently died and is accompanied on his or her final journey by a mourner. Compositional simplicity and a restricted tonal range reinforce a sense of stasis and foster reflection, memory, longing, and nostalgia. As with Puvis’s Poor Fisherman, subject, color, and line convey an ambiance of calm and silence.

moreau Like Puvis and Böcklin, Gustave Moreau (1826–1898) rebelled against contemporary artistic norms. A member of the academic establishment, Moreau exhibited regularly at the Salon beginning in 1851 and taught for the last six years of his life at the state-sponsored École des Beaux-Arts. Moreau selectively conformed to or transgressed accepted artistic conventions. His works (many of them never exhibited in his lifetime) reveal an imaginative artist dedicated to


24 Gustave Moreau, L’Apparition, 1876, watercolor, 106 × 72.2 cm. Musée du Louvre, Paris (RF 2130). Photo © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York (photographer: Jean-Gilles Berizzi).


experimentation. Preoccupied with the materiality of paint, Moreau created surfaces that were alternately smooth and illusionistic or densely ornamental. Both Moreau’s subjects and surfaces exude sensuality, and his works were admired by Symbolists like Fernand Khnopff (1858–1921), who dedicated his poem “Jason and Medea” to him.84 L’Apparition (Fig. 24) was one of two depictions of the Salomé story exhibited by Moreau at the Salon of 1876.85 This watercolor attracted more attention than his sensational oil painting, Salomé Dancing before Herod (1874–76, Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles), because it represented the unprecedented image of the head of St. John the Baptist levitating in the palace of King Herod. Moreau invented this moment, which is not described in the Gospel of Saint Mark.86 In an 1886 article in the Gazette des beaux-arts, critic Ary Renan assumed that L’Apparition represented Salomé’s vision of the reward she would demand as payment for her dance,87 whereas Joris-Karl Huysmans assumed that “the murder had been done,” in his decadent, best-selling novel, Against the Grain (1884). Both authors presumed that only Salomé sees the head, but the question remains: did Moreau represent a mental image, a hallucination, or a paranormal event? Ambiguity was not the only way Moreau transgressed normative expectations in L’Apparition. Instead of choosing a historically appropriate setting, Moreau stressed the event’s exoticism by situating it in the Alhambra of Granada palace complex begun in the thirteenth century by Ibn al-Ahmar, founder of the Islamic Nasrid dynasty, and lavishly embellished with floral and geometric mosaics.

new art for a new age Significantly, a similar impulse inspired Symbolism and the three main movements against which it rebelled—Naturalism, Realism, and Impressionism: to create art specifically appropriate to the modern world. All four movements had an anti-establishment undercurrent attributable to dissatisfaction with drastically changing social and economic conditions. However, whereas Naturalists, Realists, and Impressionists concentrated on the appearance of modernity, Symbolists explored its emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects and searched for a pictorial language that could convey the experience of modernity. The focus of Naturalism, Realism, and Impressionism on outward appearances made sense at a time of transformation whose scale and rapidity was unprecedented in human history. Landscapes and rural environments, cities, even how people dressed changed markedly from one decade to the next. As a result, people became preoccupied with the world around them, and artists and writers sought to record its myriad manifestations. Realists observed nature and recorded their subjects with painstaking detail, while Impressionists captured the fleeting appearance of modern life, including the effects of light and atmosphere. These concerns led Impressionists to contemporary subjects and techniques that conveyed spontaneity and the passage of time. By the 1880s, however, many were so enervated by their circumstances—




­ ewness had become tiresome rather than exhilarating—that stability and security began to n overshadow a fascination with modern transience. The artistic and intellectual precursors of Symbolism provided the conceptual moorings for its ideas and inspired its imagery during a period of rapid social change that polarized much of everyday experience: the imagination could function as the source of salvation or damnation; women were muses or temptresses. Political, psychological, and social tensions generated a charged atmosphere of uncertainty that fed the central themes of Symbolist art. United in their belief that materialism, secularism, and egotism augured the decline of civilization, Symbolist artists adopted diverse strategies for responding to the prospect of extinction. Symbolists shared the Romantics’ disenchantment with modern industrial life. Mystics like Swedenborg and Blake, and later Beethoven and Carlyle, suggested that answers could be found in the human imagination. Possibilities for enlightenment abounded in mysterious sources such as hieroglyphs and music. With their disdain for the material world, many Symbolists privileged music over art. The artists they admired were Böcklin, Puvis, Whistler, and others whose works emulated the suggestiveness of music and evoked nostalgia for idyllic, if imaginary, times past. Their optimistic vision of a vanished world contrasted with the ideas of Poe, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche, who found the imagination rampant with irrational forces that triggered decadence and perversion. Symbolist artists borrowed from these predecessors in varying degrees according to their dispositions as optimists or pessimists. In his 1905 essay “The Poet and His Era,” the Austrian writer Hugo von Hofmannsthal asserted that “multiplicity and indeterminacy” characterized the modern era and that “what other generations believed to be firm is in fact sliding.”88 The revolution in technology— ­particularly in rail and radio communications—disrupted traditional perceptions of time and distance. Equally, radical economic and social changes also contributed to the paradigm shift that we associate with modernity. Like others of their generation, Symbolist artists searched in various ways for meaning, permanence, and universality amidst the tumult of their time.

Decadence and Degeneration



elieving the world to be enmeshed in a hopeless downward spiral, pessimistic Symbolists took up the themes of decadence and degeneration. Their feelings were reflected in an 1895 article in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine that noted, “ours may be an age of progress, but it is progress which, if left unchecked, will land us in the hospital or the lunatic asylum.”1 To many, the prospect of an impending crisis seemed to signal the twilight of decadent Western civilization. Apocalyptic cynicism led to resignation and hedonism. Nostalgic paralysis led to withdrawal into an imaginary sanctuary formed by memories and visions of the past. “Decadence” was the label given to this pessimistic branch of Symbolism.

decadence Artists reacted to the dramatic social transformations of the latter half of the nineteenth century. Some were struck by the accelerated pace of life and the stunning increases in production made possible by industrialization and documented by the German social scientist Max Nordau: railways (3,000 kilometers of track in 1840 with 2.5 million travelers, escalating to 218,000 kilometers in 1891 with 614 million travelers); periodicals (in 1840 there were 305 in Germany, 776 in France, and 551 in England compared with 6,800 in Germany, 5,182 in France, and 2,255 in England in 1891); and recorded deaths from heart disease (92,181 during the period 1859–63 compared with 224,102 between 1884 and 1888).2 Alarm over this apparent pattern of universal acceleration led people to scrutinize economic, political, scientific, and social developments for clues to the future. To many, the signs were clear: Western civilization had reached its zenith and was rapidly spiraling toward self-destruction—a prediction that the advent of a world war in 1914 seemed to fulfill.3 The sense of hopelessness expressed by artists and writers was reinforced by science and philosophy. William Kelvin’s theory of entropy (1852)—which posited an eventual end to human 65


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occupation of earth—combined with Schopenhauerian pessimism to cast a cynical mood over Europe in the late nineteenth century. Many intellectuals lamented the monotony of modern existence, the stupidity of the masses, and the barbarism that precluded progress toward a better life, a despair expressed in Guy de Maupassant’s story “On Water” (1881). Germany’s defeat of France in 1871and France’s declining birthrate during the last quarter of the nineteenth century were adduced as evidence that theories of degeneration were true. Writers responded to these negative indicators by establishing a literary movement called Decadence. For the first time since the Middle Ages, art was declared independent of nature, and the rejection of mimesis became a fundamental premise of Symbolism. Jean Moréas noted in 1885: “The so-called decadents seek first and foremost, the pure concept and the eternal symbol in their art,” adding that they “ought to be more accurately called Symbolists.”4 Teodor de Wyzéwa offered a more pessimistic formulation in the Parisian journal La Revue indépendante: “The artist . . . must . . . hate what he sees as natural, and always substitute for the willed and mediated work of his own soul.”5 Le Décadent was established as a forum for this new movement in art and literature and debuted in Paris on April 10, 1886. The lead article in its inaugural issue declared: “The future belongs to Decadentism. Born from the most blasé style of a Schopenhaueresque civilization, the Decadents are not a literary school. Their mission is not to initiate anything. They exist only to destroy, to tear down the old ways and to prepare the as yet unborn elements of the great national literature of the twentieth century.” This statement reveals Decadence’s redemptive aspect; its apocalyptic characteristics are self-evident. The Decadents identified Charles Baudelaire as their most important precursor, attracted by his emphasis on sensation, taste for the bizarre, cultivation of artificiality and sensuality, and embrace of melancholy. His gloomy outlook, characterized by hopelessness, resignation, and despair, had enormous appeal among pessimistic Symbolists. Albert Aurier, for instance, declared that he had been born “too late in a world too old” in his review “À propos de l’Exposition universelle de 1889.”6 For such spirits, all signs pointed to infirmity and demise. Charles Morice observed that “the historical sense is . . . the sign of the old age of a race, a mark of decadence.”7 Two decades earlier, Théophile Gautier had praised Baudelaire’s language as “already laced with the green of decay,” in his 1868 introduction to Les Fleurs du mal. In an ultimate declaration of pessimism, Eduard von Hartmann, a disciple of Arthur Schopenhauer, urged renunciation of copulation to hasten the end of an inherently corrupt humanity in Philosophy of the Unconscious (translated into French in 1877).8

degeneration Nordau studied contemporary trends in Degeneration—his 1892 classic, which was translated from German into French in 1894 and into English the year following. Degeneration included chapters on the Pre-Raphaelites, the Symbolists, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Richard Wagner.9 He concurred with Nietzsche’s definition of degeneration as a form of mental illness in which

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individuals experience increasing difficulty fulfilling social obligations, declaring that the modern era suffered from a “severe mental epidemic; a sort of black death of degeneration and hysteria” symptomatic of “an exhausted central nervous system” caused by “the vertigo and whirl of our frenzied life.”10 Nordau drew an analogy between the social evidence of modernity’s sinister character and the human organism, and he warned that a society debilitated by a fatigued nervous system found itself in a perilous state of deterioration. Like other pessimists, he believed either that Western society was beyond rehabilitation, or that only the most radical treatment could save it. Nordau identified atheism, drug use, eccentricity, hypersensitivity, hysteria (difficulty in dis­ tinguishing between reality and fantasy), impotence, impulsiveness, insanity, mysticism, pessimism, and physical defects as indicators of degeneration. According to Nordau, these symp­toms caused genetic alterations that could be transmitted to succeeding generations. The French scientist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck provided spurious, albeit widely accepted, genetic evidence for this hypothesis, positing that acquired traits could be inherited because of the ability of cells to “remember” the experience of earlier cell generations.11 Lamarck’s ideas were popularized by Henri Bergson in Matter and Memory (1896). Nordau attributed degeneration to overstimulation, an unavoidable fact of modern European life. Although he believed the human brain and nervous system capable of adapting to these challenges, he expressed concern that the body could not keep pace and that it would became exhausted and debilitated in the attempt. According to Brooks Adams, in Law of Civilization and Decay (1895), the rise of capitalism led to social degeneration. This idea is expressed in Money (Fig. 25) by the Czech artist František Kupka (1871–1957). In this painting a nude young woman scrutinizes an elderly man painted in putrid tones of green and red. The man cradles a transparent sphere filled with gold coins, a keyhole where his navel should be. Kupka, whose coarse technique and evocative veils of color attest to the influence of Edvard Munch,12 deliberately created a disturbing uncertainty about whether the sphere is part of the man’s anatomy. Here, commerce and sexuality, two of the perceived evils of the time, interact in a silent drama conducted before a masked assembly. Unlike the background figures, the elderly man is unmasked—his identity and intentions as plain as his nudity. The old man’s wild sideburns and hooked nose evoke contemporary caricatures of Jews, whose purported control of banking and capital markets was widely blamed for the plight of modern society. Indeed, Edmond Picard, a socialist lawyer and supporter of the Belgian Symbolist group Les XX, alleged as much in Synthesis of Anti-Semitism (1892). The European Jewish population was targeted by those seeking to stem the tide of social degeneration: 1881 witnessed an outright ban on Jewish immigration into Germany, anti-Jewish riots in Poland, and pogroms in Russia; more than 50,000 Jews emigrated to the United States annually over the next two decades (compared with an annual average of about 750,000 European immigrants).13 The French intellectual Édouard Drumont wrote an influential and sinister anti-Semitic tract, Jewish France (1886), ascribing France’s problems to Jews, and in 1898, Karl Lueger was elected mayor of Vienna on a platform of anti-Semitism. French anti-Semitism crested with the Dreyfus Affair,



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25 František Kupka, Money, 1899, oil on canvas, 81 × 81 cm. National Gallery in Prague. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo © National Gallery in Prague, 2009.

in which a Jewish army officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongfully accused of spying for the German government.14 This sensational event began with Dreyfus’s arrest for treason in 1894, resulted in his 1895 conviction and imprisonment, and concluded with his pardon in 1899; he was formally exonerated in 1906. Dreyfus’s guilt or innocent was fiercely debated, and the episode caused a rift in French society. Political conservatives—largely monarchists and Bonapartists, who sought to maintain Catholicism as France’s state religion—opposed liberals, including republicans, socialists, and anarchists, a coalition that established state secularism as law in 1905. The novelist Émile Zola was Dreyfus’s most vociferous supporter. Although Kupka’s title suggests a general critique of free-market capitalism, the image’s ambiguity allows a variety of interpretations. The old man is nourished by money rather than food. This deviancy, aggravated by the new world order, has also led to the commoditization

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of gender relations. In the world gone awry that Kupka depicts, women are reduced to property for purchase (from the girl’s family) or pleasure for hire. In either case, men are also reduced to their monetary value in the eyes of women. The old man’s glass stomach is both transparent and fragile, and it is unclear whether the woman will pass by or succumb to the riches offered by the preening plutocrat. Was Kupka suggesting that this man, dehumanized by greed, might be an endangered species in a society in which survival of the fittest was the order of the day? Or that such men are easy to recognize? The faces of the onlookers in this grotesque drama are hidden by masks; neither their identity nor their response is discernible. Are they scandalized, approving, jealous, or dispassionate observers made callous by the hardships of modern urban life? Do aspects of the artist’s biography—that Kupka’s mistress Gabrielle was the model for the woman—clarify the artist’s intentions? Was Kupka suggesting that Gabrielle might be more attracted to an elderly financier than to a struggling young artist? Ambiguity and uncertainty were defining elements of modern life. Pessimistic Symbolists linked these concerns to widespread mistrust and suspicion, feelings that contrasted with the security and familiarity prevalent in villages and small towns, where residents knew their neighbors. In the city, individuals had the power to reinvent themselves, taking control of their lives with a newfound autonomy and donning the masks that suited their purposes. Viewed positively, this opportunity meant freedom; viewed negatively, it suggested deceit. Anonymity, however, concealed a threat more serious than simple deception: the masking of degeneration posed a potentially lethal threat to society. For example, Cesare Lombroso observed that plumpness is a sign of health in women, but prostitutes were perceived to be plump as a result of their insatiable sexual appetites.15 Determining a woman’s character on the basis of her appearance was thus impossible; how could society protect itself against such deception? The German sociologist Max Weber studied the pernicious aspects of modern economic life suggested in Kupka’s Money in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904). Weber observed that modern industrial society generated “specialists without souls, thrill-seekers with­ out hearts, empty individuals who imagine they have reached an incomparable level of civilization,”16 in other words, people duped into dangerous self-deception. Although the notion of continual human progress toward a utopian state was cherished by many, disillusioned artists and intellectuals felt that modern Western civilization had reached its apex and was in decline.17

disease The fear of illness, infection, and death dominated everyday life during the nineteenth century. In Otto Seitz's The Black Kitchen of Death (1896, Fig. 26), Death sits on a casket and brews a toxic concoction from bottles of cholera and influenza. Hidden underground, its presence is detected only indirectly: by the deadly vapors rising through a hole to sicken and kill an unsuspecting family enjoying a tranquil moment in the countryside. Epidemics of cholera, leprosy, malaria, plague, scarlet fever, smallpox, syphilis, tuberculosis, typhus, and yellow fever claimed


26  Otto Seitz, The Black Kitchen of Death, from Jugend 1, no. 24 (1896): 389. Photo: Per Nordahl.

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tens of millions of victims during the nineteenth century, and a flu epidemic in 1889–90 killed as many as 350,000 Europeans.18 Cholera was by far the most lethal disease, followed by syphilis and tuberculosis.19 In each decade from 1820 to 1880, cholera pandemics killed millions in Europe; in 1848 alone, three million Russians died of the disease.20 Epidemics were the subject of Poe’s short stories “The Sphinx,” set during the cholera epidemic of the 1830s in New York City, and “The Masque of the Red Death.” By the time the Norwegian artist Theodor Kittelsen (1857–1914) began The Black Death, his series of twelve drawings, in 1894, almost eighty years had passed since the last plague epidemic in Europe (1813).21 Nonetheless, occasional outbreaks in North Africa and Asia were periodic reminders of this infamous disease, which had annihilated a third of Europe’s population in the mid-fourteenth century. Kittelsen’s thoughts understandably turned toward plague in 1894; that year witnessed the last plague pandemic (in Asia) as well as the simultaneous discovery of the bubonic plague pathogen in France and Germany by students of Louis Pasteur and Robert Koch.22 While the normative depiction of objects and spatial relationships in The Black Death might seem to ground Kittelsen in the Realist tradition, his inversion of the conventional view of the countryside as a haven of safety and salubriousness indicates a disjunction between appearance and meaning that announces the artist’s subversive, Symbolist intentions.23 Kittelsen casts a stooping peasant woman in the role of Plague instead of the conventional male “grim reaper” figure.24 She appears for the first time in the second panel, Plague Is Coming, which injects a particular pathos into the subsequent image, Mommy, There’s an Old Woman Coming: the viewer knows that this is no ordinary old woman coming to visit. Plague is a methodical visitor, systematically combing seacoast, forests, highways, and villages, sowing death in an already sparsely populated Norwegian countryside. In the final scenes, the human presence is entirely absent: a bear sleeps undisturbed beside the altar of a church and a “mouse town” has usurped the home of a dead peasant. The fifth panel, She Travels around the Entire Country (Fig. 27), shows Plague, her mission of human extermination complete, carrying her rake—a scepter of death—and trudging out of a picturesque Norwegian village composed of timber houses. The hidden power of so seemingly frail an entity as an old woman might be a metaphor for the invisibility (or concealment) of danger. Like Poe’s Red Death or the masked figures in Kupka’s Money, Kittelsen’s Plague emphasizes the deceptiveness of appearances. Black Death also alludes to mankind’s vulnerability to unrecognized or unrecognizable perils such as those posed by microbes—perils whose unpredictability and destructiveness engendered panic. The Black Death and The Black Kitchen of Death undermined the contemporary fallacy of the countryside as a safe haven. Tuberculosis was as deadly as cholera. The British artist Aubrey Beardsley (illustrator of Oscar Wilde’s play Salomé) contracted the illness when he was seven and died from it in 1898, at age twenty-six, as did the Polish painter Władysław Podkowiński (1866–1895). Frederic Chopin, Anton Chekov, Robert Louis Stevenson, and the Brontë sisters were among tuberculosis’s most famous victims, and the poor seamstress Mimi in Giacomo Puccini’s 1896 opera La



decadence and degeneration

27 Theodor Kittelsen, She Travels around the Entire Country, 1894–96, pen, pencil, black chalk, and wash on paper, 27.9 × 23.1 cm. Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo. Photo: Morten Thorkildsen.

Bohème dies of the disease in the arms of her beloved Rodolfo. The discovery that a nourishing diet, fresh (sea or mountain) air, and rest provided effective treatment for tuberculosis led to the proliferation of sanatoriums in the late nineteenth century. These institutions—established especially in the mountains of Norway and Switzerland, at seaside resorts, and in spa locales throughout Europe—were visited for their healthful waters and promoted the restorative powers of nature. Edvard Munch carried out the most intensive artistic exploration of tuberculosis, motivated, at least in part, by personal history: his mother and sister died of the disease during his childhood. Munch spent more than a year working on The Sick Child (Fig. 28), later admitting, “It was a breakthrough in my art. Most of what I later did was born in this painting.”25 According

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28 Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1885–86, oil on canvas, 24.1 × 29.01 cm. Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo. Art © 2009 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jacques Lathion.

to his contemporary, the German critic Hans Jaeger, Munch scratched out and repainted the image twenty times, attesting to the artist’s persistent, if obsessive, effort to achieve a particular effect.26 Munch used a variety of techniques to achieve a painted surface that emphasized its own materiality: he slathered paint on his canvas with a palette knife, carving it into hills and valleys, and dribbled thinned paint, allowing it to run down the surface like tears. Munch’s sister Sophie died in 1877, ten years after their mother, and his painting represented an effort to recapture not the likeness of his sister (the models for both figures were hired), but her vulnerability and his profound feelings of helplessness and sorrow as he watched her die. The emotional torment Munch experienced is expressed by his repeated scraping of the paint surface. The fact that his painting depicts a memory rather than an observed event is suggested by the green veil



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through which the pale and psychologically distant girl emerges. The maternal figure, head bowed in sorrow or prayer, appears unable to do more than link the child temporarily to the world of the living through their clasped hands. Here, Munch joined memory, personal experience, and his emotional response in a monumental image that shocked critics because of its unfinished appearance and vague title (originally, “Sketch”). Shelley Cordulack suggests that Munch sought to capture the demise of his sister with scientific accuracy, citing as evidence Sophie’s slightly parted lips, which Munch painted to suggest her weak whispers.27 Sophie’s physical disintegration is disturbingly evident: her pallor, frailty, and unfocused eyes suggest that part of her has already passed to the other side. In this way, Munch conveyed the atmosphere of Sophie’s sickroom—the sights, the feel, the sounds. That Munch painted five versions of The Sick Child over a period of forty-one years attests to the personal significance of this subject.

hedonism By the end of the nineteenth century, venereal disease had reached epidemic proportions in Europe; among its victims were Baudelaire, Beethoven, Chopin, Gauguin, van Gogh, ToulouseLautrec, and Guy de Maupassant. Syphilis, whose pathogen was not discovered until 1905, was rampant in the late nineteenth century among the middle and upper classes, for whom the sexual activity of respectable females was so restricted that “needy” men sustained a booming prostitution sector. Men with syphilis infected not only the prostitutes they hired, but also their wives, and women were often kept ignorant of their condition by colluding doctors; mercury—a poison—was often prescribed as a palliative.28 Women unwittingly passed the disease to their unborn children, the subject of Munch’s painting Inheritance (1898, Munch-Museet, Oslo), in which a despondent mother displays her syphilitic baby; the artist had witnessed the scene at a Paris hospital. The subject evoked a prevalent social issue as well as Munch’s anxieties about the role of inheritance in his own mental instability and his sister Laura’s schizophrenia. A report on prostitution in Paris by the investigative reporter Alexandre Parent-Duchâtelet in 1836 cited prostitution as the primary cause of syphilis. Officials were understandably puzzled when stringent regulation of prostitutes over several decades did nothing to reduce the disease’s impact. It was only in the 1880s that officials realized that men, particularly married men, were the true source of the problem. By then, containing syphilis had emerged as a leading social and political priority. In 1886, France’s Academy of Medicine established a commission to investigate venereal diseases, and in 1899 the first international venereal disease conference was held in Brussels.29 The Belgian artist Félicien Rops illustrated the social threat posed by sexually transmitted disease in his frontispiece to Joséphin Péladan’s 1884 novel The Supreme Vice (Le Vice suprême, Fig. 29). This, the first of twenty novels in Péladan’s series The Decadence of the West, was in effect soft-core pornography in which decadence was presented as titillating entertainment. The novel’s protagonist, Princess Leonora d’Este, yearns for deviant sexual experiences but is

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29 Félicien Rops, frontispiece to Le Vice suprême by Joséphin Péladan, 1884. Courtesy Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington.

absolved of personal accountability: “at those moments in history when a civilization is coming to an end, the central fact is a spiritual nausea and, especially among the upper classes, a weariness with existence.”30 The Belgian author Georges Rodenbach, in Notes on Pessimism (1882), similarly argued: “Never has the human mind been so complicated, so hypersensitized, so goaded by every conceivable curiosity with regard to its own sensations. Abuse of the brain; that is the great sickness.”31 In Rops’s frontispiece, a skeleton dressed in white tie removes both his head and his hat in deference to his female companion. He politely holds open the top of



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a coffin—like a magician at a stage performance—as she steps forward, dressed in a vulgarly short frock, while her fan opens in an inviting gesture. Mimicking urban sculptures, the pair stands atop a socle that depicts the corpses of Romulus, founder of Rome, and his brother, Remus. According to legend, the siblings had been nurtured from childhood by a compassionate she-wolf (a sculptural subject found in many European parks), whose milk in Rops’s vision has turned to poison. With crows in a gloomy sky scavenging for carrion below, symbols of death and perversion dominate the cityscape. This hideous caricature of Princess Leonora, in which her inner ugliness is physically manifested, recalls Zola’s Nana. In this 1880 novel, titled after its protagonist, a prostitute dies of smallpox, her moral degeneracy reflected in her physical decay. Dying on the eve of the FrancoPrussian War, Nana is emblematic of the decadence and corruption that precipitated the joint catastrophes of war and revolution. The notion of moral turpitude resulting in physical decline was also the subject of Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), in which an unrepentant, aristocratic dandy indulges in debaucheries too obscene even to name. The ravages of vice magically appear in a portrait of himself that Dorian keeps hidden away, while he retains his youthful bloom despite the passage of time. Thus, Dorian’s charm and good looks evolve into a deceitful mask that conceals a ruthless and repulsive personality. The Czech artist Alfred Kubin (1877–1959) was pronounced insane as a child and attempted suicide by his mother’s grave as a teenager. With encouragement from Max Klinger, he ­channeled his anxiety into art, producing such grotesque and disturbing drawings as Lubricity (Fig. 30). Like Munch, Kubin was profoundly affected by childhood traumas. When Kubin was ten, his mother died of tuberculosis shortly after the birth of his sister Friederike; four months later, his father married his wife’s sister, who died a year later giving birth to Kubin’s half-sister, Rosalie. This background suggests an autobiographical, if pathological, interpretation of Kubin’s vision. Here, a monstrous, furry, yet unaggressive creature with an enormous, erect penis dripping with semen gazes at a petite young woman cowering in the corner of an otherwise empty space. The woman shields her eyes and protects her body from the penis-weapon, whose projectile has fallen short of its mark . . . this time. Given the death of both his mother and his aunt shortly after childbirth, Kubin may well have imagined his father as a murderer, albeit unintentional, whose procreative urges triggered a tragic chain of events. Here Kubin associates sexuality with bestiality and danger. The upswept hairstyle and protective posture of the woman project modesty and apprehension. Because she is the only realistically depicted entity, the woman is also the standard by which we judge the scene. Kubin clearly represented an alternative reality; the space is strangely vacant except for the woman and a sexually aroused, giant dog-ape. Kubin’s world is a dream space in which primal urges and fears disclose the hidden secrets of the human psyche.32 The Polish painter Władysław Podkowiński addressed insatiable erotic desire in Frenzy (Fig. 31), which scandalized audiences in Krakow when it was exhibited at the Young Poland exhibition in 1894. Emerging from the murky depths of a cosmic void, a horse and rider (perhaps an allusion to the forbidden “horse-ride” position) are transported into apparent paroxysms of

30 Alfred Kubin, Lubricity, 1901–2, pen and ink, 15 × 22 cm. Dichand Collection, Vienna. Art © 2009 Eberhard Spangenberg/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. 31 Władysław Podkowiński, Frenzy, 1894, oil on canvas, 310 × 275 cm. Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie (Krakow). Photo: Muzeum Narodowe w Krakowie.


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rapture in an inversion of the unconsummated love of Auguste Rodin’s Paolo and Francesca (see Chapter 1). The black stallion, its genitals visible, foams at the mouth with uncontrolled desire, while his pale, naked companion wraps her arms around his neck, blond tresses flying and eyes trustingly closed. Her serene expression indicates that she is a willing participant in the drama. Podkowiński announced his desire for attention by the enormous dimensions of his painting, whose height of three meters suited it to a large public space, even if its subject did not. This blatantly erotic theme flouted contemporary norms, according to which the sexual act was primarily a utilitarian means for propagating the species, not a source of pleasure or recrea­ tion. Indeed, the enjoyment of sex signaled a dangerous abnormality that might cause ge­netic mutations, thereby threatening human survival, according to Cesare Lombroso. In New Advances in Criminal Studies (1884), Lombroso reported that most criminals had a history of frequent masturbation at an early age,33 a not-so-subtle warning to adult observers of childhood behavior.

sickness and the city Decadent artists and writers agreed that drug abuse, sexual deviancy, and boredom were ram­pant in the modern city. In this crowded, artificial environment, disease—social as well as ­physiological—spread rapidly, as affirmed by the more-or-less scientific investigations of ­Lombroso, Nordau, Émile Durkheim, and John Girdner, who in 1901 identified an entirely new disease attributable to ambient noise: “Newyorkitis.”34 Literature abounded with tales of the interaction between individuals and their surroundings, including Edgar Allan Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher” and Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-morte (Bruges the Dead, 1892). Rodenbach’s protagonist observes an interconnection between the human soul and the inanimate things that surround it.35 Despondent over the untimely death of his beloved wife, Hughes Viane wanders the deserted lanes of the moldering, medieval city, concluding that “Bruges was his dead wife. His dead wife was Bruges.”36 Obsessed by grief, Viane longs for her and wants to die. In a final act of Poe-esque perversion, Viane strangles his innocent mistress, who progressively comes to resemble his wife. Bruges’s timeless beauty and melancholic stagnation captivated artists and writers. Once a prosperous and beautiful Hanseatic port, five hundred years later it lay desolate, its economy decimated by the recession of the sea. Bruges was featured in novels by Camille Mauclair (The Enemy of Dreams, 1900) and Joris-Karl Huysmans (Of Everything, 1902), and it was a central motif in the works of the Swedish painter Olof Sager-Nelson (1868–1896) and the Belgian painter and printmaker Fernand Khnopff. A kind of architectural memento mori reminding visitors of the limitations of human power and the brevity of life, Bruges testified to man’s inability to control natural forces. Khnopff ’s Abandoned Town (Fig. 32) evoked this theme by presenting Bruges’s Memling Square imaginatively (with the commemorative statue of the Renaissance painter omitted).

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32 Fernand Khnopff, The Abandoned Town (La Ville abandonée), 1904, charcoal, pencil, and pastel on paper backed with canvas, 76 × 69 cm. Musée d’Art Moderne, Brussels. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

Viewers familiar with Bruges might wonder about the statue’s omission and perhaps complete Khnopff ’s empty stage set in their imaginations with scenes of the vital street life that characterized the town during its heyday in the fifteenth century. Khnopff ’s family moved from Bruges to Brussels (a distance of some fifty kilometers) when the artist was ten; from his thirtieth year, images of the depopulated town emerged frequently in his art, usually as symbols of memory and contemplation. Khnopff first returned to Bruges in 1906 and—according to legend—wore dark opaque glasses so as not to dislodge childhood memories with present realities. In The Abandoned Town—an experimental image combining pastel and pencil—memory and fantasy



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combine to create a silent, powerful symbol of loneliness and faded glory. In an ironic reversal of history, Khnopff depicted the forces of nature (in the guise of an ebbing sea) slowly encroaching on the formerly bustling medieval town. Ever since the French writer Jean-Jacques Rousseau condemned unhealthy conditions in Paris in Émile (1762) and Henry Mayhew recorded the hideous living and working conditions among mid-nineteenth-century Londoners in his multivolume study London Labour and the London Poor (1851), cities had a dual reputation as exhilarating sites of opportunity and dens of sin and sickness. As the century progressed, these images became increasingly polarized, the dystopian interpretation reinforced by scientific research. James Cantlie’s 1885 lecture “Degeneration amongst Londoners” attributed the physical degeneration of London’s inhabitants to a lack of exercise, fresh air, and sunshine. Harry Campbell, in Differences in the Nervous Organisation of Man and Woman (1891), complained: “residence among the slums of a large city produces distinct physical deterioration, which increases with each generation until family extinction finally ensues.”37 These conclusions affirmed the genetic theory of degeneration popular at the time. Few argued for the salubrious benefits of city life, but perhaps the most poignant evocation of an urban psyche teetering on the edge of sanity was Munch’s Scream (Fig. 33). Here, we confront a phantom whose pear-shaped head is frozen into a mask of terror. This image—now so familiar that it has come to represent a parody of the modern consciousness—was intended by Munch to represent an intense sensation he experienced one summer night while walking along an escarpment above Oslo’s fjord at sunset. Scream represents a visual equivalent for a “great unending scream passing through nature.”38 Munch noted that he was accompanied by two friends when he felt the scream; the presence of two figures in the background suggest that the phantom is Munch himself, who, like a channeler, is penetrated by an invisible force. He was, by his own account, tired and depressed at that moment; did this temporary weakening of mental and emotional defenses enable Munch’s extraordinary receptivity to psychic energy? Or, was the scream and the blood-red sky ignited by “tongues of fire” a reflection of the artist’s own agitated mental state, or, perhaps, a meditation on the nearby slaughterhouses? Regardless of its origins, Scream embodied a pathological response to the city at twilight; a dystopian vision in which sociability mutates into paranoia as the mind wanders from human interaction to metaphysical speculation. In Scream, Munch transgressed contemporary expectations regard­ ing color, composition, form, and technique, deviating from the conviviality of Impressionism and the grittiness of Realism. Familiar with the theories of the Pont-Aven Synthetists, Munch extended their premises, thereby anticipating the path of Expressionism a decade later. The interpenetration of individual and environment expressed in Scream reflected Munch’s belief in Monism—a philosophy that dismisses the dualistic oppositions of body and soul, mind and matter, as figments of a stunted imagination. Championed by Emanuel Swedenborg, Monism gained popularity in the 1880s through the writings of Ernst Haeckel, who legitimized it by linking it to the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin. Haeckel popularized his ideas in Anthropogeny (1874), reassuring readers as to Monism’s scientific soundness: “Monism is

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33 Edvard Munch, Scream, 1893, tempera and gouache on board, 23.58 × 32.29 cm. Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo. Art © 2009 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jacques Lathion.

neither extremely spiritualistic nor materialistic, but constitutes instead a fusion and combination of the opposed principles, that is, it views nature as one whole and in no case recognizes any causes but mechanical ones.”39 Haeckel illustrated the interrelationship of all life and its evolution from a common ancestor, the “moner,” in his tree of life, in which humans appear as the most highly evolved form of life (Fig. 34).



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34 Ernst Haeckel, Tree of Life, from Anthropogenie; oder, Entwickelungsgeschichte des Menschen: Keimes- und Stammes-Geschichte, 3rd. ed. (Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1877), pl. 9.

modern masquerade Unlike villages, where inhabitants know one another from childhood, cities provide anonymity, with opportunities for creating new identities. The proliferation of masks and masklike visages in Symbolist art (and later in Expressionist and Cubist art) attests to the abundance of opportunities for dissimulation in the urban environment. Masks protect vulnerable individuals from a hostile public, but they enable cunning people to deceive others. Masks also destabilize iden­ tity, as evidenced in Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death.” Lacking the intimate knowledge that comes from regular personal contact, urbanites judge character on the basis of the façades that their neighbors present. The concealment of identity through masking is an established tradition in Europe, where raucous carnivals often precede the beginning of Lent. However, these events occur only on specific dates. Modern urban life, in contrast, resembled a perpetual

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35 James Ensor, The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889, 1888, oil on canvas, 252.5 × 430.5 cm. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ SABAM, Brussels.

carnival gone awry. Colonialism also stimulated an interest in masks. Europeans encountered non-Western cultures and their masking traditions through displays at world’s fairs and ethnographic exhibits.40 James Ensor (1860–1949), whose hometown of Ostend in Belgium was well known for its pre-Lenten festivities, was surrounded by carnival masks in the souvenir shop run by his mother and aunt, and masks appeared frequently in his paintings of the 1880s and 1890s. In The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889 (Fig. 35) masks create a grand, synthetic critique of contemporary politics, religion, and society.41 In this motley scene, garish colors and coarse caricatures recall contemporary posters and commercial advertisements. Ensor created a kaleidoscope of images and ideas as an analogue to modern life at the same time that he disregarded norms of pictorial representation. A series of reverses, including Ensor’s concurrent illness, led to the painting’s omission from the 1888 Les XX exhibition in Brussels, and the work was not exhibited until 1929. While a precise reason for Ensor’s failure to exhibit the painting in the interim has not been documented, the artist may have felt that his message was diminished once the painting became the record of a fictional past event rather than the portent of an upcoming one. Inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s short story “Jesus Christ in Flanders” (1831), the painting denounced colonial policies, religious dogma, materialism, opportunism, and deceit. Simultaneously, it celebrated the artist as a creator and an unappreciated redeemer. Paralleling the disorder and confusion of the urban environment, Ensor’s array of revelers includes the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire



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and the contemporary artist Willy Finch (1854–1930, lower right), commedia dell’arte and military figures, West African masks (making one of their first appearances in Western art),42 and death’s heads. The painting’s idiosyncratic synthesis of history, religion, politics, the sacred, profane, and contemporary was ambiguous, paradoxical, and enigmatic—in other words, a metaphor for modernity. Coded messages were directed at Ensor’s contemporaries. For instance, the scene parodies the patriotic public pageants encouraged by King Léopold II, and many of those caricatured in the painting were familiar public figures. The grotesque physiognomies of these masks would have had particular resonance for Ensor’s contemporaries, for whom deviations from conventional standards of beauty signaled criminality, evil, and illness.43 In a scene dominated by a banner reading “Vive la sociale” (Long live the social [collective]), the misanthropic Ensor proclaimed his skepticism about the likelihood of an egalitarian democracy based on Christian humanitarian teachings. Christ, distinguished by a gold halo and riding a donkey, is sandwiched between a military band and revelers in an imaginary carnival parade, envisioned as the Second Coming. Ensor’s Entry of Christ typified much Symbolist painting in its political aim. In an era when convincing illusionism often signaled conservative politics, political convictions were frequently embedded in style and technique as well as subject matter.44

genius, perversity, madness In a study that documented hereditary psychological abnormalities, urban environments, and artificial stimulants as factors prevalent among geniuses, Cesare Lombroso concluded that “genius is a degenerative psychosis.”45 Several nineteenth-century artists provided apparent support for this hypothesis: Richard Dadd (1817–1886) in England, Vincent van Gogh in the Netherlands, Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) in Spain, Ernst Josephson (1851–1906) in Sweden, Munch in Norway, Rops in France, and in Russia, Mikhail Vrubel (1856–1910), who ended his days in an insane asylum. Vrubel was preoccupied with the Demon, a character that appeared with obsessive frequency in his paintings. He saw the figure in his dreams, supporting PierreMax Simon’s assertion in The World of Dreams (1882) that “at almost every step in the study of dreams we discover resemblances between dreaming and the various phenomena of madness.”46 Inspired by Mikhail Lermontov’s epic poem, “The Demon” (1841), Vrubel—like the poet who inspired him—reworked this theme repeatedly. In Lermontov’s poem, the quasi-divine Demon falls in love with Tamara, whose fiancé is murdered by bandits hired by the Demon. Despondent, she enters a convent, where the Demon seduces her shortly before her death—after which it is left in despair for eternity. Vrubel’s fixation on the Demon affirms the artist’s identification with this tragic and solitary figure. For Vrubel, the Demon was, like The Gates of Hell for Auguste Rodin, a crucible for testing ideas and techniques, expressing feelings, and address-

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36 Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel, Flying Demon, 1899, oil on canvas, 158.8 × 430.5 cm. State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg. Photo © State Russian Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia/ The Bridgeman Art Library.

ing universal questions: the differences between good and evil, divinity and humanity. Like Rodin, Vrubel considered the human condition one of torment relieved only by death. In his monumental Flying Demon (Fig. 36), he abandoned the naturalistic depiction of form and space for a monochromatic mosaic of pigment that shows a disembodied demon sailing over a frozen mountainous landscape. The scene’s meaning is as ambiguous as its composition: the enormous size of Flying Demon (more than four meters long) made it appropriate for a public space, but the visionary subject and the imprecise rendering of figure and landscape made it unsuited to such a location. Like Podkowiński, Vrubel created a colossal misfit that had no logical destination. The heroic gesture of devoting so much effort to a work so personal, so abstract, and so large, preordained for rejection by contemporary audiences, was both an assertion of artistic independence and a perverse resignation to failure. Vrubel thus confirmed Lombroso’s assessment of decadent artists as socially isolated individuals whose disdain for vulgar ambition and materialism led to their retreat into a self-created refuge.47 Nowhere was this alienated withdrawal described in more meticulous detail than in Huysmans’s novel Against the Grain.48 Here, Huysmans recounts the story of the eccentric and ­perverse aristocrat Duc Jean Floressas des Esseintes (based on Count Robert de MontesquiouFezensac), who fled the hectic pace and democratic mingling of Paris for a suburb, where he created an airtight, self-indulgent bastion of luxury and whimsy that eliminated all need for contact with the outside world. He absented himself from the dining room when meals were delivered and preferred reading adventure stories to actual travel. In his solitude, des Esseintes enjoyed a variety of diversions, including rereading the works of Poe and Mallarmé and admiring the art of Moreau and Redon.49 He spared no expense in stimulating his senses and imagina­ tion, to the extent that he had the shell of a living tortoise inlaid with precious stones, causing the animal’s slow death. As in the case of Roderick Usher, generations of inbreeding had weakened des Esseintes’s constitution but refined his sensibilities.



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evil The ultimate instigator of degeneracy, mysticism, and perversity was Satan, and an underground satanic cult flourished during the final decades of the nineteenth century. Stanislas de Guaita’s The Temple of Satan (1891) was followed by Jules Bois’s Satanism and Magic in 1895, and Gérard Encausse’s The Devil and Occultism in 1896. The Berlin home of Stanislaw Przybyszewski acquired the name “Satan’s Synagogue” in an anti-Semitic slur condemning the libertine Polish poet and the quasi-communal existence of his circle, which included Munch and August Strindberg. The German artist Thomas Theodor Heine (1867–1948) envisioned the personification of evil in one of his few sculptures, The Devil (Fig. 37), an exemplar of abnormal physiognomy. The figure’s bulbous stomach; glove-shaped, asymmetrical hands on elongated arms; and stubby legs with puddlelike feet undoubtedly conceal a soul equally deformed. The figure strides forward with determination, unaware that gravity will soon cause him to melt down. A genetic freak, this devil personifies degeneration. Heine’s melting Devil has the confidence of a manager unaware of his conspicuous defects. In fact, Heine was a subversive artist who expressed his contempt for the establishment primarily in Simplicissimus, a satirical Berlin journal that began publication in 1896. He was the primary cover illustrator, and frequently caricatured the German ruling class. When he ridiculed the German emperor Wilhelm II in 1898, Heine received a six-month jail sentence, and Simplicissimus’s publisher, Albert Langen, was sent into exile, events that only boosted the journal’s circulation, which was already in excess of 20,000. Simplicissimus lobbied for democratic causes, including workers’ and women’s rights and the establishment of trade unions, freedom of speech and the press. For Heine and his Simplicissimus colleagues, the tyrannical German government represented Satan incarnate.

uncertainty Gauguin’s largest painting, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? (Fig. 38), summarizes the existential uncertainty pervading the late nineteenth century. Gauguin executed the painting during a personal crisis and intended it as a universal statement. The artist claimed to have painted it immediately prior to a failed suicide attempt,50 but Gauguin was prone to exaggeration and self-aggrandizement. He was nonetheless in a fraught emotional state when he executed the painting: ill, in debt, and depressed by news of his daughter Aline’s death. As is often the case in Gauguin’s paintings, this work drew on an eclectic range of sources. Many details were taken from photographs that Gauguin had collected: the Buddhist temple at Borobudur on Java, a Peruvian mummy (lower left); others were taken from his earlier paintings such as The Day of the God and Vairumati.51 Where Do We Come From? also alludes to the Christian Nativity (lower right) as well as to pagan idolatry (upper left); its figures, engaged in a variety of unrelated activities—from eating and gathering food to peering quizzically at the

37 Thomas Theodor Heine, The Devil, 1902–3, statuette, 41 × 19 × 22 cm. Nationalgalerie, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. Photo © Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz/Art Resource, New York (photographer: Andres Kilger).

38 Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, 1897–98, oil on canvas, 139.1 × 374.6 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Tompkins Collection—Arthur Gordon Tompkins Fund (36.270). Photo © 2009 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


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viewer (lower right)—represent various stages of life. Although Gauguin described Tahiti as an Edenic paradise in his letters, this description was not entirely true. In Tahiti, Gauguin did not find the answers that give life value; rather, he grappled with unresolvable questions of identity, meaning, and direction—questions indicative of a restless, uncertain (and therefore modern) soul.52 The scale of Where Do We Come From? (almost four meters in length) indicates that it would have been best suited for a public space. However, like the oversized works of Vrubel and Podkowiński, the painting’s personal symbolism would have excluded it from most public spaces in the late nineteenth century.53 Despite Gauguin’s inscription of the painting’s title on the canvas, critics wondered about its meaning; even Symbolist sympathizers like Thadée Natanson, critic for La Revue blanche, complained that the painting’s meaning was “difficult to grasp.”54 George Shackelford enumerates several possible sources of Gauguin’s inspiration: Balzac’s Séraphita, a favorite novel among Symbolists; Hippolyte Taine’s English Idealism: A Study of Carlyle (1864); and the occult book The Perfect Way by Anna B. Kingsford and Edward Maitland (published in French as La Voie parfaite in 1891).55 Henrik Rookmaker plausibly suggests Carlyle’s best-selling Sartor Resartus, widely read by the Symbolist generation, as another probable source of inspiration.56 Sartor Resartus is a satire of scholarly commentaries on philosophical treatises and grapples with issues pertinent to Symbolism: the relationship between appearances and ideas, the construction of meaning, the critique of materialism, the limits of free will and individual creativity, and the use of ambiguity and fragmentation as strategies for indirectly communicating thoughts and feelings. At one point Teufelsdröch, the protagonist, reflects: “But the same where , with its brother when, are from the first the master-colors of our Dreamgrotto; say rather, the Canvass (the warp and woof thereof ) whereon all our Dreams and Lifevisions are painted.”57 Has Gauguin, then, painted a “dream-grotto” describing his dreams and life-visions? With this clue, how might we decode Where Do We Come From? The central androgynous figure is important, as it spans the entire width of the canvas. Its attention is focused on a fruit, perhaps one from the Tree of the Knowledge of good and evil. If so, the figure seems unaware that its choice will lead to conflict and suffering. The lush setting and the figure’s androgynous physique reinforce this interpretation, particularly since the skimpy wrap conceals its gender. Androgyny (the absence of gender, as opposed to hermaphroditism: the presence of both genders) had long been considered an ideal state, free from carnal desire and disappointment, and Gauguin was among those who observed that gender played a negligible role in the choice of sexual partners among Tahitians. Scholars often assign genders to the figures in Where Do We Come From? but as Stephen Eisenman notes, no sound basis for their identification exists.58 The androgyne’s nakedness contrasts with the fully clothed child seated to its right, about to bite into a fruit. Clothed women—beside the statue of the pagan god Hina and the pair in the right background—have probably tasted this fruit, and their relegation to the background reflects their relative insignificance. The pair of women in purple who “confide their thoughts to each other”59 are enveloped by a dark cloud, as if they are spirits—or embodiments of the

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thoughts of the husky, seated figure gazing at them from under her arm, a variant of the meditative pose struck by, for instance, Rodin’s Thinker. The women in this group are the only figures that interact, although three women in the foreground (beside the fruit-eating child and by the sleeping baby) look out at the viewer, drawing us into this strange paradise. The fact that the forms and colors do not coalesce into a coherent vision was deliberate and signifies Gauguin’s intention to present an enigmatic and ambiguous image that embodies the yearning and uncertainty of his age. Gauguin’s tragedy is embodied in Where Do We Come From? He never reconciled his origins (Gauguin’s great-grandfather was a Peruvian nobleman and Gauguin spent his first five years living in Lima) with what he was (a rootless merchant marine, civilized French banker and stockbroker, father of five children and husband of a Danish woman, starving artist, “savage,” colonist, guru-teacher, loner) or where he was going (Peru, Paris, Panama, Brittany, increasingly remote islands in the Tahitian atoll). Gauguin was self-indulgent and stigmatized with the ultimate mark of degeneracy: syphilis. Despite his efforts to find and to create an ideal world of harmony and fulfillment, he was able only to envision the existential crisis of modern men. The themes of decadence and degeneration attracted Symbolist artists with a pessimistic temperament who were intent on describing the world around them. Often perceived by scholars as isolated from society, decadent Symbolists were, to the contrary, deeply engaged, not only as citizens active in daily life but also as intellectuals aware of current philosophical and scientific debates. Depending on their interests and the social circles in which they traveled, decadent Symbolists attributed the pervasive presence of deceit, disease, and evil variously to industrialization, inherited defects, urbanization, or increasingly dynamic destructive natural forces. Similarly, they responded to these conditions in diverse ways: despair, escapism, resignation, and self-indulgent pleasure-seeking. Decadent Symbolists chronicled a dystopian worldview that starkly contrasted with the optimistic vision of Idealist Symbolists, who saw in the troubled contemporary situation an opportunity for reform and perfection, as we will see in the following chapter.


Idealism, Religion, and Reform



hereas pessimistic Decadent artists believed humanity to be in the final, desperate throes of inevitable obsolescence, optimistic Idealist artists saw salvation in the natural and supernatural world. They celebrated anarchism and individualism as affirmations of equality and empowerment, cham­pioned new technology as evidence of the problem-solving capacity of the human imagination, and sought spiritual guidance in religion and mysticism. Societies remote in time (the distant, if imaginary, past) or in distant lands (tribal cultures) were models for the reform of a society gone astray. Idealist artists believed in the power of art to stimulate improvement; unlike the Decadents, who were content to watch the world collapse, Idealists sought to reverse the bleak state of contemporary affairs. Because Idealists believed in the innate goodness of humanity, they considered it redeemable. While extroverted Idealists adopted an evangelical model in which enlightened teachers educate society, introverted Idealists encouraged individuals to search for meaning through metaphysical contemplation. According to Edmond Picard, a socialist lawyer and cofounder of the journal L’Art moderne, “great art is art whose goal is humanity; it is social art.”1 He was among those secure in the conviction that social conditions were improving. As the historian Norman Stone observes: “One spectacular discovery or invention succeeded another. Medicine improved almost beyond recognition. . . . There seemed to be no end to this process of improvement. In 1895 the novelist Henry James acquired electric lighting; in 1896 he rode a bicycle; in 1897 he wrote on a typewriter; in 1898 he saw a cinematograph.”2

anarchism While anarchy has become synonymous with violence, the ideals of the original political philosophy resemble those of modern-day libertarianism. Anarchists viewed individual freedom as good and authority, prone to establish hierarchies that facilitate oppression, as bad. They 91


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sought to establish social equality and to provide essential rights or services such as public safety, education, a living wage, and health care. Anarchist theory evolved in the 1870s as a response to dissatisfaction with socialist politics; it was promoted in France by Petr Kropotkin, an idealistic, expatriate Russian prince who gave away his possessions and embraced a philosophy of human equality. Kropotkin believed that people had a natural tendency to cooperate, a tendency obstructed by social hierarchies and the struggle for survival. He viewed education, industrialization, and technology as instruments of liberation (from ignorance, illness, and poverty) as long as one group did not use them to dominate others. In an anarchist society, Kropotkin maintained, artists could create according to their own impulses, and their art would embellish the homes and public spaces of a harmonious society whose inhabitants were tolerant, relaxed, and healthy.3 Many Symbolists were attracted to anarchism. In the Symbolist press, anarchist leaders— ­professing their readiness for self-sacrifice and regretting that their good intentions were so widely misunderstood—were frequently compared with Christ. During the 1892 trial of François Koeningstein (known as Ravachol), who bombed the homes of anti-labor judges in Paris, Paul Adam saw something Christlike in the defendant’s willingness to sacrifice himself for a public that did not understand how his motives might be conceived as altruistic.4 In 1894, when the Symbolist critic Félix Fénéon was tried for complicity in the bombing of the Gare SaintLazare in Paris, a poet, Stéphane Mallarmé, testified in his defense.5 In an August 1893 article in the Parisian journal L’Hermitage, the expatriate American Symbolist poet Stuart Merrill declared that “The Symbolist is the anarchist of literature.”6 Some anarchists indeed resorted to violence; in Paris during the early 1890s, cafés, railroad stations, government buildings, banks, and the stock exchange were targets of terrorism, acts that anarchists justified by maintaining that the government, church, and military were instruments of oppression. Contemporary critics often similarly invoked a vocabulary of violence and aggression in describing Symbolist art. Albert Aurier, for example, described Vincent van Gogh’s technique as “brutal, intense” in his January 1890 article on the artist published in the Mercure de France.7 The theme and composition of In the Era of Harmony (Fig. 39) by the French painter Paul Signac (1863–1935) were carefully formulated to convey anarchism’s more optimistic message. The enormous scale of the work—more than four meters wide—indicates that Signac intended it for display in a public space. He offered it to the maison du peuple in Brussels, but negotiations took too long and he withdrew his offer in 1900, keeping the painting until his death. It was later purchased by the town of Montreuil in Normandy.8 The depiction of an idealized anarchist society that Signac undertakes in Era of Harmony reflects the allusive Symbolist approach to political advocacy.9 The serene inhabitants of Signac’s Golden Age reside in an idyllic landscape far from Paris—the epicenter of social degeneration. The scene unfolds on France’s Mediterranean coast, a region of long-standing traditions (reaching back to Roman occupation), blessed with a pleasant climate. The members of Signac’s anarchist society share equally in labor: a red-haired woman looks after a baby, women in the middle ground do laundry beside a man sowing seed, while in the background a man harvests

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39 Paul Signac, In the Era of Harmony (“L’âge d’or n’est pas dans le passé; il est dans l’avenir”), 1893–95, oil on canvas. Mairie de Montreuil, Paris. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

with a tractor. But it is the pleasures of daily life—reading, romance, sport, dancing, and painting—that dominate the picture and define its mood. Anarchism presumed gender equality and free love—symbolized by the couple near the center of the painting and the rooster (associated also with anarchist political ideals) and hen to the right.10 Several of the figures have multiple meanings. In addition to signifying leisure, the figure of the man reading alludes to the anarchists’ commitment to equal educational opportunities; the baby—whose nakedness indicates a healthy interconnectedness with its setting—suggests new beginnings, an idea reinforced by the spring-blooming irises in the painting’s center foreground. The juxtaposition of harvesting and sowing underlines the fictive nature of the image by conflating spring and fall agrarian activities. The scene’s impossibility is reinforced by the painting’s title (a very different suggestion of the future than Ensor’s Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889, Fig. 35) and further conveyed by Signac’s divisionist technique. The linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, in his well-attended lectures at the École pratique des hautes études in Paris between 1880 and 1891, proposed that language is a system of communication based on social consensus, in which meaning is determined by custom and context.11 Neo-Impressionism—a disciplined, structured visual language based on scientific principles—was intended as such a system.



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Georges Seurat devised Divisionism (also referred to as Pointillism and Neo-Impressionism) in the mid-1880s as an improvement on Impressionism. Seurat, like the Impressionists, wanted to represent modern life, but he deemed Impressionism’s subjective techniques a medium for self-expression, not for communication. Relying on color and optical theories, Seurat developed a system of small, discrete patches of color that are unintelligible at close range but resolve into recognizable forms at a distance, without the use of outlines to define form.12 Anarchist painters endorsed Divisionism as an artistic style because it offered a system untainted by associations with prior movements or styles; they reveled in the technique’s anti-illusionism, its legibility, and the politically egalitarian associations it evoked through a massing of discrete yet concordant dots. In 1889, Signac wrote enthusiastically to Vincent van Gogh about adopting Charles Henry’s “science of harmony for social reform,”13 and in From Eugène Delacroix to Neoimpressionism (1899), he explained, “It is, in effect, a science of color, easy and simple, that everyone can understand and knowledge of which would avoid foolish mistakes.”14

individualism Since the Romantic era of the early nineteenth century, progressive artists strove to be true to themselves, their perceptions, and their feelings. Although this desire for honesty was interpreted differently at various times and places, Symbolist artists understood truthfulness, in its broader construction, as fidelity to their innermost impulses. The Symbolist’s view of honesty was predicated on a model in which the essence of an object’s identity was situated at the center—the core—like the nucleus of a cell. It was this invisible core (also named the truth or essence), as well as their feelings about it, that Symbolist artists sought to convey in their images. Only those guided by their own core could perceive the essence of things, which made selfexploration a prerequisite for Symbolist artists. This core contained two elements: the imprint of a person’s distinct individuality and a universal dimension connecting each individual to the rest of creation. Thus, if an artist painted honestly, the result would immediately be comprehensible to others because it communicated on a subconscious and universal level. Paul Sérusier declared his individualism in The Talisman (Plate 5). In September 1888, after winning an honorable mention at the Paris Salon, Sérusier left Paris for Pont-Aven in Brittany, where he visited Émile Bernard, who had been there since April, and met Paul Gauguin, who had been there since March. During their brief meeting, Gauguin uttered the now immortal words: “How do you see those trees? They are yellow, so use yellow; that shadow, quite blue, paint it pure without regret; the leaves red? Use vermilion.”15 Sérusier headed to the nearby forest, the Bois d’Amour, and began a landscape on a small board (incorrectly identified as a cigar box lid in popular scholarly tradition). He followed Gauguin’s instructions, focusing on colors—which he exaggerated according to his inner aesthetic sense—rather than on objects or spatial relationships.

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The work never progressed beyond a sketch because when Sérusier showed it to his colleagues at the Académie Julian (including Maurice Denis and Paul Ranson) in Paris, they found it astonishing and inspiring just as it was. The painting became a talisman—a magic charm—that illustrated a means by which artists could directly communicate the essence of nature rather than describe its superficial details. The Aven River, a bridge, and the forest, although visible, play a subordinate role in the picture’s structure. Sérusier’s friends at the Académie Julian considered The Talisman the first work to penetrate appearances in order to reveal a personal, abstract, and universal image. With its almost symphonic composition of colors and shapes, the painting seemed to achieve the Nietzschean ideal: “music [or in this case color] . . . if regarded as an expression of the world, is in the highest degree a universal language,”16 a conviction shared by the French Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, whose “L’Art poétique” (1874), dedicated to Charles Morice, opens with the line “Music before all else.”

catholicism The political philosophy of the Third Republic—established in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War—was based on the secular, democratic, and egalitarian principles of French Republicanism. At the time, however, opposition to a republican form of government was strong, and Bonapartists (who wanted to see a descendant of Napoleon in command) and monarchists (who hoped to restore the Bourbon dynasty) resisted democratic reforms and the dismantling of aristocratic privilege. The Roman Catholic Church (France’s national religion since the Middle Ages) had historical ties to both opposition groups and clashed with the governments of the Third Republic, which weakened the church’s authority; French politician Léon Gambetta declared, “Clericalism is the enemy!” in 1878. The conflict was wide-reaching: priests were barred from serving on hospitals’ boards of directors in 1879, and lay nurses replaced nuns in hospitals in the 1880s; priests who spoke out against the government lost their salaries. In 1892, French cardinals accused the government of religious repression, and the following year the church lost its tax exemption. A split within the church emerged: between progressive Republicans, who supported the separation of church and state (enacted in 1905), and political conservatives, who advocated the overthrow of the government. This conflict involved all classes and political persuasions, since most of France was Catholic. Tensions were exacerbated by an unprecedented increase in supernatural religious manifestations—miraculous appearances of the Virgin Mary—and fervent declarations of faith in the revival of pilgrimages.17 The church played a vital role in rural communities by providing spiritual consolation and social continuity, important functions during an era of social and political instability. While in some regions parishioners mistrusted the church as a representative of central power (Paris or the pope), in others, parishioners objected to the government’s attempt to undermine the church’s authority. While anticlerical artists considered pious peasants naïve, anticlericalism



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also inspired a countermovement: a Catholic revival in art and literature that frequently descended into xenophobia. In a 1907 article, Émile Bernard asserted: “Every Catholic has an instinctive feel for the truth; he has an experience of unity, he has a love of life allied to intelligence and imagination. The Latin races have provided the only true artists in Europe.”18 Maurice Denis, a devout Catholic, confided in his diary that “it is necessary that I become a Christian painter, that I celebrate all the miracles of Christianity.”19 Denis felt that painting was “a fundamentally religious and Christian art.” In his January 5, 1886, diary entry, he elaborated: “If its character has been lost in our impious century, it is necessary to recover it. And the means is to restore the aesthetic of Fra Angelico, who alone is truly Catholic; who alone responds to the aspirations of devout, mystical souls that love God.”20 Denis sought to instill in art the uncomplicated piety he associated with fifteenth-century Florence. To this end, he painted religious subjects interpreted in a highly personal and innovative way, deriving his visual language from the Synthetism of Gauguin and Sérusier, whose simplified forms, nonnatural colors, and coarse texture proclaimed the imaginary character of their images. Denis often combined past and present to facilitate a connection between his audience and sacred events. In Sacred Heart Crucified (Plate 6), the crucifixion of Jesus takes place in what appears to be a Romanesque ruin, with two figures in dark cloaks (presumably the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene) raising their arms in gestures of grief, while the modern faithful (who resemble choristers or altar boys) gather around. Two candles burn with a light similar to that emanating from the heart of Jesus. Denis felt a close bond to Christ, as indicated by diary entries addressed to him: “I want the best. It is you that I want, O Jesus. Not one time, but every day with you. . . . It is my grand dream of infinite love, of immense creation, of perfect piety. To be at the heart of mystery in the serenity of the church.”21 Denis conceived this subject while on his honeymoon with Marthe Meurier in 1893: “Christ on Calvary with Paris in the background: the tones of candle, heads, veil, forest.”22 He transformed the Sacred Heart, an object of particular devotion among French Catholics, into a less sanguinary symbol of hope.23 This occurred at a moment when physiological research revealed new information about the heart. Claude Bernard’s “Study of the Physiology of the Heart,” published in the Revue des deux mondes on March 1, 1865, explained how the heart functioned as the body’s motor,24 thereby demonstrating that the heart was essential to physical existence as well as, symbolically, to spiritual life. In the background of Sacred Heart Crucified, a priest—a proxy for Jesus—holds a service, beyond which the faint outlines of a forest and cityscape emerge. Denis’s composition suggests that the spiritual space is separate from and superior to both nature and civilization. Through a limited palette, Denis created a tranquil, contemplative mood. Denis described his approach as “neo-traditionalist” because he hoped to reveal new truths as the basis for future art. He defined the term in the August 23 and 30, 1890, issues of the journal Art et critique. Neo-traditionalism incorporated the fundamental truth that “a picture—before being a war horse, a nude woman, or telling some other story—is essentially a flat surface covered with colors arranged in a particular pattern. The neo-traditional artist followed his own instincts in creating works that were more authentic, more honest, and therefore more spiritual and

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beautiful than those commonly produced.”25 Denis recommended early Renaissance artists such as Fra Angelico (c. 1400–1455) and Sandro Botticelli (1444 or 1445–1510) as models, advising artists to emulate their attitude and purpose rather than attending to superficial details of form and style, as was the case, he maintained, with many contemporary artists. Like Denis, the German painter Karl Strathmann (1866–1939) looked to the past for inspiration in revitalizing religious art. However, instead of looking to the Italian Renaissance, Strathmann turned eastward—to the glittering mosaics of Byzantine art. While some considered the opulence of Byzantine art symptomatic of a decadent civilization, others viewed its stable traditions as evidence of stalwart Christian faith. Byzantine art began to attract scholarly attention in the second half of the nineteenth century, culminating in richly illustrated studies such as Charles Bayet’s Byzantine Art (1883) and Gustave Schlumberger’s A Byzantine Emperor from the Tenth Century: Necéphor Phocas (1890). Strathmann’s home city of Munich had close connections with Greece; a Bavarian prince, Otto, became independent Greece’s first king in 1833. King Ludwig I of Bavaria (1786–1868) was a long-time enthusiast of Greek culture (he almost purchased the Parthenon marbles now in London’s British Museum) and had the chapel of his royal palace in Munich decorated with designs inspired by the twelfth-century Byzantine mosaics of the Palatine Chapel in Palermo.26 Byzantine art reflected an older—and presumably more authentic—Christian culture than Catholicism, which broke from the Orthodox Church in the early eleventh century, and whose doctrine and traditions, unlike those of the Eastern Christianity, changed over time in response to political and social pressures.27 Strathmann’s Maria (Plate 7) depicts the Virgin Mary swathed in a richly embellished dress and starkly contrasting black cape (with an ornately patterned lining), kneeling before an altar, her hands folded in prayer. Her head is framed by an unusual, openwork halo, through which a field of small circles stretches into the background. Her name is inscribed on the side of the altar in a swirling arabesque reminiscent of Arabic calligraphy. On the altar stands a white marble pillar, perhaps symbolizing God’s strength and stability but also recalling the pillar at which Jesus was flogged by Roman soldiers. The thorny vine supports this interpretation, since the flogging immediately preceded Jesus’ “crowning” with a garland of thorns. A thorny shoot twines around a burning candle, which has several interrelated associations: it resembles the candles used at Easter to symbolize Jesus as “light of the world,” lighted candles usually accompany the celebration of mass, and candles are often burned in memory of those who have died. Additional vegetal imagery appears in the form of two trees: the one on the right with withering, reddish brown leaves suggestive of death, and another behind the pillar with supple green leaves, some of which are pale, suggesting new growth. Strathmann’s lavish use of gold leaf immediately signals the artifice of his painting, as it does in Klimt’s Nuda Veritas (see Plate 1). Gold leaf—along with hieratic forms and abstract ornamentation—evokes Orthodox icons, which facilitate the worshipper’s spiritual transcen­ dence and provide access to the heavenly realm. (In the Orthodox tradition, icons are not considered pictures; rather they are visual manifestations of a saintly presence.) Strathmann’s return to pre-Catholic tradition in Maria was part of a primitivizing trend among Symbolists, who



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believed in the existence of an original “right” path from which modern civilization had strayed.

primitivism While Western art often looked to temporally or geographically distant cultures as idealized foils for degenerate Western society, never had such cultures been as frequently evoked as during the final decades of the nineteenth century.28 Some artists turned to an imaginary Golden Age; others envisioned earlier historical moments—biblical times, the Middle Ages, the Italian Renaissance—as eras of harmony, happiness, and health; still others idealized contemporary Western peasants or the cultures of Africa and Oceania as beneficiaries of an enviable honesty, simplicity, and spirituality. This veneration of other cultures reflected dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the West and a desire to cure the ills of modern society; it also presumed the capacity of Westerners to recuperate lost values and practices and attested to firm belief in the therapeutic necessity of doing so. Robert Goldwater first identified the difficulty of arriving at a satisfactory definition of the modern aesthetic of “primitivism” in 1967, and the controversy that erupted in the wake of the 1984 exhibition “‘Primitivism’ in 20th-Century Art: Affinity of the Tribal and the Modern” at the Museum of Modern Art in New York confirmed Goldwater’s assessment.29 For our purposes, we will rely on Goldwater’s definition, in which “primitive” is defined by its apparent distance from modern Western civilization and is generally characterized by naiveté, simplicity, and a link to the rhythms of nature. Consistent with the modern practice of browsing other cultures for relevant ideas, various aspects of “primitive” cultures appealed to artists and artists’ groups. Goldwater identified four basic types of “primitivism”: romantic, emotional, intellectual, and psychological.30 While Paul Gauguin unquestionably exemplifies this primitivizing trend, the precise character of his “primitivism” has been extensively debated.31 His painting and sculpture demonstrate the extent to which Symbolism was an eclectic movement informed by individual temperaments, convictions, and experiences. Toward the end of his life, pessimism pervaded both Gauguin’s writings and artworks, as we saw in the case of Where Do We Come From? (see Fig. 38). A decade earlier, however, he waxed enthusiastic over the capacity of art to express the artist’s impressions and to define the path to a brighter future through the union of subject and style. Between July 1886 and December 1889, Gauguin lived primarily in Pont-Aven, a picturesque village in Brittany that had been attracting artists for decades with its hospitality, affordability, and Celtic culture, whose archaic language and traditions seemed to preserve a wholesome authenticity and connectedness to the past that appealed to alienated, middle-class urbanites like Gauguin. While suspicious of the peasants’ political conservatism and their “foolish” superstition, Gauguin also discerned qualities among Breton peasants (simplicity, a sense of community, individualism) that he believed might rescue a corrupt and materialistic Western civilization.

1 Gustav Klimt, Nuda Veritas, 1899, oil on canvas, 252 × 56.2 cm. Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, Vienna.

2 Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening), 1896, woodcut colored by hand, 37.7 × 45 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Clive Runnells in memory of Leonard C. Hanna, Jr. (1959.82). Art © 2009 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 3 Max Klinger, Beethoven, 1899–1902, sculpture group of various colored stones and bronze, with glass, metal, ivory and precious stone inlay, height 310 cm. Museum der Bildenden Künste, Leipzig (inv. P28). Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

4  Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, The Poor Fisherman, 1881, oil on canvas, 155 × 192.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 506). Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York. 5 Paul Sérusier, The Talisman (The River Aven in Pont-Aven), 1888, oil on board, 27 × 21.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 1985-3). Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

6 Maurice Denis, Sacred Heart Crucified, 1894, oil on canvas, 131 × 61 cm. Private collection. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: Giraudon/The Bridgeman Art Library. 7 Karl Strathmann, Maria, 1897, oil and gold leaf on canvas, 111.5 × 157 cm. Klassik Stiftung Weimar.

8 Paul Gauguin, Vision of the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888, oil on canvas, 72.2 × 91 cm. National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh. 9 Paul Ranson, Christ and Buddha, ca. 1890, oil on canvas, 66.7 × 51.4 cm. Private Collection. Photo: Triton Foundation, the Netherlands.

10 Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889, oil on canvas, 65 × 54.5 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 1947-17). Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York. 11 Odilon Redon, Ophelia, c. 1900–1905, pastel on paper mounted on board, 49.53 × 66.35 cm. The Dian Woodner Collection, New York.

12 Carl Larsson, Eve’s Daughter, 1888/1894, oil on canvas, 195.5 × 130 cm. Zornsamlingarna (The Zorn Collections), Mora, Sweden. 13  Jacek Malczewski, Melancholia, 1890–94, oil on canvas, 139 × 240 cm. Muzeum Narodowe, Poznan, Poland.

14 Ferdinand Hodler, William Tell, 1896–97, oil on canvas, 256 × 196 cm. Kunstmuseum Solothurn, Switzerland. Bequest of Frau Margrit Kottmann-Müller in memory of her husband, Dr. Walther Kottmann, 1958. 15  Harald Slott-Møller, Danish Landscape, 1891, oil and gold on plaster, 43 × 72.5 cm. © The Hirschsprung Collection, Copenhagen.

16 Carl Schmidt-Helmbrechts, cover of Jugend 2, no. 22 (1897). Photo: Per Nordahl.

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In 1888, Gauguin incorporated his admiration for Breton “primitivism” into his first picture with a religious theme.32 Gauguin was raised Catholic and attended a Catholic school near Orléans for five years, but he joined the anticlerical camp as an adult, as did other political progressives. Catholic dogma nonetheless continued to figure prominently in Gauguin’s thinking during much of his artistic career, although his unpublished essay “The Modern Spirit and Catholicism” (1897–98) reveals decisively un-Catholic convictions: that God initiated the evolution of the universe but did not intervene subsequently and that Jesus was an imaginary figure invented by the Roman Catholic Church in the fourth century to represent human perfection.33 Gauguin’s Vision of the Sermon, or Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (Plate 8), shows a group of women from Pont-Aven, along with the artist himself—in the guise of a tonsured cleric—and Émile Bernard’s sister Madeleine, dressed as a Breton woman, two bonnets away.34 As Gauguin explained to Vincent van Gogh, “the landscape and the fight only exist in the imagination of the people praying because of the sermon, which is why there is a contrast between the natural people and the non-natural landscape which is out of proportion.”35 Gauguin painted Vision during the last two weeks of September 1888, after witnessing a Pardon, a Breton religious festival that typically included a wrestling match. The wrestling match would have evoked for Gauguin the biblical episode of Jacob wrestling with the angel, illustrated by Eugène Delacroix in an 1861 fresco in the Parisian church of Saint-Sulpice. This story was often interpreted as a metaphor for the individual’s struggle with his conscience,36 most notably in Victor Hugo’s 1862 novel Les Misérables, which Gauguin had recently alluded to in his SelfPortrait as Jean Valjean (protagonist of Les Misérables, Rijksmuseum Vincent van Gogh, Amsterdam, 1888), painted as a gift for van Gogh. Was Gauguin struggling with his own agnosticism in the face of Breton peasant piety and that of the Bernard siblings? Was he struggling with the moral dilemma of his physical attraction to Bernard’s sister, young enough to be his daughter?37 Had the priest conducting the Pardon service merely taken Jacob wrestling with the angel as the topic of his sermon? Did the female attendees experience a group hallucination afterward?38 Or were all these ideas bundled into this remarkable image? There is no way of knowing with certainty. What we do know, both through Gauguin’s own testimony and through his portrayal, is that the scene is imaginary. By using a visual language described as “cloissonism” by the critic Édouard Dujardin, Gauguin defined the imaginative character of Vision.39 Cloissonism emphasized the two-dimensionality and artificiality of images through thick outlines and unmodulated color under the twin influences of Japanese prints and medieval art, especially enamelwork and stained glass. The Japanese were mythologized by vanguard artists at the end of the nineteenth century as a culture in harmony with its natural environment, and the Middle Ages had long been celebrated as an era of innocence, humility, social cooperation, and religious devotion. Both provided models for aesthetic, moral, and social reform. Gauguin rechristened the visual language “synthetism” because of its integration of form, color, and idea.40 The compression of space in Vision is characteristic of the work of the Japanese artist Ando Hiroshige (1797–1858, Fig. 40), whose prints were popular among French artists; Theo and Vincent van Gogh owned


40 Ando Hiroshige, Takanawa Ushimachi, 1858, ink and colored ink on paper, 35.9 × 24.8 cm. Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington. Photo by Michael Cavanagh and Kevin Montague, © 2009 Indiana University Art Museum.

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many. Perhaps the most striking characteristic of Vision, however, is its bizarre red field. Debora Silverman attributes Gauguin’s use of red to the sudden abundance of Catholic devotional imagery depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus and images of Jesus’ torture,41 a plausible hypothesis given Gauguin’s eclectic creative process. Having begun his artistic career as an Impressionist, Gauguin resoundingly rejected in Vision the premises of Impressionism and Naturalism as well as those of Realism and the academic establishment. In Vision, Gauguin demonstrated that even religious painting could be subversive. Indeed, Breton Pardons had political implications at the time. As Michael Orwicz notes: “the political success of all parties rested largely on the extent to which they could win the peasants’ vote. And the right’s consistent victories in Brittany, ever since the founding of the Republic, confirmed the monarchists’ and clericals’ strength in the province.”42 Gauguin’s politically conservative peasants would have attracted the notice of his Parisian audience. Pardons were highly charged events of collective emotional fervor, when a church’s patron saint was celebrated with a mass and a procession. Local priests often took this opportunity to communicate antigovernment propaganda through their sermons.

occultism—theosophy The existence of an unseen world was accepted as a scientific fact by the 1880s. Joris-Karl Huysmans observed: “Space is peopled by microbes. Is it more surprising that space should also be crammed with spirits and larvae?”43 Given the presence of invisible atoms, microbes, electrical impulses, and gravitational forces, what other kinds of unseen forces might also lurk out of sight? In the late 1880s, the Serbian physicist Nikola Tessla demonstrated how high-energy electrons could reveal things invisible to the naked eye, and in 1896 the German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen published his path-breaking paper, “On a New Kind of Ray: A Preliminary Communication,” in which he revealed the power of radiation (an energy he named “x”) to penetrate solid objects.44 The excitement and speculation about the application of x-radiography to a wide variety of problems is indicated by a purported news bulletin published in an 1896 issue of Jugend (Fig. 41). “The New Rays” tells the story of a young man smitten by a beautiful and sought-after young woman who wanted to find out whether the heart of the object of his affection was as kind as she led suitors to believe. X-ray examination revealed, as the “documentary photograph” depicted on the journal’s cover shows, that her heart was of stone, saving the naïve youth from a miserable marriage. The boundary between science and mysticism was fluid in the late nineteenth century due to uncertainty about the limitations of scientific knowledge, as the “New Rays” story attests. People wanted to understand unseen realities and the systems according to which they operated, and occultism offered yet another way of decoding mysteries from an invisible world. Occult practices and beliefs derived their authority from claims of origin in ancient wisdom and



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41 The New Rays, from Jugend 1, no. 5 (1896), 81. Photo: Per Nordahl.

responded to a longing for spirituality in the late nineteenth century. Sometimes occultism replaced religion and politics, but more often it coexisted with them as a strategy for accessing a universal, permanent, yet unseen reality. Interest in spiritism and the occult mushroomed in the mid-nineteenth century with renewed interest in the theology of Emanuel Swedenborg (see Chapter 2), the publications of the

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French occultist Eliphas Lévi (the pseudonym of Adolphe Constant) and the American spiritualist Andrew Jackson Davis, and a spate of inexplicable contacts with the dead in such spiritistic occurrences as the Hydesville Rappings in upstate New York early in the nineteenth century.45 The most widespread and well-organized occult group in the late nineteenth century was the Theosophical Society, established in the United States in 1875 by Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Petrovna Blavatsky.46 Olcott and Blavatsky created Theosophy with the goal of achieving interreligious harmony, individual enlightenment, and social equality. Theosophy (an invented term that combines the ancient Greek words meaning “divine” and “wisdom”) was a pantheistic, nondeistic religion whose legitimacy rested on its assertion that it revealed the occult truths of ancient traditions passed down through history from master to disciple. Theosophy sought to reconcile perceived oppositions between science and religion (exemplified by the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin, which posited a longer geological history for the earth than was typically understood by those relying on the Bible for evidence)47 and East and West. Asian influences arrived in the form of Japanese woodblock prints and the comparative study of religion; Asian references soon seeped into everyday speech. For instance, when Gauguin conveyed his regrets to Émile Bernard about the death of Vincent van Gogh in a letter written from Le Pouldu in 1890, Gauguin offered consolation derived from his understanding of Buddhist thought: “To die at this moment was a great happiness for him; it represents the righteous end of his suffering and if he returns in another life he will carry the fruits of his good conduct in this world (according to the law of Buddha).”48 Theosophy expounded the contribution of spiritists—who claimed to bridge the gap between science and religion by furnishing evidence of life after death—as well as the era’s positivistic belief in unending improvement. Olcott became interested in the occult when he reported on the strange sightings of deceased relatives at the Eddy residence in Chittenden, Vermont, for the New York Sun in 1874. After reading Olcott’s account, Blavatsky (who regularly held séances at her New York apartment) visited Chittenden, where she met Olcott and the spirits of a Kurdish warrior, a Hindu, a Russian peasant girl, and the deceased servant of one of her relatives. Theosophy sought validation in ancient and Asian philosophies and science through research and experimentation and purported to demonstrate the “pagan origins of many of [Christianity’s] most sacred idols and most cherished dogmas.”49 According to Blavatsky’s Secret Doctrine (1888), Theosophy’s roots could be traced back thorough Swedenborg, Plato, Pythagoras, the Jewish Kabbalah, and the Hindu Vedas. It posited a common source for science and religion in the “yearning of the imprisoned human soul for intercourse with supernal spheres.”50 Theosophy posited seven spheres of existence that extended possibilities for reincarnation. At the moment of death, each soul decides whether it should progress to a higher plane of spiritual existence or be reincarnated in the same plane in order to atone for sins such as egoism, immorality, materialism, and violence. Theosophy taught that ethical behavior, personal responsibility, and altruism were essential to spiritual enlightenment. Like the major religions, it posited an immanent progression by which everything moves toward the fulfillment of its secret meaning. The Theosophical Society in Paris (established in 1885) attracted many Symbolists.



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Christ and Buddha (Plate 9), by Paul Ranson (1864–1909), exemplifies the influence of Theosophy on French Symbolist artists. Shortly after seeing Sérusier’s Talisman, Ranson read the Theosophist Édouard Schuré’s The Great Initiates: A Study of the Secret History of Religions (1889), which explains the common, mystical thread linking metaphysical thought from Rama and Krishna to Moses, Plato, and Jesus. Schuré maintained that differences among religions had more to do with petty human aspirations than with religious truths. He argued that understanding the unity of religious thought—revealed most clearly in the mystical dimensions of Judaism, Christianity, the cult of Dionysus, Hinduism, and alchemy—would eradicate artificial and detrimental rivalries among belief systems and promote a shared metaphysic. In addition to the crucified Christ and Buddha (posed in the “turning of the wheel of law” posture),51 Ranson included lotus flowers, which represent a variety of concepts in Hinduism, including the human soul, divinity, and enlightenment. The Arabic inscription, which translates as “knighthood of the prophets,” was Ranson’s respectful way of incorporating Islam’s emphasis on the divinity of the Word.52 In the background, Ranson included an orderly multitude of praying figures arranged in rows, an ideal vision of a world in which—in the words of William Blake—“all religions are one.” While Ranson’s title names the painting’s subject, the painting’s meaning remains obscure. Nonnatural colors, a schematic rendering of objects, inconsistent scale, and disjointed overlapping signal that Christ and Buddha is a mystical, two-dimensional image that functions as a catalyst to personal reflection. The Belgian painter Jean Delville (1867–1953) was a charter member of the Theosophy Society that formed in Brussels in the early 1890s, and he eventually became the organization’s secretary.53 Delville was interested in mysticism and the occult, and was profoundly influenced by the novelist Joséphin Péladan, whom he met in Paris in 1888. Delville’s interest in Theosophy arose from his desire to improve the human condition. First drawn to socialism, Delville wrote an article in 1890 outlining the social role of art and the social responsibility of artists, “Art and Socialism,” published in La Jeune Belgique. In 1895 he explained his occultist ideas in Dialogue between Us, and four years later he founded a short-lived Symbolist journal, La Lumière (1899–1900). Delville was a friend of Schuré, who contributed the introduction to Delville’s 1900 book, The Mission of Art, which outlined Theosophy’s significance for art. Delville was fascinated by Theosophist ideas concerning the evolution and reincarnation of the soul, a theme treated in Love of Souls (Fig. 42). Here, a male and a female soul—imagined as a robust young couple with closed eyes and contented expressions—execute a mystical dance suspended in an ethereal blue cloud that swirls upward into the starry night sky. The cloud, with its golden canopy, is Delville’s visualization of astral light, an invisible ether that surrounds all matter. According to Delville’s Dialogue, astral light infuses human souls and facilitates their rebirth into new bodies. The color of one’s astral light corresponds to the spiritual level one has achieved, with white, blue, and gold the highest. A new moon and the rising sun flank the couple at the horizon. Like Odilon Redon, Delville put “the visible at the service of the invisible” in order to help his public understand the wondrous mysteries and hidden order of a world beyond sense perception.

42 Jean Delville, Love of Souls (L’Amour des âmes), 1900, tempera on canvas. Musée d’Ixelles, Brussels. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SABAM, Brussels. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.


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pantheism/sacred realism At the end of the nineteenth century, many turned to nature as a guide to divine mysteries. A similar enthusiasm occurred at the end of the eighteenth century, when the notion that individuals could come closest to God through the study of nature inspired pietistic Lutherans and German Romantic philosophers, writers, and artists to adopt a theology of nature. This theology presupposed a direct relationship between the individual and God, a cornerstone of Protestant theology, and it directed individuals to strive on their own for sacred knowledge. Such beliefs clashed with the Roman Catholic conviction that individuals could establish a relationship with God only through the mediation of religiously ordained third parties, such as priests. Furthermore, Catholicism endorsed images of saints and sacred events as aids to spiritual understanding. In contrast, Protestantism stressed the contemplation of nature and the study of the Bible as a means to enlightenment, with the result that literacy in Protestant regions was much higher than in Catholic ones. Literature such as the English writer Margaret Gatty’s Parables of Nature (1855) contended that religious truths were manifest in nature, and that there were many “similitudes and analogies between physical and spiritual things.”54 Parables was a bestseller in English (more than twenty editions had been published by 1900) as well as in Danish, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Swedish translations; its popularity was such that a majority of the American and European middle classes were familiar with its stories.55 Vincent van Gogh was the son of a minister in the Dutch Reformed Church, which encouraged social activism and emotional spirituality. These values emerged throughout van Gogh’s life—in his brief career as a minister’s assistant near London (1876) and in the Belgian coalmining district of Borinage (1878–79), as well as in his career as a painter. In letters to his brother Theo, Vincent expressed his intense experience of nature in language that verges on violence: “I imagine the man I have to paint, terrible in the furnace of the height of harvest time, as surrounded by the whole Midi. Hence the orange colors flashing like lightning, vivid as a red-hot iron.”56 At the same time, he articulated an altruistic conception of art: “in a picture I want to say something comforting, as music is comforting.”57 Van Gogh hoped for the restoration of a “solidly framed society, architecturally constructed, in which each individual was a stone, and all the stones clung together, forming a monumental society,” such as existed during the Renaissance. In a letter to Émile Bernard, van Gogh voiced confidence that “when the socialists construct their logical social edifice—which they are still pretty far from doing—I am sure mankind will see a reincarnation of this society.”58 Van Gogh envisioned his calling as the creation of images rather than procreation.59 After abandoning Realism (when he arrived in Paris in 1886), then Impressionism (under the influences of Seurat, Bernard, Gauguin, and Japanese art in 1887), van Gogh decided to use “color more arbitrarily, in order to express myself more forcibly.”60 Among his goals was “To paint men and women with that something of the eternal which the halo used to symbolize, and which we seek to convey by the actual radiance and vibration of our coloring.”61 Toward the end of 1888, van Gogh began also to use line—more specifically, the gesture of his brush-

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strokes—to enhance the spiritual intensity of his images. His self-portrait in the Musée d’Orsay (Plate 10) integrated figure and setting through a serene blue-green palette and long, wavy brushstrokes, suggesting the unity of creation and a psychological state that can be interpreted as either agitated or peaceful.62 The waves and arabesques invite association with sound, light waves, and even water—real, yet invisible, forces suffusing the natural world. At the same time, van Gogh’s brushstrokes reveal his working process. He admired individuals who worked with their hands, as evidenced by the prevalence of gardeners, farmers, and weavers among his subjects. And these subjects suggest his political sympathies: according to anarchist and socialist theory, productive and satisfying labor formed the foundation of an egalitarian and democratic society. In writing about van Gogh’s Sower (1888, Kröller-Müller Museum, Otterlo), Debora Silverman describes the artist’s goal: “redemptive work physically enacted by its peasant subject, [and] technically emulated by the painter’s coarse and effortful brush,” in works that “exemplified van Gogh’s idea of an art rooted in the indivisible union of the tangible and the infinite.”63 Van Gogh maintained a direct connection to nature in keeping with his pantheistic spirituality. In this way, he followed the tradition of Romantic Protestants like Caspar David Friedrich and William Blake, who saw “Heaven in a Wild Flower” (“Auguries of Innocence,” 1803). An unmediated relationship between people and God was a founding principle of Protestantism, and all of its branches (Anglican, Methodist, Calvinist, Lutheran) had clearly articulated sets of beliefs from which van Gogh purposefully deviated. He was dismissed from his missionary post because of his fanaticism and intensity, and church officials found him stubborn and uncooperative. Van Gogh preached a life of simplicity and poverty, a condition from which the coalminers of Borinage were desperately trying to escape. Although van Gogh sought to comfort his flock, he frightened and depressed them. Unlike most Symbolists (but like Impressionists and Naturalists), van Gogh usually painted directly before his subject. Aware of his psychological instability (he often referred to himself as “mad” in letters to his brother), van Gogh feared the unknown and uncontrollable forces lurking in the human psyche. In an April 1888 letter to Bernard he confessed: “I regret that I cannot make up my mind to work more at home and extempore [from memory]. The imagination is certainly a faculty which we must develop, one which alone can lead us to the creation of a more exalting and consoling nature than the single brief glance at reality—which in our sight is ever changing, passing like a flash of lightning.”64 The Finnish painter Hugo Simberg (1873–1917) conveyed the interconnectedness of creation in his watercolor miniatures, inspired by the medieval manuscript illuminations that he saw during an 1896 visit to London. However, instead of resorting to traditional religious or pure landscape imagery, Simberg found inspiration in the mystical beliefs of Finnish peasants. In Death Listens (Fig. 43), Death, portrayed as a skeleton, stands quietly listening to a peasant boy playing a tune on his fiddle. His head bowed and resting against his left hand in a conventional gesture of introspection, this Death brings flowers, like a polite guest; it does not take perverse delight in whisking humans away from the earthly realm, as in Rops’s Death at the Ball (see



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43 Hugo Simberg, Death Listens, 1897, watercolor and gouache on paper, 14.6 × 16.8 cm. Ateneum Art Museum, Helsinki. Photo: Central Art Archives/Antti Kuivalainen.

Fig. 18) or Kittelsen’s series The Black Death (Fig. 27). To the contrary, Simberg’s Death enjoys a moment of musical contemplation before escorting the dying old woman on the bed to her final destination. The three books (one of which is probably a Bible) piled on the rustic, threelegged stool suggest that these peasants are educated. Indeed, despite their poverty and superstitious beliefs, a majority of Finland’s peasants were literate.65 The boy is either unaware or unafraid of Death, and Simberg’s matter-of-fact treatment signifies the inevitable—even desirable— presence of death in human affairs. Indeed, Death rescues those who are suffering or tired of living and is the portal to the afterlife. Finland was still a largely rural society in the 1890s; in 1900, only 12.5 percent of the Finnish population lived in towns. Although its economy was based on barter, signs of industrialization were emerging (mostly related to lumber production).66 Intellectuals like Simberg (especially after his visit to London) were aware of the problems brought about by technological progress elsewhere and worried about its detrimental effects. While he did not oppose industrializa­ tion, Simberg was concerned about its impact on traditional beliefs and practices. His series of

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miniatures depicting Death, friendly devils, and other imaginative (rather than conventional) personifications of natural forces expressed this concern. Simberg’s watercolors conform to the technical/compositional definition of Symbolism; their diminutive size emphasizes their status as aesthetic objects. At the same time, his illustrative style, with clear outlines and minimal shading, is consistent with Simberg’s humble subject and straightforward message: that understanding does not require esoteric knowledge, not at least among societies that continue to live in a wholesome, biomystical relationship with nature.

youth Privileged status was traditionally accorded to elders based on the premise that wisdom is acquired through experience. The skills and knowledge accumulated in active engagement with the world equipped them to advise others and to guide their communities. William Blake, however, was convinced of the contrary: that youthful innocence was more intimately connected to beneficial divine forces. This viewpoint gained adherents during the course of the nineteenth century, when it became clear that the world had changed so radically that traditional strategies were outmoded. In the late nineteenth century hope for the future was invested in youth because many believed that the older generation was steering a course toward economic, social, and spiritual disaster. Many vanguard artists and intellectuals identified themselves as part of this youth movement: the journal Jugend (Youth) published in Munich beginning in 1896; the identification of a new decorative arts style as Jugendstil (Youth Style) or Art Nouveau (New Art); and the formation of the progressive artists’ association Young Poland (Młoda Polska) were among the manifestations of a new investment in the promise of youth. The Swiss Symbolist artist Ferdinand Hodler expressed optimism in the possibilities of youth in The Chosen One (Fig. 44), in which a young boy (a portrait of his son Hector) sits in an Alpine landscape surrounded by six levitating female angels. The title, along with the presence of angels, suggests a religious interpretation, but the scene does not invoke conventional Christian imagery or allow an easy identification of either the narrative or characters. The boy, whose nudity alludes to his innocence, in conjunction with the newly planted tree—framed by a protective mound encircled by stones—suggests an analogy between these two young lives, strong, nurtured, and full of promise. The Chosen One was composed in accordance with Hodler’s theory of Parallelism—a theory based on scientific study and observation—that sought to communicate the hidden order of the universe.67 Parallelism revealed the unity and harmony in nature—perceived intuitively by the true artist—which were manifested in repetition and symmetry. Hodler believed that artists could express the latent order in the natural world through simplification and exaggeration. In The Chosen One, he represented a generalized, quasi-spiritual concept of youth in harmony with nature and in dialogue with the Beyond.68 Here, in addition to repetition and symmetry, Hodler used predominantly blue tonalities to emphasize the serene character of his subject. The large format of this painting, almost three



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44 Ferdinand Hodler, The Chosen One, 1893–94, tempera and oil on canvas, 219 × 296 cm. Kunstmuseum Bern, Switzerland.

meters wide, indicates Hodler’s attempt to attract public attention with a work that dominates the wall on which it hangs, like a fresco. He had painted other monumental works around the same time, inspired undoubtedly by the example of Puvis de Chavannes’s large-scale works, which Hodler saw at the Salon du Champs-de-Mars in 1891 and 1892. The German artist Hugo Höppner (1868–1948) shared Hodler’s desire to reorder social priorities in accordance with divine principles. In Prayer to Light (Fig. 45), a painting whose title, like Hodler’s, connotes spirituality, Höppner synthesizes scientific and mystical ideas, an endeavor reflecting the era’s attempts to bridge science and religion. Prayer celebrates the sun as a life-giving and health-restoring force, the center of our solar system, a focus of worship and ritual.69 The painting celebrates enlightenment as well as the promise of youth, whose fresh ideas and uncorrupted souls will guide humanity toward a harmonious future purged of the egoism, malevolence, and materialism plaguing contemporary society. Like Hodler’s Chosen One, Höppner’s fair-haired youth—although portrayed naturalistically—does not correspond to any conventional allegorical type, thus allowing him to function as a new symbol for a new age. Höppner belonged to the large group of well-educated German urbanites determined to realize the French revolutionary goals of freedom, equality, and solidarity in opposition to the

45 Hugo Höppner, Prayer to Light, 1894, oil on canvas, 150 × 100 cm. Deutsches Historisches Museum, Berlin. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


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strict order and hierarchy of the newly formed (1871) German Empire. The realization of this goal required social reform through secularization, education, antimaterialism, and pantheism.70 More specifically, Höppner believed, as did many of his compatriots, that these objectives could be achieved through nudism, exercise, vegetarianism, simple clothing, and cooperative housing. Simplicity and harmonic symbiosis with nature and society were the goals. When Höppner arrived at the Munich art academy in 1887, he joined the Life Reform Movement (Lebensreformbewegung) and befriended the painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach (1851– 1913), a leading figure in the movement, who gave Höppner the nickname “Fidus” (faithful one). Along with two other students, they formed a nudist artists’ collective. They subscribed to the ideas of Heinrich Pudor, who argued that nudity was wholesome from both a hygienic and a social perspective; Pudor’s study, Naked People (1893), became the bible of the Life Reform Movement. Nudity was related to “primitivism,” often associated with a harmonious and cooperative society. The opposite of masking, nudity connoted honesty and simplicity—in other words, an idyllic, anti-urban state recalling Eden before the Fall. Nudism (Freikörperkultur) attracted a large following toward the end of the nineteenth century because it strove to recuperate a lost state of well-being. Contemporary physiological research reinforced the conviction that the body’s direct exposure to air, sun, and water had demonstrable health benefits. Havelock Ellis observed that “Wherever primitive races abandon nakedness for clothing, at once the tendency to disease, mortality, and degeneracy notably increases,”71 and he maintained that the aversion to nudity (an irrational fear that he deemed both physically and psychologically detrimental to mankind) was peculiar to nineteenth-century Western societies. The late nineteenth-century discourse about health and sickness provides another context for Prayer. As Sander Gilman notes: The dichotomy is clear: The healthy is the beautiful, is the erotic, is the good, for it leads to the preservation and continuation of the collective. This is the norm against which the deviant is to be measured. The deviant is ill and is therefore ugly and evil. . . . the notion that the beautiful body is the healthy body is the theme of the creation of the New Man during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This New Man (and New Woman) is seen as the natural improvement of the species through the alteration of the social system. These new systems produce not only better citizens, it was believed, but more beautiful ones.72

Like Ranson, Delville, and many Life Reform enthusiasts Höppner turned to Theosophy, joining Munich’s theosophical society in 1898. Idealistic artists at the end of the nineteenth century detected in anarchy, life reform, nudism, pantheism, religion, spiritism, and Theosophy the seeds of salvation for a Western society gone astray. They placed their faith in new ideas, youthful innocence, and the imagination, and devised new pictorial strategies—cloissonism, divisionism, neo-traditionalism, parallelism—to communicate deeply felt ideas. Symbolists turned to examples from earlier historical moments,

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or to contemporary peasant and tribal cultures, for models of authenticity, simplicity, and spirituality that would lead to a happy and harmonious life on earth, characterized by respect for the individual and tolerance of difference that contrasted with the oppression of modern life. Convinced that civilization had strayed from an original “right” path, Symbolists felt that their role in the improvement of the human condition was to guide the way through their special gifts of perception.


Contested Gender



y the end of the nineteenth century, gender relations in Europe were in crisis. Widely held misconceptions mingled with the anxiety wrought by demographic shifts and technological progress. As a result, the discrepancy between contemporary realities and female stereotypes—angel, femme fatale, New Woman— gained prominence as men tried desperately to contain women within defined categories. (Male) artists focused their attention on either angels—impossibly pure, good, selfless, and spiritual women—or femmes fatales—women who were tainted, evil, selfish, and materialistic. The New Woman—a modern and therefore unexplored category of women who considered themselves the equals of men and demanded equal opportunity and treatment— attracted less artistic interest.1 While some Symbolists fixated on these conflicting notions of women, others challenged normative gender boundaries and explored hybrid possibilities: feminized men and androgynes.

women: oppressed and excluded The dawning of democratic ideals—beginning with the eighteenth-century American and French revolutions—gave many women hope that gender tyranny would soon end, as had the tyranny of the aristocracy. This optimism was exemplified by the French playwright Olympe de Gouges, who, outraged by the gender exclusivity perpetuated in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen, demanded the same rights for women in her Declaration of the Rights of Women.2 Women, however, continued to be excluded from political life. According to the French Civil Code of 1804, a husband’s duty is to protect his wife, and a wife’s duty is to obey her husband, and similar provisions were common in the laws of other Western nations at the end of the nineteenth century. Such policies were buttressed in Catholic countries— ­Ireland, France, Spain, Portugal, Austria, and Italy—by Pope Leo XIII’s 1880 proclamation: “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church.”3 Until 1870, when the 115


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Married Women’s Property Act allowed them to own and inherit property, British women were not allowed to write letters without their husband’s (or male guardian’s) permission. Men had exclusive control over children and property, and they could force women to remain at home, garnishing their incomes and confiscating their possessions at will. A husband’s permission was required for wives to take university exams, work, open bank accounts, obtain a passport, sign legal documents, or seek hospital treatment. As economic conditions thrust woman from the home into the workplace and increased educational opportunities for women threatened male hegemony, many men expressed their fear and frustration by attempting to restrict women even further. Polarized responses to transformations in the nineteenth-century social landscape— despair or hope—were often projected onto women, in part because men viewed the changing condition of women as a threat and in part because home was the only domain in which men exercised absolute legal control.4 At the same time, women dissatisfied with their virtual enslavement struggled for freedom in increasing numbers. They—like oppressed workers—began to organize. The suffragette movement developed out of women’s philanthropic associations such as temperance and antislavery societies. Leisure time allowed educated middle-class women to read far more than their male counterparts (the middle classes accounted for no more than 10 percent of the European population at the time), and philosophical tracts like John Stuart Mill’s 1869 On the Subjugation of Women galvanized women who saw no rational justification for their inferior status and were insulted by the political freedom of illiterate working-class and peasant men. Slowly but surely—and with staunch opposition from men (and even some women)—women won civil and political rights. One of the distinguishing features of Symbolist art is the abundance of female subjects and the concomitant absence of women Symbolist artists, critics, and writers. Female artists were systematically marginalized during the nineteenth century, excluded from prestigious academies and exhibitions. As a result, they either sought to gain acceptance by conforming to established norms in painting (as did Rosa Bonheur [1822–1899] and Elizabeth Thompson Butler [1846 or 1850–1933]) or by entering the predominantly female domain of handicrafts and minor arts (watercolor, drawing), which had a more accessible system of schools and exhibitions. Women painters and sculptors who sought critical approval and public recognition generally restricted themselves to mainstream subjects executed in conventional styles. Several women—Berthe Morisot (1841–1895), Mary Cassatt (1844–1926), and Eva Gonzalès (1849–1883), for example— associated with the vanguard Impressionists, but they were sufficiently affluent not to have to rely on sales of their work and were more often followers than innovators. Because female artists were marginalized, being accepted by their male peers was often a primary concern; membership, even in vanguard artistic movements, required conforming to standards established by male artists and critics. Thus, social constraints impeded women’s ability to participate in vanguard movements. Moreover, earlier nineteenth-century artistic movements—Naturalism and Impressionism— were defined by choice of subject and style, not by inventing a visual language appropriate to

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expressing ideas. Invention and creation were perceived as male domains, since women were considered intellectually inferior. The German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer asserted that women “are their life long—a kind of intermediate stage between the child and the full grown man,” and they possess “a weaker power of reasoning.”5 Charles Darwin offered scientific confirmation of women’s intellectual inferiority in The Descent of Man (1871): “The chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man’s attaining to a higher eminence in whatever he takes up than can women—whether requiring deep thought, reason or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands . . . Partly through sexual selection . . . and partly through natural selection . . . man has ultimately become superior to woman.”6 Indeed, when women artists did assert their independence, the penalty was often severe, as the tragic case of Camille Claudel (1864–1943) attests.7

unstable masculinity The stability of masculine identity contributed to the vigorous assertion of masculine superiority and a polarized view of women at the end of the nineteenth century. Male insecurity resulted from unsettling data on the scientific and cultural fronts. Mounting evidence indicated that the conventional interpretation of male and female as biologically defined genders with opposing characteristics should be replaced by a more nuanced understanding of male and female as points on a spectrum.8 Sigmund Freud’s case histories record the struggles of patients to conform to culturally determined gender norms and suggest that sexuality is a complicated matter. In “O Child of Uranus,” for instance, the English poet Edward Carpenter described a “Womansoul within a Man’s form,” a condition that bolstered worries about the inability to decode identities from appearances and sowed seeds of self-doubt about one’s own sexuality.9 In the late nineteenth century sexuality, formerly a private matter, assumed social significance in light of the degeneration discourse. The liveliest topic in this context was homosexuality, which came to represent disorder among those who felt that it imperiled the gender balance and accompanied other forms of deviance.10 The degree to which homosexuality was demonized is evidenced by the publication of Havelock Ellis’s Sexual Inversion (1896), which presented case studies in order to show homosexuality’s benignity.

saintly angels Symbolist depictions of women with angelic qualities divide into two categories: the sickly and the saintly. Sickly women posed no threat because of their weakness, while saintly women inspired men to illustrious achievements through their chaste and pious example. The model for the sainted woman was the Madonna. The Virgin Mary’s renewed popularity as an object of veneration in the late nineteenth century reflected both the Catholic revival and a pivotal



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change in her status that occurred in 1854, when Pope Pius IX proclaimed Mary’s immaculate conception as dogma. Church doctrine had always maintained that the Virgin Mary was untainted by original sin when the angel Gabriel visited her and announced her miraculous conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. Pius IX’s pronouncement meant that Mary’s mother, Anna, was not impregnated by her husband, Joachim, but through the agency of the Holy Spirit. Thus, Mary, mother of God the Son, was also the product of divine conception and possessed miraculous powers. Significantly, Pius IX’s dogma acclaimed virginity at a time when prostitution and illegitimate births were rising throughout Europe. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception reinforced the value of abstinence and virginity for single women, whose numbers were increasing in urban areas.11 The sudden proliferation of Marian imagery—such as Carl Strathmann’s Maria (see Plate 7)—resulted from and reinforced the Madonna’s new status as sacred and fully chaste.12 Such imagery reflected the desire of men that their spouses and daughters simultaneously be pious virgins, ingenious problem-solvers, and dutiful wives and mothers. Offering a saint as a didactic model for modern women established an unrealistic standard of behavior. Nonetheless, such thinking inspired a flood of maternal imagery during the final decades of the nineteenth century. Among all Symbolist artists, Eugène Carrière is most closely asso­ciated with the subject. In dozens of thinly painted, monochromatic images of mothers embrac­ing children (Fig. 46), Carrière communicated the tenderness of the ideal mother-child relationship, which seems to exist in a dreamlike realm of emotion remote from the sharp corners of daily life. Carrière worked on a far more intimate scale than Gaetano Previati (1852–1920), who exhibited his four-meter-long Maternity at the first Rose + Croix Salon in 1892 (Fig. 47; see Chapter 7). The size of Previati’s painting suggests that the artist intended it for permanent public display; today it hangs in a bank. Previati conveyed tenderness with thinly painted, threadlike strokes that his contemporaries considered audaciously unfinished. Surrounded by a host of adoring angels, a solicitous mother nurses her baby in a composition evocative of Madonna and Child imagery, a comparison reinforced by the mother’s veiled head and blue dress (Mary was often depicted wearing the blue mantle of heaven). The Madonna and Child motif was also linked to Catholic revivalism, a contemporary strategy for rehabilitating wayward humanity. In an otherwise desolate meadow, a fruit tree recalling the Garden of Eden’s Tree of Knowledge reinforced religious associations by reminding Previati’s Catholic audience of the original sin of which Mary was innocent and that her son was sent to redeem. By not affixing a religious title to his image, Previati suggested the virtuous potential of all women and the sacred responsibility of motherhood. Previati’s Maternity also addressed nursing, a charged issue at the time. Louis Pasteur demonstrated that children nursed by their own mothers were not only more likely to survive into adulthood but were stronger and healthier than their peers. As a result, the goutte de lait (sip of milk) movement began in France in 1892 and quickly spread elsewhere. Still, cultural resistance to breastfeeding by infants’ natural mothers pervaded many bourgeois homes, in which wet nurses were a sign of affluence. With the example of the Madonna proffered as an ideal,

46 Eugène Carrière, Maternity, c. 1892, oil on canvas, 33 × 40 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 3115). Photo © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York (photographer: B. Hatala). 47 Gaetano Previati, Maternity, 1891, oil on canvas, 174 × 411 cm. Banca Popolare, Novara, Italy. Photo: Banco Popolare, Novara, Italy/Alinari/The Bridgeman Art Library.


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48 Alphonse Osbert, Vision, 1892, oil on canvas, 235 × 138 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 1977-451). Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

politicians, doctors, and artists joined forces to encourage women to accept personal responsibility for the care of their children from the very beginning. Sometimes, references to sainthood were even more obvious. The enormous Vision (Fig. 48) by Alphonse Osbert (1857–1939)—shown in Paris at the 1892 exhibition of the Société nationale des beaux-arts and the following year at the Salon Rose + Croix—expressed the idea of women as conduits of divine revelation. Here, a young, barefoot shepherdess stands motionless and

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tense, her saintly status indicated by the golden halo encircling her head and by the attentive lamb—a Christian symbol—gazing at her face as if aware of unusual goings-on. The shepherdess’s otherworldly stare, erect posture, and clasped hands indicate a consciousness far removed from the physical world. Osbert cast the entire scene in a Whistlerian palette of pale blue tones, emphasizing the idea of vision rather than a particular event.13 The coarseness of Osbert’s technique—little textural variation and distinct brushwork—reinforced an awareness of the image as an object. Osbert avoided specifically identifying his subject in title or composition, permitting viewers to make their own associations. His contemporaries would likely have associated a peasant girl experiencing a vision with Joan of Arc, a patriotic martyr whose popularity in France surged after France’s 1871 defeat in the Franco-Prussian War.14 By 1899, however—when Osbert exhibited Vision at an exhibition of religious art in Brussels—the artist identified the figure as Saint Geneviève, patron saint of Paris,15 despite the fact that no episodes from her recorded life correspond to Osbert’s image. The painting had great personal significance for the artist (who never explained the work’s personal meaning)—to such an extent that rather than part with the original, Osbert painted a replica (illustrated here) for a client who had asked to purchase Vision.16 Misgivings about the ability of modern women to conform to the Madonna model emerged in Munch’s Madonna (Fig. 49).17 Here the modesty associated with Mary has vanished, along with her clothing. Despite her halo, she is far from the chaste vision portrayed by Osbert. Unable to escape her identity as a woman—with the lurid sensuality and desire that Munch associated with the female gender—this Madonna offers herself to the artist/viewer. While her erotic charge is conspicuous, Munch represented her eyes in a purposefully ambiguous manner, either closed—suggestive of unconsciousness or ecstasy—or open in a zombie-like trance of demonic possession. In any case, the subject’s eyes might be interpreted as an affirmation of female inferiority, vice, or both. Munch’s Madonna is framed by a border of spermatozoa, an allusion, perhaps, to the Protestant (and in Munch’s case: Lutheran) refusal to embrace the dogma of Immaculate Conception as well as to the fact that paternal maladies were perpetuated through insemination.18 The frame’s incompleteness suggests imperfection and deficiency, both in gender relations and, more generally, in life. Indeed, the emaciated fetus in the border’s left corner suggests skepticism about the survival of the species, a danger of which the ecstatic Madonna seems oblivious. Munch’s friend Sigbørn Obstfelder offered a different reading of Madonna. “For me his Madonna picture is the quintessence of his art. It is a Madonna of the earth, the woman who bears her children in pain. I believe one must go to Russian literature in order to find a similarly religious view of woman, such glorification of the beauty of pain.”19 Munch, in fact, confirmed a more complex reading of the image: “The woman who gives herself, and takes on a Madonna’s painful beauty—the mystique of an entire evolution brought together: woman in her manysidedness is a mystery to man—woman who simultaneously is a saint, a whore and an unhappy person abandoned.”20 While Munch sought to express this general male incomprehension of the nature of women, the fact that he refers to his Madonna as “an unhappy person abandoned” suggests the possibility of an autobiographical interpretation.



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49 Edvard Munch, Madonna (Conception), 1895, lithograph, 60 × 44.1 cm. Munch Museum, Oslo. Art © 2009 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo © Erich Lessing/ Art Resource, NY.

According to Sigmund Freud’s student Carl Gustav Jung, men and women possess a gendered part of their unconscious that is the inverse of their physical gender: the anima, a female inner personality, is present in males; the animus, a male inner personality, is present in females.21 Read in this way, Madonna could be Munch’s anima—yet another expression of the artist’s self-identification as a misunderstood and suffering genius, a complement to his self-portraits (represented elsewhere) as Christ or a decapitated St. John the Baptist. Munch’s artworks—his children—were perceived by many of his contemporaries as the manifestations of a disturbed psyche. Might he have been representing himself in the guise of his female anima—imagined here as a Madonna—whose divine progeny is understood, falsely, by an uncomprehending public as diseased? Perhaps Munch did not make such an analogy consciously, but in the

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unconscious working of his psyche, the Madonna figure might have been another way of expressing a recurring trope in his thought and work.22 Support for this autobiographical interpretation is furnished by Munch’s comments about another painting, Inheritance, in which he endorsed an autobiographical reading of the image: “But it was also about my life. I came into the world as a sick being—in sick surroundings.”23

sickly angels The frailty of sickly “angels” could be physical, as it is for Madeleine in Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” or psychological, as it is for Ophelia in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet: the death of Ophelia’s father and Prince Hamlet’s rejection drives her to madness and suicide. The PreRaphaelite painter John Everett Millais (1829–1896) established the prototype for Ophelia in a painting shown at London’s Royal Academy exhibition of 1852 (Fig. 50). Here, Ophelia floats amid a bouquet of flowers (including the red poppy, a symbol of sleep and death) and sings dementedly, according to Shakespeare, during the moments before her saturated dress drags her to the muddy bottom of the river into which she had plunged.24 Ophelia was represented on several occasions by Symbolist artists, including a pastel by Odilon Redon (Plate 11). Silhouetted against a disc—whose aqueous tonalities suggest the earth seen from space (impossible at the time), although its contour is too narrow and irregular—a black-haired Ophelia floats peacefully, her deathly pallor accentuated by colorless lips. A superimposed pattern of imaginative vegetal forms—flowers, leaves, stems—emphasize the dreamlike quality, as do the two poppy-red blossoms below her chin, marking a transition to dissolving shapes that are both hazy and abstract. The splotchy gray setting—evocative of stone, a microscopic view, or outer space—reinforces a sense of ambiguity in appearance and meaning. Redon’s decision to execute a finished work in a medium considered appropriate only for sketches attested to his overriding concern for achieving the ambiguity and allusiveness for which Symbolists strove rather than conforming to artistic norms. The figure of Ophelia had dense social resonance during the second half of the nineteenth century, and dozens of artists depicted her.25 Indeed, Ophelia’s passivity was deemed a virtue in women at the time. In George du Maurier’s 1894 bestseller, Trilby, the heroine epitomized the passive woman whose identity was derived from the men around her. As Trilby grew weak and deathly ill, to the men around her “She grew more beautiful, . . . in spite of her increasing pallor and emaciation—her skin was so pure and white and delicate, and the bones of her face so admirable!”26 The power of enfeebled yet pure women to inspire was also the subject of Edmond Aman-Jean’s poster for the 1893 Rose + Croix Salon, in which Beatrice, led away by a winged angel, gives her lyre of inspiration to Dante (see Fig. 74). The unstated lesson of Ophelia’s tragedy was that a woman’s fate is determined by the men in her life. Without male guidance or a male object of devotion, Ophelia was lost and helpless. That female independence could precipitate insanity was supported by “scientific” research.



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50 John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852, oil on canvas, 76 × 112 cm. Tate Gallery, London. Photo © Tate London, 2009.

The most commonly diagnosed female psychosis was hysteria, and according to A Dictionary of Psychological Medicine (1892), “The cardinal fact in the psychopathy of hysteria is an exaggerated self-consciousness dependent on undue prominence of feelings uncontrolled by intellect.”27 Self-consciousness arose when women had no children, husband, or other family members to absorb their attention; their presumably limited mental capacity meant that women could not control their feelings. In other words, independent, single women were considered automatically susceptible to mental illness. More troubling was the belief that hysteria, if unchecked, led to crime and insanity. Warning signs of hysteria included a perverse range of symptoms: ambition, epilepsy, lethargy or vivacity, and vomiting; hysteria resulted from conditions ranging from emotional or physical trauma (including menstrual periods) to illnesses like fever, malaria, and syphilis. The research of Jean-Martin Charcot—father of psychopathology and teacher of Freud—into the female “malady” of hystero-epilepsy, conducted during the 1870s, supported the myth of inherent female irrationality, especially among young, unmarried women. Charcot’s findings were reinforced by public demonstrations in which well-rehearsed female inmates of the Salpêtrière mental hospital in Paris “performed” symptoms, including convulsions, fainting, and emotional outbursts.28 To citizens of the late nineteenth century, Ophelia represented the fate of single women driven over the brink by circumstances that men would normally overcome and epitomized an erroneous, if widely accepted, link between gender and insanity.29

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Ophelia went mad, a late nineteenth-century physician like Charcot would have reasoned, because her biological and psychological need for subjugation was unfulfilled. The mating instinct was considered especially dominant among women because, according to Schopenhauer: “Women in the main exist solely for the propagation of the species, and are not destined for anything else.”30 Frustrated female desire led either to sublimation (which was considered healthy) or to lust. Lustful women satisfied their sexual urges without regard to producing offspring. Non-procreative sex led to deviant behavior, including bestiality, lesbianism, masturbation, orgasm (too intense an experience for women to cope with), and prostitution. In his authoritative Sexual Psychopathy (1886), Richard von Krafft-Ebbing noted that excitement— sexual or emotional—disturbed the fragile equilibrium necessary for the health and well-being of the “normal” woman.31 Bram Dijkstra has noted the proliferation of such “dangerous” woman imagery in the final decades of the nineteenth century in Idols of Perversity: Fantasies of Feminine Evil in Fin-de-Siècle Culture. The Voice of Evil (Fig. 51) by Georges de Feure (1868–1943) illustrates the prevailing late nineteenth-century understanding of female psychology. De Feure’s subject is an affluent, beautiful, and idle woman. She ignores the objects that surround her: a heap of gold jewelry on a pillow, an elegant feather pen on a pile of blank paper, and a giant, exotic flower. Using these possessions would safely anchor her in practical worldly activities—beautifying herself and interacting with others—but in her idleness the woman’s thoughts drift into dangerous waters, as indicated by de Feure’s title. De Feure adopted the “Melancholia” pose of head resting on hand and the “thought bubble” convention to reveal the evil toward which his subject’s thoughts had turned: lesbian love. Two nude women—one fair, one dark (adding a further element of exoticism appealing to male imaginations)—relax in a tropical fantasy world, presumably exhausted after intensive lovemaking. De Feure depicted here the perceived perils posed by idle women, whose limited intellects prevented them from creative or productive thinking. Conveniently, thoughtful women were considered dangerous. Contemporary lore held that an idle woman was dangerous because her thoughts would turn to sex—a hypothesis that undoubtedly reveals much about the men who propagated it. As Freud observed in the famous case of Anna O.: “Her monotonous family life and the absence of adequate intellectual occupation left her with an unemployed surplus of mental liveliness and energy, and this found an outlet in the constant activity of her imagination.”32 The fallacy that the thoughts of unoccupied women inevitably wandered toward illicit eroticism justified restrictions on women.33 The Swiss painter Giovanni Segantini (1858–1899) imagined the fate of such sexually unregulated women in The Punishment of Lust (Fig. 52), in which women levitate in an Alpine setting of barren trees. They hover in a state of suspended animation with eyes closed—free to dream, but not to act—and their bare arms and breasts and wild red tresses signal depravity. Segantini painted The Punishment of Lust as a pendant to The Evil Mothers (1894, Österreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna); both paintings were inspired by the 1889 poem “Nirvana” by Luigi Illica. Illica claimed that “Nirvana” was a translation of the Buddhist-inspired, Sanskrit poem


51 Georges de Feure, The Voice of Evil, 1895, oil on wood, 65 × 96 cm. Private collection. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ BEELDRECHT, Amsterdam. Photo © The Bridgeman Art Library.

52 Giovanni Segantini, The Punishment of Lust, 1891, oil on canvas, 172.8 × 99 cm. Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool. Photo © Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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“Panghiavali,” whose subject was the criminality of women who refused motherhood and by implication abused their sexuality by enjoying it for recreational rather than procreative purposes.34 Motherhood was considered an important social responsibility in nineteenth-century Switzerland. In the canton of Aargau, childless women over twenty-five were publicly humiliated at the pre-Lenten carnival by being drenched in wine and sold at a mock auction.35 Segantini did not indicate whether punishment was imposed from without, by society, or from within, by conscience. Is Segantini’s painting a vision of a futuristic penal system in which the price for operating outside of nature’s boundaries is imprisonment beyond the laws of physics? Or did Segantini intend to convey the inhuman character of these women—indifferent both to chilly temperatures and to gravity? Are these young women so dysfunctional that they prefer a selfmade fantasy world (as did Ophelia) to society? There are no signs of human life or habitation in Segantini’s Alpine wasteland; only a bizarre image of women, whose close physical resemblance suggests the similarity of their crimes.

woman as the creation of man: from dream to nightmare The idea that women were subordinate to men—indeed, that they were man’s creation—became apparent in the puppeteer-like way in which Charcot manipulated his female patients. Its roots can be traced back to the Old Testament, in which God (envisioned as male) created Eve from the rib of Adam (Genesis 2:22), and to the Greek myth of the sculptor Pygmalion, who, disillusioned by the depravity of women in his town, chiseled his ideal mate from stone, whom a compassionate Aphrodite brought to life. While, according to the myth, the outward beauty of Pygmalion’s creation signified her inner goodness, the standard of measurement was by no means universal: both the gauge and the appraisal of her virtue were determined by Pygmalion. The novelist Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam addressed the dearth of such ideal women in his own time in Tomorrow’s Eve (L’Ève future, 1886). In this tale, an inventor, “Mr. Edison” of “Menlo Park,” creates the ideal woman, an android named Halady (“ideal” in “Iranian” according to the author). Edison boasts that his creation would “no longer be a woman, but an angel; no longer a mistress, but a lover; no longer reality, but the ideal!”36 Jacek Malczewski (1854–1929) depicted woman as the product of the male imagination in Moment of Creation—Harpy in a Dream (Fig. 53). Here, Malczewski affirmed the quasi-divine male power of creativity and addressed a problematic aspect of contemporary gender relations through an unconventional use of Greek mythology In myth, harpies were sometimes represented as beautiful bird-women who ensnared unsuspecting men, sometimes as winged hags who whisked victims to the underworld, tormenting them en route. Instead of referring to a preexisting story, however, Malczewski adapted the idea of the harpy to his own end, using the “thought bubble” convention to convey the intangible character of his beautiful bird-women.



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53 Jacek Malczewski, Moment of Creation—Harpy in a Dream, 1907, oil on canvas, 72.5 × 92 cm. Private collection. Photo: Anna Brzyski.

Composite creatures such as Malczewski’s harpy have been interpreted in two divergent ways since the Renaissance. In antiquity, the Roman poet Horace described such monsters in his treatise Ars poetica as the creation of men “whose idle fancies shall be shaped like a sick man’s dreams,”37 but in the Renaissance, they were given a positive valence. In his Book of Art (c. 1390) Cennino Cenini asserted that inventive freedom placed artists on a par with scientists. According to this reading, composite creatures signaled artistic independence and creativity. In the nineteenth century, the interpretation of imaginative creation—as a sign of pathology—was ascribed to women and the positive interpretation of creativity—as a manifestation of quasidivine invention—to men.38 In Moment of Creation, Malczewski, the artist-dreamer, stares blankly; his thoughts are focused inward and we see his vision: an alluring redhead, whose smiling, parted lips, closed eyes, and tantalizing nudity suggest that she, in turn, is absorbed in an erotic dream. She rests on her golden wings in a verdant landscape, twisting her torso toward the artist/viewer. Mal­ czewski raises his left hand in a gesture reminiscent of an orchestral conductor while his right hand grasps the neck of a stringed instrument, perhaps a cello. His mastery seems complete, although the intrusion of the harpy’s giant claw on the right introduces an ambiguity regarding both the artist-creator’s control and the logic of the scene. As long as the harpy remains passive,

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the artist is master; but should she wake (as she inevitably will), the claw and wing may become weapons against which the artist would be defenseless. The artist-creator’s survival depends on his ability to orchestrate his enemy’s obedience, and he can do so only by imprisoning her in his dream. In reality, men of the late nineteenth century were not so invincible. In Moment of Creation, Malczewski revealed the extent to which ideal women were phantoms of male imaginations.

femmes fatales The late nineteenth century witnessed such a proliferation of evil women in art and literature that the femme fatale became one of its hallmarks. The first femme fatale was Eve, whose curiosity and moral weakness led her to surrender to Satan’s suggestion of disobeying God by tasting an apple from the Tree of Knowledge. Eve’s successors included self-indulgent enchantresses and malevolent seducers: Salomé, Medea, Judith, Circe, the sirens, the Sphinx, and female vampires. The beguiling traits attributed to Eve revealed contemporary perceptions about women. For instance, women were not permitted to practice law until the 1870s in part because men feared that the allure of women might unjustly sway judges and juries.39 Carl Larsson (1853–1919), generally known for his cozy depictions of family life in central Sweden,40 created one of the most erotic images of the late nineteenth century in Eve’s Daughter (Plate 12). Since Eve had no daughter (she bore two sons: Abel and Cain), Larsson’s title indicates that the image is fictive, an idea: women in general—or at least some women—as heirs to the deceitful and devious Eve. In fact, “daughter of Eve” was a derogatory epithet. Larsson’s title may have been inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s 1839 novel A Daughter of Eve, which chronicles the tragic lives of two aristocratic sisters, Marie-Angélique and Marie-Eugénie, trapped by social mores. Like other Eves, Larsson’s figure tempts the viewer with her pale, exposed body. One of her parted legs rests on the altar of desire; a black veil—a late concession to the prudishness of the time—conceals her genitals while winding around her body like a serpent. A satanic snake encircles the apple tree beside her, and flames threaten to engulf the lilies of innocence. Larsson’s pictorial language emphasizes the visionary quality of the scene; the serpent and the apple are gilded as if to emphasize the image’s artifice. Painted in Paris when his wife was pregnant with the third of their seven children, this work, originally titled The Temptation of Saint Anthony, may refer to the carnal enticements tempting the artist. Sweden was provincial and conservative in the 1880s, and the ubiquity of Parisian prostitutes must have shocked Larsson. Artists were regular customers at Parisian brothels, as the artwork and writings of Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Paul Gauguin, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vincent van Gogh attest. Temptation was—as indicated by Larsson’s painting—ever present. Larsson’s picture illustrates one way in which men displaced concerns about their own sexual desire. Prostitution was a thriving industry in nineteenth-century Paris, a result in part of work-



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ing women’s low wages, but also a response to a culture that suppressed sexuality in marriage. Contemporary medical literature encouraged men to have sexual relations with their wives as infrequently and as quickly as possible so as not to excite them into an unhealthy physical and mental state; men turned to prostitutes for recreation. Louis Bridel, a Swiss lawyer, observed that prostitution victimized women, denying them civil rights, education, and fair wages, but his views were not widely shared.41 Indeed, prostitution—although a legal occupation in France—enjoyed no wage, safety, or health protection, unlike most other trades, which were unionized during the nineteenth century’s final decades. While prostitution was deemed essential for social stability (that is, for the “protection” of married women), it was not socially acceptable. With the increase in prostitution throughout Europe during the 1870s and 1880s, a literature arose, warning of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. By the mid-1880s movements to outlaw prostitution were widespread; an 1885 demonstration in London’s Hyde Park against prostitution attracted 250,000.42

the “new woman” Instead of acknowledging their responsibility in fostering a burgeoning sex industry, men blamed women and envisioned themselves as their hapless victims. They feared the “New Woman”—modern, autonomous, competent—who agitated for social and political equality.43 The history of women was encapsulated in Bruno Paul's cartoon Women in Front of the Wheel, Behind the Wheel, and On the Wheel, which traces the transformation of women from beasts of burden into self-sufficient independent individuals in control of their destiny (Fig. 54). The emergence of the “New Woman” at the end of the century generated images that manifested the neurotic fear of gender reversal. Mythological embodiments of the dangers of female sexuality such as Medusa (whose gaze turned men into stone), the Sphinx (the savage guardian of ancient Thebes), maenads, sirens, and warrior Amazons were a common theme in academic and Symbolist painting and sculpture. Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer (1865–1953) forced the viewer into an intimate confrontation with female sadism in his 1896 pastel Salomé Embracing the Severed Head of John the Baptist (Fig. 55). Lévy-Dhurmer followed in the footsteps of Gustave Moreau (see Fig. 24) in representing one of the most familiar femmes fatales of the late nineteenth century. In a shocking act of necrophilia unreported in the New Testament account (Mark 6:21–29), Salomé embraces the head and kisses the mouth of the decapitated John the Baptist in a shadowy setting whose only light is that emanating from the severed head. The male head—the locus of intelligence, perception, and imagination, as well as sleep, dream, and death—had particular significance in the context of Symbolism. So did the male fear that women sought to destroy the creative organs they did not possess (as suggested in Hodler’s Night, see Fig. 8). Freud, in Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905), labeled this latent desire “penis envy”: a frustration among women resulting from their role as physically and intellectually passive receptacles of male creative urges. Salomé

54 Bruno Paul, Women in Front of the Wheel, Behind the Wheel, and On the Wheel from Jugend 1, no. 21 (1896), 335. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Photo: Per Nordahl.


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55 Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Salomé Embracing the Severed Head of John the Baptist, 1896, pastel on blue paper, 43.5 × 50.17 cm. Private collection. Photo: Shepherd Gallery, New York.

commits a double crime: murder and necrophilia. In Freud’s terms, she symbolized women fixated at the phallic stage, with a personality characterized by narcissism, pride, recklessness, and self-assurance. In this depiction of Salomé, Lévy-Dhurmer used pastel, which he applied in such a way as to make the viewer aware of the technique and thus the presence of an underlying idea more profound than that denoted by the story. The Salomé theme was popular at the end of the century. The British writer Oscar Wilde elaborated the sketchy biblical account into a play, composed in French, while living in Paris in 1892. Wilde may have been inspired by the actress Sarah Bernhardt, whose professional ambition and erotic appeal led to many well-publicized love affairs. A sensation in Parisian literary circles, Salomé was translated into English in 1894 (in part, at least, by Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas); the English edition was illustrated by Aubrey Beardsley. The play’s scandalous subject prevented its performance until 1896, when Aurélien Lugné-Poë’s Théâtre de l’Oeuvre mounted it at the Paris Comedic Theater. An opera by Richard Strauss adapted from Wilde’s play premiered in Dresden in 1905.

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The proliferation of imagery associated with independent women reflected contemporary reality: the single adult woman was a new, growing, and particularly urban phenomenon at the end of the nineteenth century, due in part to male mortality during the century’s many wars. Approximately 80 percent of working women were under age thirty, and it was they who posed the biggest threat to traditional notions of women’s “place”; with an average work week of more than a hundred hours for London seamstresses and laundresses, working women had to be strong to survive.44 These women attracted widespread disdain and mistrust, and their unmarried status was used against them. An April 1862 article in the British National Review declared single women “indicative of an unwholesome social state . . . who, not having the natural duties and labors of wives and mothers, have to carve out artificial and painfully-sought occupations for themselves; who, in place of completing, sweetening, and embellishing the existence of others, are compelled to lead an independent life and incomplete existence of their own.” 45 Fear of independent women transcended class boundaries at the end of the nineteenth century, although the particular reasons for tensions between the genders differed among the working and middle or upper classes. Working-class men did not want women in the workplace because they commanded lower wages for the same work. In a world without worker safeguards (unemployment insurance, job security, retraining programs), women in industry meant a loss of jobs for men. Lower wages for women were justified by two fallacies: that they were less productive and that their incomes were supplemental. Exceptions were not made for single women or for women who were the sole wage-earners in their family. Middle- and upper-class (bourgeois) men felt threatened by the increasing control that women exercised over their own lives. Since working for wages denoted low social status, bourgeois women were discouraged from seeking regular employment. The doctrine of “separate spheres”—which kept women at home and men in the workplace—applied to the working classes and the bourgeoisie alike. The less work that women actually performed in the home, the higher their prestige, a situation facilitated by the influx of female servants from the countryside, who were willing to work for low wages. With an abundance of leisure time, women became bored, a condition alleviated optimally by charity work. Such work was unpaid—and thus genteel—and used the same nurturing and organizational skills valued in the ideal homemaker. Charity work also enhanced the status of husbands by demonstrating their ability to have a fully staffed home and their good luck in having a clever and nurturing wife.

sphinxes The figure of the Sphinx in the late nineteenth century was the archetype of the detached, stonehearted, and egocentric female, the presumably normative condition of single women. The abundance of Sphinx imagery in Symbolist art attests to the demonization of independent women. According to Greek mythology, the Sphinx—a hybrid creature with the lower body



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of a lion and the upper body of a woman (sometime shown with the wings of a gryphon)— controlled access to Thebes from atop a rocky precipice. She would let pass only those able to answer her riddle: “What animal goes on all fours in the morning, on two legs during the day, and three in the evening?” which no traveler until Oedipus succeeded in doing. The answer was simple: humans, who crawl as infants, walk as adults, and use canes in old age. The Sphinx devoured unsuccessful respondents, and resolved to commit suicide by throwing herself off the cliff when the question was correctly answered—a promise she kept. The Sphinx represented a vision of woman as animalistic, clever, ruthless, destructive, contemptuous, and, significantly, single. The representation of women as hybrid, monstrous creatures suggested not only their subhuman status, but also their penchant for deception and manipulation. In her 1873 study Woman in American Society, Abba Goold Woolson observed: “A young man must labor when he would succeed in the business of his life; a young woman must charm. She must become a siren, and lure lovers and admirers to her side.”46 The fear that female charisma masked sinister intentions was linked to a general fear that appearances were misleading—a fear expressed in Ludwig von Hofmann's cartoon Valley of the Innocents (Fig. 56), in which a beautiful young woman plays with toy-sized men before killing them, like a cat playing with mice. To many men, beauty, cruelty, and deception coalesced in the image of the Sphinx. Baudelaire’s poem “Beauty” included the stanza: I sit enthroned in the sky like an uncomprehending sphinx; With a heart of snow as white as swans; I begrudge the movement that alters forms; And I never laugh, and I never weep.47

Gustave Moreau’s Oedipus and the Sphinx (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) launched a virtual Sphinx-mania, attracting positive critique at the Salon of 1864. The painting features a petite Sphinx, whose powerful wings enable her to defy the laws of gravity.48 Her hind paw presses against the hero’s genitals with an erotic aggression that seems incompatible with her classically beautiful, wide-eyed visage. Three decades later, the Dutch Symbolist Jan Toorop (1858–1928) created an ornate vision of the Sphinx (Fig. 57). Reclining at the upper center of the image—in a perverted analogy to Christ at the Last Judgment—the impassive Sphinx presides over a complex and dreamlike scene. Below her lie two victims, one of whom clutches a lyre, reminiscent of Orpheus. Lying beside him is a woman, perhaps his beloved Euridice. The Sphinx is surrounded by closed-eyed zombies whose arms, outstretched or held close, suggest a strange ritual. A group of women— arms raised in a gesture of adoration—stand on the left, while on the right, the swans of death swim in a pond observed by a vulture. In the left background, the arches of a Christian church’s Gothic windows emerge, while on the right a seated Buddha is ensconced in a forest. Was Toorop suggesting that syncretism could be manipulated for sinister purposes? The confusing array of

56 Ludwig von Hofmann, Valley of the Innocents, from Jugend 2, no. 18 (1897), 285. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Photo: Per Nordahl. 57 Jan Toorop, Sphinx, 1897, pencil and crayon on paper, 126 × 135 cm. Collection of the Gemeentemuseum Den Hague.


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figures, settings, and activities—with hints of religion and mystery—produces a composition far removed from Moreau’s naturalistic, if hallucinatory, visions. This composition—combined with the palpable, unmodeled contour achieved with an experimental wax pencil and crayon technique—created a Symbolist image whose artificial appearance indicated the artist’s intention to represent ideas. Toorop explained the symbolism of his Sphinx in a text with theosophical undertones composed for an exhibition of his work and Vincent van Gogh’s in 1898: [They] who are completely caught under the weight of the Sphinx’s claws are unevolved beings. In the center of the painting, man and women (dualism), struggling toward ever higher evolution, are chained to earth. Man, who has succeeded in enhancing his art with the ideal qualities (the veil) of woman, whose head is encircled with the aureole of eternal virginal beauty, whose breast heaves for the Mystical Rose. To the right are those who have freed themselves from the sphinx’s claws and who therefore constitute the propellant force of all spiritual labor. In the foreground of the painting, one finds the higher, delicate understanding and intuition (song and sounding of strings) of unsullied female souls floating onward to an ever more ethereal spiritual life. Two children (lower right) symbolize the tenderness of innocence. The inward looking aesthetic (left), the thinker lost in unworldly thought, represents the link between worldly struggle and the highest aspirations.49

This is a rare and detailed explanation by a Symbolist artist about the meaning of his work. Full understanding of works as visually complex as Toorop’s is difficult without a detailed artist’s statement. Fernand Khnopff took a more open-ended approach to the Sphinx in a painting known by several titles: Art, or Sphinx, or The Caresses (Fig. 58), exhibited in London in 1896, at the Vienna Secession in 1898, and in Berlin in 1900. Here, the tensions between intellect and emotion, human and animal, are emphasized in an imaginative transformation in which a leopard’s body replaces the Sphinx’s traditional leonine anatomy. With raised haunches and closed eyes, the creature tries to charm the youthful, androgynous Oedipus, whose impassive expression expresses his moral resolve. Oedipus’s extended arm firmly grasps his staff (a kind of displaced phallus), atop of which are mounted small bronze wings, as if magically removed from the Sphinx and transformed into sculptures—signs of his ultimate victory. The various titles under which this painting has been exhibited convey a range of meanings. Khnopff ’s transformation of the Sphinx’s appearance emphasizes that this creature is imaginary, intended to suggest ideas—perhaps the symbiotic necessity of opposites and the animalistic nature of woman. Khnopff reinforced his desire to suggest ideas with his method, which combined detailed passages with abstraction. Note, for instance the reddish patch below the Sphinx’s left paw, which blurs the boundary between the rock and Oedipus’s cloth, as well as the stickerlike flatness of the Sphinx’s hindquarters. Mistrust, even hatred, of women emerged in all contemporary media. In an 1891 poem Albert Samain exclaimed:

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58 Fernand Khnopff, Art, or Sphinx, or The Caresses, 1896, oil on canvas, 50 × 150 cm. Musée d’Art Moderne, Brussels. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

Sphinx with emerald eyes, angelic vampire, She dreams under the cruel gold of her shudders; The redness of her mouth is like wood worms. Her eyes are false, her heart is false, her love, worse.50

Strong, aggressive, and independent, the Sphinx epitomized the New Woman, who emerged during the 1870s. The cypresses (often used to landscape Italian cemeteries) in the background of Khnopff ’s depiction reinforce the painting’s ominous mood. Khnopff may have been familiar with Péladan’s privately published 1895 play Oedipus and the Sphinx or been inspired by Honoré de Balzac’s 1832 novel A Passion in the Desert (part of Balzac’s multivolume work, The Human Comedy). In Balzac’s novel, one of Napoleon’s soldiers loses his way in the Egyptian desert and has an amorous encounter with a panther, whose sensual behavior is distinctly feminine. Khnopff (an Anglophile) had likely also read Oscar Wilde’s story “The Sphinx without a Secret” (1887) and his poem “The Sphinx” (1893).

the androgyne Within the context of nineteenth-century theories of evolution, the Sphinx represented the lowest type of creature, the human/animal, and Oedipus represented the highest, the androgyne, in which sexual dualities were harmoniously integrated and all gender conflict neutralized. Khnopff ’s fascination with the androgyne theme extended to portraits—of his sister as a sphinx and himself as an androgyne—leading many to speculate about the relationship between these siblings. As hinted at in Poe’s “Fall of the House of Usher,” the theme of incest fascinated Symbolists, in part because it signaled a society in decline. Péladan influenced Symbolist artists through his theory of the androgyne (expounded in The Androgyne, 1891), a mythic figure who



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unites the two sexes—divided because of original sin—in one perfect individual, detached from passions and radiant with spiritual purity.51 The appeal of a third gender is self-evident in an era of blistering tensions between men and women. The subject of Balzac’s 1835 novel Séraphita is androgyny. Darwin adduced scientific evidence for the existence of androgynes: “at a very early embryonic period both sexes possess true male and female glands. Hence some extremely remote progenitor of the whole vertebrate kingdom appears to have been hermaphrodite or androgynous.”52 Darwin argued that gender distinctions indicated an evolutionary process of increased specialization to the extent that modern Western men and women had very few overlapping characteristics (Jung’s anima/animus could be interpreted as a residue of this stage). If humans evolved away from an androgynous condition, it seemed plausible that they might eventually devolve toward that state of original innocence. In The Time Machine (1895), H. G. Wells postulated that in the year 802,701 the entire human population would be either androgynous or hermaphroditic. Foucault notes that by the 1870s homosexuality was interpreted as “a kind of interior androgyny” with the status of a third gender.53 At the same time, effeminacy in men was considered an illness; “effeminates” occupied a special ward at Charcot’s Salpêtrière hospital.54 Since women were considered mentally and physically inferior to men, effeminate men were similarly abhorred. That androgynes seemed to populate so-called primitive cultures offered hope that Westerners could devolve into this ideal type and suggested that such cultures were in some way superior to Western culture. Stephen Eisenman argues for the presence of such creatures in Gauguin’s paintings, including the recumbent subject of Spirit of the Dead Watching (see Fig. 5)—who, he observes, resembles the ancient Roman Hermaphodite then (as now) on display in the Musée du Louvre.55 Eisenman’s interpretation helps explain Gauguin’s desire to promote Tahitian culture as an Edenic land free from the corruption pervading industrializing (French) society. In Young Girl with a Flower (Fig. 59), alternatively titled Innocentia, Franz von Stuck (1863– 1928) epitomized this state of unity. Here, a wide-eyed adolescent of uncertain gender holds a pair of large lilies—symbols of purity associated with the Virgin Mary—grasping their long stalks tentatively with the right hand and firmly with the left. Although the stalks end outside the canvas’s boundaries—which also truncate the figure’s lower half—their point of origin and trajectory evoke a phallic allusion. But what does this seeming reference mean? Stuck perpetuated gender ambiguity in the figure’s coiffure—either cropped short or pulled back—and subtly hinted further at an erotic interpretation through the thin, gauzy wrap that both covers and reveals the figure’s upper torso. While the prominent left nipple creates a focal point, the figure’s attentive yet deadpan gaze—confidently meeting that of the artist/viewer—betrays no intention or thought, as does, for instance, Manet’s Olympia (see Fig. 6). The figure itself dissolves into the background, and the pale palette of white and green suggests fragility, innocence, and nature.56 Stuck conveyed the idea of childish innocence on the brink of adult experience and opened his image to multivalent interpretations through its ambiguity. The Scottish artist Phoebe Anna Traquair (1852–1936) created an androgynous protagonist for her Progress of a Soul, four tapestries featuring a figure whose face, flowing golden hair, and

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59 Franz von Stuck, Young Girl with a Flower, 1889, oil on canvas, 68 × 61 cm. Private collection. Photo: Piccadilly Gallery, London/The Bridgeman Art Library.

unarticulated anatomy are distinctly feminine, while its possession of a lyre suggests Orpheus. In this series, Traquair embodied the idea of the soul’s journey from undifferentiated innocence, through doubt and fear, to serenity and harmony with its surroundings. In the second panel, The Stress (Fig. 60), “the forces of evil make their appearance and begin to destroy all that is cherished and held dear.”57 The figure’s feet are ensnared by a snake, and its hands reach out to snatch the lyre and its clothing; blood drips from wounds at its knee and chest. The lush landscape of the first panel has become a tangled jungle, and instead of watching where it is going, the Soul looks back toward its attackers. Traquair indicated that she depicted an idea



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60 Phoebe Anna Traquair, The Progress of a Soul: The Stress, 1897, silk and gold thread embroidered on linen, 180.67 × 71.20 cm. National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh.

by her title. The abundance of nonnatural vegetative detail reinforces the scene’s imaginary character. F. Holland Day (1864–1933) made photographs of adolescent boys in guises that emphasized androgyny and eroticism. With an aesthetic perhaps informed by his own homosexuality, Day created fantastic settings with boys posing as woodland sprites or mythological figures such as Hypnos (Fig. 61). In a composition reminiscent of Stuck’s Young Girl with a Flower, Hypnos (the personification of sleep) inhabits the boundary between consciousness and unconsciousness. Appearing to inhale the somatic drug of an obviously artificial poppy—and wearing an equally fake headdress that reinforces the scene’s artifice—this presumably nude youth, with his smooth, hairless body, has an erotic charge that compromises neutral associations of innocence. Day’s feminized Hypnos is passive and oblivious to the caressing gaze of the artist/viewer. Such a conflation of feminine and masculine traits was perceived as threatening at a time when gender identities were rigidly defined.

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61 F. Holland Day, Hypnos, c. 1896, photograph. Royal Photographic Society, Bath. Photo: National Media Museum/Science & Society Picture Library, London.

adolescence As Day suggested, adolescence is a transitional state replete with ambiguity, but also teeming with vitality and new ideas—as we saw in Hodler’s The Chosen One (Fig. 44), Höppner’s Prayer to Light (Fig. 45), and Osbert’s Vision (Fig. 48). Puberty marked the onset of adolescence and was a moment, according to Freud, when “shame and fear awaken,” transforming the autoerotic and masturbatory instincts of the child to the (presumably) heterosexual instincts of the adult. Depending on individual experience, the consequence would be either “normal” or “deviant” sexuality.58 Puberty was a critical juncture, signaling the transformation into a sexualized being. Erotic urges, as we have seen, were associated with the pathological character of the New Woman and prostitutes, extending to their historical and mythological forerunners, while the sublimation of sexuality was praised as the essence of the ideal wife and mother. Munch captured the intricacy



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62 Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1895, oil on canvas, 151.4 × 109.8 cm. Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo. Art © 2009 The Munch Museum/The Munch-Ellingsen Group/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Jacques Lathion.

of this state in Puberty (Fig. 62). Here a wide-eyed model sits modestly on a sofa, her elongated arms concealing her genitals. She represents a transitional stage of female development, the danger of which is suggested by the ominous, phallic shadow looming beside her, which seems to grow out of her like an ectoplasmic specter. Was Munch suggesting that the fear and danger associated with puberty lurk within the individual rather than representing a threat from without? The girl’s protective posture suggests discomfort before an unfamiliar presence—that of the artist/viewer, whose gaze she meets. This gaze bridges the chasm between the imaginary space of the picture and the real space in which we stand; Munch’s vision becomes our reality. Focusing on the idea of puberty and its concomitant anxiety, confusion, and uncertainty, Munch

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63 Paul Gauguin, Loss of Virginity, 1890–91, oil on canvas, 90 × 130 cm. Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, Gift of Walter P. Chrysler, Jr. (71.510).

ignored anatomical accuracy: the model’s right hand resembles a four-taloned claw, and the overall treatment is sketchy. The inner tension of the young girl on the brink of sexual awakening is expressed in the vigorous handling of the shadow and the sofa/floor area, which appears as a unified two-dimensional band at the bottom of the painting. A more explicit exploration of puberty is found in Gauguin’s Loss of Virginity (Fig. 63). Here, the anxious anticipation of the first sexual encounter communicated in Munch’s image is absent. Significantly, instead of a male human partner, Gauguin depicts a fox, whose paw—firmly planted on the young woman’s chest—denotes his conquest. Gauguin explained that the fox is “an Indian symbol of perversity,”59 and he expressed the loss of virginity in symbolic visual terms: the simplified contours and nonnatural colors of Synthetism. The young woman appears peaceful, her horizontal body merging with the landscape in a way that suggests (contrary to then-popular opinion) that the loss of virginity is a natural rather than a traumatic event. The nineteenth-century social philosopher Pierre-Joseph Proudhon—the same man who coined the term “property is theft” and called for workers to own the means of production— maintained in Pornocracy; or, Women in Modern Times (1875) that after puberty, women became either housewives or whores, a binary conception that permeated late nineteenth-century thinking. Proudhon’s ideas, combined with the dialectical construction of femininity as the opposite of masculinity, defined a social straightjacket for women, one reinforced by medical



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texts that attributed female maladies such as hysteria, anemia, and anorexia to an overabundance of education: thinking itself was considered debilitating to women’s health. Proper female values and behavior were described in many women’s journals, such as Das häusliche Glücke and the Journal des femmes, whose articles stressed submission, sacrifice, and taking charge of the religious and moral education of children. The polarized images of angels and femmes fatales epitomized the troubled state of gender relations at the end of the nineteenth century. The prevalence of such imagery in Symbolism attested to the widespread concern about the status of women. Examples of angels included traditional figures like the Virgin Mary, who represented a strong woman who accepted her male-determined role, as well as contemporary fictional heroines such as du Maurier’s Trilby, whose passiveness and frailty reassured male egos. The male fear of a loss of social control was perhaps best expressed in the many femmes fatales that appeared in Symbolist works of art—from Eve to Zola’s Nana—whose deceit, hedonism, and masochism affirmed a negative assessment of women. With science and philosophy reinforcing beliefs in the inferiority of women, alternative, if abnormal, sexual states such as hermaphrodism and androgyny seemed to some the only viable solution to discord between the sexes. Male anxiety about economic and social instability was encoded in the sexually charged imagery of Symbolism.

National Romanticism



he formation of national identities constituted one of the most important cultural enterprises of the nineteenth century, in which artists collaborated actively by furnishing images intended to promote social solidarity and a sense of rootedness in national history and the national landscape. In the absence of proven formulas to stimulate national identity, artists experimented with a variety of approaches to communicate effectively with particular target audiences, focusing on history, legend, and landscape.

background Intellectuals debated the significance of customs, geography, language, physiognomy, and religion as determinants of national identity and formulated strategies for promoting the sense of community lost during the nineteenth century in the process of social and political upheavals, a process of defining identity similar to that undergone by individuals.1 Nationalists in sovereign nation-states such as Denmark, France, Russia, and Sweden; recently formed states such as Belgium, Germany, and Italy; and aspiring states such as the Czech nation, Finland, Hungary, and Poland struggled to distinguish their own nations from others. The American and French revolutions of the eighteenth century caused people to question a nation’s identity as coextensive with its monarch and the lands he or she ruled. The American Declaration of Independence, which established governance by the people and for the people, directly challenged the authority of European monarchs. The onset of the French Revolution in 1789 brought this challenge to the European continent, when a monarchy that had ruled France for more than a thousand years was removed from power by “the people” and executed in 1793. The American and French revolutions also posed the question, “What is a nation?”2 For the first time in history, a nation could be based on consensus among individuals (rather than defined by titles and property). The late eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann 147


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Gottfried von Herder described the nation as a family bound by spiritual ties and cultural traditions.3 His conception of nationhood was to all appearances confirmed by the formation of new nations during the course of the nineteenth century. Greece obtained independence after four centuries of Ottoman occupation in 1830, Belgium (including French-speaking Wallonia and Dutch-speaking Flanders) was formed in 1830,4 the Italian states united in 1861, as did the German states a decade later, and Serbia regained its independence from the Ottoman Empire and became a principality in 1878. Artists, intellectuals, and government officials collaborated in defining identities for nations new and old, an enterprise made urgent by the organization of periodic world’s fairs, beginning with Great Britain’s Crystal Palace exhibition of 1851.5 Indeed, at world’s fairs competition in the arenas of empire building, engineering, and invention reached a feverish pitch, with the critical assessment of each nation’s contribution determining its prestige. As a consequence, national and colonial pavilions and exhibitions in the halls of industry and machines assumed unprecedented importance. Displays became increasingly elaborate over time and attendance escalated, particularly in Paris, where exhibitions were held in 1855, 1867, 1878, 1889, and 1900. The Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900 attracted almost 51 million visitors.6 With national displays situated one beside the other, visitors could visit many “foreign” places in an afternoon—browsing much as they would in department stores, which had begun to open in major cities. Sometimes, to create a clear, coherent, and positive profile, a nation’s display relied on stereotypes, such as the yodeling herdsmen of the Swiss Alpine village; sometimes it entailed the identification of typical forms, such as the Byzantine architectural style of the Greek pavilion. To create a distinctive profile, nationalists often considered the features of other nations, and in dialogue with the foreign, the contours of their own nation emerged. Prior to the twentieth century, there was little sense of supranational community among Europeans.7 Even in France, a sovereign nation for many centuries, people in different regions spoke different languages (Alsatian, Basque, Breton, Gascon, Provençal), dressed differently, and celebrated religious and civic events in different ways. At the same time, governments—beginning with Napoleon’s in the early 1800s—recognized the necessity of a shared identity and a sense of solidarity for the successful functioning of a nation. How could nationalists unite citizens so widely dispersed and heterogeneous? One effective strategy transferred religious sentiments from the sphere of religion to that of national identity, as Carlton Hayes has documented in Nationalism: A Religion. Education was also a powerful means of nurturing a nation of patriots, and most European nations instituted compulsory primary school education in order to foster a common heritage, identity, language, and purpose among their citizens. In 1814, Denmark enacted legislation requiring all citizens to attend several years of school, as did Prussia in 1819, Sweden in 1842, England in 1870, Germany in 1871, France in 1881, and Holland in 1900. As the public became increasingly literate (as well as more affluent and mobile), art, literature, and music played increasingly important roles in defining and reinforcing national identity.

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Symbolism was effective in promoting national identity because it appealed to emotion rather than intellect. The allusiveness of Symbolist art permitted imagery containing subtle, multivalent messages that communicated with different levels of specificity to different audiences: foreign, national, and regional. As a result, the most superficial appreciation of National Romantic images was that of foreigners, whereas the most intense and nuanced was that of compatriots. (National Romanticism was not an offshoot of Symbolism; rather some National Romantic artists used Symbolist strategies of allusion and emphasis on surface and technique as means of evoking patriotic ideas.) Promoting rootedness was a fundamental objective of the idealistic school of Symbolism, as it was for National Romanticism. Because of the relative instantaneity with which visual images are grasped, painting became a popular and effective tool among National Romantics. The government of the newly unified German nation (1871) fostered national identity and commissioned artworks to disseminate it. It sponsored artists to paint conventional images of historical events that emphasized clarity of detail and accuracy of narrative. German Symbolists, however, avoided participating in the formulation of national identity: Symbolism in Germany was an antiestablishment movement and focused on conveying abstract ideas and emotional states. For different reasons, no Austrian National Romantic painting, Symbolist or otherwise, emerged. Because of the nation’s status as a multiethnic empire, the Austro-Hungarian government endorsed cultural pluralism as national policy. Expressions of national specificity (Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Slovak, or Slovene) were considered destabilizing, and the Austrian government encouraged artistic trends that avoided the topic of national identity. Unlike other absolutist regimes (which tended to favor Realism), Austria’s government supported progressive artistic trends—Impressionism, Symbolism, and abstraction—because they transcended ethnic and political boundaries. What follows is a sampling of how National Romantic artists used Symbolism in aspiring and established nations, as well as in Scotland, a unique case in the story of national identity formation.

polish history A sense of common history unites the citizens of a nation; late nineteenth-century artists sought to present that history in such a way that individuals felt it as an essential part of their own identity. Artists adopted a variety of approaches to communicate with their compatriots. The Polish painter Jacek Malczewski summarized a century of Polish history in Melancholia (Plate 13); the artist wrote on the back of the canvas: “Prologue. Vision. The Past Century in Poland. An entire century.” The generic title Melancholia—referring to a psychological state—made Malczewski’s image accessible to a broad range of viewers. At the same time—as indicated by the inscription—Malczewski directed a more explicit message to his Polish audience. Here in Malczewski’s studio, a procession of figures bursts forth from the painting on which he is work-



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ing: elderly freedom fighters lead the way, followed by a group of men and then children armed to fight for Polish independence. Painted between 1890 and 1894, Melancholia chronicles a sad century in Polish history.8 Following eight centuries as an influential kingdom, a power vacuum in the late eighteenth century left Poland vulnerable to the imperialist appetites of Prussia, Russia, and Austria, which nibbled away at Polish territory until, in 1795, it was gone. The Russians forbade the use of the Polish language in public, whereas the Austrians adopted a more tolerant attitude—allowing life to continue much as before, although Poles were governed by the Austrian emperor and legal system. While the partition had little impact on Polish peasants, it had a disastrous impact on aristocrats, intellectuals, and religious orders; aristocrats were driven from their ancestral lands to the cities, where they formed Europe’s most sophisticated middle class. Could there be Poles without Poland? Repeatedly—and unsuccessfully—Poles tried to regain control of their land through insurrection and revolt. The century of Polish history described by Mal­ czewski was one of unprecedented national tragedy: until 1917 Poland was a nation only in the imagination of its virtual citizenry. Malczewski combined generic imagery with figures whose significance would have been apparent only to those knowledgeable about Polish history. A man representing Saturn in the left foreground holds an empty hourglass, suggesting that time has run out, an idea reinforced by his black flag of mourning and the melancholic figure just outside the window to the right. But what time has ended? To those unfamiliar with Polish history, the painting could be interpreted as a meditation on the futility of war, with its weapons and wounded or shackled youths struggling for freedom. Or it might be a parable of the stages of human life—youth, adulthood, old age—with their attendant attitudes of hope, struggle, and resignation. A Polish audience, however, would have seen more. The old men on the right wear the gray overcoats of the freedom fighters of 1865, exiled to Siberia after their unsuccessful insurrection. The men in the central section wear uniforms identifying their participation in the failed revolts of 1795, 1830, and 1863. Malczewski brought together delegates from several generations of Polish history in an imaginative spectacle that chronicled a tragic century of repression. Malczewski included a self-portrait, not as a misunderstood genius—as James Ensor, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh portrayed themselves—but as a creator who brings to life the history of his people. He does so by conjuring the soul of the nation, its passion, its determination, its valiant struggle against subjugation. Rather than wielding a brush, Malczewski—who wears his characteristic hat—faces the forces of his imagination and directs them for the viewer’s benefit as would the conductor of a symphony orchestra.

swedish history The Swedish painter Richard Bergh (1858–1919) imagined a tragic and pivotal event from Sweden’s past in Vision: Motif from Visby (Fig. 64). In 1361, the Danish king Valdemar Atterdag

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64 Richard Bergh, Vision: Motif from Visby, 1894, oil on canvas, 122 × 209 cm. © The National Museum of Fine Arts, Stockholm.

besieged the Hanseatic city of Visby, situated on Gotland, an island off Sweden’s eastern coast. Atterdag’s fleet landed near Visby, and his forces disembarked, slaughtering the island’s peasant army of 1,800 and plundering villages. Visby’s freedom was purchased with its gold and treasures, which sunk in the Baltic Sea along with one of Atterdag’s ships on their return to Denmark. The attack precipitated an economic decline that plunged Gotland back into its original state of agrarian rusticity; only the magnificent walled city and the island’s more than ninety small Gothic churches recalled for inhabitants half a millennium later a bygone era of wealth and international prominence. The story of Atterdag’s siege was described in the book used by all Swedish schoolchildren; the siege was the most noteworthy event between the eleventh-century exploits of the Vikings and the unification of Sweden under King Gustav Vasa in the sixteenth century. The plundering of Visby reminded Swedes of their nation’s former prominence at a moment when the nation lagged far behind western Europe in economic and industrial development. The reminder that Sweden had once played an integral role in international trade provided hope to a nation struggling to regain its footing on the world stage. At the same time, the nearly perfectly preserved medieval city of Visby (like Bruges, Carcassonne, Dubrovnik, and Krakow) provided a link to the past, a link threatened by real estate speculators. Bergh proclaimed: “Only the People that has consistently before its eyes evidence of its historical development and preserves and safeguards the history of its fathers, inscribed as clearly on the stones of many buildings as on yellowed paper, is acutely conscious of its



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inherited character. Only that People knows its true nationality. Without such landmarks, the path toward the future is dark and uncertain.”9 To Bergh and his colleagues, the soul of the nation was under siege. Perhaps Bergh was suggesting an analogy between Atterdag and modern-day entrepreneurs who were lobbying at the time to demolish and modernize the oldest part of Stockholm. Unlike Paris, where, under the direction of Napoleon III and the supervision of Baron Haussmann, old neighborhoods were destroyed in the 1860s, preservationists in Sweden, supported by National Romantics, successfully resisted the destruction of Stockholm’s old neighborhoods. Bergh proclaimed the imaginary character of his painting in its title—Vision—and technique. He simplified the color scheme, reduced the landscape to defined areas of intense green and blue, and gilded the toylike sailing vessels in a manner that suggests an apparition—a vision— where the fantastic and real coexist. These ideas came to Bergh in Paris, where he spent extended periods during the 1880s and 1890s. Synthetism offered Bergh a way of marking Vision as an imaginary scene.

french history While the borders of France remained relatively intact (with the exception of Alsace and Lorraine), its governance changed on an average of every fifteen years during the nineteenth century. The French people’s yearning for stability was particularly intense following the fall of Napoleon III and the nation’s defeat by a newly united Germany in 1871. Polarization and conflict— between a dominant, egalitarian democratic faction and a conservative royalist–Roman Catholic coalition—characterized the early decades of the Third Republic. The uninterrupted sovereignty of France, coupled with its illustrious history, gave the nation a strong international profile, yet cultural and linguistic diversity generated competing regional identities. Many viewed the loss of the provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to Germany in 1871, combined with plummeting industrial productivity, emigration, and a low birth rate, as evidence of the nation’s degeneration. A variety of civic initiatives—the goutte de lait movement, compulsory education, and increased regulation of prostitution—complemented the efforts of artists and writers to recover the vigor and unity that had once characterized France. Claude Monet’s series paintings of the 1880s and 1890s, which focused on prominent natural and cultural landmarks throughout France, were an ambitious artistic project associated with this recuperative effort. At that time, several French provinces resisted assimilation into a generic concept of nation. The Touring Club de France was formed in 1890 to defuse tensions between nationalism and regionalism. As Patrick Young has noted, the Touring Club insisted “upon the broader social and national potential of tourism to function as a progressive, recuperative activity, of deep value not only economically, but also morally, physically and even, in the final instance, politically . . . [by] recast[ing] French tourism as a redemptive experience of the

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national available to middle-class consumers.”10 Indeed, tourist associations formed elsewhere in Europe during this period (the Czech nation, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Switzerland) to preserve and promote specifically regional features (monuments, buildings, landscapes, villages) and cultural practices (festivals, dress, music, dialects) as essential elements of the national patrimony. Claude Monet’s series paintings—of the Manneport at Étretat on the coast of Normandy, Antibes on the Mediterranean coast, and haystacks in the Île-de-France—depicted a nation with a distinctive and diverse landscape. By painting these disparate attractions in a similar style of loose brushstrokes and conspicuous surface texture, Monet suggested that a shared history and values (the revolutionary principles of freedom, equality, and solidarity) united French citizens in a similar way. Albert Aurier claimed that Monet’s art contained no ideas, but his critique has been widely disregarded.11 Because Aurier championed Symbolist painters (particularly Gauguin) and because the Symbolists themselves tended to define themselves in opposition to Impressionists—claiming that Symbolism was an art of ideas whereas Impressionism was a “superficial” art of visual description—Aurier may have felt that the oppositional stance of Symbolism would be weakened were the art of Monet, considered the leader of the Impressionists, to contain ideas.12 Among all of Monet’s series paintings, those of Rouen Cathedral (Fig. 65) are the most heavily laden with historical associations. Rouen, occupied by the English during the Hundred Years’ War, is best known as the site of Joan of Arc’s execution in 1431.13 Begun in 1160, Rouen Cathedral exemplifies the Gothic architectural style, developed in France by Abbot Suger at Saint Denis. Spacious, light-filled, and soaring, Gothic architecture replaced the stubby, dark Romanesque churches to become the dominant ecclesiastical architecture of the later Middle Ages. Based on such engineering innovations as the pointed arch and flying buttress, Gothic architecture was a masterful expression of French ingenuity. During the nineteenth century, Gothic architecture, with its communities of craftsmen—glass-blowers, sculptors, painters, engineers, stone masons, smiths, and construction workers—epitomized the kind of collaborative, pious, and harmonious society for which social reformers yearned. In an 1891 letter to fellow artist Émile Schuffenecker, Émile Bernard compared his recently formed Nabi group to “the glorious artists who made the cathedrals and loved only art.”14 And in 1899, Joris-Karl Huysmans planned to establish “a Christian artists’ colony, Benedictine lay brothers.”15 Rather than the conventional cathedral view—seen from a distance and looming above the surrounding town—Monet devoted some thirty studies to a narrow expanse of the cathedral’s façade at different times of day and under different atmospheric conditions. Consistent with Impressionist principles, Monet captured his visual experience—the nuances of light and atmosphere on the cathedral’s façade—but did so in such a way that pushed Impressionism, a technique conveying sensations and the rapid pace of modern life, beyond its normative boundaries. The fact that he continued to work on the paintings in his studio, away from Rouen, suggests that his concern extended beyond description to the creation of a harmonious tonal



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65  Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, Façade, 1894, oil on canvas, 100.6 × 66 cm. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Juliana Cheney Edwards Collection (39.671). Photo © 2009 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

ensemble, a goal that can be likened to efforts to create a similar accord among France’s disparate regions. Even today (particularly in museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, or the Musée d’Orsay in Paris, where several of the paintings can be seen together), we feel a serene distance from crowded and noisy urban streets; the Rouen Cathedral paintings provide a contemplative space for reflection that distinguishes them from Monet’s urban subjects. When Monet exhibited twenty of the Rouen Cathedral pictures at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in 1895, eleven of them sold for record high prices. Monet, it seems, had successfully tapped into the patriotic sentiments of his French public. The façade of Rouen Cathedral could represent a permanent and reassuring symbol of French greatness.

national romanticism

66 Karel Mašek, Libuse, c. 1893, oil on canvas, 193 × 191 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris. Photo © Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York.

czech legend Recalling legend was a powerful means of forging a common past. Often familiar from childhood through stories told by adults, legends commingled the actual and imaginary. In Libuse (Fig. 66), the Czech artist Karel Mašek (1865–1927) depicted the mother of the Czech nation and purported founder of its capital, Prague. The Czech nation consisted of the lands of Bohemia and Moravia, which had been ruled by the Austrian Hapsburg dynasty since 1526, when Ferdinand I assumed power following the death of Ludwig Jagellon.16 In 1891, nationalists mounted the Jubilee Exhibition in Prague as a declaration of Czech cultural independence. The exhibition included the first large-scale presentation of Czech folk art, whose vibrant colors and geometric designs inspired artists to formulate a distinctively national style of art.



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Libuse, the eighth-century queen of Bohemia, united her people, established a judicial system, discovered the nation’s sources of mineral wealth, and founded a dynasty of Bohemian kings through her marriage to Prémysl. Bedřich Smetana’s 1881 opera Libuse, frequently performed in the Czech cities of the Austo-Hungarian Empire, may have inspired Mašek: The spare setting and ornately embroidered costume in Mašek’s painting evoke theatrical associations, and the prophetess’s commanding presence recalls the moment in Act III when Libuse foretells the heroic destiny of her people. Mašek not only evoked an era of Bohemian glory but also reminded his Czech audience that the prophecy of Libuse had yet to be fulfilled. For audiences unfamiliar with the Libuse legend, the image conformed to those of Symbolist enchantresses such as Morgan le Fey, who symbolized the New Woman. Libuse’s rigid posture, trancelike stare, and elevated position remove her from a naturalistic context, and Mašek further emphasized the painting’s artificiality by adopting a divisionist technique. The nocturnal setting and saturated tonalities infuse the image with a sense of mystery and drama.

norwegian legend Norway, a mountainous, densely forested, and sparsely populated land, was nominally independent until 1536, when it came under Danish domination (it was ceded to Sweden in 1814).17 Norwegian peasants had always lived in isolated pockets, which gave them freedom unknown to peasants on the continent. Exposure to German Romantic philosophy in the early 1800s instilled a desire for sovereignty among Norwegian intellectuals. They encouraged speaking and writing in local dialects (landsmaal) instead of the official Danish-influenced variant of Norwegian (bokmaal), believing, like Johann Gottfried von Herder, that a nation is defined by the use of its own language. The language issue was also critical in Central Europe, where aspiring nations such as those of the Czechs, Hungarians, and Romanians had disputed geographical boundaries.18 Gerhard Munthe (1849–1929), one of Norway’s leading National Romantic painters,19 began to formulate a distinctively Norwegian vocabulary of forms and colors in the early 1890s. He abandoned naturalistic depictions of the Norwegian landscape for a “rhythmic-constructive” structure intended to evoke the “adventure-mysticism” of Norwegian myths and legends.20 Munthe transformed elements from Norwegian folk art, the nation’s only longstanding artistic tradition.21 (The country’s poverty and lack of a feudal system, and consequent dearth of patrons, hindered the development of the fine arts until the nineteenth century, when industry created a merchant class.) Munthe conceived of art as in constant evolution and in dialogue with its era; each era was accompanied by its own set of particular rhythmic forms expressed in art, architecture, music, and poetry.22 True artists, Munthe asserted, intuited these time-specific forms and expressed them in their art. Although the characteristics of these forms were rarely recognized at the time, they were discerned clearly by later generations.23

national romanticism

67 Gerhard Munthe, The Clever Bird, 1893, watercolor and gouache over ink on paper, 80 × 130 cm. Nasjonalmuseet for Kunst, Arkitektur og Design, Oslo. Photo: Morten Thorkildsen.

The Clever Bird (Fig. 67) is a watercolor design for a tapestry whose subject is based on the Norwegian legend of a king who sought advice from a wise bird in the chestnut forest beside his castle; the fable’s moral is that humans play a modest role in the larger universe. Here the king converses with the bird while his servant enjoys the songs of smaller, white birds fluttering between them. The natural world’s interdependence is a common theme in Nordic folklore and seemed particularly relevant at the end of the nineteenth century, when governments and industrialists began exploiting natural resources on a colossal scale. Munthe evoked a medieval mood in the floral pattern of the background, the dress of king and servant, and the simplification of forms. Stylized snowflakes and chestnut leaves, the striated snowflake border, and the flat forms of figures and trees emphasize The Clever Bird’s two-dimensionality. Here, Munthe synthesized modern values and medieval legend, folk art and fine art, description and decoration to create a work rooted in tradition, but addressing present concerns.

swiss legend Switzerland actively sought to construct a collective identity at the end of the nineteenth cen­ tury. When the Swiss confederacy was reestablished in 1815 after two decades of civil war and



national romanticism

occupation by Napoleon’s army, the country contained four major linguistic groups—French, German, Romansh, and Italian24—and (like Germany and Belgium) a variety of Christian denominations—from Catholics to Calvinists. A confederation of independent states until 1848, when it adopted a federal constitution (amended in 1874), Switzerland had strong regional identities, but no collective identity. Switzerland’s mountainous terrain kept villages isolated from one another and resulted in singular customs and traditions. The Swiss legislature established a Commission of Fine Arts in 1887 charged with the encouragement of Swiss art, and in 1890 the architect and poet Albert Trachsel—a friend of the artist Ferdinand Hodler—published his essay “Some Words about Swiss Art,” in which he declared that Swiss art should reflect the Swiss character. Partly as a result of Trachsel’s influence, the 1896 Swiss Exposition was organized as a celebration of tradition and progress. Trachsel wrote an essay, “Reflections Regarding Swiss Art at the National Exposition in Geneva,” in which he deplored the tendency of Swiss artists to work abroad instead of developing a national school distinguished by Alpine landscapes and “Swiss” national traits: health,25 honesty, simplicity, order, and strength. Trachsel cited Hodler as a model: “a Bernois herdsman who makes paintings. Temperament profoundly Swiss. Above all the ruggedness, the virility, the power of the old Swiss temperament.”26 Hodler formulated the theory of Parallelism (see Chapter 4) as an aid to artists in the discovery and representation of national characteristics in a 1897 lecture titled “The Mission of the Artist.” Hodler modified his style and shifted the emphasis of his art in the mid-1890s, devoting more attention to peasants, landscape, and legend, including the iconic Swiss folk hero, William Tell (d. 1354). In William Tell (Plate 14), an outsized, crossbow-wielding mountain man strides toward the viewer; one step further and he would enter the viewer’s space. His brawny, muscular physique indicates robust health; his steadfast gaze, determination; his deliberate movements, order and control. With bold outlines, dramatic color contrasts,27 hieratic composition, and a highly stylized Alpine setting, Hodler created a modern symbol of Swiss national identity. In his figure and landscape paintings, Hodler forged a Swiss identity based on moral, physical, and geographical elements in a nation without a common language or religion. According to legend, Tell was an expert crossbow marksman from Bürglen. In 1307, a hat belonging to Hermann Gessler, the local representative of the Austrian Hapsburg monarchy, had been placed atop a pole in the village’s main square; Tell refused to bow to it. He was arrested and forced to shoot an apple placed on the head of his son, Walter, in order to avoid his own and his son’s execution. Tell split the apple on his first shot and when asked the purpose of the second arrow in his quiver, Tell replied that had his son died, he would then have aimed at Gessler. Tell was rearrested but escaped from the boat taking him to Gessler’s castle on Lake Lucerne. Tell snuck into the castle and killed Gessler with his crossbow, initiating the revolt that led to the emancipation of the province of Uri from Hapsburg control and union with the newly formed Swiss Confederacy (1291).

national romanticism

68 George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe, 1890, oil on canvas, 152.4 × 152.4 cm. Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow. Photo: Glasgow City Council.

scottish legend In Scotland, national identity formation followed an unusual path because—as John Morrison has argued—its objective was not independence, but a modern identity expressing union with England.28 Nominally under English rule since the 1707 Act of Union, which formed Great Britain, by the nineteenth century most Scots accepted their dual identity as Scottish and British. When the Scottish Celtic Revival emerged in the 1890s, artists turned to ethnographic and archaeological scholarship for inspiration. The Druids: Bringing in the Mistletoe (Fig. 68), a collaborative painting executed by George Henry (1858–1943) and Edward Atkinson Hornel (1864–1933), relied on recent archaeological finds to portray Scottish identity as an aspect of British identity. Henry and Hornel turned to Scotland’s pagan Celtic past for their subject: priests leading an early morning winter solstice procession from its task of gathering mistletoe from oak trees. Oak trees, which appear in the background, were sacred to the druids, and the mistletoe that grew among their branches was believed to have magical properties. Two Caledonian bulls—an ancient breed native to Scotland (Caledonia was the ancient Roman name for Scotland)—lead the procession. Henry and Hornel were amateur archaeologists who turned



national romanticism

to ancient finds for authenticity. They examined druidic skulls for physiognomic accuracy and incorporated designs and symbols from ancient stones and material culture; the serpent on the cloak and breastplate of the procession leader comes from a stone found in Glamis, Angus.29 Significantly, Henry and Hornel also drew on British sources, including examples on display in London’s British Museum in the 1890s, notably the Aylesford Bucket (found in Kent in 1886) and the Battersea Shield (found in 1855), whose details adorn the cape of the second (female) figure in the procession. Henry and Hornel signaled the artificiality of Druids in an uneven description of figures and ground, expressive use of color, gilding, and inconsistent scale. The painting’s gilded frame, inscribed with Celtic ornamentation, encloses an imaginary glimpse into the national past. But what message did the artists intend to convey? First, the painting seems to promote the dual nature of Scottish-British identity, which was rooted in the prehistoric past and encouraged acceptance of the political status quo. Furthermore, Henry and Hornel addressed modern concerns by representing a druidic ceremony: women are active participants and mingle with men in a manner that suggests their equal status. Henry and Hornel also depicted the biomystical relationship to nature that Scots had enjoyed since druidic times.30

nature in finland Memories and descriptions of landscape and nature stimulate attachment to a place.31 Natural features can activate associations deeply rooted in the subconscious, and National Romantics recognized the power of these associations. National Romantics throughout Europe gave landscape unprecedented prominence as the locus of national identity because they believed that an individual’s character was formed by his habitat. Wilhelm Riehl developed these ideas in his four-volume Natural History of the German People (1851–69). National Romantics may have been inspired by particular places, but rarely were the features they depicted unique to one location. Of primary importance was the terrain’s potential to trigger feelings of familiarity and affection. While many National Romantic landscapes relied on naturalistic representation, others adopted Symbolist strategies. The Finnish artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931) fostered a sense of collective identity by formulating a distinctive Finnish style, living an authentically Finnish life, and building a home and studio in the Finnish wilderness. The Karelian region—on the border with ­Russia— was the focal point of Finnish national identity and a politically contested area containing intermarried populations of Finns (Lutherans) and Russians (Orthodox Christians). A formative element of Finnish identity was the national epic—the Kalevala— which Gallen-Kallela illustrated in public buildings in Helsinki, the Finnish capital, and Karelia. At the end of the nineteenth century Finland was impoverished and unindustrialized; the only grandeur it could claim was its wilderness and the epic heroism of the Kalevala. In Waterfall at Mäntykoski

national romanticism

69 Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Waterfall at Mäntykoski, 1892–94, oil on canvas, 270 × 156 cm. Private collection. Photo: Aivi GallenKallela.

(Fig. 69), Gallen-Kallela combined Naturalism and abstraction to convey the sound and texture of nature.32 The rocks and water are naturalistic, but the glimpse of forest with its bright blues, greens, and oranges evokes a magical quality. The five gilded strings superimposed over the scene serve multiple purposes: emphasizing the flat surface of the canvas, evoking the kantele, the classic Finnish folk instrument (a five-string dulcimer), and reminding viewers of the sound of the cascading water, an experience contrasting with the frozen silence of the Finnish winter.



national romanticism

nature in sweden The Swedish painter Gustaf Fjaestad (1868–1948) specialized in depictions of the forests and lakes of central Sweden. In The Boy Who Sees with His Heart (Fig. 70)—a pastel executed on the scale of an oil painting and encased in a simple frame designed by the artist—a youth sits on a grassy bank in the midst of a fir and birch forest.33 His legs dangle in the refreshing water as he leans back on his hands with eyes closed, inhaling the perfumes and listening to the sounds of the forest. As Fjaestad’s title indicates, the boy sees with his heart: the youth transcends visual distractions and concentrates on the experience of being in nature. His red heart, containing an eye and capped by flames, suggests a biomystical rootedness in nature; the boy’s body completes a circuit among air, earth, and water. As in Hodler’s Chosen One (see Fig. 44) and Höppner’s Prayer to Light (see Fig. 45), Fjaestad suggested the promise of youth, connected to the vitalizing forces of nature and free from the false values of their elders. The heart—reminiscent of that in Denis’s Sacred Heart Crucified (Plate 6)—and the halo that enframes the youth’s head suggest a religious dimension; Fjaestad sacralized the landscape by transferring religious sentiments from Lutheranism to nature and nation.34 He directed attention toward his ideas through stylized reflections on the water, bold outlines, a predominantly monochromatic palette, and oddly shaped parameters.

nature in poland The Polish painter Wojciech Weiss (1875–1950) was a student at the Krakow School of Fine Arts in 1898, when Symbolist writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski relocated from Berlin to become editor of Zycie (Life), the leading cultural journal in the capital of the Austrian partition. A friend of Edvard Munch, Przybyszewski introduced him to the Polish public; progressive artists like Weiss were intrigued by Munch’s works, which were illustrated in Zycie. Przybyszewski advised artists to reveal their innermost feelings and ideas in their work in his 1898 article “On the Paths of the Soul: Edvard Munch and Gustav Vigeland.” The resulting “psychic naturalism,” Przybyszewski claimed, would be simultaneously more personal and more universal, since it conveyed fundamental truths rather than transitory visual impressions. Psychic naturalism provided Polish artists with a new strategy for embodying National Romantic ideas, one that Weiss found compelling. Weiss’s Spring (Fig. 71) addressed nature, human life, culture, and politics, in a technique that combined a naturalistic figure against a schematic background. A nude youth stands in a meadow, holding branches of pussy willow, signs of early spring in Weiss’s southern Poland. This representation of the season—a youth in the springtime of life; the soft, flexible pussy willows; sunny weather; and an amorous chase in the background—evokes new beginnings in a manner similar to Höppner’s ecstatic figure of a nude child. The field is as a quasi-abstract pattern of yellow flowers interspersed with wispy white strokes, through which the texture of

70 Gustaf Fjaestad, The Boy Who Sees with His Heart, 1898, ink, pastel, and body color on paper, 94 × 76 cm. Private collection. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/BUS, Stockholm. Photo: Claes Moser Gallery, Northern Light, Stockholm. 71 Wojciech Weiss, Spring, 1898, oil on canvas, 96.5 × 65.5 cm. Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (Warsaw).


national romanticism

72 Stanisław Wyspiański, Capsheaves, 1898–99, pastel on brown paper, 69 × 107 cm. Muzeum Narodowe w Warszawie (Warsaw).

the canvas emerges. Weiss situates the boy in a position that suggests his moral as well as physical superiority. By combining seasonal reawakening (signified by the pussy willow) with sexual awakening (signified by the amorous couple) in a setting that calls forth happy memories of the Polish countryside (memories imbued with particular pathos for the disenfranchised Poles), Weiss created an image evocative of the Polish nation on the cusp of rejuvenation. Anna Brzyski has shown how Polish artists in their depictions of landscape—which often include seemingly incidental but emotionally charged details—created a stable national self-image intended to unify members of the virtual Polish nation.35 In Capsheaves (Fig. 72) Stanisław Wyspiański (1869–1907) offered a melancholic vision of a dormant Poland. The straw capsheaves—which protect fragile rosebushes during the long Krakow winter—have proportions that suggest human figures. A political reading of the work— in which rosebushes symbolize the Polish nation and winter represents the partition era—is reinforced by the setting: Planty, the park that surrounds the city walls of Krakow. The gaslights along the city wall and the distinctive silhouette of Wawel Castle situate the scene in the former capital of the kingdom of Poland and evoke memories of Polish greatness. Wyspiański often used winter as a metaphor for death in his plays;36 here, the capsheaves resemble a procession of mourners, grieving over their listless nation. Wyspiański executed Capsheaves in pastel on brown paper, applying pigments in techniques that emphasize the work’s two-dimensionality. Despite the straightforward title, the eerie mood suggests even to non-Polish viewers that there is more to Capsheaves than a description of winter in Poland.

national romanticism

nature in denmark Despite its small size, Denmark contained diverse cultural groups on its many islands and peninsulas. Artists who sought to create national romantic imagery had to take this diversity into account, as well as Denmark’s major territorial losses in the nineteenth century—first when forced to cede Norway to Sweden in 1814 and then with the loss of the provinces of Schleswig and Holstein to Prussia in 1864. Denmark’s distinguishing landscape features are its coastline and fertile plains; it has neither mountains nor significant rivers. Harald Slott-Møller (1864– 1937) described the fields of his native land in Danish Landscape (Plate 15) using an innovative technique that combined painting, gilding, and low-relief sculpture. The lower half is executed in a Symbolist style, while the upper half is typically Impressionist. Stalks of rye bulge from the surface, each grain sculpted with a portrait-like attention to detail. The field is gilded to indicate its value to the national economy, health, and psyche. A stork—a common symbol of child­ birth, spring, and renewal—flies overhead and a sliver of coastline with a sailboat and windmill emerge in the distance. Slott-Møller presented an idyllic countryside under optimal atmospheric conditions—an unreliable occasion in a land where chilly, drizzly summers are as common as warm, sunny ones. By representing a plausible scene in two disparate techniques, Slott-Møller indicated that Danish Landscape represented a vision in a manner similar to Signac’s In the Era of Harmony (see Fig. 39). The painting is a landmark in Danish art: the first Danish landscape to depict the nation as a whole, rather than a specific locale.37 National Romantic artists adopted Symbolist strategies to stimulate emotional attachment to the nation. In doing so, they followed the advice of the French poet Stéphane Mallarmé: “To suggest, there you have the dream. This is the perfect use of the mystery that constitutes the symbol: gradually to evoke an object in order to show a state of mind, or, inversely, to choose an object and, by a series of decipherments, to abstract from it a state of mind.”38 Regardless of circumstances, National Romantic artists concentrated on three kinds of subjects: key historical events, typical landscape features, and familiar legends. They formulated compositions and adopted techniques intended to maximize the emotional charge that their images would have on native audiences and to impress foreign viewers with a palpable sense of national character.


Promoting Symbolist Art



ith declining church and state patronage for art and a rising new market among the affluent and educated middle classes, the press, artists’ organizations, and exhibitions took on a role of unprecedented importance for artists at the end of the nineteenth century. The security of earlier artistic life, centered on the Academy and unambiguous guidelines for success, was replaced by a more solitary and entrepreneurial career with few rules and little certainty. Émile Bernard defined the aims of one community of artists in a letter to Émile Schuffenecker: “The goal of this group [the Nabis], called the Anonymous Ones, is thus art for art’s sake. Not glory, not commerce, not reputation: the edification of an idea of a work. Each member contributes his effort to the whole project. Each one could no more be taken away from the group than could a stone from a house, a beam from a wooden framework.”1 Indeed, it was the idea of founding a School of the South that drew Vincent van Gogh to Arles in February 1888: “It might be a real advantage to quite a number of artists who love the sun and colors to settle in the South.”2 Cast adrift from the moorings of official patronage, artists were drawn together by shared interests and ideas. They established artists’ colonies in the countryside, where they could work without distraction; associations through which they could share and develop their ideas with like-minded colleagues; and exhibitions, through which their work would reach the public. The twin necessities of camaraderie and developing a market fostered the creation of artists’ associations. The Impressionists are perhaps the best known of these groups, but there were many others, and such associations played a crucial role for Symbolists, who were fundamentally anti-establishmentarian. Artists’ organizations took different forms and had varying objectives and durations. Some were informal, meeting in Parisian cafés such as Café Voltaire and Café François I.3 Gatherings occurred casually in private homes—as in the case of Stéphane Mallarmé’s famous Tuesday evening meetings—or in more formal venues, with officers and statutes. Some organizations, such as Les XX (The Twenty) in Brussels, were inclusive and heterogeneous; others, such as the Nabis (Prophets) in Paris, were esoteric and exclusionist. Never before 167


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was such a wide range of affiliations available to artists. John Rewald begins his study of PostImpressionism with a revealing remark by the Belgian poet Émile Verhaeren that describes the situation in the late 1880s: “There is no longer any single school, there are scarcely any groups, and those few are constantly splitting.”4 The broad range of choices available to artists, however, did not guarantee that their needs would be met. Financial necessity was a leading incentive for the formation of artists’ organizations. Free-market economics opened doors to experimentation but also to financial uncertainty at the end of the nineteenth century. Artists arranged exhibitions, ideally on a regular basis, in order to build a reputation and attract critical attention, public attendance, and, they hoped, sales. Their efforts were fraught with problems: inadequate marketing, poor budgeting, difficulties in finding venues, and policy disputes. Successful marketing required media contacts to lure critics to openings; exhibitions that included well-known artists had a much better chance of drawing attention from the press and the public. Several issues divided many groups: which artists should participate in an exhibition and how should the works be chosen? Should principles be sacrificed in order to draw a well-known artist with a secure following? Should one participate in an exhibition if one’s best friends were excluded or if the works chosen differed from those one wanted to show? Were exhibition policies a matter of pragmatism or should other issues take precedence? Institutional loyalty belonged to the past, and artists’ allegiances shifted in accordance with their needs. As a result, Symbolist associations (and publications) were often short-lived. Groups committed in a more general way to vanguard trends—such as the Secessions in Berlin, Munich, and Vienna—continued into the twentieth century.

world’s fairs The most effective way for artists to display their works to a broad international audience was at world’s fairs, great exhibitions, or expositions universelles, as they were variously called. These fairs generally lasted three to six months and attracted millions of visitors—more than fifty million attended the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Every world’s fair, beginning with the landmark Crystal Palace exhibition in London in 1851, included art exhibitions. Not only did the pavilions of individual nations generally include art, but fairs usually had a separate art pavilion that brought together artists from around the globe. Each nation appointed a committee to oversee its contribution to the fair—to the national pavilions as well as the theme pavilions. Typically national art committees consisted of traditionalists who championed academic art, but they also thought carefully about the image they wanted to project in an international arena. The selection process, as well as the decision by individual artists to participate, was highly politicized: in his catalogue to the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris, Maurice Brincourt asserted that French art “sounded the most clear and truthful note in the international battle.”5 Art thus constituted one event in the competition for national preeminence. Because the 1889 Exposition commemorated the centenary of the French Revolution, some monarchical

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nations, such as Belgium and Sweden, chose not to participate officially. Sweden appointed members of the secessionist Artists’ Association to supervise its contribution to the art section, and they excluded works by nonmembers.6 Among the artists exhibiting at the 1889 Exposition Universelle were Bergh, Burne-Jones (whose King Cophetua was shown), Gallen-Kallela, Khnopff, Millais, Rodin, Segantini, and Whistler.7 The 1900 Exposition Universelle held a ten-year retrospective of international art that included Aman-Jean, Bergh, Böcklin, Bresdin, Carrière, Delville, Gallen-Kallela, Hammershøi, Hodler, Khnopff, Klimt, Klinger, Larsson, Monet, Moreau, Munthe, Redon, Rodin, Schwabe, Stück, and Whistler.8

france mallarmé’s tuesdays Beginning in 1880, Stéphane Mallarmé held a regular Tuesday evening open house. Artists, intellectuals, musicians, and politicians crowded into his small Paris apartment at 89 rue de Rome to read poems, discuss politics and philosophy, and perform music. The international group of artists, musicians, and writers who frequented Mallarmé’s Tuesday evening gatherings (called “Les Mardistes,” after Mardi: Tuesday) was receptive to new ideas and experimentation in their work. Regulars included critics Albert Aurier, Édouard Dujardin, Félix Fénéon, Gustave Kahn, and Teodor de Wyzéwa; composer Claude Debussy; writers Stefan George, René Ghil, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Jean Moréas, Charles Morice, and William Butler Yeats;9 politician Georges Clemenceau; and artists Odilon Redon and Paul Sérusier. Gauguin met Mallarmé in 1890 (Fig. 73) and attended the “Tuesdays” regularly until he left for Tahiti in April 1891. Edvard Munch (who made two portraits of the poet in 1896) and James Whistler (whom Mallarmé met in 1877) came occasionally, as did Oscar Wilde and psychologist Jean-Étienne Charcot. In addition to regular meetings, special banquets were held periodically by members of Paris’s cultural vanguard: Mallarmé organized the March 23, 1891, farewell banquet for Gauguin at Café Voltaire. Most of the Mallarmé circle attended, as did Carrière, Denis, and Rops. A month earlier, on February 2, many of the same artists (including Gauguin, Redon, Rops, Seurat, and Signac) had attended a banquet at the Hôtel des Sociétés Savantes to celebrate the publication of Jean Moréas’s Passionate Pilgrim. An experimental poet who made the radical statement “to name an object is to suppress three-quarters of the pleasure of a poem which gives happiness by revealing itself little by little,”10 Mallarmé taught English in a Paris public school. His situation was not unusual; the Symbolist generation was the first group of vanguard artists, critics, and writers to include a majority that needed to earn a living, but their situation signaled an increasingly democratic trend in the arts in which members of the working class could aspire to the status of an artist-genius. Earlier path-breaking artists such as Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, and Claude Monet came from affluent families and enjoyed the artistic autonomy afforded by their financial independence.



promoting symbolist art

73 Paul Gauguin, Portrait of Mallarmé, 1891, printed 1919, etching, drypoint, and engraving in brown on cream Japanese paper, 18.3 x 14.5 cm (plate); 33 x 24 cm (sheet). The Art Institute of Chicago, The Albert H. Wolf Memorial Collection, (1935.46). Photo © The Art Institute of Chicago.

père tanguy The art supply store at 14 rue Clauzel run by Julien Tanguy (1825–1894), an expert pigment grinder, was a popular meeting place for vanguard artists in the last third of the nineteenth century. Tanguy’s clients included Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Signac, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Bernard, who met Vincent van Gogh there for the first time when he went to buy paint in 1887.11 Tanguy amassed an impressive art collection by accepting artworks in lieu of payment, and used his walls as an informal exhibition space for the artists who patronized his shop.12

promoting symbolist art

pont-aven Artists began frequenting Pont-Aven, an isolated village in Brittany, in the 1860s because it was charming, inexpensive, and peaceful. By the late 1880s, Pont-Aven enjoyed a thriving tourism industry, providing a hospitable milieu for more than a hundred artists (including Gauguin, Bernard, and Sérusier), who lived and dined at one of Pont-Aven’s three hotels. Gauguin resided in Pont-Aven in 1886, 1888–90, and 1894, during his final stay in France. There Sérusier painted Breton Eve (see Fig. 9) and The Talisman (Plate 5), Gauguin painted Agony in the Garden (see Fig. 16) and Vision of the Sermon (Plate 8); and Synthetism took shape during the summer of 1888. Gauguin—significantly older than his colleagues—formed the nucleus of the Synthetist group that became known as the School of Pont-Aven. While Gauguin claimed credit for inventing Synthetism, Bernard, who broke off relations with Gauguin in 1891 over their disagreement regarding the style’s origins, first formulated Synthetist principles.13 The hallmarks of the style— expressive and non-natural color, thick black outlines, flattened and simplified shapes—first emerged in Bernard’s Breton Women in a Meadow (1888, private collection), painted several weeks before Gauguin’s maverick Vision. The more experienced Gauguin recognized the power of Synthetism to “express the inexpressible,” in advance of Bernard, who was initially attracted by the emphatically non-naturalistic character of Synthetism rather than by its ability to suggest ideas.14

the studio of the south: arles Van Gogh dreamed of establishing a Studio of the South comparable to Pont-Aven, the studio of the north. He hoped to entice Gauguin, Bernard, and other progressive artists to work in an atmosphere of mutual support, harmony, and shared expenses in the charming Provençal town of Arles. Van Gogh wrote to Bernard: I’m sorry that life here is not as inexpensive as I had hoped and have not yet found a way to get as good a deal as one can at Pont-Aven. I began by paying five francs and now I pay four francs per day. One must know the local dialect and know how to eat bouillabaisse and garlic, in any event one could certainly find a bourgeois hotel that was more expensive. Furthermore, if there were more of us, one could get—I imagine—more advantageous conditions. It would be a real advantage perhaps for sun- and color-loving artists to emigrate to the south.15

The following year, van Gogh proposed a more explicit artistic purpose for his association: “It seems to me always, more and more, that the canvases that must be made in order for painting to achieve the serene heights attained by Greek sculpture, German music, the writers of French novels are beyond the capability of an isolated individual; they will probably be created by a group of men gathered with the purpose of realizing a collective idea.”16 Van Gogh’s brother Theo paid Gauguin to join his brother in Arles. Gauguin arrived in September 1888, but after three months of living and working together in a tense atmosphere,



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generated in part by Gauguin’s domineering personality, an argument ensued. In the fallout from this dispute Vincent cut off his ear lobe and Gauguin hastily returned to Paris. Eager to create a cooperative atmosphere, van Gogh initially listened to the advice of Gauguin, but following Gauguin’s departure in December, van Gogh returned to his energetic brushwork, and the short-lived Studio of the South came to an end.

the café volpini exhibition Because entry into France’s official Salon was decided by a committee of predominantly conservative, academically oriented Realists, experimental artists were forced to find alternative venues to exhibit their works. The private galleries of Le Barc de Boutteville, Durand-Ruel, Goupil (where Theo van Gogh worked), and Ambrose Vollard provided options, but space was limited, and gallery owners arranged shows that reflected their own taste.17 Exhibitions were complicated events to organize: a venue had to be secured, publicity generated, and works selected. Artists, driven by pragmatism, made alliances and explored new means of stimulating interest in their work. To bring their ideas and new style to public attention, members of the Pont-Aven school hung ninety-three of their works on the walls of Café Volpini—a temporary café on the grounds of the Paris Exposition Universelle—from June until November 1889. This was an ad hoc arrangement: the wall coverings ordered by the café proprietor were delayed and he was desperate for decoration. Thus pressed, Bernard easily convinced Monsieur Volpini to display the works of nine Pont-Aven artists. The exhibition attracted many artists and exerted a significant influence on artists searching for new means of expression. Gauguin considered the enterprise an exclusive display of the Pont-Aven school and vetoed the inclusion of critically acclaimed— but unaffiliated—colleagues such as Seurat and Pissarro.18 Although it was limited to works by members of the Pont-Aven school, the exhibition was advertised as a display of the “Impressionist and Synthetist Group” (groupe impressioniste et synthétiste), seizing on the Impressionist school’s more widespread familiarity. Gauguin had in fact exhibited at the last five Impressionist exhibitions (1879–86), but by now his work had evolved away from the loose style and contemporary subject matter with which Impressionism was associated. Clearly, the title was chosen for marketing purposes only.19

the nabis Composed of frustrated pupils from the Académie Julian—including Denis, Ranson, and Sérusier—the Nabis group lasted for some ten years after its founding in spring 1889. United by their interest in Symbolism, Synthetism, mysticism, and philosophy, the Nabis considered art a calling rather than a business; for them, true artists were motivated by altruism, not fame and fortune. The Nabis began meeting informally at L’Os à moelle, a café near the Académie Julian. By early 1890, they had formed a more structured organization and met weekly at Ran-

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son’s studio—which they referred to as “the temple”—at 25 boulevard Montparnasse. They addressed one another with cryptic salutations, wore strange robes, and devised secret ceremonies.20 To varying degrees they infused their paintings with ideas drawn from Buddhism, Catholicism, Judaism, Neoplatonism, and Theosophy, with the intent of manifesting hidden truths—recognition of which would, they hoped, improve the condition of humanity. The mystic and religious character of the Nabis is evident in such works as Ranson’s Christ and Buddha (Plate 9) and Denis’s Sacred Heart Crucified (Plate 6). Between 1890 and 1892, Denis, Sérusier, and Vuillard shared a studio at 28 rue Pigalle; there they experimented with new materials and techniques, painting on cardboard, fabric, lampshades, and wallpaper, and produced stage sets and costumes for Symbolist plays by Maurice Maeterlinck, Mauclair, and Morice that were performed at the Théâtre d’Art and the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, venues for experimental drama run by Denis’s childhood friend Aurelian Lugné-Poë. Nabis artists exhibited regularly at the Salon des Indépendants beginning in March 1891 and held their own group exhibitions from December 1891 to 1896 at Le Barc de Boutteville, 47 rue Le Peletier, which they called the Salon des Impressionistes et Symbolistes. Although its name implied a range of progressive artistic currents, the salon was an exclusive, invitation-only affair that excluded most artists outside the Nabis circle.21 In his preface to the catalogue accompanying the fourth exhibition (April–May 1893),22 Camille Mauclair defined the goal of art as “manifesting human consciousness before nature,” which can only be accomplished by those “predestined” to perceive it. Mauclair asserted that philosophers expressed these ideas through concepts, poets through rhythm, and artists through the representation of light.23 Baudelaire, Thomas Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, and Mallarmé provided the intellectual roots of the Nabis. Within a few years, however, Mauclair’s enthusiasm for the Nabis had flagged. In a review published in Mercure de France, Mauclair called Nabis exhibitions boring and repetitive. Reviewing their eighth exhibition (in December 1894), he wrote: “Exactly resembling the preceding seven! These artists, who show us their delicious efforts, copy themselves over and over again.” Singling out Denis, Mauclair complained: “M. Denis is an intelligent and sensitive artist: but for the past four years he has been painting the same picture.”24 For Mauclair and other vanguard critics who championed novelty and innovation, consistency meant stagnation and death.

the société des artistes indépendants Artists rejected from the Salon of 1884 petitioned the government for a Salon des Refusés similar to the exhibition organized in the wake of a similar protest in 1863; the Paris Department of Fine Arts gave the group space in the Tuileries barracks from May 15 to July 1. Four hundred and two artists submitted two works each. Redon, Seurat, and Signac showed their works at one end of the building, and an association was formed, the Société des Artistes Indépendants, that sponsored an annual, unjuried exhibition. The Société operated on cooperative principles that reflected the democratic and egalitarian policies of French Republicanism and sought to



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accommodate artistic individuality. Members paid a low annual membership fee (two and a half francs), and every third year profits were divided equally. In December 1884 the Salon des Indépendants held its first exhibition in the Pavillon de la Ville de Paris on the Champs-Elysées, a prestigious venue where the works of academic painters such as Jules Bastien-Lepage (1848– 1884) hung alongside daring works by Signac and Seurat. Mid-winter, however, was a poor season for an inaugural exhibition: attendance was low, and few works sold. The second Indépendants exhibition was held in a different venue (the Maison Doré on rue Lafitte) in May 1885 with an eclectic mixture of Impressionist and other progressive trends, including works by Cassatt, Degas, Gauguin, Morisot, Pissarro, Redon, Seurat, and Signac, among others. A review in the Belgian journal L’Art moderne described the participants as France’s equivalent of Les XX (see below). Membership grew steadily: 138 artists participated in the inaugural exhibition, but by the third exhibition, in summer 1886, 350 artists exhibited at the Salon.25

la rose + croix Joséphin Péladan, a mystic who sought to guide humanity toward the path of righteous spirituality, resuscitated a seventeenth-century mystical association together with Stanislas de Guaita and Gérard Encausse (also known as Papus) in 1887.26 In part because his ideas differed from those of his co-founders and in part because of his controlling personality, Péladan formed a new group—the Rose + Croix Brotherhood—in 1891. Under its banner, he organized annual exhibitions—the Salon de la Rose + Croix—between 1892 and 1897. A shrewd promoter, Péladan published a manifesto outlining the brotherhood’s mission in the September 2, 1891, edition of Le Figaro in language both pretentious and incomprehensible: “The Salon de la Rose + Croix will be the first realization of an intellectual order that originates, by theocratic principle, with Hugh of the Pagans; with Rosenkreutz by the idea of individualistic perfection. . . . The Salon de la Rose + Croix will be a temple to Art-God, with masterpieces for dogma and for saints, geniuses.” Péladan cited the lack of alternative venues in Paris as justification for the exhibition: “The Jury of the Champs-de-Mars [an exhibition sponsored by the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, an organization founded by Carrière, Puvis de Chavannes, and Rodin in 1890] is as hostile to abstract, religious, or simply artistic ideas, as that of the Champs-Elysées [the Salon des Indépendants].” The conceptual unity of the Salon Rose + Croix was assured since “the Order grows through invitation and the invited only have to observe the rule of ideality. It banishes all contemporary, rustic or similar representations; flowers, animals, genre treated like history-painting, and portraiture-like landscape. It accepts all allegory, legend, mysticism and myth and even the expressive head if it is noble or the nude study if it is beautiful.” Membership in the Rose + Croix was limited to male artists for ideological reasons that challenge logic: “no work by a woman will be accepted because in our renovation of aesthetic laws we faithfully observe magical laws.”27 Thus, the Rose + Croix was an esoteric, elitist organization that Péladan envisioned as a priesthood possessing secret knowledge of truth and beauty that would be communicated by its artists. Whereas most newly founded late nineteenth-

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century artists’ organizations promoted (or at least tolerated) innovation, the Rose + Croix pursued reform according to a specific prescription for the recuperation of lost values: “to restore the cult of the ideal in all its splendor, with tradition as its base and beauty as its means”28—clearly excluding most artists engaged in technical experimentation. Bernard, Jean Delville, Fernand Khnopff, Alphonse Osbert, and Jan Toorop—artists with strong mystical leanings—took part, as did Ferdinand Hodler. Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, and Redon, however, were so disgusted by the anti-democratic elitism of the Rose + Croix that they refused to contribute. Puvis’s refusal must have been particularly disappointing as two of the Rose + Croix’s most active participants—Edmond Aman-Jean (1858–1936) and Alexandre Séon (1855–1917)—had been his pupils and assistants. The first Rose + Croix exhibition was held at the Durand-Ruel Gallery in March 1892 and attracted ten thousand visitors.29 In the union-of-disciplines spirit of Wagner, the exhibition’s opening was preceded by a mass at Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois (the parish church of French kings across from the Musée du Louvre) and included musical selections from Wagner and pieces by Eric Satie composed especially for the occasion. The peculiar Rose + Croix standards emerged in the paintings chosen for its Salons, which included an abundance of female figures. Works such as Osbert’s Vision (see Fig. 48), shown at the inaugural exhibition, and Previati’s Maternity (see Fig. 47) were typical in their presentations of women as devout and ethereal beings, safely ensconced in imaginary spaces remote from modern life. Aman-Jean’s poster for the 1893 Salon shows Dante’s Beatrice led away by a winged angel offering the poet a lyre of inspiration (Fig. 74), illustrating the potential of passive, yet pure, women to inspire male artists.30 In this way Aman-Jean underlines not only the mystical aspirations of Rose + Croix artists but also their relegation of women to a largely subsidiary role in creative enterprises. Alexandre Séon contributed Orpheus Laments (Fig. 75) to the Rose + Croix exhibition of 1897. Séon was a pupil and assistant of Puvis de Chavannes, and his debt to his master emerges here in his spare, static composition and pale tonalities. Séon initially exhibited at the official Salon (1879 and 1880), but withdrew from further participation once he allied himself with Symbolism. Alphonse Germain, who hailed Séon as the leading Symbolist, praised his works as exemplifying a “healthy” symbolic use of color compatible with French character and French modernity, unlike Gauguin, whose lurid works, Germain argued, exhibited signs of moral degeneration.31 Symbolism, however, was such a popular trend by the 1890s that the label “Sym­ bolist” was indiscriminately applied to promote works as progressive. Indeed, the conventional subject and descriptive title of Orpheus Laments define the painting as allegorical rather than ­Symbolist—as was the case for many of the works appearing at Rose + Croix exhibitions. Orpheus listlessly holds his attribute, a lyre, while covering his eyes in despair, for his beloved, Eurydice, is gone forever. (Earlier Orpheus had traveled to the underworld and so poignantly lamented the death of Eurydice that the gods had agreed to her release, but only if he not look back as he led her out—a condition he was unable to fulfill.)32 The mystical leanings of the French painter-sculptor Georges Lacombe (1868–1916) coincided with Péladan’s, as evidenced in Existence, a low-relief wood carving that suggests the


74 Edmond-François Aman-Jean, Beatrix, poster for the 1893 exhibition of the Salon Rose + Croix, color lithograph on linen, 124.4 × 76.2 cm. Photo courtesy Barbara Leibowits Graphics Ltd.

75 Alexandre Séon, Orpheus Laments, c. 1896, oil on panel, 73 × 116 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (Inv. 20637). Photo © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York (photographer: Jean Schormans).

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76 Georges Lacombe, Existence (bed panel), 1894–96, wood (walnut), 73 × 116 cm. Musée d’Orsay, Paris (RF 3221). Photo © Réunion des Musées Nationaux/Art Resource, New York (photographers: Gerard Blot/Christian Jean).

cerebral self-enclosure of unconsciousness in a simplified form (Fig. 76), a suitable subject for a bed panel. The serpent devouring its own tail is a traditional symbol of infinity or immortality, but here the creature metamorphoses into a mask with expressionless eyes and scarified cheeks. Surrounded by stars, the shoots of new plants, and watery waves, the dream or dreamer floats in the world of the unconscious. Lacombe’s choice of wood as his medium signals his antiestablishment stance; in the nineteenth century, when the preferred media for sculpture were stone or metal, wood was associated with folk art or art from Africa and Oceania. Like many Symbolists, Lacombe investigated non-Western cultures in search of new expressive possibilities as well as clues to mystical enlightenment. The financial backer of the first Rose + Croix Salon, the painter and aristocrat Antoine de La Rochefoucauld, was dismissed from the organization by Péladan in late 1892. La Rouchefoucauld wanted to include vanguard artists of all affiliations in the exhibition, while Péladan insisted on works conforming to Rosicrucian principles. Without La Rochefoucauld’s support, the group experienced financial difficulties. Exhibitions were held in various venues—the elegant and spacious Palais du Champ de Mars (1893), the tiny Galerie des Artistes Contemporains (1894– 95), the Galerie des Arts Réunis (1896), and the Galerie Georges Petit (1897)—depending on finances and availability. The Rose + Croix group dissolved in 1897 for reasons that are not entirely clear.33 However, Jean Delville believed so strongly in its ideals that he (along with Xavier Mellery and Émile Fabry) founded a group with similar exhibition policies in Brussels: Pour l’art (1892–95). This group in turn disbanded when Delville moved on to start the Theosophically oriented Salon d’art idéaliste.



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belgium les xx and la libre esthétique The politically conservative Roman Catholic party displaced the Liberal party in Belgium’s parliament in 1884. The Catholic Party recognized Flemish (a linguistic relative of Dutch) as an official language, an act that rather than accommodating Belgium’s French-speaking majority was intended to keep the rival cultures separate. Nineteenth-century citizens of the recently formed nation found little common ground for a collective identity, and artists made no attempt to establish a national school of Belgian art. Instead, progressive artists considered art a supranational entity operating within a realm of ideas that were either abstract or critical of society (as with Ensor’s Entry of Christ, Fig. 35) and—consistent with Darwinian ideas—in constant evolution. According to these artists, opposition to cultural transformation (i.e., adherence to tradition) constituted a fruitless attempt to defy universal laws. Les XX (Les Vingt, or The Twenty) was established in 1883 by thirteen Belgian artists— including Ensor and Khnopff—dissatisfied with available exhibition opportunities. By the time that its first exhibition opened in February 1883, membership in Les XX had grown to twenty. Many members of Les XX also belonged to other vanguard artists’ organizations: Ensor and Rops were members of La Crysalide (The Chrysalis), Khnopff had been active in L’Art libre (Free Art), and Toorop was a member of L’Essor (The Leap), which disbanded in 1891. Les XX seemed radical because of its decentralized structure; the group had no president, only a secretary and a rotating committee of three to deal with correspondence and programming. Artists hung their own works, and their placement in exhibition galleries was determined by lottery. At the same time, the organization was not as libertarian and harmonious as it purported to be. There were, as Jane Block indicates, behind-the-scenes rivalries, for reasons both personal and political, that led to the exclusion of certain artists from the group and of particular works from its exhibitions.34 In 1890 Henry De Groux resigned when Vincent van Gogh was invited to exhibit; Ensor objected to Whistler’s inclusion in 1886: “Admitting Whistler to Les XX is to stride toward extinction. Having made this first mistake, we will not be able to stop there. We will then have to admit Rodin, Monet, Renoir, or even Puvis de Chavannes [or] Moreau . . . Why admit foreigners?”35 Nonetheless, Rodin joined, and Bernard, Cézanne, Gauguin, Hodler, Monet, Pissarro, Redon, Renoir, Segantini, Seurat, Toulouse-Lautrec, van Gogh, and Whistler were among the foreign artists who participated in exhibitions sponsored by Les XX. No impartial evaluation of Les XX exhibitions appeared in the contemporary press, since newspapers represented either conservative or liberal viewpoints. Because aesthetic judgments were colored by political affiliation during the late nineteenth century, the activities of Les XX were consistently condemned by the critics of the right-leaning Le Patriote and L’Émancipation and praised by the leftist La Nation and Le Nationale Belge.36 The lawyer and social activist Octave Maus was secretary and de facto administrator of Les XX from its inception in 1883 until its dissolution a decade later, and went on to run Les XX’s

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successor, La Libre Esthétique (The Free Aesthetic). Maus was an efficient administrator who shared the aesthetic and political views of Les XX artists. Outreach was an integral part of Les XX’s ideology, and with the ambitious goal of educating the masses, Maus organized lectures and concerts of works by Alexander Borodin, Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, César Franck, and Piotr Tchaikovsky.37 The Symbolist poets Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine and the theosophist Edouard Schuré were among the featured speakers. In connection with Les XX’s inaugural exhibition in 1883 (held in the home of the labor lawyer, culture critic, and poet Edmond Picard), Georges Rodenbach, the author of Bruges-la-Morte, delivered a lecture and the French author Catulle Mendés reminisced about his recently deceased friend Richard Wagner. Les XX’s annual exhibitions were well organized and well funded and presented rising international artists. Major posthumous retrospectives of Vincent van Gogh (1890) and Georges Seurat (1891) enabled visitors to survey the entire careers of key contemporary artists.38 In keeping with Les XX’s commitment to staying on the cutting edge, the 1891 exhibition committee extended the scope of its exhibitions to include decorative arts, a decision consistent with the organization’s anti-establishment and egalitarian stance. Nonetheless, administrative expediency and the desire to increase the scale of exhibitions in order to challenge the statesponsored Salon motivated the decision to disband Les XX in 1893. Most of the members of Les XX supported Maus and Picard’s vision and immediately joined its successor, La Libre Esthétique. By barring artists from the steering committee, La Libre Esthétique avoided the squabbling that had crippled Les XX, some of whose members wanted to limit membership in order to retain a sense of exclusivity; by opening membership to more than twenty, the group could mount large-scale exhibitions. Picard announced the goals of the new group in an editorial published in the October 29, 1893, issue of L’Art moderne: “to offer to both Belgian and international artists the opportunity of exhibiting publicly in Belgium under optimal circumstances.”39 The first exhibition, which opened on February 17, 1895, included eighty-five artists, compared with thirty-two in the final (1893) show of Les XX.

italy Progressive Italian intellectuals frequented Rome’s Caffé Greco beginning in the early 1880s, and Caffé Greco artists formed a group, In Ars Libertas (Freedom in Art), several years later.40 Libertas artists appreciated music (especially works by Wagner and seventeenth-century Italian composers),41 and believed that art and science were compatible. Libertas held its first exhibition in 1886, and its ideas were presented by the poet Gabriele d’Annunzio in his novel The Pleasure (1889). D’Annunzio explained the artist’s obligation to penetrate the veil of appearances and to express immutable ideas. He introduced Libertas artists to the “art for art’s sake” ideas of Huysmans, while the writer and art critic Angelo Conti informed them about Schopenhauer and Buddhism.42 Libertas artists participated in other exhibitions, and the Brera Triennial



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exhibition of 1891 marked the debut of Symbolist painting in Italy, with the inclusion of Previati’s Maternity (see Fig. 47) and Segantini’s Two Mothers (1889, Civica Galleria d’Arte Moderna, Milan), both addressing the subject of woman as nurturer (see Chapter 5).43 Tensions arose within Libertas between those committed to “art for art’s sake” and those with a social agenda: a unified Italian identity and improved conditions for the working class. Yet, among Symbolists in Italy, there was little elitism and little escapism, and those with a social agenda eventually triumphed. In Italy, as elsewhere, journalism was integral to the promotion of Symbolism; Previati, Segantini, and Vittorio Grubicy44 started the weekly journal Vita Moderna (Modern Life, 1892–94) to publicize their ideas. Two years after Vita Moderna folded, they—joined by the more politically oriented Angelo Morbelli—formed a group they named Marzocco and published a journal with the same name. (The name referred to a famous sculpture by Donatello [c. 1386–1466] that symbolized the Republic of Florence, a state associated with populist and egalitarian ideals.) Marzocco was dedicated to social improvement through aesthetics, and many of its members adopted divisionism as a means of translating spiritual values into visible form. Eventually a rift developed between social activists and “art for art’s sake” adherents, and by the end of the 1890s the embryonic Symbolist movement in Italy had dissipated.

poland Malczewski, Weiss, and Wyspiański belonged to Młoda Polska (Young Poland), established in Krakow in 1898. Young Poland proclaimed the autonomy of art and championed freedom of expression; it also had a political dimension, with members committed to creating a distinctively Polish school of art. Since the 1842 publication of Seweryn Goszczynski’s pamphlet “On the Need for a National Polish Painting,” patriotic Polish artists depicted events from national history. These paintings were executed in the Realist-Naturalist style taught at official academies in Berlin, Munich, Paris, and Vienna—a style Young Poland considered tainted by its association with occupying regimes and absolutist monarchies. Young Poland encouraged new styles and techniques as markers of a progressive viewpoint. Thus, Polish (and other Central European) artists might adopt an Impressionist or a Symbolist technique in order to announce their vanguard allegiance and emphasize the artificiality of their artwork. Although some Polish critics preferred the narrative, patriotic, Realist images of Jan Matejko (1838–1893), the members of Young Poland argued that any artwork generated by authentic feeling was more patriotic than conventional works that conformed to foreign (i.e., French) academic standards. Two periodicals, Chimera (published in Warsaw) and Zycie (published in Krakow), promoted Young Poland’s art and ideas.

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germany The German art scene was fraught with political implications because Germany had recently united two powerful kingdoms with long histories of art patronage—Prussia, whose capital was Berlin, and Bavaria, whose capital was Munich—along with several dozen smaller political entities. During much of the nineteenth century, Munich was the most important German artistic center due to the broad-minded patronage of its rulers: the Wittelsbach dynasty. Following unification in 1871, Berlin, as the new national capital, vied with Munich as Germany’s preeminent center for the arts. Because of pervasive anti-French sentiments among the German public, mounting international exhibitions that included works in artistic styles associated with France—such as Impressionism and Symbolism—proved controversial. At the same time— thanks to the local art associations formed by middle-class Germans beginning in the 1810s—the German public was more receptive to art than that of other European nations. For most of the nineteenth century Munich had Germany’s densest population of artists (400 percent larger per capita than Berlin’s in 1895) and, until 1886, Germany’s only large exhibition halls. Because Munich had an unusually large number of artists, and because access to the annual Academy exhibition was limited, resident artists sought new ways of reaching the public. One such effort was the Munich Künstlergenossenschaft (Artists’ Association), formed in 1868, which held annual exhibitions. Beginning in 1889 its premises on the centrally located Königsplatz were open year-round, with shows changing every few weeks. International art exhibitions occurred every four years in the Glaspalast (Glass Palace) beginning in 1879, offering the public a glimpse of German art in its larger context; Whistler exhibited more than forty works there in 1888. Concerts of classical and popular music attracted crowds to the Glaspalast, as did its beer gardens.45 The Künstlergenossenschaft’s marketing strategy and stylistic eclecticism provided a strong international market for member artists: approximately 75 percent of purchases made at exhibitions were by residents outside of Munich, with foreigners accounting for more than 40 percent of sales, almost half of which were to Americans.46 The success of these quadrennial exhibitions convinced the Künstlergenossenschaft that annual international exhibitions were viable, and the first one was held in 1889. Among the artists participating in the three Munich annuals were Böcklin, Klinger, Munch, Puvis de Chavannes, and Franz von Stuck. Poor sales at the Third Annual (1891), however, and disagreement about exhibition policies resulted in a schism that led to the formation of a new organization, the Munich Secession (Vereins Bildender Künstlers München) in 1892. The Munich Secession mounted smaller exhibitions of higher caliber, while maintaining the stylistic pluralism of the Annuals (the opposite strategy of La Libre Esthétique).47 The Secession erected its own exhibition space in 1893 and held its first show the same year, while the Künstlergenossenschaft continued to hold its annual exhibition in the Glaspalast. Among the participants in the Secession exhibitions during the 1890s were Aman-Jean, Bergh, Böcklin, Carrière, Delville, Gallen-Kallela, Khnopff, Mellery, Munthe, Schwabe, Segantini, Strathmann, Stuck, Toorop, and Vrubel. Administrative



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and economic problems—including a change in policy that opened the scope of exhibitions to non-modern art (even Renaissance art was included)—led to the 1900 demise of the Munich Secession as an influential venue showcasing modern and Symbolist currents. In Berlin, progressive artists formed the Verein Berliner Künstler (Association of Berlin Artists, VBK) in 1859, which held occasional exhibitions independent of the annual, academysponsored Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung (Great Berlin Art Exhibition). Although poorly funded and overshadowed by the Royal Academy, the VBK held important exhibitions, the most notorious of which was the 1892 Edvard Munch exhibition, closed by the government within a week on grounds of obscenity. This action galvanized eleven of its members to form the Gruppe der Elf (Group of Eleven), which held small independent exhibitions from 1892 until 1898, when it was absorbed by the Berlin Secession, which included sixty-five artists exasperated by the conservative policies of the Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung. Most of the Secession’s members were Impressionists (like its president Max Liebermann) or prac­ticed Gedankenmaleri (thought painting) and Stimmungsmaleri (mood painting, like its secretary Walter Leistikow). The Secession promoted works by member artists rather than any partic­ ular style.

austria Vanguard Austrian artists found themselves in the unusual situation of having their desire to present the latest in international art trends endorsed by the government. The challenges facing a multiethnic nation led Austrian artists to promote social stability through a policy of aesthetic tolerance and encouragement of an international style. The Vienna Secession (Vereinigung Bildender Künstler Österreichs: Association of Austrian Artists) was established in 1897 by a group of nineteen artists and designers that included Klimt (its first president), with the tacit approval of the Austrian government. Profits from its first exhibition in 1897 enabled the Secession to commission a building by Joseph Maria Olbrich (a landmark in the history of architecture, Fig. 77), completed in time for the second exhibition in 1898. Above its entrance, Olbrich inscribed the Vienna Secession’s motto: “To the age its art, to art its freedom.” Like Les XX, the Vienna Secession presented vanguard international art, and Degas, Hodler, Manet, Monet, Rodin, Segantini, and van Gogh were among the artists whose works appeared in the Secession’s twenty-three exhibitions held between 1898 and 1905. The most celebrated of its exhibitions was the fourteenth in 1902, which was dedicated to Beethoven and included Klinger’s sculpture (Plate 3), Klimt’s frieze inspired by Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, and quasi-abstract sculptures by Josef Hoffmann. The Vienna Secession comprised artists, composers, critics, intellectuals, and writers—including Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Gustave Mahler, and Ludwig ­Wittgenstein— convinced that art could help realign humanity along its proper trajectory toward peace, harmony, and happiness. To publicize its ideas, the Vienna Secession published a monthly journal, Ver Sacrum (Sacred Spring).

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77 Joseph Olbrich, Secession Building, 1898, Vienna. Photo: Margherita Spiluttini, Vienna.

sweden There was virtually no domestic art market in Sweden until a group of Swedish artists residing in Paris, the Opponents (including Richard Bergh and Carl Larsson), established the Konstnärsförbundet (Artists’ Association) on August 16, 1886. Membership was open to any Swedish artist who did not belong to the Royal Academy, an institution that infrequently held exhibitions. In contrast, the Artists’ Association held annual exhibitions beginning in 1886. These exhibitions generated patrons—the most generous of whom were the bankers Ernst Thiel and Pontus Fürstenberg and the painter Prince Eugen (1865–1947), youngest son of King Oscar II. Since the Artists’ Association’s goal was to create an art market for the benefit of its members, only their works were shown; there was no initiative to showcase international trends. Sweden’s situation thus differed from that of countries with established markets for art. In Sweden, art was a luxury affordable by only a handful of wealthy aristocrats and businessmen, and the nation’s egalitarian value system—Jantelagen—discouraged individuals from distinguishing themselves from others in any perceptible way. Displays of wealth—such as purchasing art—were undertaken either discreetly by the general population or by unconventional individuals with little regard for social taboos. The Artists’ Association allied itself with the cultural agenda of Swedish social democrats, who supported the French Republican ideals of freedom, equality, and solidarity. Association members (including Bergh, Larsson, and Prince Eugen) donated works to Stockholm’s House



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of the People (Folkets hus) and organized a cooperative art school in which teachers volunteered and worked side-by-side with pupils, with all contributing to the school’s upkeep. Bergh declared the Artists’ Association’s goal: “to win their hearts for our Red [socialist] purpose and for a new, healthy art. That all youth will be steeped in radical and democratic ideas and in the future the Academy will be changed is nature’s plan.”48 Faith in a better future was justified by a faith in beneficial evolution.

denmark As in Austria, the state funded Denmark’s secession, Den Frie Udstilling (The Free Exhibition), established in 1891 by a group of young artists. The reason for Denmark’s sponsorship, however, differed from that of Austria’s: a sense of fairness based on the conviction that since the government funded one artists’ group (the Academy), it should fund the other. The painter Johan Rohde (1856–1935) founded the group, and convinced progressive compatriot artists such as Wilhelm Hammershøi (1864–1916; see Chapter 8) and Jens Ferdinand Willumsen (1863–1958) to join; all were frustrated by the conservative character of exhibitions held by the state art academy at the Charlottenburg Palace in Copenhagen. Den Frie Udstilling’s inaugural exhibition took place at Kleis Kunsthandel, an art gallery in central Copenhagen. It was a great success, attracting more than twenty thousand visitors during its month-long run. Den Frie Udstilling held shows in temporary locales until 1898, when its own building was completed. In addition to exhibiting contemporary Danish art, Den Frie Udstilling organized international exhibitions, the most noteworthy of which was the 1893 Gauguin–van Gogh exhibition.49 Held in a flimsy wooden building constructed especially for the purpose, the exhibition included ten of Gauguin’s recently completed Tahitian pictures and twenty-nine paintings and drawings by van Gogh. The show was Rohde’s idea, and Theo van Gogh’s widow responded favorably to Rohde’s letter of inquiry.50 Gauguin’s paintings were sent directly from Tahiti to the exhibition. Danish artists had met Gauguin in March 1891, when he visited his wife (a Dane) and children in Copenhagen. The expressive use of color found in the paintings of Gauguin and van Gogh inspired young Danish artists. Five years later, works by Edvard Munch appeared at the exhibition inaugurating Den Frie Udstilling’s new venue.

art dealers’ shows and other exhibitions Art dealers and galleries promoted vanguard artists, particularly the Symbolists, who were antiestablishment and anti-traditional. Paris had an extensive system of art galleries in the late nine­ teenth century that catered to a growing art market. In January 1888, for instance, Gauguin exhibited at Goupil, and in 1889 he conveyed to Bernard his delight in selling a group of paintings without Goupil’s help.51 When Gauguin departed for Tahiti in April 1891, he left forty-one paintings

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on consignment with the dealers Boussod and Valadon.52 Galerie Le Barc de Boutteville— where the Nabis held their exhibitions—opened in 1891 and actively marketed that group’s art. Galerie Georges Petit held a joint Monet-Rodin exhibition in 1889, and Galerie DurandRuel exhibited works by Bernard, Denis, Monet (his Grainstack series was exhibited there in 1891), Ranson, Sérusier, and Signac. Resourceful (and desperate) artists pursued even more creative solutions. In November 1887, for instance, van Gogh organized an exhibition at the Restaurant du Chalet featuring his own works, together with works by Bernard, Pissarro, and Toulouse-Lautrec. In Oslo, the Kristiania (Oslo) Students’ Organization held Norway’s first solo exhibition in April 1889, featuring the work of Edvard Munch.

journals Between 1885 and 1895, publishing mushroomed throughout Europe, with more than nine hundred journals started annually, most of which did not survive more than a few issues.53 Most publications were labors of love, initiated by devoted, if impoverished, intellectuals who ran them out of their apartments. The contents of these small, specialized journals provide insight into contemporary issues and attest to the steadily growing literacy of Europe’s citizenry and its thirst for knowledge and for an outlet for expressing its ideas. While most of the publishing activity occurred in Paris, other major cities in Europe also witnessed a journalism boom in the final decades of the nineteenth century. Revue wagnérienne (1885–88), founded by Edouard Dujardin, Théodor de Wyzéwa, and Houston Stewart Chamberlain, promoted Richard Wagner’s aesthetic and social philosophy. Articles identified Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Delacroix, Puvis de Chavannes, and Degas as artists who exemplified Wagner’s aesthetic ideals because they exploited the emotional possibilities of color and line in order to infuse their art with a spiritual dimension generally lacking in the late nineteenth century. Contributors included Huysmans, Mallarmé, Morice, Redon, and Schuré. Revue wagnérienne appeared just at the moment when Symbolism was defining itself as a movement, and its articles played a pivotal role in the movement’s formation. The journal popularized and clarified Wagner’s ideas for a small, receptive group of artists and intellectuals. Dujardin—though remembered as the first to experiment with stream-of-consciousness writing in his 1887 novel We’ll to the Woods No More—was, like many Symbolists, unable to earn a living by his creative work and supported himself by proofreading. La Revue indépendante (established in Paris in 1887) was a leading Symbolist journal started by Dujardin, Wyzéwa, and Gustave Kahn. In addition to the founders, contributors included Aurier, Mallarmé, Maus (the journal’s Brussels correspondent), Huysmans, and Félix Fénéon (who supported himself by working for the Defense Ministry). La Revue indépendante occasionally held exhibitions (including works by Rodin, Seurat, Signac, and van Gogh) in its offices; in 1889 Gauguin wrote to Bernard from Arles conveying his disappointment that La Revue indépendante had declined to sponsor an exhibition of Pont-Aven artists, which surprised him



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given the positive review written by Fénéon in the January 15, 1888, issue.54 The editorial position of La Revue indépendante changed in 1891 when Camille Mauclair took over, a change signaled by the publication of his article “Le Fiasco symboliste,” in the inaugural ( July) issue. There, Mauclair declared Gauguin an untalented charlatan and criticized his Vision of the Sermon (Plate 8) as evidencing “naïve infantilism.”55 Other important Symbolist journals, often operating on a shoe-string budget, appeared in Paris during this period. Le Décadent (thirty-one issues between 1886 and 1889) was founded and edited by Anatole Baju, whose one-room apartment—shared with his mother and brother— doubled as an editorial office. Baju supported himself as an elementary school teacher and waiter. That same year La Vogue (begun in 1886 and edited by Kahn) and Le Symboliste (appearing weekly beginning in 1886 and co-edited by Kahn and Moréas) began publication. In an 1886 issue of La Vogue, Mallarmé published his definition of poetry: “the expression in human language brought back to its essential rhythm of the mysterious sense of existence: thus it endows our existence with authenticity and constitutes the sole spiritual task.”56 Mercure de France (established in 1889) was the longest-lived and best-funded pro-Symbolist journal. The Mercure’s offices were on rue de l’Échaudé near the church of Saint-Germain des Près, and its staff frequented the nearby Café Voltaire. Aurier was its art critic, and it was in Mercure that Aurier’s articles introducing Bernard and Vincent van Gogh first appeared. The van Gogh article appeared in January 1890, a month prior to the opening of the Les XX exhibition that presented van Gogh’s paintings to the Belgian public for the first time. Although van Gogh appreciated Aurier’s article, he worried about Aurier’s presentation of him as a borderline insane genius whose explosive personality burst forth in vibrant canvases.57 The next year, Aurier’s landmark article “Le Symbolisme en peinture: Paul Gauguin” appeared in the March issue. Bernard also wrote for the Mercure, publishing articles on art and his letters from van Gogh.58 Mercure de France sponsored a range of projects, including the translation and publication of the complete works of Nietzsche in 1894. Seeking a greater degree of editorial control, Aurier established Le Moderniste illustré (1889), which lasted less than a year but published important articles by Bernard and Gauguin, who chronicled the developments of the School of Pont-Aven. La Plume (1889–1914), also founded in 1889, became a successful vanguard journal to which Denis, among others, contributed. It issued a special Mallarmé edition in 1896 and sponsored an exhibition of Ensor’s works in 1898. In the September 1, 1891, issue, published a little over a year after van Gogh’s death, Bernard wrote an article praising the Dutch artist’s contribution to modern art. The following year witnessed the launch of more Symbolist-oriented journals, including Entretiens politiques et littéraires (1890–93) to which Dujardin and Mallarmé contributed; La Conque (1890–92), which published poetry and criticism by Maeterlinck, Mauclair, Morice, and André Gide; and La Revue blanche (1890–1903), a journal with a prestigious list of contributors including Claude Debussy, Denis,59 Dujardin, and Mallarmé. La Revue blanche promoted vanguard international trends and introduced Strindberg and the Russian writercritic Leo Tolstoy to the French public. Even the popular press provided a forum for the spread-

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ing of Symbolist ideas: L’Écho de Paris published an interview with Bernard at the end of 1891.60 Brussels also had a flourishing press. The leading vanguard Belgian journal was L’Art moderne, founded in 1881 by Maus and Picard. L’Art moderne endorsed labor and social reform and promoted progressive cultural trends as components of a healthy and harmonious society. By 1884, L’Art moderne was the official mouthpiece of Les XX, and two years later Verhaeren published in it a series of articles promoting the art of Khnopff. Huysmans was the journal’s Paris correspondent until 1886, when he was replaced by Fénéon, who published his landmark article “Le Néo-Impressionisme” in the May 1, 1887, issue. In the March 22, 1891, issue, Octave Mirbeau’s article on Gauguin (reprinted from the February 16 edition of L’Écho de Paris) appeared. La Jeune Belgique (1881–1889) whose contributors included Delville, Huysmans, Khnopff, Mæterlinck, Mallarmé, Maus, Péladan, Picard, Rodenbach, and Verhaeren, was also established in 1881. La Wallonie (1886–92), whose title indicates its francophone bias, was not politically engaged as was its main competitor, L’Art moderne, but featured some of the same contribu­ tors as the latter and La Jeune Belgique, including Rodenbach and Verhaeren. René Ghil and Fernand Khnopff ’s brother, Georges, also wrote for La Wallonie, whose contributors included distinguished foreign correspondents—a feature that boosted its status at home and internationally. Debussy (covering music), Fénéon (art), and Gide (literature) were the journal’s critics in Paris. In Switzerland, the Revue de Genève (published in both Geneva and Paris in 1885 and 1886) provided a forum for progressive Swiss artists and writers. In addition to publishing original pieces, the Revue de Genève reprinted articles from L’Art moderne, with which it shared a similar political outlook and appreciation for Schopenhauer and Wagner. The editorial board met on Tuesdays in Hodler’s studio.61 The Studio, based in London, started publication in 1893 and was the leading English-language journal reporting on new trends in international art, architecture, and design; many non-British artists subscribed to the journal. Among the artists featured in its early years were Aubrey Beardsley (vol. 1, 1893), Puvis de Chavannes (vol. 4, 1894), and Rodin (vol. 13, 1898). Fernand Khnopff was the Belgian correspondent. In Germany Pan (Berlin, 1895–1900) and Jugend: Illustrierte Wochenschrift für Kunst und Leben (Youth: Illustrated Weekly Magazine for Art and Life, Munich, 1896–1932) were the premier Symbolist periodicals. Both journals featured essays, reviews, and illustrations that acquainted their audience with contemporary trends in art at home and abroad. Strathmann regularly contributed illustrations to Pan beginning in 1896. The promise of youth was a frequent subject of Jugend’s covers (Plate 16). The cover of the May 29, 1897, issue shows a nude, erotically charged young man with one foot on the decapitated head of an elderly, full-jowled, and bespeckled man whose curly coiffure resembles the wigs often worn by jurists. As Eric Hobsbawm notes, “The words ‘youth’ and ‘modernity’ sometimes became almost interchangeable.”62 In Russia, art critic and ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev founded Mir iskusstva (World of Art, 1899–1904) to bring current international cultural trends to the literate Russian public.



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Diaghilev also organized Russia’s first major international art exhibition, held in St. Petersburg in 1899. That display included works by Böcklin, Degas, Gallen-Kallela, Monet, Moreau, Puvis de Chavannes, Renoir, and Whistler.63 Associations, exhibitions, and journals fulfilled the role formerly played by church and state patronage. Associations promoted member interests and functioned as crucial social networks at a time when artists often worked in isolation. They gathered for social and ideological reasons: groups formed around shared agendas pertaining to aesthetics, philosophy, or politics. In addition, associations organized exhibitions that marketed participants’ works. Although some shows were small and specialized, Symbolist exhibitions became increasingly international during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. As a result, artists, critics, and the general public became more familiar with developments abroad. Critics played a crucial role in contextualizing and promoting Symbolist works in the numerous journals that were published during this era. Journals were also a key conduit for the presentation of the Symbolist ideas of writers, philosophers, and musicians. Because of the partisan nature of many journals, artworks themselves could acquire ideological significance depending on where and by whom they were praised or condemned.

Symbolist Currents in the Twentieth Century



ymbolism is the wellspring from which much twentieth-century art emerged. The movement touched artists working within a broad spectrum of styles: Expressionism, Cubism, Futurism, abstraction, non-objective art, Dada, and Surrealism. Each of these movements represented a continuation of the “sweeping change” in art that, according to Sven Lövgren, began in the 1880s, when “artists began to show far greater theoretical consciousness than had their immediate forerunners.” The shift that Lövgren describes resulted in “new aesthetic and philosophical doctrines undermining the very foundations of traditional conceptions of reality”—doctrines whose premises were explored in a variety of ways by twentieth-century artists.1 Three main streams flowed from Symbolism: the expression of an idea, the resistance to narrative, and a faith in youth. Some of the early twentieth century’s most important artistic pioneers had roots in Symbolism: Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, František Kupka, Paul Klee, and Vassily Kandinsky. Significantly, none of them was French—Picasso was Spanish; Mondrian, Dutch; Kupka, Czech; Klee, Swiss; and Kandinsky, Russian. These artists’ geographic diversity is evidence of art’s rapid internationalization during the final decades of the nineteenth century. One giant of modernism missing from this list is the pioneering French artist Henri Matisse (1869–1954). Although not usually considered a Symbolist, Matisse produced works infused with feelings and ideas, as did optimistic Symbolist reformers like Signac.

symbolism as a starting point From the very beginning, Pablo Picasso (1881–1973) was attracted to vanguard trends; in 1899–1900 he frequented Barcelona’s Els Quatre Gats (The Four Cats), a café patronized by progressive artists and writers. Over the course of the subsequent four years, Picasso visited Paris frequently before settling there in 1904. An exhibition of his works at Ambrose Vollard’s gallery in 1902 was praised by Félicien Fagus in La Revue blanche. In his early works, Picasso 191


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experimented with ideas gleaned from contemporary artists—including Edvard Munch—but by 1903, in works from the so-called Blue Period, he had developed the first of his succession of signature styles. The ambiguity and artificiality of La Vie (Life, Fig. 78) reveals the influence of Symbolism on Picasso’s work at this time. While the static figures, sparse setting, and monochromatic palette of La Vie recall Puvis de Chavannes’s Poor Fisherman (Plate 4), the densely packed interior of Picasso’s painting suggests tension rather than tranquility. Picasso’s cool blue tonalities evoke the scene’s apprehensive tone, rather than complement a peaceful scene with religious overtones, as in Puvis’s painting.2 Picasso’s Blue Period followed the suicide of his friend Carlos Casagemas, a twenty-one-year-old painter, and the writings of pessimistic Symbolist essayists and poets like Charles Baudelaire and Paul Verlaine struck a responsive chord with Picasso. Like Auguste Rodin, Picasso considered longing, suffering, disappointment, and frustration essential elements of the human condition. Although x-radiographs, which reveal the underdrawing, indicate that the identity of the figures in La Vie evolved (the last drawing of the standing male is a self-portrait),3 the finished painting features Casagemas’s likeness and became a tribute to his deceased friend.4 Allusions to death and fear appear in the two paintings depicted on the back wall of what is presumably an artist’s studio: in the upper picture, a woman embraces her companion in a protective gesture, while the withdrawn posture of the bent figure below resembles the mummylike figure in the lower-left corner of Paul Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? (see Fig. 38). La Vie is open to many possible interpretations, despite the detailed information that we have about it.5 Although we know that the nude female leaning comfortably against the male figure is a portrait of Germaine Florentin (later Pichot), who had rejected the advances of the impotent Casagemas and whom he attempted to kill before shooting himself, the painting’s meaning remains obscure. Does it reflect Picasso’s ruminations on what might have been? To whom does the baby belong? No satisfactory explanation of this grouping has yet been suggested. The unresolved relationships among the figures, the unclear relevance of the title to the painting’s themes, and the artificially monochrome tonalities ally the work with Symbolism.6 Pioneer modernist Paul Klee (1879–1940) also had artistic roots in Symbolism. Klee’s detailed diary and extensive correspondence indicate that he had no interest in Symbolist literature but admired the works of Arnold Böcklin, Max Klinger, and Auguste Rodin.7 Klee studied at the Munich Academy with Franz von Stuck in 1900–1; read the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche and Oscar Wilde; and became acquainted with the art of William Blake and Francisco de Goya in 1904, James Ensor in 1906, and Vincent van Gogh in 1908. His interest in printmaking was motivated in part by the need to earn a living, but Jugend, the popular cultural journal at which he tried to get a job, was not interested in his services. Klee wanted to discover, rather than develop, a personal style. He did not experiment to a large extent with the styles and techniques of other artists; rather, he sought to understand how great artists were able to filter outside influence in order to evolve an individual style. Like Ensor, Gauguin, and Munch, Klee experimented with print techniques. His first period of experimentation took place during the period 1903–5, when he produced a series of etchings

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78 Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903, oil on canvas, 196.5 × 129.2 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of the Hanna Fund (1945.24). Art © 2009 Estate of Pablo Picasso/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

representing a comedian or actor (Komiker) (Fig. 79). Here, Klee adopted the mask motif, taking a caricature-like approach to his subject, as did Ensor. The actor is reduced to a head, presented in profile so as to show clearly the disparity in expression between the person and the mask. His pointed ear and expressionless face, however, give the figure a subhuman appearance, and the mask that he is removing (or putting on?)—with its inane grin, bulging eyes, and arabesque nose—does little to humanize him. Ensor, and later Picasso, in his Saltimbanques series of 1905,8 used entertainers to represent artists’ populist personas, in an ironic twist on the earlier tendency of Symbolist artists to assume the persona of Christ. Entertainers—clowns, comedians, and actors—were outsiders whose personal circumstances were ignored by audiences interested only in their public role. The disjunction between the actual and apparent character of the entertainer-comedian makes him a tragic figure whose



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79 Paul Klee, Comedian, 1904, etching, 15.5 × 17 cm. Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern. Art © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. .

pathos was perhaps best captured by Charlie Chaplin in his 1928 film The Circus. The representation of marginalized figures, relegated in earlier eras to a few, often itinerant occupations, became the rule rather than the exception in an urbanized world, where anonymity and alienation were the order of the day. The plight of the artist-entertainer was rapidly becoming that of ordinary people. At the turn of the nineteenth century, Theosophy influenced artists seeking to promote an awareness of the interconnectedness among the natural, human, and spiritual realms. For Theosophists, these three realms constituted three equally important aspects of the universe. Artist-Theosophists such as Mondrian, Kupka, Kandinsky, Delville, and Ranson considered themselves privileged because they understood universal truths, and sought to educate humanity by embodying these truths in their art. These truths seemed to be confirmed by scientific developments. The discovery of x-rays by Wilhelm Röntgen, for instance, proved the existence of unseen realms.9 If a mechanical device could produce invisible rays that penetrated matter, might not individuals be capable of similar feats? The Theosophist C. W. (Charles Webster) Leadbetter outlined such a possibility in Clairvoyance (1899) and Thought Forms (1901), coauthored by Besant.

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80 František Kupka, Piano Keys, Lake, 1909, oil on canvas, 79.1 × 72.1 cm. National Gallery in Prague. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo © 2009 National Gallery in Prague.

Mystical and esoteric ideas espoused by Theosophists appealed to Kupka, who supported himself as a medium while studying at Prague’s art academy. Following graduation in 1892, Kupka moved to Vienna and met Karl Diefenbach (see Chapter 4), leader of a Theosophical artists’ colony nearby. Kupka embraced Diefenbach’s teachings, which included vegetarianism and nudism: throughout his life, Kupka exercised daily—in all weather and seasons—nude, in his garden. Infusing his paintings with Theosophical ideas, Kupka moved toward abstraction. Piano Keys, Lake (Fig. 80), painted in 1909, shows the transition from pictures rooted in visual reality to purely conceptual/spiritual images. A piano keyboard and left hand appear in the



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lower right, but on the left the keyboard seems to have drifted off, its black and white keys dissolving occasionally into gray. Lighter than air, they float upward. Above the keyboard is a dark blue lake deep in a forest—a setting populated by colorful figures, some of which drift toward the far shore in a small boat. Kupka defines the scene with bold, expressive patches of color, which also begin to metamorphose into brightly colored stripes. One can easily envision the next step: a fully nonrepresentational surface occupied by a jigsaw of multicolored stripes. Kupka’s descriptive title does not address the meaning of this odd juxtaposition. Did the music generate a kaleidoscopic image in the artist-performer or the artist-listener-viewer? Should we be able to “hear” the music through the syncopated color? Was Kupka suggesting continuity between the realm of the senses, the realm of the imagination, and the realm of the spirit? Piano Keys, Lake evokes the monistic view that everything animate, inanimate, and spiritual is interconnected. Kupka read extensively throughout his life on the topics of biology, chemistry, color theory, mechanics, metaphysics, mythology, neurology, the occult, optics, philosophy, physics, and Theosophy in an effort to understand the secret workings of the universe. He regarded the artist’s mission as a spiritual exploration: “It is by sounding the microcosm of our own being that we will find ways to extend the means of unveiling the most subtle states of the human soul: by ‘we’ I mean the collective self.”10 Kupka was familiar with the theories of Herman von Helmholtz, whose Treatise on Physiological Optics (1867) matched colors to tones in the musical scale, with E corresponding to violet, C# to yellow, B to orange, and G to red. Helmholtz’s scientific authority appealed to Kupka, who sought to discover similar correspondences.11 Kupka concluded that the essence of life was movement and that innovation was an inevitable consequence of honesty: “the more works are accomplished conscientiously and honestly the more they will deviate from the rules, and the more heretical and authentic they will be.”12 Vassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) was also inspired by Theosophy and music and considered movement—in the form of vibrations—the essential feature of life. Trained as a lawyer, Kandinsky left his native Russia for Munich in 1896 to pursue a career as an artist. He was immediately attracted to Symbolism, and admired Hodler’s Night (see Fig. 8), which won a gold medal at the 1897 Munich Secession exhibition. In his manifesto On the Spiritual in Art (1911), Kandinsky praised his Symbolist precursors—Arnold Böcklin, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, Alfred Kubin, Maurice Mæterlinck, Edgar Allan Poe, Joséphin Péladan, Giovanni Segantini, Franz von Stuck, Richard Wagner, and Oscar Wilde—and recommended Theosophy as a vehicle for initiating the reforms necessary to deliver humanity from impending disaster. Theosophy, and particularly its German variant, “anthroposophy,” confirmed Kandinsky’s ideas about metaphysical matters and inspired him to pursue the creation of spiritual art.13 Kandinsky may have attended Rudolf Steiner’s lectures at the Munich School for Workers’ Education between 1899 and 1904. (Steiner was president of the German section of the Theosophical Society.) In any event, Kandinsky and his partner, Gabriele Münter, regularly read occult books and journals; by 1908 he had read Édouard Schuré’s The Great Initiates (translated into German and published the previous year by Marie von Sievers, Steiner’s second wife).14 Kandinsky also owned Leadbet-

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ter and Besant’s Thought Forms, translated and published in German in 1908, as well as Steiner’s 1908 Theosophy: An Introduction to the Supersensible Knowledge of the World and the Destination of Humanity. Kandinsky believed that forms and colors (as well as sounds) symbolized and spawned emotions and that emotions generated forms, colors, and sounds, a process known as synaesthesia.15 Kandinsky did not represent “banal” emotions such as love, sorrow, or jealousy—as did Munch and other Symbolists—but “spiritual” emotions that he hoped would guide the viewer toward the metaphysical realm. As a result, Kandinsky’s images cannot be considered Symbolist, despite their roots in Symbolist theory. Kandinsky considered the concrete character of artworks a regrettable necessity in an era of limited spiritual awareness; he envisioned a time when artworks could be communicated telepathically from the artist’s consciousness to the viewer’s.16 Kandinsky conceived of images as vehicles for ideas. In a 1904 letter to Münter, Kandinsky reflected: “It is strange that people see only the ‘decorative’ side of my drawings and take no notice of the content. But I do not want to stress it further. The content, what is inside, should be sensed only. I find too obvious a content unbeautiful, unsound, unsubtle.”17 To direct viewers’ attention to the ideas behind his imagery, Kandinsky moved away from verisimilitude without abandoning traces of recognizable objects. In Mountain (Fig. 81), for instance, a horse and rider and a standing figure appear in the lower half of the canvas, and a fortress at the top. Despite the work’s descriptive title, the apparently haphazard composition—with its rapid brushstrokes, rainbow of colors, and bleeding and jagged outlines—clearly points to a meaning beyond the experience of being surrounded by the mountains of southern Bavaria, where Mountain was painted. Through his extensive readings in mysticism and science—and by following his inner voice—Kandinsky sought to communicate directly with the higher, spiritual planes of his viewers’ souls, conveying truths that could only be intuited. Like the Symbolists, Kandinsky believed that artists possessed special insight and could create works that would lead to spiritual consciousness. In fact, Kandinsky felt that it was the artist’s social responsibility to cultivate this gift; in On the Spiritual in Art, he proclaimed: “The artist’s inner feeling is an evangelical talent and it is a sin to conceal it.”18 According to Kandinsky’s color theory, yellow is an earthly, aggressive color, blue is a calm and spiritual color, and green represents a balance. Red, on the other hand, represents emotion: forceful, yet easily subdued. His color theory sheds some light on the meaning of his paintings, but for Kandinsky, the limits of rational thought impeded a true understanding of his message. The early works of Piet Mondrian (1872–1944) generated a contemplative mood accentuated by their simplified form and color, which evoke the placid contours of the Dutch landscape. The titles of Mondrian’s paintings are descriptive (Large Dune Landscape; Church at Dornburg); they do not suggest deeper meanings. In Amsterdam, Mondrian saw the van Gogh retrospective in 1905 and an exhibition of Ferdinand Hodler’s paintings in 1907.19 These experiences, combined with a deepening interest in Theosophy and his move to the artists’ colony of Walcheren (led by Jan Toorop), inspired the academically trained Mondrian to use color in an expressive manner that emphasized the work’s artificiality.20



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81 Vassily Kandinsky, Mountain, 1909, oil on canvas, 109 × 109 cm. Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris.

Mondrian first evidenced interest in Theosophy around 1900, and may have been introduced to it by Annie Besant—a leading Theosophist then living in India—who lectured in the Netherlands in 1898; given his interest in spiritual matters, Mondrian may well have attended one of her talks. He did discuss Theosophy with his friend Albert van den Briel in 1900 and may have attended Rudolf Steiner’s 1908 lectures held in Amsterdam.21 Mondrian’s Calvinist faith would likely have predisposed him to a sympathetic curiosity about Theosophy, since Calvinism posited the presence of God in all creation, animate and inanimate. However, according to Calvinism, individuals (who are inherently depraved) have no control over their own salvation; rather, they are chosen by God. As a result, the faithful were encouraged to humbly accept the will of God. Theosophy mingled the Calvinist belief in an omnipresent divinity with a more

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optimistic message about the potential of all individuals to ascend to higher spiritual realms, based on altruistic behavior and spiritual enlightenment. Mondrian joined the Dutch Theosophist Society in 1909.22 The conviction that artists could access spiritual domains also motivated the sculptor Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957). Gauguin and other Symbolist artists would have envied Brancusi, a native of rural Romania who grew up in surroundings that suggested seamless continuity with the premodern past. Brancusi matured in an agricultural milieu permeated by peasant wisdom and unpretentious routine, and maintained this modest lifestyle even after settling in Paris in 1904.23 Although he worked in quasi-monastic solitude, Brancusi saw the Gauguin retrospective in 1906 and knew one of its organizers, Charles Morice; he also worked for Rodin for several months in 1907. Like the Symbolists, Brancusi believed that art should lead the viewer to higher truths: “It is only by the integral elimination of the self that one can discover and realize the deep principle of Truth that is changelessly present behind all phenomena. If one attains the annulment of self, one becomes sufficiently receptive to hear the heartbeats of Nature and be initiated into its mysteries.”24 The ideals of Christ-like humility and sacrifice guided Brancusi’s art and life. Like his Symbolist predecessors, he considered works of art expressive entities independent of the artist. He strove to embody fundamental truths in form as well as content, an aim fulfilled by The Kiss (Fig. 82). Illustrated is his third variation of this theme, the first that included complete figures (the earlier two versions show only heads and upper torsos).25 Here, Brancusi emphasized the reality of The Kiss as a block of stone transformed by human effort: he retained the original rectangular shape of the raw material from which the sculpture was carved and preserved his chisel marks. Brancusi distilled a kiss into its most essential form. Although the overall effect is of one unified figure, the two are actually clearly delineated, with gender differences subtly indicated: the female figure has longer hair, her breasts bulge, she is slightly shorter, and her feet are tucked inside those of her male partner. Brancusi combined candor in his choice and treatment of materials with a spiritual striving. Umberto Boccioni (1882–1916) expressed aspirations consistent with Symbolism in his introduction to the 1912 exhibition of Italian Futurist artists at the Bernheim-Jeune gallery in Paris: “You must render the invisible which stirs and lives beyond intervening obstacles. . . . We thus create a sort of emotive ambience, seeking by intuition the sympathies and the links which exist between the exterior (concrete) scene and the interior (abstract) emotion.”26 Boccioni’s text described the motivation for his 1911 series States of Mind, three paintings that evoke the feelings of people at a train station: The Farewells, Those Who Go, and Those Who Stay (Fig. 83). In a logical development of Symbolist principles, Boccioni used color and line to suggest emotional states. In Those Who Stay, “perpendicular lines indicate their depressed condition and their infinite sadness dragging everything down towards the earth. The mathematically spiritualized silhouettes render the distressing melancholy of the soul of those that are left behind.”27 Boccioni’s palette of predominantly blue-green tonalities conveys a mood of loneliness and


82 Constantin Brancusi, The Kiss, 1909, stone, 89.5 cm high. Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris. Photo: author.

83 Umberto Boccioni, States of Mind III: Those Who Stay, 1911, oil on canvas, 70.8 × 95.9 cm. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA/Art Resource, New York.

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disengagement. Cylindrical forms evoke individuals trudging from lower left to upper right through a vertical mesh of emotion, noise, and atmosphere that distances the viewer from a superficial visual experience to an awareness of something multidimensional and complex. Like the works of Kupka, Kandinsky, and Mondrian, Boccioni’s Futurism shows how Moréas’s goal of clothing “the Idea in a form perceptible to the senses” could lead to abstraction. But Moréas’s advice led in another direction as well: magical realms created by the human imagination. The Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico (1888–1978) originated “Metaphysical Painting” (Pittura Metafisica), the name of which suggests an association with Symbolism. In 1906, de Chirico—whose brother, Andrea, was a composer—began studies at the Munich Academy, where he became intrigued by the works of Böcklin, Klinger, and Wagner; he read Nietzsche and Schopenhauer when he resettled in Florence in 1910.28 Beginning in 1910, de Chirico titled his paintings “enigmas” in order to convey the mystery that infuses everyday life. In describing Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon (1910, private collection), de Chirico recounted an epiphany he had while sitting on a bench in the middle of Florence’s Piazza Santa Croce: “The whole world around me, including the marble of the buildings and fountains, seemed to me to be convalescing. . . . Then I had the strange impression that I was looking at these things for the first time, and the composition of the painting revealed itself to my mind’s eye. Now every time I look at this picture, I see that moment once again. Nevertheless the moment is an enigma for me, in that it is inexplicable. I like also to call the work derived from it an enigma.”29 Like Khnopff, Klinger, Munch, and other Symbolists, de Chirico was fascinated by strange and surprising intersections of memory, imagination, and events. He believed that such intersections represented aspects of reality whose significance was often inaccessible to rational thought. In 1911 de Chirico moved to Paris, where he attended the weekly salon held by poet Guillaume Apollinaire and frequented by Brancusi and Picasso. There, de Chirico painted Melancho­ lia (Fig. 84), whose title evokes Symbolist works by Munch (Plate 2) and Sérusier (see Fig. 9). However, unlike these artists, who depicted figures immersed in a state of melancholy, de Chirico presented not only a figure but also a compositional equivalent to that mood. Whereas Symbolist painters often focused on interiors, de Chirico turned to the yawning squares of modern cities, whose eerie emptiness contrasts with the experience of congested urban spaces. Here, two figures walk through vacant city streets in the dramatic light and long shadows of a late afternoon. De Chirico exaggerated perspective and restricted his palette to generate a disquieting mood: the illuminated classical sculpture seems more animated than the tiny approaching figures.30 Although painted in Paris, the stark, arcaded architecture is unmistakably Italian. This tension reinforces a mood—melancholy—induced by the collision of memories of Italy with the reality of life in one of Europe’s liveliest capitals. Melancholia was the first of de Chirico’s “Ariadne” paintings, works inspired by the Greek myth about the Minoan princess whose ingenuity helped Theseus escape from her father’s labyrinth. Having disobeyed her father, Ariadne fled with Theseus, who then abandoned her on the island of Naxos. The theme of abandonment exuded pathos typical of Symbolist works such as Rodin’s Gates of Hell (see Fig. 11);



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84 Giorgio de Chirico, Melancholia, 1912, oil on canvas, 78.8 × 63.5 cm. Estorick Collection, London. Art © 2009 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/SIAE, Rome. Photo: The Bridgeman Art Library.

de Chirico may have been inspired by Nietzsche’s discussion of Ariadne in The Birth of Tragedy, in which she personifies an enigma, torn between Apollonian and Dionysian forces.31 Indeed, de Chirico relied on what he referred to as “the Nietzschean method” in his 1912 essay “Meditations of a Painter.”32 One year later, in “Mystery and Creation,” de Chirico declared: “To become truly immortal a work of art must escape all human limits: logic and common sense will only interfere. But once these barriers are broken it will enter the regions of childhood vision and dream,”33 a position consistent with Symbolist theory. Odilon Redon defined his mission as “making the most implausible beings live human lives according to the laws of the plausible, placing the logic of the visible, insofar as possible, at the service of the invisible,”34 an objective Symbolism shared with Surrealist art. Like Symbolism,

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Surrealism began as a literary movement and encompassed a wide variety of styles and subjects, all of which reflected a desire to erase the barrier between the conscious and unconscious realms. Significantly, Surrealism arose in Paris during the 1920s, when Sigmund Freud’s works were being translated into French.35 Freud’s theories on the importance of dreams and the manner in which hidden truths underlie behavior and appearances were widely known and discussed.36 The explorations of Surrealists were, like those of their Symbolist predecessors, stimulated by a desire to understand themselves and their place in the modern world. The French poet André Breton defined the new movement in his December 1924 “Manifesto of Surrealism,” published in the newly established journal La Révolution surréaliste: “Psychic automatism in its pure state, by which one proposes to express . . . the actual functioning of thought. Dictated by the thought, in the absence of any control exercised by reason, exempt from any aesthetic or moral concern.”37 Breton proposed Surrealism as a means of reforming society: “Can’t the dream also be used in solving the fundamental questions of life?”38 For Breton and many of his generation, the fruit of rationality was the cataclysm of World War I; thus, irrationality was an avenue whose beneficial possibilities were worth pursuing. As was the case with Symbolism, fear, dreams, mystery, and suggestion were common themes in Surrealist painting. Artists working within both movements frequently explored the theme of “women,” but the Surrealist view of women was more misogynistic than its Symbolist counterpart: the angels and temptresses of Symbolism became the sex objects and violated victims of Surrealism. The Surrealists’ cynical attitude likely reflected the trauma of the recent war—experienced either firsthand or by exposure to horrific scenes of carnage in newspapers and films. Nonetheless, there were numerous female Surrealists. Their acceptance in Surrealist circles reflected the belief that women had closer access to unconscious realms than did men, a quality that some attributed to their intellectual limitations. British-Mexican painter and novelist Leonora Carrington (b. 1917) relied on childhood memories and dreams in her Self-Portrait (Fig. 85), painted during a period when she was living with fellow Surrealist Max Ernst. Carrington’s lonely childhood, spent under the care of an Irish nanny in a drafty English manor, is echoed in the austere, inhospitable room in which the artist sits, alone with figments of her imagination and memory. The tailless rocking horse levitates, and its warm-blooded cousin flees the sterile environment through the garden outside. A nursing hyena magically materializes from a vaporous cloud and tentatively approaches Carrington, who awkwardly reaches toward it while regarding the viewer. Whitney Chadwick has documented the significance of these creatures for Carrington: the rocking horse was a childhood toy, and the horse and hyena have magical powers explained in Carrington’s stories “The Debutante” (c. 1940) and “The House of Fear” (1937). The fleeing horse represents a spiritual guide, while the hyena is paradoxically savage, deceitful, and kindhearted, its mood shifting suddenly with changing conditions.39 Memory and the unconscious were parallel and ever-present realities whose importance, Surrealists felt, needed acknowledgment. To live in denial was tantamount to affirming the false consciousness encouraged by corrupt institutions of power.



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85 Leonora Carrington, Self-Portrait, c. 1938, oil on canvas, 65 × 81.2 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002 (2002.456.1). Art © 2009 Leonora Carrington/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image © The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

resistance to narrative De Chirico’s approach to representing enigma—entities unknowable or contradictory—grew in part from a Symbolist resistance to narrative coherence. Like the Symbolists, de Chirico populated his canvases with identifiable objects that created an intellectual dissonance—encouraging the viewer to reflect on the artist’s purpose, the work’s meaning, and life’s mysteries. Although probably unknown to de Chirico, the Danish painter Wilhelm Hammershøi was among the Symbolist artists most resistant to narrative coherence. Hammershøi never explained his paintings in letters or conversations and never wrote a manifesto. Attempts to discover Hammershøi’s thoughts about art and life are met with a stony and intentional silence.40 Despite this lack of documentation, scholars have constructed meanings for Hammershøi’s paintings that range from urban alienation to formalist studies of light and geometry.41 Had he wanted to communicate ideas, Hammershøi surely would have provided clues—visual or written. His refusal to do so distinguishes Hammershøi from most of his Symbolist col-

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86 Wilhelm Hammershøi, Landscape from Virum near Friedriksdal, Summer, 1888, oil on canvas, 26 × 45 cm. Collection of Ambassador John L. Loeb, Jr.­

leagues. Like Khnopff, Hammershøi painted moody cityscapes but they were not memories; he used photographs as the basis for his images, as had Realist artists before him. He lived an apparently contented life, had a small circle of close friends, traveled occasionally, and exhibited extensively. Hammershøi spent time in Paris in 1889 and 1891–92 and was familiar with the history of art—a fact that has led scholars to draw analogies between his works and those they resemble: his interiors, for example, are often compared with those of the German Romantic painter Caspar David Friedrich and the Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer (1632–1675). Hammershøi’s interiors, recording his sparsely furnished Copenhagen apartment at Strandgade 30, are infused with a poetic tranquility that contrasts with the bustling street life below, but we have no evidence to indicate that Hammershøi animated objects with intimations of a secret life. Hammershøi also painted landscapes, such as Landscape from Virum near Frederiksdal (Fig. 86). The work’s thinly painted features merge with the coarsely textured canvas, creating an impression of two-dimensionality reinforced by unfocused contours that obstruct the viewer’s imaginary entry into the scene. Hammershøi opens the door to let you in, then gently but firmly closes it in your face just as you are about to step over the threshold. Hammershøi’s refusal to narrate, express, or describe was subversive (like Symbolism) but undermined Symbolism’s basic premise: the suggestion of ideas. He did not direct the viewer toward a metaphysical realm, nor did he anchor the viewer in the everyday world. Hammershøi also avoided typical Symbolist devices: nonnatural colors, unrecognizable forms, decorative lines, incoherent space, illogical scale, irrational juxtaposition. While Hammershøi’s titles describe the scenes represented, his thinly painted surfaces and reticent spaces provoke an urge



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to decode them. While the ambiguity of Hammershøi’s images allows for a wide range of interpretations, nothing in the artist’s biography provides guidance—or even justification—for such an enterprise. Resistance to narrative and insistence on the “thingness” of an artwork reached its pinnacle in the Suprematism of the Russian artist Kazimir Malevich (1878–1935). In Black Quadrilat­ eral (1915, Tretiakov Gallery, Moscow)—a 116-centimeter-square piece of canvas mounted on a stretcher, painted black, and hung on a wall with its edges parallel to floor and ceiling— ­narrative content disappears and two-dimensionality predominates. Malevich reduced painting to its absolute essence in order to direct the viewer’s consciousness to the idea of “painting.” For Malevich, Black Quadrilateral was “the embryo of all potentials . . . the father of the cube and the sphere.” 42 While Hammershøi and Malevich shared a resistance to narrative, we know what Malevich intended because he recorded his ideas in letters and essays. Like Kandinsky and others, Malevich believed that artists could intuit universal truths. Artists, Malevich argued, should use their insight to liberate humanity from false desires and negative impulses, and for a period of five years (1913–18), he maintained that nonobjective art was the most effective means to achieve that end.43 Black Quadrilateral referred to a universe beyond the limitations of human perception and understanding.

rebirth, revolution, and youth The view that young people—uncontaminated by adult dogmatism, egoism, and materialism— were the hope of the future inspired many twentieth-century cultural movements, particularly in Germany, where the Wandervogel (Wandering Bird) movement organized young boys into clubs intended to reestablish interdependence with nature. Founded by Ludwig Gurlitt, the Wandervogel nurtured appreciation for the natural environment and an altruistic spirit of cooperation. German Expressionist artists envisioned themselves as just such a group. Die Brücke (The Bridge) was formed in 1905 by a group of young artists working in Dresden who were united by a rejection of academic values, enthusiasm for experimentation and nonWestern art, and a commitment to expressing their individuality.44 Symbolism influenced the ways in which Die Brücke artists thought about their work: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938) referred to his drawings as “hieroglyphs” inspired by nature but transformed by imagination.45 Of central importance to Die Brücke was minimizing the boundaries between art and life and between nature and the individual, as well as developing a cooperative lifestyle. Die Brücke organized exhibitions regularly until its dissolution in 1913. Related to a faith in youth was a belief in revolution as the means to freedom and spirituality. For some, the revolution would be one of consciousness; for others, “revolution” entailed the physical destruction of decadent Western society. In his “Futurist Manifesto” (1909), Filippo Tommaso Marinetti (1876–1944) declared: “We will glorify war—the world’s only hygiene— militarism, patriotism. . . . We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind.”46

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In five years, Marinetti’s wish was granted—and although he survived the First World War, his Futurist colleague Boccioni did not. Herman Scheffauer echoed Marinetti’s sentiment in The New Vision in the German Arts (1924): “For we must not forget that the New, whenever, wherever or by whomever discovered or revealed, always comes clad with that strange and at first alienating power which invests all things and thoughts that grow out of the Existing, yet challenge or supersede it by virtue of the life and the fertility they bear within.”47 Kandinsky explained his more benign view in On the Spiritual in Art. After noting the crippling effect of modern life on the spirit and emotions, he described the ability of art to restore them to health: “art is . . . a power which must be directed to the improvement and refinement of the human soul.”48 He envisioned an “epoch of great spiritual leaders,” who would guide humanity toward enlightenment. Breton and the Surrealists hoped for a revolution of con­ sciousness that would no longer view the world in terms of binary oppositions—a realization of William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Surrealists adopted a more cynical position than Kandinsky. They considered productive and destructive forces—the Apollonian and Dionysian—necessary. They publicized their ideas in their journal La Révolution surréaliste, whose title expressed their antiestablishment outlook. Symbolist ideas and practices shaped twentieth-century art and culture in significant ways. Some of the century’s most influential pioneers—Brancusi, Kandinsky, Mondrian, and Picasso, for instance—absorbed Symbolist ideas as students and transformed them in innovative ways. The fundamental Symbolist notions that art should represent an idea and resist narration have informed much twentieth-century art. Symbolism’s emphasis on authenticity and individualism, new concepts in their day, are now taken for granted. The high regard in which modern society holds youth and novelty are legacies of Symbolism, as are the convictions that viewing art is a participatory experience and that new materials and techniques are required to express new ideas. While Symbolist art may look old-fashioned by today’s standards, its premises contain seeds of innovation that continue to bear fruit.



Shortened citations are used for works listed in the Select Bibliography. Whenever possible, published reprints and translations of original texts are cited in order to facilitate the reader’s access to the sources.

introduction: what is symbolist art? 1.  “Lost Paradise” was organized by the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1995; “Kingdom of the Soul” was shown at the Schirn Kunsthalle Frankfurt, the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, and Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde in Stockholm in 2000. 2.  Jullian, “The Esthetics of Symbolism in French and Belgian Art,” in Balakian, ed., The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages, 529. He added: “Symbolism is a network of allegorical representation that is either personal or shared by a very small number of minds.” When he wrote this article in 1982, Jullian was reacting against the dominance of formalism. 3.  Hofstätter, “Symbolism in Germany and Europe,” in Erhardt and Reynolds, eds., Kingdom of the Soul, 17. 4.  In Symbolist Art (51), Edward Lucie-Smith notes that despite recent interest in Symbolist art, scholars have tended to misunderstand its development. The new approach to the plastic arts that emerged in the second half of the nineteenth century is often associated with the Symbolist movement, which was essentially a literary phenomenon. The literary Symbolists, when they achieved an independent identity by bringing together preexisting ideas, looked about for artists who seemed to echo and to justify their own program in another field of creative activity. Hungarian art historian Lajos Németh correctly asserted that “it would be a mistake to define Symbolist painting in terms of Symbolist literature,” although he too proposed classifying it according to subject matter (“Contribution to a Typology of Symbolist Painting,” in Balakian, ed., Symbolist Movement in Literature, 438). 5.  Heller (“The Art Work as Symbol”) cites Robert Goldwater and Margaretha Rossholm as the other scholars who, at the time (1984), distinguished Symbolism by style. 6.  Rapetti, Symbolism, 145–46. For the connection between Symbolism and abstract art, see also Cheetham, The Rhetoric of Purity; Reynolds, Symbolist Aesthetics and Early Abstract Art; and Weisberger, ed., The Spiritual in Art. 7.  For a discussion of Meier-Graefe’s championing of Impressionism, see Patricia G. Berman, “The Invention of History: Julius Meier-Graefe, German Modernism, and the Genealogy of Genius,” in Foster-Hahn, Imagining Modern German Culture, 91–105. See also Robert Jensen’s chapter “Der Fall Meier-Graefe” in his Marketing Modernism in Fin-de-Siècle Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996).



notes to pages 2–10

8.  See Alice Goldfarb Marquis, Art Czar: The Rise and Fall of Clement Greenberg (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 2006). 9.  Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Art, 18. 10.  Rapetti, Symbolism, 53. 11.  Although some artists are commonly referred to as Symbolists (indeed, some were committed to creating Symbolist works throughout their careers), it is more appropriate to write about Symbolist works, since many artists went through a Symbolist phase or produced one or more works that conformed to Symbolist criteria but generally pursued other styles and approaches. 12.  For a discussion of this anthropological concept, see Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures (New York: Basic Books, 1973), 3–31. 13.  For a history of art academies, see Niklaus Pevsner, Academies of Art, Past and Present (New York: Da Capo Press, 1973). For a more specific discussion of the nineteenth century, see Rafael Cordozo Denis and Colin Trodd, eds., Art and the Academy in the Nineteenth Century (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2000), and for France in particular, see Albert Boime, The Academy and French Painting in the Nineteenth Century (London: Phaidon, 1971). 14.  As Patricia Mathews notes (Aurier’s Symbolist Art Criticism and Theory, 2), “the one factor that must now be put into perspective in the attempt to define a general Symbolist aesthetic is its diversity.” 15.  The lectures of Saussure (1857–1913) in Paris (1880–91) and Zurich (1891–1913) expressed ideas consonant with Symbolism, but his principles of structural linguistics became widely known only after the posthumous publication of his Cours de linguistique générale, ed. Charles Bally and Albert Séchehaye (Paris and Lausanne: Payot, 1916). 16.  In literature, this rejection of formulas was manifested in free verse, which first emerged in the poetry of Gustave Kahn (1859–1936). Cornell, The Symbolist Movement, 113. 17.  Miklós Szabolcsi, “On the Spread of Symbolism,” in Balakian, ed., The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages, 184.

chapter 1: beginnings 1.  Jean Moréas, “Le Symbolisme,” Le Figaro, September 18, 1886, 150; see Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 151–52. Jean Moréas was the pen name of Ioannes Papadiamantopoulos, a native of the Greek Peloponnese, also known as Morea. Literary scholars often consider the deaths of poets Paul Verlaine (1896) and Stéphane Mallarmé (1898) as marking the end of the Symbolist era. 2.  Michaud’s Message poètique du Symbolisme (713–809) presents excerpts of some of the most important Symbolist writings. 3.  Excerpted in ibid., 764. 4.  Moréas, “Le Symbolisme,” in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 151. James Kearns sorts out the complexities of contemporary cultural criticism and the states associated with various ideological positions in his chapter “The Literature and Music of Painting in Symbolist Art Criticism,” in his Symbolist Landscapes, 53–86. 5.  Moréas, “Le Symbolisme,” in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 152. 6.  Ibid. François Villon (1431–after 1463) was an outlaw and poet renowned for his heartfelt ballads. François Rabelais (c. 1494–1553) was a monk, physician, and writer best remembered for his ribald novels recounting the adventures of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Rutebeuf (c. 1245–1285) was a satirical playwright and social critic. 7.  The censuses of 1861 and 1872 found that only about a third of Parisians had been born in Paris, and the percentage declined over the course of the century. Jeanne Gaillard, Paris, la ville, 1852–1870: L’Urbanisme parisien à l’heure d’Haussmann (Paris: Éditions Champion, 1977), 195, 101–11. See also David H. Pickney, Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of France (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1958), esp. chapter 7: “The City Grows,” 151–73. 8.  See Michel Carmona, Haussmann: His Life and Times, and the Making of Modern Paris, trans. Pat-

notes to pages 11–16

rick Camiller (Chicago: I. R. Dee, 2002); and David Jordan, Transforming Paris: The Life and Labors of Baron Haussmann (New York: Free Press, 1995). 9.  Ferdinand Tönnies is considered the father of German sociology. See Arthur Mitzman, “Tonnies and German Society, 1887–1914: From Cultural Pessimism to Celebration of the Volkgemeinschaft,” Journal of the History of Ideas, October 1971, 507–24. 10.  For a discussion of the relationship between Symbolism and politics, see Herbert, The Artist and Social Reform; and chapter 3, “Anarchy,” in West, Fin de Siècle, 33–49. 11.  See William D. Irvine, The Boulanger Affair Reconsidered: Royalism, Boulangism, and the Origins of the Radical Right in France (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988); and Martin P. Johnson, The Dreyfus Affair: Honour and Politics in the Belle Époque (Houndmills: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999). 12.  René Ghil, “Notre École,” La Décadence, October 1, 1886, excerpted in Michaud, Message poétique du Symbolisme, 774. 13.  Michaud, Message poétique du Symbolisme, 744. 14.  Arnold Böcklin painted a similar image, Veritas (1881, Neue Pinakothek, Munich), that Klimt may have known. It represents a woman holding a sword in one hand and drawing back a long veil with the other to display her nude body. The word “veritas” (Latin for “truth”) is inscribed beside her. 15.  Schiller, Xenien und Votivtafeln, “Wahl.” I am indebted to Jürgen Jüpner for help with this translation. Klimt could as well have quoted William Shakespeare: “To thine own self be true, and it must follow as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” Hamlet I:3. 16.  Heller, “Artwork as Symbol,” 13. 17.  According to Philippe Jullian, Eve “represented the happiness of the senses before the idea of sin.” “The Esthetics of Symbolism in French and Belgian Art,” quoted in Balakian, The Symbolist Movement in the Literature of European Languages, 540. 18.  See Lisa Ann Norris, “The Early Writings of Camille Mauclair: Toward an Understanding of Wagnerism and French Art 1885–1900,” in Morton and Schmunk, eds., The Arts Entwined. 19.  Schopenhauer, “The Metaphysics of Music,” in The World as Will and Representation, 3:232. 20.  Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890) praised Delacroix’s “orchestration of colors” in a letter to his brother, Theo. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 2:535. 21.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 62. 22.  See chapter 5, “Speed,” in Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 109–30. 23.  Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 69, 115, 214. See also Ithiel de Sola Pool, The Social Impact of the Telephone (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1977). 24.  Redon referred to the Impressionists as “parasites of the object.” Chassé, Le Mouvement symboliste dans l’art du XIXe siècle, 49. 25.  The color theories of Isaac Newton (“New Theory About Light and Colours,” 1675 letter to the Royal Society of London), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (Theory of Colors, 1810), Hermann von Helmholtz (Handbook of Physiological Optics, 1856), Ogden Rood (Modern Chromatics, 1879), and Charles Blanc (The Grammar of the Arts of Design, 1867) were familiar to most artists in the second half of the nineteenth century. 26.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 151. 27.  Ibid., 62. 28.  Cogniat and Gauguin, Paul Gauguin, 1848–1903; see also ibid., 16 and 62. In a March 1899 letter to André Fontainas, Gauguin wrote, “Here, near my hut, in total silence, I dream of violent harmonies amid the natural perfumes that intoxicate me.” Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 209. 29.  Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 215. 30.  The first kind of dream—which relates to the life of the dreamer—can also be fantastic and even destructive, as evidenced by Nikolai Gogol’s 1835 short story “Nevsky Prospect,” in which the ­protagonists— Pishkarev the artist and Pirogov the military officer—transform the world (symbolized by the fashionable shopping street Nevsky Prospect) into an imaginative space in which the disparity between their visions



notes to pages 16–22

and reality lures them both into self-destructive behavior. Ironically, Gogol himself, seduced by the rantings of the religious fanatic Father Konstantinovskii, burned his final writings before starving himself to death. See Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air, 195–206. Dreams play a central role in the poetry of Baudelaire; see, for example “Rêve parisien,” in his Fleurs du mal. 31.  Redon declared: “My drawings inspire and do not define themselves. They define nothing. They place us, in a manner similar to music, in the ambiguous world of indeterminacy” À Soi-même, 26–27 (author’s translation). For a discussion of dream research in the late nineteenth century and its impact on Redon, see Larson, “The Unconscious Mind and the Dream,” chap. 6 of her Dark Side of Nature, 133–56. 32.  The anthropomorphic character of Redon’s spider recalls the story of Arachne from Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Franz Kafka’s 1915 variation on this myth in The Metamorphosis. 33.  Quoted in Larson, The Dark Side of Nature, 143 (emphasis in original). 34.  Other important early studies include Ludwig Strümpell, The Nature and Origin of Dreams (1874); Johannes Volkelt, The Dream Imagination (1875); Alfred Maury, Sleep and Dreams (1878); and W. Robert, The Dream Explained as a Necessity of Nature (1886). The most thorough history of dream research is Stefan Goldman’s Via regia zum Unbewuβten: Freud und die Traumforschung im 19. Jahrhundert (Gieβen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2003). In English, Henri F. Ellenberger’s History of the Unconscious (New York: Basic Books, 1981) is a good source for the history of dream studies. 35.  See Radestock, Schlaf und Traum, chap. 1: “Die Wichtigkeit des Schlafes; die Bedeutung des Traumes und der ihm verwandten Zustände in individueller und Völker-Psychologie sowie in der politischen Geschichte” (The Importance of Sleep; the Meaning of Dreams and the Related Condition in Individuals and Folk Psychology as well as in Political History), 1–36. Radestock also discusses the influence of Swedenborg on dream theory. Ibid., 10. 36.  Gobineau’s conclusion was affirmed by Cesare Lombroso in his chapter on the influence of race and heredity on genius and insanity in L’uomo di genio (The Man of Genius), first translated into French (as L’Homme de géni) in 1889. 37.  The ancient sources of these ideas are discussed in the chapter “The Noble Savage in Antiquity,” in Lovejoy and Boas, Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity, 287–367. 38.  Séances were a common means of attempting to contact the realm of the dead, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. See John Monroe, “Making the Séance ‘Serious’: ‘Tables Tournantes’ and Second Empire Bourgeois Culture, 1853–1861,” History of Religions, February 1999, 219–46. The popularization of occultist practices in England is discussed by Roger Luckhurst in his article “W. T. Stead’s Occult Economies,” in Henson, Culture and Science in the Nineteenth-Century Media, 125–35. 39.  The extent of Gauguin’s command of the Tahitian language, in which he sometimes titled his paintings, has been the subject of debate. Bengt Danielsson claimed that Gauguin’s knowledge of Tahitian was cursory (“Gauguin’s Tahitian Titles,” Burlington Magazine, April 1967, 228–33), a judgment that has only recently been disputed. See Elizabeth Childs, “Gauguin’s Dialects,” in Berman and Utley, A Fine Regard. 40.  Gauguin, Noa Noa, 33. Noa Noa first appeared in the Symbolist journal La Revue blanche in October 1897, three years after Spirit of the Dead Watching was first exhibited in Paris at the DurandRuel Gallery. 41.  Eisenman, Gauguin’s Skirt, 121. 42.  “However strangely the dream may employ it, it can never actually get free from the real world.” Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams, 12. 43.  Alexander Dückers discusses Night in “Der Symbolismus Ferdinand Hodlers,” in Ferdinand Hodler (Nationalgalerie Berlin), 239–41. 44.  See Alain Corbin’s chapter “Intimate Relations” in Perrot, A History of Private Life, 549–613. When Henrich Fuseli (1741–1825) painted The Nightmare (1781, Detroit Institute of Arts), dreams were considered incidents of madness. In reifying a woman’s disturbingly erotic dream, Fuseli explored the dark

notes to pages 22–30

corners of the imagination. Here, a demonic horse—generally interpreted as a symbol of masculine potency and violence—observes an unusual scene in which a sinister incubus crouches on the woman’s abdomen (in a posture reminiscent of Hodler’s Night). 45.  In his medical treatise, Avicenna (980–1037 c.e.) described the physical consequences of the “horse-ride” position in sexual intercourse. With the woman on top, her ejaculatory fluids could enter the penis, thereby effeminizing her male partner. See Clive Hart and Kay Gilliland Stevenson, Heaven and the Flesh: Imagery of Desire from the Renaissance to the Rococo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 32. I am indebted to Guy Tal for this reference. 46.  Sharon Hirsh brought to my attention the fact that Hodler’s painting depicts both Augustine Dupin (a seamstress with whom he had a relationship from 1884 until at least 1887 and with whom he remained close friends until her death in 1909) and his wife, Berta Stucki, whom Hodler married in 1881 and divorced in 1891. 47.  Noted in Hirsh, Hodler’s Symbolist Themes, 30. Péladan included Night in the inaugural exhibition of the Salon Rose + Croix held in Paris in 1892. 48.  Night was subsequently shown at the Venice Biennale in 1899 and at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1900. The following year Night was purchased by the Bern Kunstmuseum, indicating that its status as a subversive painting had changed, at least in Switzerland’s capital. 49.  Quoted in Cogeval, “The Heavens Cannot Wait: Maurice Denis and the Symbolist Culture,” in Maurice Denis, 1870–1943 (exh. cat., Liverpool, Walker Art Gallery, 1994), 21. 50.  Jeffrey Howe discusses the theme of melancholy in Munch’s paintings in “Nocturnes: The Music of Melancholy, and the Mysteries of Love and Death,” in his Edvard Munch, 48–74. 51.  Patricia G. Berman discusses this subject in “Edvard Munch’s Modern Life of the Soul,” in McShine, Edvard Munch, 38. 52.  Heller, “The Art Work as Symbol,” 158–59. 53.  Tøjner, Munch in His Own Words, 94. 54.  See Prelinger and Parke-Taylor, The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch, 192–95. 55.  I am indebted to Jane Glaubinger for this information. 56.  By 1676, The Anatomy of Melancholy had gone through eight editions. Its significance as a source is attested by the fact that Project Gutenberg has made the entire text available on the Internet. 57.  See Klibansky, Panofsky, and Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy, as well as Stanley W. Jackson, Melancholia and Depression: From Hippocratic Times to Modern Times (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986), 78–103; Laurinda S. Dixon, Perilous Chastity: Women and Illness in Pre-Enlightenment Art and Medicine (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 197–207; and Juliana Schiesari, The Gendering of Melancholia: Feminism, Psychoanalysis, and the Symbolics of Loss in Renaissance Literature (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992). 58.  See Elsen, The Gates of Hell. The theme of eternal damnation also attracted Symbolist poets; Arthur Rimbaud’s collection A Season in Hell appeared in 1874. 59.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 202. From Aurier, “Symbolism in Painting: Paul Gauguin,” Mercure de France, March 1891, 155–64. 60.  Artist and social critic Hippolyte Taine, whose English Idealism: A Study of Carlyle (1864) was widely read by artists, announced: “Our inferno is no longer, as it was in the days of Cromwell, ‘the terror being found guilty before the Great Judge’ [has been replaced by] . . . the fear of making bad business deals or lacking modern conveniences” Ibid., 174 (author’s translation). Taine’s appeal for Symbolists lay partly in a shared contempt for modern materialism. 61.  Henri Triqueti (1804–1874) used this format of discrete panels in his monumental bronze doors to the Madeleine church in Paris (1834–41), a work that Rodin certainly knew and with which he may have consciously been competing. 62.  See Elsen, Rodin’s Thinker. 63.  Gsell, Rodin on Art, 74.



notes to pages 30–35

64.  Michaud, Message poétique du Symbolisme, 742. 65.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 201. Aurier was clearly influenced by Schopenhauer, who asserted: “The comprehended Idea . . . is the true and only source of every work of art. In its powerful originality, it is only derived from life itself, from nature, from the world, and that only by the true genius, or by him whose momentary inspiration reaches the point of genius.” Arthur Schopenhauer, “The Platonic Idea: The Object of Art,” in The World as Will and Representation, 1:304. 66.  See James Clifford, “Histories of the Tribal and the Modern,” in Kymberly Pinder, ed., Race-ing Art History: Critical Readings in Race and Art History (New York: Routledge, 2002), 217–32. 67.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 200. 68.  Lombroso, The Man of Genius, vii. Baudelaire, E. T. A. Hoffmann, Edgar Allen Poe, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Arthur Schopenhauer, Robert Schumann, and Jonathan Swift are among the “insane geniuses” that Lombroso discusses. Lombroso took a particular interest in deviance. He published several studies on genius, including Genius and Insanity (1864) and Genius and Degeneration (1897). 69.  Lombroso, The Man of Genius, vi. The current of anti-Semitism in Symbolist thought is discussed further in chapter 3. 70.  Poe, Nouvelles histories extraordinaires, xvi (author’s translation; emphasis in original). Schopenhauer earlier expressed a similar idea: “The genius, then, always participates to some degree in the characteristics of the saint.” “Genius and Virtue,” in Essays from the Parega and Paralipomena, 78. 71.  Péladan, L’Art idéaliste et mystique, 17. Similarly, the French painter Alphonse Osbert (1857–1939) wrote in April 1899: “I regard art as a religion of beauty and the conjurer of the elevated and serene thoughts open to mankind’s intelligence faced with the splendors of nature. [T]he painter must not give a servile translation of nature [but must] free his work of that which is unnecessary and debilitating to the initial emotion. Art only lives by harmonies. It must be the conjurer of the mystery, a solitary response in life, like prayer in silence.” Letter to Félicien Fagus, quoted in Pincus-Witten, Occult Symbolism in France, 110. 72.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 202. 73.  Ibid., 56. 74.  See Larson, The Dark Side of Nature, 158–61, for a discussion of the relationship between Grandville and Redon. 75.  Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 136. 76.  Larson (The Dark Side of Nature, 82) suggests that the scene represents the attack of the Amazons. 77.  Pavlov first presented his findings in 1903 at the Fourteenth International Medical Congress in Madrid in a paper titled “Experimental Psychology and Psychopathology in Animals.” Reprinted in Essential Works of Pavlov, ed. Michael Kaplan (New York: Bantam, 1966), 60–75. 78.  Victor Merlhès, ed. Correspondance de Paul Gauguin (Paris: Fondation Singer-Polignac, 1984), no. 159. 79.  Reprinted from the original Revue des revues (Paris) article in Hedström, Strindberg, 182. For Strindberg and the creative process, see Harry G. Carlson, Out of Inferno: Strindberg’s Reawakening as an Artist (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1996). 80.  These ideas were articulated by Pierre-Joseph Proudhon in his 1840 essay “What Is Property?” (1840) and elaborated by Petr Kropotkin in his 1892 book, The Conquest of Bread (1892), both of whom influenced progressive political thought in the late nineteenth century. 81.  Émile Bernard described Vincent van Gogh in similar terms in a January 1889 letter to Albert Aurier: “Moved by the most profound mysticism . . . my dear friend has come to believe himself a Christ, a God. His life of suffering and of martyrdom seems to me such as to make of this astonishing intellect a being of the beyond.” Quoted in Rewald, Post-Impressionism, 367. This is confirmed by van Gogh’s 1885 painting The Bible (Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam), where he paints a Bible open to Isaiah chapters 52 and 53, with the clearly legible verse: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” Noted in Lövgren, The Genesis of Modernism, 131.

notes to pages 35–43

82.  See Wladyslawa Jaworska, “‘Christ in the Garden of Olive-Trees,’ by Gauguin. The Sacred or the Profane?” Artibus et Historiae, 1998, 77–102. 83.  Quoted in Brettel, The Art of Paul Gauguin, 162. 84.  Cited in ibid., 161. 85.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 200–201. 86.  Pierrot, The Decadent Imagination, 23.

chapter 2: precursors 1.  The population of Europe doubled between 1800 and 1900, even though tens of millions emigrated or fell victim to war and disease. Most countries in western and northern Europe instituted compulsory education (and literacy) during this period. 2.  The classic study of Romanticism is M. H. Abrams, Natural Supernaturalism: Tradition and Revolution in Romantic Literature (New York: W. W. Norton, 1973). 3.  The invention of the Gothic novel as a literary genre is generally credited to Horace Walpole, whose Castle of Otranto: A Gothic Tale was published in 1764. 4.  E. T. A. Hoffmann, The Devil’s Elixir, 2. Hoffmann (1776–1822) was a lawyer, composer, and writer. His story “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” (1816) inspired the Nutcracker ballet (1891–92), adapted by Alexandre Dumas and set to music by Piotr Tchaikovsky. 5.  Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 158. 6.  See especially the chapter “Swedenborgism and the Romanticists” in Balakian, The Symbolist Movement, 12–28. 7.  Very little serious scholarly attention has been paid to Swedenborg’s scientific innovations, but John R. Swanton, “Emanuel Swedenborg,” Scientific Monthly, February 1938, 132–40, undertakes an overview of his contributions. 8.  Swedenborg, Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell, 56. 9.  See Lynn R. Wilkinson, The Dream of an Absolute Language: Emanuel Swedenborg and French Literary Culture (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996). 10.  See Martin Bidney, “A Russian Symbolist View of William Blake” Comparative Literature, Autumn 1987, 327–39. The Russian Symbolist poet Konstantin Bal’mont (1867–1942) translated Blake’s poetry and included a chapter titled “The Forefather of Contemporary Symbolists: William Blake, 1757–1827” in his 1904 book Mountain Summits (Gornyja Vershiny). 11.  Noted in Lucie-Smith, Symbolist Art, 75. Francine-Claire Legrand (Le Symbolisme en Belgique, 156) observed that the Belgian sculptor George Minne (1866–1941) was familiar with Blake. 12.  See Mark Schorer, “Swedenborg and Blake,” Modern Philology, November 1938, 157–78. 13.  Baudelaire, “Le Peintre de la vie moderne,” in Artificial Paradises, trans. P. Roseberry, 690. 14.  In his joyful hedonism, Blake differed from Swedenborg, who advocated detachment from physicality. 15.  The Complete Poetry and Prose of William Blake, ed. David Erdman (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982), 490. 16.  For a discussion of Baudelaire’s discovery of Poe, and Poe’s influence, see W. T. Brady, “New Light on Baudelaire and Poe,” Yale French Studies (1952): 65–69. 17.  “Le Corbeau” was published in Mallarmé’s 1893 collection Vers et prose: Morceaux chosis. The collection also included his poem “The Tomb of Edgar Poe” (“Le Tombeau d’Edgar Poe”). 18.  Redon published six lithographs based on Poe stories in 1882 with the title To Edgar Poe. Pierrot (The Decadent Imagination, 27–33) discusses the impact of Poe on artists and writers. 19.  Poe, Works 1, pt. 4 (1905), 29. 20.  Ibid., pt. 3, 154. 21.  Ibid., 156.



notes to pages 43–50

22.  Ibid., 154–55. 23.  Poe, Works 3, pt. 2 (1905), 31. 24.  Mathieu, Gustave Moreau, 114–15. 25.  Nineteenth-century Europeans suffered from a host of illnesses and diseases uncommon today. Heavily polluted air, dirty drinking water, and poverty posed particular threats. See Anne Hardy, Health and Medicine in Britain since 1860 (Houndsmill and New York: Palgrave, 2001), 19–39. 26.  The German poet Heinrich Heine (1797–1856) found himself in Paris during the 1832 outbreak and in an April 2 letter to the publisher Johann Friedrich von Cotta wrote: “For the past few days Paris has been seized by an unfathomable panic due to a cholera outbreak; almost all of my German and English friends have left.” Heinrich Heines Briefe, 2 vols., ed. Friedrich Hirth (Berlin-Mainz: Florian Kupferberg, 1950), 1:17. The 1834 pandemic caused a thousand deaths in Paris and sixty-thousand in Spain. J. N. Hays, Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impacts on Human History (Santa Barbara, Denver, and Oxford: ABCCLIO, 2005). See especially chapters 33 (“Fifth Cholera Pandemic, 1881–1896,” 313–20), 34 (“Influenza Pandemic, 1889–90,” 315–20), 35 (“Cholera Epidemic in Hamburg, 1892,” 321–29). As many as 360,000 Europeans died in the influenza pandemic and within the space of a few weeks (303); 8,600 Hamburg citizens died of cholera (322). 27.  Poe, Works 1, pt. 4 (1905), 15. 28.  Baudelaire, Selected Letters, ed. and trans. Rosemary Lloyd, 203. 29.  Baudelaire’s most famous collection of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal, went through many editions in the years around 1900. Among the artists who produced illustrations for it were Émile Bernard and Edvard Munch. 30.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 11. 31.  Ibid., 201. 32.  Delacroix, Journal, trans. Walter Pach, 336. 33.  Péladan, Idealist and Mystic Art, 103. 34.  By 1822, Jean-François Champollion had decoded hieroglyphs, long thought to be indecipherable, largely by means of the Rosetta Stone, which contained the text of a royal decree in three forms: hieroglyphs, Greek, and demotic; the latter was the common script of the Egyptian language. 35.  Baudelaire, “The Salon of 1859,” excerpted in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory, 490. 36.  This article appeared in the August 1890 issue of Art et Critique and is reprinted in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 235. 37.  See Leo Schrade, Beethoven in France: The Growth of an Idea (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1942). 38.  Friedrich Morgenthal, “Max Klinger’s Statue of Beethoven,” Brush and Pencil, August 1902, 310–11. 39.  John, Max Klinger, 4. 40.  For a detailed discussion of Klinger’s Beethoven, see Georg Bussmann, “Der Zeit ihre Kunst: Max Klingers ‘Beethoven’ in der 14. Ausstellung der Wiener Sezession,” in Max Klinger 1857–1920 (exh. cat., Frankfurt am Main, Städtische Galerie), 38–48. 41.  Quoted in ibid., 40. 42.  For Lombroso (The Man of Genius, 91), Schopenhauer represented “The most complete type of madness in genius.” 43.  “La Philosophie de Schopenhauer et les conséquences du pessimisme,” Revue des deux mondes, November 1890, 220–21. Quoted in Pierrot, The Decadent Imagination, 60. See also Alexandre Baillot, “Comment Schopenhauer a été connu en France,” and “Les Symbolistes,” in Influence de la philosophie de Schopenhauer, 12–20, 285–97. 44.  In his Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta (1819, Minneapolis Institute of Arts), a deaf and disillusioned Francisco de Goya (1746–1828) conveyed the alienation of a man who, like Beethoven, triumphed over seemingly insurmountable obstacles to create great works of art.

notes to pages 50–53

45.  Bresdin lived for periods in Biarritz, Bordeaux, Montreal, Paris, and Sèvres. 46.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 244. 47.  The concept of “inner necessity” was formulated by Vassily Kandinsky (1866–1944) to describe the origins of creativity. See Jerome Ashmore, “Sound in Kandinsky’s Painting,” Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Spring 1977, 329–36. See also chapter 8. 48.  Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, 3:232, in the chapter “On the Metaphysics of Music.” See also L. Dunton Green, “Schopenhauer and Music,” Musical Quarterly, April 1930, 199–206; and Anne Leonard, “Picturing Listening in the Late Nineteenth Century,” Art Bulletin, June 2007, 266–86. 49.  Quoted and translated in Lovejoy and Boas, Primitivism and Related Ideas, 347. 50.  Baudelaire, Artificial Paradises, 11. 51.  See Grace Neal Dolson, “The Influence of Schopenhauer upon Friedrich Nietzsche,” Philosophical Review, May 1901, 241–50. 52.  See Joshua Foa Dienstag, “Nietzsche’s Dionysian Pessimism,” American Political Science Review, December 2001, 923–37. 53.  Kathleen Higgins (“Nietzsche on Music,” 666) noted “In The Birth of Tragedy Nietzsche links Dionysus to a mode of self-awareness that is characterized by a forgetting of all that is individual and by a sense of oneness with the rest of humanity and the rest of nature.” 54.  Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 123. 55.  Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air, 235. 56.  Danish critic Georg Brandes gave a series of lectures on Nietzsche in Copenhagen in 1888, and Swedish writer Ola Hansson (a friend of Munch) published an essay on him in 1893. Hansson’s collection Interpreter and Visionary (Tolke og seere, 1893) also included articles on Poe and Böcklin. 57.  Nietzsche’s other writings were subsequently translated and published: Thus Spoke Zarathustra in 1898, Twilight of the Gods and The Anti-Christ, Selected Pages in 1899, The Geneology of Morality in 1900, Aurora and The Gay Science in 1901, The Traveler and His Shadow in 1902, and The Will to Power, On Good and Evil in 1903. In the 1890s and early 1900s, the Mercure de France published many excerpts from Nietzsche’s writings. 58.  Forth, “Nietzsche, Decadence, and Regeneration in France,” 104. 59.  Wyzéwa continued his campaign throughout the 1890s in articles published in Le Temps and the Revue des deux mondes. Édouard Schuré took his side in two articles: “L’Individualisme et l’anarchie en littérature: Frédéric Nietzsche et sa philosophie” (Revue des deux mondes, August 15, 1895) and “Nietzsche en France et la psychologie de l’athée” (La Revue bleue, September 8, 1900). Halévy and Gregh, on the other hand, continued their pro-Nietzsche crusade in a series of articles appearing in La Revue blanche. See Forth, “Nietzsche, Decadence, and Regeneration in France.” 60.  Wagner’s huge influence escalated following his death in 1883. Michaud, Message poétique du Symbolisme, 255–58. 61.  Charles Baudelaire, “Richard Wagner and Tannhäuser in Paris,” Revue Européenne (April 1, 1861), reprinted in Baudelaire, Richard Wagner et Tannhäuser à Paris (Paris: Belles Lettres, 1994). On February 17, 1860, Baudelaire sent a fan letter to Wagner after attending three concerts ( January 25, February 1, and February 8) conducted by Wagner. Storch, Les Symbolistes et Richard Wagner, 181. Other Symbolist writings on Wagner include Édouard Schuré, “Le Drame musical et l’oeuvre de M. Richard Wagner,” in Revue des deux mondes, April 15, 1869, and a two-volume study, Le Drame musical: Richard Wagner, son oeuvre, son idée (1886); Joris-Karl Huysmans, “L’Ouverture de Tannhäuser,” in Croquis parisiens (1880); Catulle Mendès, Wagner (1886). Wagner was also held in high esteem by the Italian intelligentsia, as evidenced by Gabriele d’Annunzio’s two-volume The Case of Wagner (Il caso Wagner, 1893), in which d’Annunzio asserts that Wagner’s operas “interpreted our metaphysical need, revealed to us that most occult aspect of our intimate life.” Damigella, La pittura simbolista in Italia, 71–72. 62.  Wagner, “The Art-Work of the Future,” reprinted in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory, 471–78.



notes to pages 53–58

63.  Dujardin, Mendès, Maus, Picard, and the composer Camille Saint-Saëns nonetheless attended the premier of Wagner’s Parsifal at Bayreuth in July 1882. Storch, Les Symbolistes et Richard Wagner, 187. 64.  Lisa Ann Norris, “Painting around the Piano: Fantin-Latour, Wagnerism, and the Musical in Art,” in Morton and Schmunk, eds., The Arts Entwined, 152. 65.  Édouard Schuré, Le Drame musical, 2 vols. (Paris: Sandoz et Fischbacher, 1875), 1: La Musique et la poésie dans leur développement historique, 210, cited in Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 69. 66.  Rewald, Post-Impressionism, 255. Symbolist artists appeared unaware of precedents in German Romantic painting idealizing the immaterial qualities of music. Commenting on his painting The Nightingale’s Lesson (1802–5, Kunsthalle, Hamburg), the German painter Philipp Otto Runge (1777–1810) explained, “This picture becomes what a fugue is in music.” Several decades later, the German artist Moritz von Schwind (1804–1871) painted A Symphony (1849–52, Neue Pinakothek, Munich). In an 1849 letter, Schwind expressed a disregard for subject matter similar to Runge’s, noting that “convinced of the need for combinations of several pictures, I have grouped the four pieces together according to that most highly developed musical form which is the basis for the quartet, sonata, and symphony.” Quoted in Dömling, “Reuniting the Arts,” 6. Schwind’s idea of combining several paintings within one framework was novel for secular painting but had a long tradition in the painting of altarpieces. In his essay “The Revolution” Wagner predicted that the upheaval of the present age would “create a new world of happiness for everyone!” Reprinted in Harrison and Wood, Art in Theory, 325. 67.  The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3:132. Van Gogh praised Wagner as “an antidote for neurosis.” Shortly before Vincent’s departure for his first stay at Arles, he and his brother Theo attended several Wagner concerts. 68.  Noted in Mauner, The Nabis, 42. Péladan also discussed his admiration for Leonardo’s painting in De l’Androgyne, 144. 69.  Quoted in Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 60. 70.  Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 67. Mallarmé translated the “Ten O’Clock Lecture” into French in 1888. This idea emerges again in the art of František Kupka (1871–1957) (see chapter 3). 71.  Quoted in Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Art, 2–3. 72.  Only four issues were published before The Germ folded. 73.  William Holman Hunt, “Pre-Raphaelitism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood” (1905), reprinted in James Sambrook, ed., Pre-Raphaelitism: A Collection of Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974), 31. 74.  Baudelaire mentioned them in his review “The Modern Artist” published in La Revue française on June 10, 1859, the first of a four-part series known as “The Salon of 1859,” Baudelaire, Art in Paris, trans. Jonathan Mayne, 145. Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti were the founding members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. 75.  Chassé, whose survey of Symbolism was limited to artists working in France, devoted his second chapter of his Mouvement symboliste to Moreau and Puvis. 76.  Strindberg letter to Gauguin, in Cogniat and Gauguin, Paul Gauguin 1848–1903, 19. 77.  Wattenmaker, Puvis de Chavannes, 37. 78.  Paul Klee, Tagebücher, 1898–1918, ed. Wolfgang Kersten (Stuttgart: Teufen, 1988), 217. 79.  Richard Muther, Geschichte der Malerei im 19. Jahrhundert, 3 vols. (Munich: Georg Hirths Kunst­ verlag, 1893–94), 3:601. 80.  See Ingeborg Hosterey, “Bildende Kunst als Literatur: Zum Problem der Rezeption Arnold Böcklins,” German Quarterly, November 1983, 563–79. 81.  See Norbert Schneider, “Böcklins Toteninsel,” in A. Böcklin, 1827–1901, exh. cat., Darmstadt, Mathildenhöhe, 1977, 106–25. 82.  For insight on Böcklin’s impact in Sweden, see Viktor Rydberg, “Något om Arnold Böcklin” (“Something about Arnold Böcklin”) (Vintergatan 1894); and Hans Henrik Brummer, Böcklin (exh. cat., Stockholm, Prins Eugens Waldemarsudde, 1993). Richard Bergh based his painting Silence (1893, Prins

notes to pages 59–67

Eugens Waldemarsudde, Stockholm) on “an impression of Böcklin.” The artist Prince Eugen (1865–1947) envied the feminist Ellen Key’s copy of Island of the Dead (he later purchased one). Facos, Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination, 122–24. 83.  Quoted in Bryson Burroughs, “The Island of the Dead by Arnold Böcklin,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, June 1926, 146. The first version, painted for the recently widowed Madame Berna, has been in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art since 1926. Its emphasis on contemplation places Island of the Dead under Goldwater’s rubric of Gedankenmaleri (“thought painting”). 84.  Howe, The Symbolist Art of Fernand Khnopff, 72. 85.  Brad Bucknell offers a thought-provoking reading of this and other representations of Salomé in “On ‘Seeing’ Salomé,” English Literary History, Summer 1993, 503–26. 86.  The Gospel of Mark (6:21–29) recounts that King Herod imprisoned John the Baptist ( Jesus’ older cousin), who protested the king’s marriage to his brother’s wife, Herodias. When Herodias’s daughter, Salomé, danced at Herod’s birthday celebration, he was so aroused that he offered to grant her any wish. Salomé followed her mother’s advice and requested the head of John the Baptist on a platter, a request that the king could not refuse without losing his honor, since the request had been made in the presence of Herod’s guests. An executioner was dispatched and St. John’s head was delivered to Salomé, who gave it to her vengeful mother. This tale of two clever and ruthless women provided biblical justification for the prevailing Schopenhauerian attitude toward women in the nineteenth century. 87.  Ary Renan, “Gustave Moreau,” part 1, Gazette des beaux-arts, May 1886, 392. Quoted in Lacambre, Gustave Moreau, 167. 88.  Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 182. Carl E. Schorske interpreted this passage in “Politics and Psyche in Fin de Siécle Vienna: Schnitzler and Hofmannsthal,” American Historical Review, July 1961, 930–46.

chapter 3: decadence and degeneration 1.  Hugh E. M. Stutfield, “Tommyrotics,” Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine (1895), excerpted in Ledger and Luckhurst, eds., The Fin de Siècle, 120. 2.  Nordau, Degeneration, 38–41. 3.  The succession of political upheavals and natural disasters that occurred in the nineteenth century also seemed to affirm Western civilization’s decline. Many saw portents of humanity’s extinction in the century’s famines (Germany: 1817, Ireland: 1845–46, Finland: 1867), revolutions (Greece: 1820s; Belgium and France: 1830; the Austrian Empire, France, Germany, and Italy: 1848; Poland: 1863; France: 1871), and rampant epidemics (including cholera, tuberculosis, and venereal diseases). 4.  Le XIX Siècle, August 11, 1885, quoted in Michaud, Message poétique du Symbolisme, 798 (emphasis in original). 5.  Quoted in Pierrot, The Decadent Imagination, 166. 6.  Aurier, Oeuvres posthumes, ed. Goncourt, 342. 7.  Morice, La littérature de tout à l’heure, 52. 8.  This was based on von Hartmann’s belief that the evolution of humanity was inevitably accompanied by increased suffering. See his “Metaphysic of the Unconscious,” in Philosophy of the Unconscious (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972), 131–32. 9.  To Nordau, Nietzsche represented the “quintessence of intellectual and moral degeneration.” Aschheim, “Max Nordau, Friedrich Nietzsche and Degeneration,” 644. 10.  Nordau, Degeneration, 42. 11.  In his Zoological Philosophy (1809), Lamarck noted that frequently used organs grow larger and stronger, while neglected ones deteriorate—and further, that these tendencies are genetically inscribed and passed on to successive generations. 12.  Kupka moved from Vienna to Paris in 1896 and would have seen Munch’s paintings at the Salon



notes to pages 67–74

des Indépendants exhibitions of 1896, 1897, and 1898, as well as at Siegfried Bing’s gallery, La Maison de l’Art Nouveau. 13.  For European emigration, see Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 194; for Jewish emigration, see Daniel Soyer, Jewish Immigrant Associations and American Identity in New York, 1880–1939 (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 2001), 27. More than half of Jewish immigrants in the United States came from Russia. 14.  See Eric Cahm, The Dreyfus Affair in French Society and Politics (New York: Longman, 1996); and Norman L. Kleeblatt, The Dreyfus Affair: Art, Truth, and Justice (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987). 15.  Lombroso and Ferrero, Criminal Woman. 16.  Max Weber, in The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1904), asserted that modern industrial society generated “specialists without spirit, thrill-seekers without hearts, empty individuals who imagine they have reached an incomparable level of civilization.” From Max Weber, ed. Gerth and Mills, 182. 17.  Thomas Cole had illustrated this idea earlier in his four-part series The Course of Empire (1833–36, New York Historical Society), which metaphorically suggested that his era was hastening toward cataclysmic implosion. While perversity, Dionysianism, and the will to live represented the irrational, sinister forces vexing modern society, heredity and disease, operating in accordance with biological laws, constituted scientific evidence of Western civilization’s eclipse. 18.  Hays, Epidemic and Pandemics, 317. 19.  About 30 percent of England’s working-class population died of tuberculosis in the first half of the nineteenth century. For a historical survey of epidemics, see Snodgrass, World Epidemics. 20.  See the chapter “Cholera and Civilization: Great Britain and India, 1817–1920,” in Watts, Disease and Medicine in World History. Most urban children in Victorian England suffered from rickets, and diarrhea sent thousands to doctors throughout the century. Anne Hardy, Health and Medicine in Britain since 1860 (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2001), 35 and 19. 21.  The name “Black Death” derives from the deep purple skin color of plague victims, whose blood coagulated in their veins, stopping the flow of oxygen. Plague is spread by infected rat fleas. The mortality rate was more than 50 percent, and victims generally died within a week of manifesting symptoms. 22.  The French epidemiologist Alexandre Yersin and Kitasato Shibasaburo, a Japanese scientist working in Germany, made their discoveries within months of each other (Snodgrass, World Epidemics, 234). 23.  Since ancient times, when wealthy Romans began spending summers in the countryside to escape the epidemics that coursed through the capital, rural areas represented safe environments in which nature’s bounty strengthens body and spirit. Essayists like Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Ralph Waldo Emerson extolled the virtues of close contact with nature, and the proliferation of spas and resorts in Europe during the nineteenth century attested to a belief in the restorative power of nature. See Susan Anderson and Bruce Tabb, eds., Water, Leisure and Culture: European Historical Perspectives (Oxford: Berg, 2002); and Roy Porter, ed., The Medical History of Waters and Spas (London: Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, 1990). 24.  See, for instance, Hans Unger’s 1895 etching The Reaper (Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden), illustrated in Erhardt and Reynolds, Kingdom of the Soul, 228. 25.  Quoted in Heller, Munch, 31. 26.  Noted in an October 20, 1886, review in the Oslo newspaper Dagen (The Day). Heller, Munch, 36. 27.  Lesions in the larynx produced during the last stages of tuberculosis lead the sufferer to breathe through the mouth. Cordulack, Edvard Munch and the Physiology of Symbolism, 23. 28.  Ingestion of mercury, a neurotoxin, can result in a variety of disorders, including slurred speech, irritability, nausea, depression, visual impairment, and hallucinations. The apparent increase in female

notes to pages 74–85

nervous disorders during the second half of the nineteenth century may well have been due to mercury poisoning. 29.  See Claude Quétel, History of Syphilis, trans. Judith Braddock and Brian Pike (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990), esp. chap. 5, “The Nineteenth-Century Impasse,” and chap. 6, “The Great Turning Point (around 1900).” 30.  Pierrot, The Decadent Imagination, 47. 31.  Ibid., 50. 32.  Munch’s friend the writer Stanislaw Przybyszewski supported this essentialist view of sexuality. He declared: “In the beginning was sex. Nothing outside it. . . . Sexuality is the primal substance of life . . . the eternally creative, the transformatory and destructive force.” Przybyszewski, Totenmesse, 7. Quoted in Heller, Munch, 106. 33.  Lombroso, L’uomo delinquente, 13. 34.  Kern, The Culture of Time and Space, 125. In her book Symbolism and Modern Urban Society, Sharon Hirsh devotes a chapter to “The Sick City.” 35.  Rodenbach, Bruges-la-morte, 20. 36.  Ibid., 24. 37.  H. Campbell, Differences in the Nervous Organization of Man and Woman, 78. 38.  Heller, Munch, 105. I am indebted to Patricia G. Berman for historical information regarding this site, which is marked by a commemorative plaque. 39.  Anthropogenie (Leipzig: W. Engelmann, 1874), 707–8. The most complete presentation of Haeckel’s monistic ideas appeared in Die Welträtsel (1899), published in English as The Riddle of the Universe (1901). See Niles R. Holt, “Ernst Haeckel’s Monistic Religion,” Journal of the History of Ideas, April 1971, 265–80. 40.  Philippe Peltier traces the history of Oceanic displays in Europe in his essay “From Oceania,” in Rubin, “Primitivism” in Twentieth-Century Art, 100–106. See also “Primitive Art in Europe,” part 1 of Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Art, 3–50. 41.  A thorough scholarly analysis of this painting is presented by Patricia G. Berman in her monograph James Ensor: Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889 (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) 42.  Ibid., 63. 43.  Gilman, Health and Illness, 189 n. 2. The pseudo-science of eugenics evolved in order to address this issue, and its greatest nineteenth-century theorist was Sir Francis Galton. See Angelique Richardson, Love and Eugenics in the Late Nineteenth Century: Rational Reproduction and the New Woman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003). Although the most notorious case of a government exploiting the sinister possibilities of eugenics was Nazi Germany, many governments have instituted policies (from sterilization of the mentally ill in Finland to “ethnic cleansing” in Somalia) based on the premises of eugenics. Cosmetic surgery was developed by the German-Jewish physician Jacques (born Jakob) Joseph in the 1890s on the basis of his observation that it dramatically improved the mental health of patients. At a time when antiSemitism was rampant in Europe, those who could alter physiognomic characteristics associated with an “undesirable” ethnicity were understandably happier in their ability to fit in, through a kind of permanent surgical masquerade. Gilman, Health and Illness, 84–90. Nordau, Degeneration, 9–11, describes modern urban life as a degenerate masquerade. 44.  See Eugenia Herbert, Artist and Social Reform. 45.  Lombroso, The Man of Genius, 367. Jane Block (Les XX and Belgian Avant-Gardism, 172) notes that Ensor was considered more of a “grotesque caricaturist” than a Symbolist by his contemporaries. 46.  Simon, Le Monde des rêves, 27. 47.  See the chapter “Art of the Insane,” in Lombroso, The Man of Genius, 179–208. 48.  Richard Shryock argues for a political interpretation of Against the Grain as an anarchist treatise in “ ‘Ce cri rompit le cauchemar qui l’opprimait’: Huysmans and the Politics of À rebours,” French Review, December 1992, 243–54.



notes to pages 85–92

49.  Mallarmé responded with a poem, “Prose pour Des Esseintes,” in the January 1885 edition of La Revue indépendante. Noted in Lövgren, The Genesis of Modernism, 75. 50.  Cachin, Gauguin, 28. 51.  The Day of the God (1894, Art Institute of Chicago) and Vairumati (c. 1895, Musée d’Orsay, Paris). George Shackelford traces the visual sources for many of the elements in the painting in his essay “Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?” in Shackelford and Frèches-Thory, Gauguin Tahiti, 167–203. 52.  Debora Silverman (Van Gogh and Gauguin, 122–29) attributes this questioning to Gauguin’s schooling at the Petit Seminaire de la Chapelle-Saint-Martin under Bishop Dupanloup, who practiced an interrogative means to getting closer to God. 53.  Eisenman (Gauguin’s Skirt, 140) notes that the first exhibition of Where Do We Come From? in Paris at the gallery of Ambrose Vollard along with eight other paintings was a critical and financial disaster. 54.  Eisenman, Gauguin’s Skirt, 140. 55.  Shackelford and Frèches-Thory, Gauguin Tahiti, 181–82. 56.  Gauguin included a copy of Sartor Resartus in his Still Life: Portrait of Jacob Meyer de Haan (1889, private collection, New York). 57.  Carlyle, Sartor Resartus, 42. 58.  This is the subject of chapter 2, “Sex in Tahiti,” in Eisenman, Gauguin’s Skirt. For a discussion of androgyny in Where Do We Come From? see ibid., 145–47. 59.  Letter from Gauguin to Daniel de Monfried, February 1898, in Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 72.

chapter 4: idealism, religion, and reform 1.  Edmond Picard, “Conférences artistiques,” L’Art moderne, February 17, 1884, 53, quoted in Weiermair and Loos, eds., Eros and Death, 15. See also Albert Mockel, “L’Art social: Les Symbolistes,” La Wallonie, 1886, 142–49; Walter Crane, “Le Socialisme et les artistes,” La Révolte, literary supplement, 1892, 1–2; Charles Marki, “Art social,” Mercure de France, 1893, 370–73; Jean Jaurès, “L’Art et le Socialisme,” Le Mouvement socialiste, 1900, 513–25; and Camille Mauclair, “L’Oeuvre sociale de l’art moderne: Les Beaux Arts,” Revue socialiste, 1901, 421–35. 2.  Stone, Europe Transformed, 14–15, quoted in Pick, Faces of Degeneration, 13–14. 3.  Petr Kropotkin, Paroles d’un révolté (Paris, 1886). 4.  Paul Adam, Les Entretiens politiques et littéraires ( July 1892). Ravanchol was executed in 1892. 5.  See Halperin, Félix Fénéon. 6.  Aubery, “The Anarchism of the Literati,” 46. According to Aubery (ibid., 39–40), “an examination of the play bills of the Théâtre libre of Antoine from 1887 on, the tables of contents of La Plume since 1889, Les Entretiens Politiques et Littéraires of Vielé-Griffin since 1890, La Revue Blanche of the Natanson brothers, and the programs of the Théâtre de l’Oeuvre of Lugné-Poë from 1893 to 1899, corroborate the claim that anarchist ideology and symbolist aesthetics were the standard diet on which the avant-garde intellectuals of that period thrived.” 7.  Albert Aurier, “Les Isolés, Vincent van Gogh,” Mercure de France, January 1890, reprinted in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 218–26. 8.  Dymond, “A Politicized Pastoral,” 368 n. 97. Houses of the People, institutions established throughout Europe by local branches of the socialist party, functioned as civic centers in which a variety of cultural and political organizations held meetings and sponsored adult education courses. They usually contained a library, reading room, and café. The original purpose of these institutions (which still exist) was to provide the working classes with a gathering place. The middle and upper classes met in their private clubs and spacious residences, but until the advent of Houses of the People, the working classes had nowhere to

notes to pages 92–97

congregate. For a thoughtful discussion of In the Era of Harmony, see Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 134–48. 9.  The concrete/Realist strategy was exemplified by drawings (often caricatures) showing the debilitating effects of capitalism and centralized government on contemporary life. Signac, together with his friends Lucien Pissarro (1863–1944), Henri Cross (1856–1910), and Maximilien Luce (1858–1941), contributed such illustrations to anarchist journals, including La Révolte, Le Père Péinard, La Revue libertaire, and Les Temps nouveaux. See Springer, “Terrorism and Anarchy.” 10.  Anne Dymond (“A Politicized Pastoral,” 363) notes that in the fall of 1893, when Signac was working on In the Era of Harmony, a series of articles appeared in which the rooster was used as a symbol for the French Republican ideals of freedom, equality, and solidarity (liberté, égalité, fraternité). 11.  Saussure returned to his native Geneva and taught at the university there from 1891 until his death in 1913. He published little during his lifetime, but his teachings were posthumously collected and published by his students in Cours de linguistique générale (1916). 12.  The works that had the greatest influence on Seurat were also widely read by other artists at the time: Michel-Eugène Chevreul, On the Law of Simultaneous Contrast of Colors and Its Application (1839); Charles Blanc, The Grammar of Painting and Engraving (1867); Ogden Rood, Students’ Text-book of Color; or, Modern Chromatics, with Applications to Art and Industry (1881); and increasingly toward the end of the 1880s, Charles Henry, The Scientific Aesthetic (1855). Although John Gage (“The Technique of Seurat,” 453) discerns political undercurrents in the way that Seurat’s distinct dots of color coalesced into a unified and harmonious visual field, just as individuals join together toward a common good under anarchist social theory, Michael Zimmerman (Seurat and the Art Theory of His Time, 446–47) correctly asserts that this assigns too narrow a motive for Seurat’s technique. 13.  Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 263. 14.  Signac, D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme, 103. For the political significance of Neo­ Impressionism see Hutton, especially Chapter 6, “The Turn to Activist Art: ‘To Crowds Still in Bondage.’” 15.  Quoted in Boyle-Turner, “Sérusier’s Talisman,” 193. 16.  Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, 123. 17.  Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 101. See also Griffiths, The Reactionary Revolution; and David Blackbourn, Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Germany (New York: Knopf, 1994). 18.  “Un Triomphe renovateur,” La Rénovation esthétique, June 1907, 60, quoted in Mary Anne Stevens, “Bernard as a Critic,” in Émile Bernard, 1868–1941, 78. Bernard’s chauvinism attests to the influence of the historian Jean-Jacques Gaume, who linked the decline of Western civilization to the progressive weakening of the Catholic Church, beginning with the Reformation. La Révolution: Recherches historiques sur l’origine et la propagation du mal en Europe depuis la Renaissance jusqu’à nos jours, 6 vols. (Paris: Gaume Frères, 1856–59). 19.  Denis, Journal, 1:59. Nordau (Degeneration, 111) had an opposing view: “Neo-Catholicism is rooted in emotivity and mysticism, both of these being the most frequent and most distinctive stigma of the degenerate.” 20.  Ibid., 1:63. For Denis’s attitude toward religion and the appraisal of his religious art by critics, see Dario Gamboni, “‘The Baptism of Modern Art?’ Maurice Denis and Religious Art,” in Maurice Denis, 75–92. 21.  Diary entry of June 8, 1889. Denis, Journal, 1:75. 22.  Ibid., 1:103. Sacred Heart was exhibited at the Salon des Cent in Paris in 1896 and sold to the dealer Ambrose Vollard in 1906. 23.  See Raymond Jonas, France and the Cult of the Sacred Heart: An Epic Tale for Modern Times (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000). 24.  Cordulack, Edvard Munch and the Physiology of Symbolism, 79. 25.  “Definition of Neo-Traditionalism” is translated and reprinted in Harrison and Wood, eds., Art in Theory, 863–69.



notes to pages 97–99

26.  Heinrich Hess designed the murals of the royal chapel in Munich. Driskel, Representing Belief, 155. Driskel notes that Ludwig I of Bavaria admired Adolphe-Napoléon Didron’s and Paul Durand’s study of the monasteries of Mount Athos in Greece (Manuel d’iconographie chrétienne grecque et latine traduite du manuscript byzantin: “Le Guide de la Peinture” [Paris: Imprimerie royale, 1845]) and was given the original manuscript by the authors. 27.  Orthodox Christianity was historically more accessible to its faithful, particularly in that its services were held in the language of the native population (rather than Latin, the universal language of Catholic ritual until 1965) and in its requirement that parish priests be married so as to better counsel parishioners on family matters; Catholic priests, in contrast, were forbidden to marry. 28.  Hal Foster (“The ‘Primitive’ Unconscious of Modern Art,” 58) notes that “the primitive is articulated by the West in deprivative or supplemental terms: as a spectacle of savagery or as a state of grace, or as a socius without writing or the Word, without history or cultural complexity; or as a site of originary unity, symbolic plentitude, natural vitality.” 29.  Among the most vehement critics of the exhibition was James Clifford in The Predicament of Culture (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). Marianna Torgovnick summarizes efforts to define “primitivism” in the section titled “Defining the ‘Primitive’—or Trying To,” in chapter 1 of her Gone Primitive, 18–23. See also her chapter 6, “William Rubin and the Dynamics of Primitivism,” 119–37. 30.  See Goldwater, Primitivism in Modern Art. Written in the 1930s, Goldwater’s study remains an excellent source for exploring the relationship between “primitivism” and modern art. 31.  See, for example, Foster, “The ‘Primitive’ Unconscious of Modern Art”; Kirk Varnedoe, “Gauguin,” in Rubin, ed., “Primitivism” in Twentieth-Century Art, 1:179–209; Abigail Solomon-Godeau, “Going Native,” Art in America, July 1989, 118–29; and Stephen Eisenman, “Primitivism and Difference,” Gauguin’s Skirt, chap. 3. 32.  Sérusier described the inhabitants of nearby Le Poldu as having a “savage allure.” Boyle-Turner, “Sérusier’s Talisman,” 29. 33.  See Thomas Buser, “Gauguin’s Religion,” Art Journal, Summer 1968, 375–80. Buser points out the links between Gauguin’s ideas and Theosophy, as does Henri Dorra, The Symbolism of Paul Gauguin: Erotica, Exotica, and the Great Dilemmas of Humanity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 17–20. 34.  This is perhaps the most widely studied of Gauguin’s paintings, beginning with Albert Aurier’s landmark article “Symbolism in Painting: Paul Gauguin,” first published in Mercure de France, March 1891, 159–64, and reprinted in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 195–203. See also Mather Herban III, “The Origin of Paul Gauguin’s Vision after the Sermon: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel (1888),” Art Bulletin, September 1977, 415–20; and Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 4–12 and 26–33. 35.  Collins, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 120. 36.  Guillermo Solana, “The Faun Awakes: Gauguin and the Revival of the Pastoral,” in Solana et al., Gauguin and the Origins of Symbolism, 45. 37.  Gauguin’s motivation may well have been to impress Émile Bernard’s seventeen-year-old sister, with whom he was infatuated. Madeleine, a devout Catholic (as was Émile), was so charmed by the Breton natives that she took to wearing Breton costume. This might explain her inclusion in the painting (she appears on one end of the row of figures in Vision while Gauguin appears at the other) and the astonishing fact that Gauguin intended the painting as decoration for the Pont-Aven church (the gift was refused); Solana et al., Gauguin and the Origins of Symbolism, 46. Jirat-Wasiutynski and Norton’s observation that Gauguin mixed wax with the pigment supports the idea that from the outset Gauguin intended Vision as a church decoration. Wax was frequently used in sacred mural paintings because it created a nonreflective surface, important for a painting that would be illuminated by candles. Jirat-Wasiutynski and Norton, Technique and Meaning in the Paintings of Paul Gauguin, 97. 38.  The second half of the nineteenth century witnessed a sudden upsurge in miraculous visions, the most celebrated of which was the appearance of the Virgin Mary in Lourdes. Investigated by the church

notes to pages 99–106

through witness testimony and scientific examination, supernatural events such as blood gushing and tears running from artworks attested, in the minds of many, to the coexistence of natural and supernatural realms. Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 101. 39.  Dujardin’s article “Le Cloissonisme,” La Revue indépendante, March 19, 1888, discussed the recent works of Louis Anquetin (1861–1932), a colleague of Bernard and Gauguin. Bernard and Gauguin both claimed to have “invented” cloissonism, a quarrel that resulted in the termination of their friendship. Rewald, Post-Impressionism, 176. 40.  Synthesis was the opposite of analysis (associated with Naturalism, Impressionism, Realism, and positivist science), which isolated individual components of an object for superficial description and study. 41.  Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 104. 42.  Orwicz, “Criticism and Representations of Brittany,” 295. 43.  Huysmans, La-bas, quoted in Stephen Schloesser, “From Spiritual Naturalism to Psychical Naturalism: Catholic Decadence, Lutheran Munch, Madone Mystérique,” in Howe, Edvard Munch, 89. 44.  Röntgen received the first Nobel Prize in physics (1901) for his discovery. 45.  Among the contributions to the surge in occult literature were M. Berthelot, Les Origines de l’alchemie (Paris, 1885); Louis Figuier, L’Alchemie et les alchemistes: Essai historique et critique sur la philoso­ phie hermétique (Paris, 1854); and Andrew Jackson Davis, The Principles of Nature, Her Divine Revelations, and A Voice to Mankind (1847), which sought to trace the history of the universe and explain its spiritualmaterial structure. Eliphas Lévi published numerous works, the most popular of which were Histoire de la magie (1860); La Clef des grands mystères (1864); and Philosophie occulte: Fables et symboles (1893). In the 1850s, the Fox family of Hydesville, New York, asked questions of a resident spirit, who responded by making knocking sounds. 46.  Olcott was a New York journalist and social reformer; Blavatsky was a Russian mystic who left her husband and traveled throughout Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, and Europe for twenty-five years before arriving in New York in 1873. For a thoughtful analysis of the early history of Theosophy, see Stephen Prothero, “From Spiritualism to Theosophy: ‘Uplifting’ a Democratic Tradition,” Religion and American Culture, Summer 1993, 197–216. 47.  Theosophists were not alone in this pursuit. The physicists Balfour Stewart and Peter Tait also sought to reconcile science with religion in their popular Unseen Universe (1875), which reached its tenth printing in 1881. Louis Dramard’s La Science occulte: Étude sur la doctrine ésotérique (1886); and Jules Lermina’s La Science occulte, magie pratique, révélation des mystères de la vie et de la mort (1890). 48.  Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 118–19. 49.  See Campbell, Ancient Wisdom Revived, 29. 50.  Helena Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled. A Master-Key to the Mysteries of Ancient and Modern Science and Theology (Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1972), 2: 639, originally published in 1877. Among Blavatsky’s other foundational works are The Key to Theosophy and The Voice of the Silence (both published in 1889). 51.  This posture refers to the moment when Buddha preached his first sermon in the deer park at Sarnath, thus setting in motion the wheel of Buddhist law. 52.  In Islam, piety is expressed by cultivating beauty in writing and speaking the words of the Qu’ran, the words of God transmitted by the Archangel Gabriel and transcribed by the prophet Muhammad in the seventh century. 53.  See Sébastien Clerbois, “In Search of the Forme-Pensée: The Influence of Theosophy on Belgian Artists, Between Symbolism and the Avant-Garde (1890–1910),” Nineteenth Century Art Worldwide (Autumn 2002) ( 54.  Quoted in Lightman, ed., Victorian Science in Context, 193. 55.  Bernard Lightman, “‘The Voices of Nature’: Popularizing Victorian Science,” in Lightman, ed., Victorian Science in Context, 192.



notes to pages 106–112

56.  The Midi refers to the south of France. Van Gogh described his painting The Sower in his August 1888 letter to his brother Theo, quoted in Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 35. 57.  September 1888 letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3:25. 58.  August 1888 letter from Vincent van Gogh to Émile Bernard, in The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3:34. 59.  August 1888 letter from Vincent van Gogh to Theo van Gogh, quoted in Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 35. 60.  Ibid., 34. 61.  The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3:24. 62.  This portrait was made while van Gogh was convalescing at the asylum of Saint-Paul-de-Mausole following the famous incident in which he nearly bled to death after cutting off part of his ear. 63.  Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 89. 64. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3:478. 65.  This was due to a practice instituted under Swedish rule in the seventeenth century requiring parish priests to conduct annual literacy tests on their parishioners. The head of each household was responsible for insuring that his charges were able to read. The Swedish Lutheran Church wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible, since a direct relationship between the individual and God was a cornerstone of Lutheran belief. 66.  A useful summary of Finnish statistics in the years around 1900 is found in Erland Nordenskiøld, “Finland: The Land and the People,” Geographical Review, June 1919, 361–76. 67.  Hodler thought of himself as a scientist and formulated Parallelism on the basis of his study of art theory (surveying Vitruvius, Leonardo da Vinci, and his teacher, Barthélemy Menn [1815–1893], among others), natural science (he attended lectures given by Carl Vogt, a protégé of Charles Darwin), graphology (the science of handwriting), dramatic movement (theater director Karl Brioch), and physiognomy (Charles Darwin). Graphology, formulated by Abbé Michon in an 1872 treatise, was respected as a valid scientific discipline and enjoyed enormous popularity in the late nineteenth century due to the belief that handwriting was a reliable and scientifically analyzable outward sign of inner physical and psychological states. Hodler presented this theory in an 1897 lecture, “The Mission of the Artist,” given at Fribourg’s Museum of Industry to Switzerland’s Friends of the Fine Arts Society. It was first published in the Fribourg newspaper La Liberté in March 1897 and is reprinted in translation in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 247–51. In an August 12, 1893, letter to his friend Bützberger, Hodler noted that this was the third in a series of works organized according to his Parallelism theory. Loosli, Ferdinand Hodler, 4:335. 68.  This interpretation is corroborated by Koella, “Zu Hodlers Auservählten,” 47–48. 69.  This painting (one of several versions) is dated 1894 by the Berlin Historisches Museum, but Frecot, Geist, and Kerbs, Fidus, 1868–1948, 291–93, date the first oil sketch (purchased by Pyzybyzewski and never published) to 1895. They suggest further that the experience that inspired this image dates to an Alpine hiking excursion that Höppner made in the summer of 1904. On a chilly, foggy morning high in the mountains, the sun broke through the clouds, and Höppner and his party stood “enchanted” and struck by a profound spiritual feeling as the first rays of the sun cast their intense and warm rays on the hikers. Höppner repeated this subject in a variety of media until 1938. He belonged to the group of Life Reformers, which embraced the anti-Semitic and racist ideas of National Socialism, a situation that has had the unfortunate effect of tainting many of the constructive aspects of this movement. 70.  These issues are summarized in Frescot, Geist, and Kerbs, Fidus 1868–1948. 71.  Havelock Ellis, “Sexual Education and Nakedness,” American Journal of Psychology, July 1909, 306. Michael Hau puts nudism in historical perspective in The Cult of Health and Beauty in Germany: A Social History 1890–1930 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003). 72.  Gilman, Health and Illness, 66.

notes to pages 115–117

chapter 5: contested gender 1.  The polarized view of women was not unique to the nineteenth century: a late fourteenth-century altarpiece (The Madonna of Humility with the Temptation of Eve, c. 1400, Cleveland Museum of Art) by Carlo da Camerino (active c. 1396), for example, includes a scene in which the Madonna and Eve represent, respectively, good and evil women. The Madonna—exemplifying the good mother—holds Jesus on her lap, while snakes entwine themselves around the sensuous body of a naked and lustful Eve. Efrat El-Hanany brought this work to my attention. For the imagery of an empowered Madonna, see El-Hanany’s dissertation, “Beating the Devil: Images of the Madonna del Soccorso in Italian Renaissance Art” (Indiana University, 2006). 2.  De Gouges was executed for treason in 1793. 3.  It continues: “Therefore, as the Church is subject to Christ, so also let wives be to their husbands in all things.” “Arcanum” encyclical of Pope Leo XIII on Christian marriage, February 10, 1880, in Claudia Carlen, comp., The Papal Encyclicals, 5 vols. (Wilmington, NC: McGrath Publishing, 1981), vol. 2 (1878–1903): 32. 4.  Violence against women was not only legally sanctioned throughout Europe; it had been condoned on scientific grounds since at least the eighteenth century. In Foundation of Natural Law (1796–97), the German philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte asserted that the “nature” of woman compels her to voluntarily subordinate herself to her mate, a premise corroborated the following year by his compatriot Immanuel Kant in Anthropology. In 1886 Richard von Krafft-Ebing, in Sexual Psychopathy, coined the term “masochism” to describe the “normal” state of instinctual servitude among women. In Émile Zola’s novel Nana (1880), the protagonist’s beauty, according to Zola, is enhanced by the violence that men inflict on her. In Pierre Louÿs’s 1898 novel The Woman and the Puppet, the heroine, Concha, also pleads to be beaten. Under these circumstances, it is hardly surprising that once divorce was legalized (in 1857 in England; in 1884 in France), more than 80 percent of divorce petitions were filed by women. Michelle Perrot and Anne Martin-Fugier, “The Actors,” in Perrot, ed., A History of Private Life, 4:162. About 10 percent of nineteenth-century women remained unmarried, due in part to laws that prohibited women engaged in careers such as teaching, nursing, or social work from marrying; in 1851, 55 percent of teachers in England were women, increasing to almost 75 percent by 1900. In 1900, 53 percent of wage-earning women in France were single at a time when only 18 percent of employed men were unmarried. Michelle Perrot, “Roles and Characters,” in Perrot, ed., A History of Private Life, 4:181, 255. 5.  Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Women,” in Essays from the Parega and Paralipomena (Studies in Pessimism). A famous fifteenth-century treatise on witches, the Malleus Maleficarum (1486) identified woman’s carnal lust as the source of all witchcraft (Heinrich Institutoris and Jacobus Spenger, Malleus Maleficarum, trans. Christopher S. Mackay [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002], 2:122), noting, “since they are defective in all the powers of both soul and body, it is not surprising that they should cause more acts of sorcery to happen. Ibid., 116. 6.  Darwin, The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871), excerpted in Jay and Neve, A Fin-de-siècle Reader, 225. Many scientists asserted that women were stunted versions of men, including Harry Campbell (Differences in the Nervous Organization of Man and Woman, 1891) and Herbert Spencer (The Study of Sociology, 1873). 7.  The sculptor Camille Claudel came from a prosperous family; her father encouraged her to pursue a career as an artist. She became the pupil, assistant, and eventual lover of the sculptor Auguste Rodin, who also recognized and encouraged her creative gift. When Rodin refused to abandon his common-law wife, Rose Beuret, Claudel ended their decade-long collaboration in 1893. Though she continued to produce innovative work, Claudel displayed increasingly erratic behavior; she refused commissions she thought were the result of Rodin’s influence and destroyed some of her own sculptures. Immediately following their father’s death in 1913, her brother, the writer Paul Claudel—who at the time exercised legal



notes to pages 117–121

control over his sister—committed her to a psychiatric hospital. There she remained until her death in 1943 despite pleas by the press and the hospital staff that she be released. For the last thirty years of her life, Claudel produced no art. See Odile Ayral-Clause, Camille Claudel: A Life (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002). 8.  See Mary McIntosh, “The Homosexual Role,” Social Problems 16 (Fall 1968): 182–92. Michael S. Kimmel discusses the “crisis of masculinity” in “Men’s Responses to Feminism at the Turn of the Century,” Gender and Society 1, no. 3 (September 1987): 261–83. John E. Toews analyzes relevant aspects of gender anxiety in “Refashioning the Masculine Subject in Early Modernism: Narratives of Self-Dissolution and Self-Construction in Psychoanalysis and Literature, 1900–1914,” in The Mind of Modernism: Medicine, Psychology and the Cultural Arts in Europe and America, 1880–1940, ed. Mark S. Micale (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004), 298–335. 9.  Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick analyzes this poem in Between Men: English Literature and Male Homosocial Desire (New York: Columbia University Press, 1985), 214. 10.  Victoria Thompson, “Homosexuality in France, 1830–1879,” in Feminism and History, ed. Joan Wallach Scott (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), 398–428. See also Alain Corbin, “Backstage,” in Perrot, ed., A History of Private Life, 4:640–43. 11.  For an excellent online resource about the Virgin Mary, see the website of the International Center of Study and Research on Mary of the Marian Library of Dayton University, Ohio: mary/marypage21.html. According to Roman Catholic tradition, Mary has multiple titles, each of which evolved in response to specific circumstances: Queen of Heaven, Mother of Mercy, Mother of the Savior, Intercessor, among others. Michael P. Carroll, The Cult of the Virgin: Psychological Origins (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986), 27–59. 12.  In Catholic countries, the month of May was officially dedicated to the Virgin, and in the French countryside teenage girls were crowned with wreaths of roses in May if they could prove to a commission whose members included the village mayor, the priest, and the school teacher that they were poor, hardworking and—by means of a doctor-administered medical examination—virgins. Gauguin referred to this tradition in his painting The Month of Mary (1899, State Hermitage Museum, Moscow). 13.  Osbert may have drawn inspiration for his passive, white-gowned figure from Whistler’s well-known painting The Little White Girl: Symphony in White No. 2 (now in the Tate, London), exhibited at the Salon of 1864 accompanied by a poem by Algernon Swinburne: Art thou the ghost of my sister, White sister there, Am I the ghost,—who knows? Deep in the gleaming glass She sees all past things pass And all sweet life that was lie down and lie. . . . The Little White Girl embodied the era’s ideal of the domestic virgin—passive, beautiful, slender— and Swinburne’s poem evokes the fragility and mystery associated with such women. 14.  See Nora M. Heimann, Joan of Arc in French Art and Culture (1700–1855): From Satire to Sanctity (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005). 15.  Rodolphe Rapetti, “From Anguish to Ecstasy: Symbolism and the Study of Hysteria,” in Lost Paradise, exh. cat., Montreal, Museum of Fine Arts, 229–30. The muted, bluish tonalities and subject of Saint Geneviève were probably inspired by the murals in the Paris Panthéon by Puvis de Chavannes depicting scenes from her life. 16.  Ibid., 230.

notes to pages 121–124

17.  See Prelinger and Parke-Taylor, The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch, 99–105. 18.  Munch re-created the wooden frame, carved with spermatozoa motifs and an human embryo, of his 1893 painting. See Howe, ed., Edvard Munch, 62. The Dutch scientist Antoinie van Leeuwen was the first to show spermatozoa under the microscope (1677); the Swiss biologist Hermann Fol documented spermatozoa entering the ovum in 1879. 19.  Eggum, Edvard Munch: Symbols and Images, 165. 20.  Heller, Munch: His Life and Work, 136. 21.  Carl Gustav Jung, “Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious,” in The Basic Writings of C. G. Jung, ed. Violet de Laszlo, trans. F. F. C. Hull (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990), 322–28. 22.  Stephen Schloesser offers yet another interpretation of Madonna as an image of martyrdom, noting the observation of the early church father and pagan convert Tertullian (c. 160–230) that the blood of martyrs was the seed of the church, equating physical death with spiritual birth; it is unclear, however, how Munch, a Lutheran, would have learned of such a relatively esoteric idea. Noted in Cordulack, Edvard Munch and the Physiology of Symbolism, 94–95. 23.  Tøjner, Munch in His Own Words, 95. 24.  Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, describes Ophelia’s final moments (Hamlet IV, sc. 7). Her clothes spread wide, And mermaid-like, awhile they bore her up; Which time she chanted snatches of old tunes, As one incapable of her own distress. . . . Till that her garments, heavy with their drink, Pull’d the poor wretch from her melodious lay To muddy death. Although Millais’s painting is more illustrative than analytical, he chose a suitably delicate model for his painting: Elizabeth Siddal. Already suffering from tuberculosis, Siddal posed floating in a bathtub filled with water for over a period of three weeks in 1851, while Millais painted her. The circumstances of her death in February 1862 are murky: terminally ill, Siddal died of a laudanum (opium) overdose, although it is unclear whether it was accidental or suicide. She was reportedly unhappy at the time because her husband, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, had taken up with other women. 25.  See Dijkstra, Evil Sisters, 42–50. 26.  George du Maurier, Trilby (London: Osgood, McIlvaine, 1895), 391. 27.  H. B. Donkin, “Hysteria,” quoted in Ledger and Luckhurst, The Fin de Siècle, 245. 28.  See Callen, “Doubles and Desire,” esp. 672–77. 29.  Beginning in the 1840s, accounts of women committing suicide by drowning (usually by jumping off bridges) proliferated in literature, journalistic reports, and painting. This conveyed a false impression of nineteenth-century suicide. More men jumped from bridges than women, and men were more than twice as likely to commit suicide (Alain Corbin, “Backstage,” in Perrot, ed., A History of Private Life, 4:647), although the scarcity of visual or literary descriptions has erased this fact from historical memory. Artists and writers thus affirmed popular misconceptions regarding the propensity of women to mental instability by frequently representing female suicides. Numerous publications sought to hinder female “degeneration.” One that might well win a prize for the most lengthy title was Jean Dubois’s The Secret Habits of the Female Sex: Letters Addressed to a Mother on the Evils of Solitude, and Its Seductive Temptations to Young Girls, the Premature Victims of a Pernicious Passion, with All Its Frightful Consequences; Deformity of Mind and Body, Destruction of Beauty, and Entailing Disease and Death: but from Which, by Attention to the Timely Warning Here Given, the Devotee



notes to pages 125–137

May Be Saved, and Become an Ornament to Society, a Virtuous Wife and a Refulgent Mother: This Work Should Be Read by All Classes; While It Forcible [sic] Describes The Misery Attendant upon Such Solitude, It Prescribes a Medical Treatment and Regimen Which Has Never Failed of Success (1848). 30.  Schopenhauer, “On Women,” in Essays from the Parega and Paralipomena, (Studies in Pessimism), 67. 31.  Kraft-Ebbing, Psychopathia Sexualis, 99. The purported dangers of masturbation were elucidated by Simon-Auguste Tissot in Onanism: A Dissertation on the Illnesses Produced by Masturbation (1760). A revised, 288-page edition (which, with an artistic flourish, included a specially composed poem, “Onan, or the Fall of Mount Cinder”) appeared in 1856. 32.  “The Case of Fräulein Anna O,” Studies on Hysteria (1895), excerpted in Jay and Neve, A Fin-desiècle Reader, 141. 33.  In 1583, the German physician Johann Weyer declared poor eyesight and a fertile imagination among the traits caused by melancholy, typical among women condemned for witchcraft. Johann Weyer, Witches, Devils, and Doctors in the Renaissance (“De praestigiis daemonum”), ed. George Mora (Binghamton, NY: Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies, 1991), 183. I am indebted to Guy Tal for bringing my attention to this source and others concerning witchcraft in the Renaissance. See his dissertation, “Witches on Top: Magic, Power, and Imagination in the Art of Early Modern Italy” (Indiana University, 2006). 34.  See Gianna Piantoni, “Les Mauvaises mères” and “Le Châtiment des luxurieuses” in Gianna Piantoni and Anne Pingeot, Italies, 1880–1910: L’Art italien à l’épreuve de la modernité (exh. cat., Paris, Museé d’Orsay, 2001), 202–5. 35.  Venetia Newhall, “Folklore and Male Homosexuality,” Folklore 97, no. 2 (1986): 123. 36.  Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Tomorrow’s Eve, trans. Robert Adams (Urbana: Unversity of Illinois Press, 1982), 54. 37.  Horace, Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, ed. and trans. H. Rushton Fairclough (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 442–43. 38.  I am indebted to Guy Tal for this information. 39.   Nicole Arnaud-Duc, “The Law’s Contradictions,” in Fraisse and Perrot, A History of Women in the West, 92. 40.  Facos, “The Ideal Swedish Home.” See also Michael Snodin and Elisabet Hidemark, Carl and Karin Larsson: Creators of Swedish Style (exh. cat., London, Victoria and Albert Museum, 2001); and Brooklyn Museum, Carl Larsson (exh. cat., 1982). 41.  Le Droit des femmes et le marriage: Études critiques de législation comparée (1884). 42.  Michelle Perrot, “Stepping Out,” in Fraisse and Perrot, A History of Women in the West, 453. 43.  For a history of the purported dangers posed by the New Woman, see Stefan Bollman, Frauen, die lessen, sind gefärlich (Munich: Elisabeth Sandmann, 2005). I am indebted to Cäcilia Nauderer for this reference. 44.  Henry Mayhew, London Labour and the London Poor, 4 vols. (London: Griffin, Bohn, 1861), 3:191, 314. 45.  “Why Are Women Redundant?” National Review, April 1862, 436. For a fascinating account of courtesans’ entrepreneurial skills, see Katie Hickman, Courtesans: Money, Sex and Fame in the Nineteenth Century (New York: HarperCollins, 2003). 46.  Abba Gould Woolsen, Woman in American Society (Boston: Roberts, 1873), 27. 47.  Baudelaire, Oeuvres complètes, 1:21. 48.  Moreau represented the subject again in the birth year of Symbolism (1886), in the more sinister Victorious Sphinx (Hartford, Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art), in which a self-assured, doll-like creature, her latest (male) victim hanging from her paw, reigns over a precipice littered with corpses. The redemptive promise of Oedipus nowhere in sight; this is a world controlled by the deceptively sweet, if ruthless and destructive, Sphinx. 49.  Dijkstra, Idols of Perversity, 325–27. 50.  Samain, “Une,” in Oeuvres, 1:97.

notes to pages 138–148

51.  This desire to dissolve boundaries in the interest of unity and harmony was pervasive in the late nineteenth century, extending to the social imperative of ensuring civil rights for all social classes and the political aim of uniting working classes throughout the world through socialism. The urge for unity and harmony signaled the extreme fragmentation of the late nineteenth century, the discomfort it caused for the majority, and widespread resistance to it. Honoré de Balzac’s 1835 novel Séraphita featured an androgynous protagonist who claimed, “My heart beats for none; I live in myself; for myself alone.” Artistically, the dissolution of boundaries extended to gender as well. Péladan wrote: “Statuary has but one theme, the human body, under its double form of masculine and feminine. All synthesis is a ternary. What then is the plastic result of man and woman: the androgyne. . . . I proposed this aesthetic theory: the androgyne is the plastic idea.” He cited the androgyne as the highest metaphysical expression of Greek art, based on his reading of Plato’s Symposium (L’Artiste, December 1883). 52.  Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1981), 207. 53.  Foucault, The History of Sexuality, 1:43. 54.  Callen, “Doubles and Desire,” 684. 55.  Eisenman, Gauguin’s Skirt, 121. 56.  Stuck’s monochromatic image with its ambiguous and coarsely painted passages may have been inspired by James Whistler’s infamous Symphony in White, No. 1: White Girl (1862, Washington, National Gallery of Art), which was exhibited at Munich’s Glaspalast exhibition in 1888. 57.  The explanation is that of Traquair’s son, Harry Cumming, Phoebe Anna Traquair, 65. 58.  See Freud, “The Transformation of Puberty,” in Three Contributions to the Theory of Sex. 59.  Letter from Gauguin to Bernard written in 1889 from Pont-Aven. Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 112.

chapter 6: national romanticism 1.  The extent to which these factors define national identity, of course, is a continuing matter of debate. See Carlton B. Hayes, Nationalism: A Religion (New York: Macmillan, 1960); Hans Kohn, The Idea of Nationalism: A Study in Its Origins and Background (New York: Macmillan, 1944); and more recently Ernest Gellner, Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993); Anthony B. Smith, National Identity (Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1991); and Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (New York: Verso, 1991). Eric Hobsbawm observes: “It is hardly surprising that nationalism gained ground so rapidly from the 1870s to 1914. It was a function of both social and political changes, not to mention an international situation that provided plenty of pegs on which to hang manifestos of hostility to foreigners. Socially three developments gave considerably increased scope for the development of novel forms of inventing ‘imagined’ or even actual communities as nationalities: the resistance of traditional groups threatened by the onrush of modernity, the novel and quite non-traditional classes and strata now rapidly growing in the urbanizing societies of developed countries, and the unprecedented migrations which distributed a multiple diaspora of people across the globe. . . .” Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 109. 2.  The question was the subject of a lecture given by historian Ernest Renan at the Sorbonne on March 11, 1882. “Qu’est ce que c’est un nation?” reprinted in John Hutchinson and Anthony B. Smith, eds., Nationalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), 17–18. 3.  See Johann Gottfried Herder, Auch eine Philosophie der Geschichte zur Bildung der Menscheit (Frankfurt: Surkamp, 1967). Contemporary political realities influenced Herder’s definition. At the time that Herder was writing, the 1790s, the German-speaking world consisted of several hundred independent political entities—from the powerful kingdoms of Prussia and Bavaria to independent city-states such as Lübeck and Hamburg—each with its own legal and monetary system. The importance of a strong nation for insuring the security of its citizens was underscored in German lands during the Napoleonic occupation of 1803–13, when the French army swept virtually undeterred from the Rhine to the Elbe River, until



notes to pages 148–156

its defeat at the Battle of the Nations near Leipzig in October 1813—only after it had been reduced from nearly 450,000 to 10,000. 4.  The rivalry between French-speaking and Flemish-speaking Belgian citizens came to a climax in 1884, when the politically conservative Catholic party took control of the parliament after thirty years of Liberal party rule. Although the Catholics added Flemish as an official national language (this did not go into effect until 1898), their motive was to perpetuate ethnic separatism. See Shepard Clough, A History of the Flemish Movement in Belgium: A Study in Nationalism (New York: Octagon Books, 1968). 5.  World’s fairs were held with increasing frequency during the final decades of the nineteenth century. See Pieter van Wesemael, Architecture of Instruction and Delight: A Socio-historical Analysis of World Exhibitions as a Didactic Phenomenon (Rotterdam: Uitgever, 2001); Miriam Levin, When the Eiffel Tower Was New: French Visions of Progress at the Centennial of the Revolution (exh. cat., South Hadley, MA, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum, 1989); and Richard Mandell, Paris 1900: The Great World’s Fair (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967). 6.  See Rydell, All the World’s a Fair. 7.  For a discussion of Provençal regionalism in 1880s under the leadership of the poet Frédéric Mistral, see Silverman, Van Gogh and Gauguin, 55–56; for a more general discussion of the suppression of French regionalism, see Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen. 8.  See Jerzy Lukowski, A Concise History of Poland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006). 9.  Richard Bergh, “Staden mellan broarna” (“The City Between the Bridges”), in Om Konst och Annat (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1908), 145. Quoted in Facos, Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination, 42. 10.  Patrick Young, “La Vieille France as Object of Bourgeois Desire,” in Koshar, ed., Histories of Leisure, 170. 11.  P. Mathews, Aurier’s Symbolist Art Criticism and Theory, 111. 12.  Paul Hayes Tucker demonstrates the falseness of Aurier’s claims in Monet in the ’90s: The Series Paintings (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982), chap. 4: “Of Hay and Oats and Stacks of Grain: Monet’s Painting of Agrarian France in 1890–91,” 65–105. 13.  Joan of Arc led a floundering French army to victory in the Hundred Years’ War, after which she was betrayed by King Charles VII and captured by the English. Joan’s popularity rose dramatically in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War. She symbolized patriotism, piety, spiritual vision, and the New Woman. Numerous statues of her were erected in public spaces, and in 1920 she was canonized by Pope Benedict XV. 14.  Quoted in Morowitz, Anonymity, Artistic Brotherhoods and the Art Market, 189. 15.  Ibid., 190. 16.  See Peter Brock and H. G. Skilling, eds., The Czech Renascence of the Nineteenth Century: Essays Presented to Otakar Odlotilík in Honour of His Seventieth Birthday (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970). 17.  Norway was forced into union with Sweden under the Treaty of Kiel in order to compensate Sweden for the loss of Finland to Russia in 1809. 18.  As Eric Hobsbawm notes, “in the era before general primary education there was no and could be no spoken ‘national’ language except such literary or administrative idioms as were written, or devised or adapted for oral use. . . . A genuinely spoken ‘national language’ evolved on a purely oral basis . . . is difficult to conceive for a region of any substantial geographical size.” Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism since 1780, 52. 19.  Munthe traveled widely and exhibited throughout Europe. He visited Paris for the first time in 1885 and exhibited there in 1893 and 1900. He exhibited at Munich’s Glaspalast in 1890 and 1891, in Venice in 1895, in Berlin in 1896, and in Vienna in 1900. On Norwegian national identity in general, see Oscar J. Falnes, National Romanticism in Norway (New York: Columbia University Press, 1933). 20.  Gerhard Munthe, “Rytmisk Kunst,” reprinted in Gerhard Munthe, 1849–1929 (exh. cat., Stiftelsen Modum Blaafarveværk), 84. According to Magnus Poulsson, Munthe succeeded in creating a Norwegian

notes to pages 156–167

aesthetic. In his essay “Gerhard Munthe og hans dekorative kunst,” written in 1929 shortly after Munthe’s death, Poulsson asserts: “In the Snorre illustrations Munthe achieves something fundamentally Norwegian; in any case something that impresses us as uniquely Norwegian.” Ibid., 93. The impulse to look to indigenous folk art for inspiration was an international phenomenon at the time. 21.  Munthe’s wife, Sigrun Sandberg, began weaving in the late 1880s under the influence of Norway’s folk arts revival movement. She was a pioneer insofar as she did not copy traditional patterns but used them as inspiration for her own creations, much as Munthe later did in his own artwork. Peter Anker, “Gerhard Munthe,” in ibid., 16. 22.  Ibid., 82. 23.  Munthe asserted that the contemporary view—that older art was characterized by conformity whereas contemporary art is distinguished by individualism—is a perception common to all eras, noting that Gothic artists would have perceived a variety of individual styles among their contemporaries. Ibid., 88. 24.  In his essay “The Nation,” Max Weber noted, “a common language does not seem to be absolutely necessary to a ‘nation.’” Hutchinson and Smith, eds., Nationalism, 22. 25.  Switzerland profited from its geography by marketing the restorative benefits of mountain air enjoyed at tourist resorts and sanitoriums, originally designed for the nobility and the affluent but subsequently opened to the middle classes. 26.  Quoted in Sharon Hirsh, “Hodler as Genevois, Hodler as Swiss,” in Ferdinand Hodler (exh. cat., Cincinnati Art Museum), 91. 27.  In “The Mission of the Artist,” Hodler noted that color oppositions and contrasts “excite us, surprise us, seem to jolt our nervous system.” Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 250. He also observed the colors had differing effects: “white is purity, whereas black stands for evil, suffering. Vivid red expresses violence, light blue, sweetness; violet, sadness.” Ibid., 249. 28.  John Morrison, “Nationalism and Nationhood: Late-Nineteenth-Century Painting in Scotland,” in Facos and Hirsh, eds., Art, Culture, and National Identity, 186–206. 29.  Ibid., 199. 30.  See Thomas Kendrick, The Druids: A Study in Keltic Prehistory (London: Methuen, 1927). 31.  See Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory (New York: Knopf, 1995). 32.  See Janne Gallen-Kallela Sirén, “Akseli Gallen-Kallelas Wasserfall bei Mäntikoski—Naturalismus zwischen Natur und Mythos,” in Czymmek, Landschaft als Kosmos der Seele, 119–27. 33.  The work was commissioned by the Swedish Association for the Blind as a fresco; it was never executed. 34.  See Facos, Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination, chap. 3, “Rootedness,” 47–72. 35.  See Brzyski, “Redefining the Modernist Paradigm.” 36.  Elżbieta Charazińska et al., Symbolism in Polish Painting, 1890–1914 (exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts), 158. 37.  I am indebted to Thor J. Mednick for this information. 38.  Quoted in Richard Shiff, “The Primitive of Everyone Else’s Way,” in Solana, Gauguin and the Origins of Symbolism, 73.

chapter 7: promoting symbolist art 1.  Letter dated January 18, 1891, in Morowitz, “Anonymity, Artistic Brotherhoods and the Art Market,” 185. 2.  March 18 [1888] letter, excerpted in Pickvance, Van Gogh in Arles, 21. 3.  Cafés played a crucial role in Parisian social life; indeed, Paris had ten times as many cafés per capita as London—more than thirty thousand in the late 1880s. W. Scott Heine, The World of the Paris Café: Social Accountability among the French Working Class, 1789–1914 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996), 3–4.



notes to pages 168–175

4.  Rewald, Post-Impressionism, 7. 5.  Maurice Brincourt, L’Exposition Universelle de 1889 (Paris: Librairie de Firmin-Didot, 1890), 106. In order to preempt Germany’s bid for the 1900 fair, France sent out invitations to other nations in 1895. Jonathan Meyer, Great Exhibitions. London–New York–Paris–Philadelphia 1851–1900 (Woodbridge, UK: Antique Collectors’ Club, 2006), 285. 6.  Facos, Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination. 7.  Émile Monod, “Les Beaux-Arts à l’Exposition,” in L’Exposition Universelle de 1889 (Paris: Libraire de la Société des Gens de Lettres, 1890), 1:586–664. 8.  “L’Exposition decennale,” in L. Bénédite et al., Exposition Universelle de 1900: Les Beaux-arts et les arts décoratifs (Paris: Gazette des Beaux-Arts, 1900), 45–122. 9.  Yeats chaired Dublin’s Hermetic Society, whose principles were based on Blavatsky’s The Secret Doctrine; he founded the Dublin Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1886. 10.  Excerpted in Michaud, Message poétique du Symbolisme, 774. 11.  Bernard described this encounter in his introduction to his publication of letters from Vincent van Gogh: “I saw a violent, exalted face surrounded by a red beard and hair coming toward me and offering me his compliments.” They left together, visited van Gogh’s brother Theo at 54 rue Lepic, and exchanged paintings to commemorate the event. Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 18. Both van Gogh (Musée Rodin, Paris) and Bernard (1887, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel) painted Tanguy’s portrait. 12.  Bernard exhibited at Père Tanguy’s shop in 1887, 1890, and 1893. 13.  Bernard sought to prove his claim by publishing supportive evidence from a half-dozen articles. The Revue encyclopédique called Bernard “the founder of the school qualifying as Symbolist,” while Voltaire asserted that Bernard “in advance of Gauguin himself was the initiator of this aesthetic since considered Symbolist.” Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 241–57. See Vojtech Jirat-Wasiutynski, “Émile Bernard and Paul Gauguin: The Avant-Garde and Tradition,” in Stevens, ed., Émile Bernard, 48–67. 14.  The standard surveys of artists’ colonies are Michael Jacobs, The Good and Simple Life: Artists’ Colonies in Europe and America (Oxford: Phaidon, 1985); and Nina Lubbren, Rural Artists’ Colonies in Europe (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2001). 15.  1887 letter in À Émile Bernard, 24. 16.  1888 letter in ibid., 25–26. A decade later in 1898, Joris-Karl Huysmans and the painter Charles Dulac (1865–1898) started another short-lived artists’ colony (modeled on a Benedictine monastery) in Ligugé; the experiment ended abruptly when Dulac became terminally ill. 17.  Gauguin exhibited at Goupil in January 1888. Lövgren, The Genesis of Modernism, 98. 18.  Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 13. 19.  For the critical reception of the Volpini exhibition, see Rewald, Post-Impressionism, 260–62. 20.  Mauner, The Nabis, 27–28, 76–80. 21.  Pissarro, who maintained friendships with artists in a variety of progressive camps, was one of the few non-Nabis to exhibit at the SIS. In fact the final SIS exhibition in 1896 was essentially a one-man show, since most of the Nabis were by then pursuing other interests. 22.  Women artists were relatively well represented: Camille Berlin, Marie-Louise Boitelet, Jeanne Jacquemin (active 1845–1868), and Suzanne Valedon (1865–1938) were among the fifty-eight exhibitors, as well as Bernard, Denis, Charles Filiger, Pissarro, Ranson, Rops, Sérusier, Signac, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Vuillard. 23.  Camille Mauclair, preface to Quatrième Exposition des peintres impressionnistes et symbolistes, April– May 1893, 3. 24.  Camille Mauclair, “Le Barc de Boutteville,” Mercure de France, December 1894, 384. 25.  Lövgren, The Genesis of Modernism, 44 and 59. 26.  Both Guaita and Papus published extensively on esoteric/mystical topics. 27.  Translated and reprinted in Block, Les XX and Belgian Avant-Gardism, 205–10. 28.  “Rules of the Rose + Croix” translated and reprinted in ibid., 211–16. Despite its emphasis on tradi-

notes to pages 175–184

tion and preference for Catholic religious subjects, the Rose + Croix Salon may have been the first to require foreign artists to submit photographs to be judged by the exhibition jury. 29.  A decade earlier, in 1882, Durand-Ruel organized the Seventh Impressionist Exhibition. 30.  Dante Alighieri, the poet whose Divine Comedy inspired Rodin’s Gates of Hell, lived in Florence during the thirteenth century. When, at age nine, he saw Beatrice Portinari, they fell in love, but social convention dictated that Dante could not speak to her. Although he could only nod to her as they passed on the street and she died young, Beatrice became Dante’s imaginary muse to whom he wrote love poetry and from whom he derived inspiration. This tragic love story also fascinated the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who painted a memorial to his wife, Elizabeth Siddal, in the guise of Beatrice (Beata Beatrix, 1864–70, Tate Britain, London). 31.  Alphonse Germain, “Sur un tableau refusé: Théorie du symbolisme des teintes,” La Plume, May 15, 1891, 171–72. The attack on Gauguin appeared in a subsequent article by Germain, “Théorie des déformateurs: exposé et refutation,” La Plume, September 1, 1891, 289–90. See Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 39–42. 32.  See Dorothy M. Kosinski, Orpheus in Nineteenth-Century Symbolism (Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1989). 33.  Pincus-Witten, Occult Symbolism in France, 196–200. 34.  Ibid., chap. 4, “Les XX and L’Art Moderne: Artistic Theory and Political Implications,” 78–102. Ensor’s Temptation of Saint Anthony was excluded on grounds of indecency in 1888. 35.  Quoted in ibid., 34. 36.  Ibid., 43. 37.  In 1892, a group affiliated with Les XX (in which Khnopff, Maus, Edmond Picard, and Verhaeren were members) carried their aesthetic-political convictions further by starting an art section at the Brussels maison du peuple with the goal of disseminating knowledge about art of the past and fostering interest in contemporary culture. The Section’s programming included museum visits, lectures, and concerts, where music by Beethoven, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Wagner was performed. In 1894, the Workers’ Party founded the Université Nouvelle, which included among its professors Huysmans, Picard, Verhaeren, and Henry van de Velde, leader of the Belgian Arts and Crafts movement. 38.  Other noteworthy works exhibited at Les XX were Khnopff ’s illustrations to Péladan’s Supreme Vice in 1885, Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (Art Institute of Chi­ cago) in 1887, and Gauguin’s Vision of the Sermon in 1889. 39.  L’Art moderne, October 29, 1893, 345. Quoted in Block, Les XX and Belgian Avant-Gardism, 186. 40. See Angeli, Cronache del Caffé Greco. 41.  The poet Gabriele d’Annunzio belonged to the Libertas circle and published Il caso Wagner in 1893. In it, he argued that music was best suited to expressing the profound melancholy of modern man. 42.  Damigella, La pittura simbolista in Italia, 22. 43.  Previati confided to his brother Giuseppe in a letter dated February 18, 1890, that he intended to embody the idea of motherhood in Maternity. Ibid., 94. 44.  Grubicy was an artist, art dealer, teacher, and publicist who played a central role in promoting international trends among artists working in Rome. 45.  Makela, The Munich Secession, 13. 46.  Ibid., 17. 47.  The Secession issued a statement of intention in the June 21, 1892, edition of widely circulated Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, where it stated the vanguard belief: “Only through progress does living art exist.” Reprinted and translated in Makela, The Munich Secession, 145–48. 48.  Letter from Bergh to Georg Pauli. Georg Pauli, Konstnärsbrev, 2 vols. (Stockholm: Bonnier, 1928), 1:50. Quoted in Facos, Nationalism and the Nordic Imagination, 23. 49.  A restrike of this exhibition was held at Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, in 1984. 50.  Noted in Merete Bodelsen, Gauguin and van Gogh in Copenhagen in 1893 (exh. cat., Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen, 1984), 24.



notes to pages 184–196

51.  Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 89. 52.  Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 26. 53.  Cándida Smith, Mallarmé’s Children, 49. 54. Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 98–99. 55.  Kearns, Symbolist Landscapes, 43. 56.  Quoted in Lövgren, The Genesis of Modernism, 79. 57.  Aurier viewed van Gogh as a mentally unbalanced, obsessive painter, whose passion and violence emerge as a subtext in his paintings in his article “Les Isolés: Vincent van Gogh,” Mercure de France, January 1890, 24–29. Van Gogh took exception to this characterization and wrote a response to Aurier that was later published in Aurier’s Oeuvres posthumes. 58.  Excerpts of letters from Vincent van Gogh to Bernard appeared in April 1893, letters to Theo van Gogh in August 1893, “Les Primitifs et la Renaissance” in November 1894, “Ce que c’est que l’art mystique” in January 1895, “Art naif et art savant” in April 1895, open letter to Mauclair in June 1895, and “Passion de l’art” in September 1895. 59.  Articles by Denis appeared in La Revue blanche on April 25 and June 25, 1892. Denis also published articles in Art et critique (August 23 and 30, October 18, and November 8, 1890, and February 20, 1892) and L’Art et la vie (October 1896). 60.  In a January 6, 1892, letter to Bernard, Odilon Redon thanked Bernard for his kind mention of him in the interview. Bernard, À Émile Bernard, 141. 61.  Hirsh, “Hodler as Genevois, Hodler as Swiss” in Ferdinand Hodler: Views and Visions, 76. 62.  Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 169. 63.  Diaghilev’s efforts at internationalizing Russian culture provoked vehement opposition from a faction that championed the unique qualities of Russian folk culture. Janet Kennedy provides a synopsis of this debate in “Pride and Prejudice: Serge Diaghilev, the Ballet Russes, and the French Public,” in Facos and Hirsch, Art, Culture and National Identity, 99–101.

chapter 8: symbolist currents in the twentieth century 1.  Lövgren, The Genesis of Modernism, xii. 2.  Picasso’s limited palette might also have been born of necessity: he was poor at the time, and paint was expensive. 3.  José Álvarez Lopera, “La Vie,” in Carmen Giménez and Francisco Calvo Serraller, eds., Picasso: Tradition and Avant-Garde, 78. 4.  Two other paintings from 1901, Death (private collection) and Evocation (Musée d’art moderne de la ville de Paris), are earlier and more explicit tributes to Casegamas. Ibid., 80. 5.  José Álvarez Lopera notes that “the artist’s hesitations when painting the work . . . prevent us from reaching any definitive conclusions regarding the meaning of the scene. . . .” Lopera considers La Vie a Symbolist work, whose “cycle of life” theme relates it to Gauguin’s Where Do We Come From? and Munch’s Frieze of Life series. Ibid., 81. 6.  The fact that Picasso made many studies for this work indicates that it was carefully planned. Indeed, Picasso was a prolific and expert draftsman throughout his life. 7.  Klee kept a diary until 1918 that is not entirely reliable as evidence since he was aware of its ­documentary potential and edited it to convey the image he wanted to present. See Franciscono, Paul Klee, 6–10. 8.  See M. McCully, “Magic and Illusion in the Saltimbanques of Picasso and Apollinaire,” Art History, December 1980, 425–34. 9.  Röntgen announced his discovery to the public in the Viennese newspaper Wiener Presse on January 5, 1896. 10.  Spate, Orphism, 104.

notes to pages 196–201

11.  It is also likely that Kupka, who resided in Paris, would have known of Arthur Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell (Une Saison en enfer, 1873), in which the author announced: “I’ve invented the color of vowels! A black, E white, I red, O blue, U green. I regulate the form and movement of every consonant and, with instinctive rhythms, I flatter myself to have invented an accessible poetic verb, one day or another, in any event.” 12.  Quoted from Kupka’s 1923 book, Creation in the Plastic Arts (Tvoření v umĕní výtvarném), in Jaroslav Andĕl, “A Wanderer between Chaos and Order,” in Andĕl and Kosinski, Painting the Universe, 89. 13.  The German philosopher Rudolf Steiner (1861–1925) was president of the German Section of the Theosophical Society from 1902 to 1912. Steiner’s spiritual concerns followed a different trajectory than that of the Theosophical Society; he called his philosophy “Anthroposophy” to signal its greater involvement with individuals and their spiritual development. Theosophy, Steiner felt, fixated on elaborating the details of a comprehensive metaphysical system and identifying spiritual prophets, whereas Steiner believed that it was more important to facilitate the harmonious integration of individuals with cosmic forces. According to Steiner: “Anthroposophy is a path of knowledge to guide the Spiritual in the human being to the Spiritual in the universe . . . at the very frontier where the knowledge derived from sense-perception ceases, there is opened through the human soul itself the further outlook into the spiritual world.” Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts (London: Rudolph Steiner Press, 1973), 13. 14.  Kandinsky mentions Sievers’s translation in a 1908 diary entry. Ringbom, The Sounding Cosmos, 47. Among the journals that Münter donated to Munich’s Städtische Galerie were issues of Spiritische Rundschau, Neue Metaphysische Rundschau, and Die Übersinnliche Welt from 1901 to 1908, as well as Steiner’s Lucifer-Gnosis from 1904 to 1908, which, Ringbom notes (ibid., 62), has extensive marginalia in Kandinsky’s hand. 15.  Like the Symbolists, Kandinsky was interested in music (as the least tangible art form) and music theory (as a way toward understanding universal laws). He played cello and piano as a child, and, like Whistler, titled several of his works “compositions” and “improvisations.” In 1912, Kandinsky wrote a libretto for a theatrical piece, “The Yellow Sound” (Der gelbe Klang), produced in Munich at the Münchner Künstlertheater in 1914. 16.  In On the Spiritual in Art Kandinsky wondered: “Should we not ignore the object completely? Should we not throw it to the wind, remove it from our conventions and accept only the purely abstract?” Quoted in Bowlt and Long, The Life of Vasilii Kandinsky, 79. 17.  Quoted in Hahl-Koch, Kandinsky, 92. 18.  Bowlt and Long, The Life of Vasilii Kandinsky, 82. 19.  The van Gogh exhibition was held at the Stedelijk Museum; the Hodler exhibition was held at the Academy of St. Luke. 20.  Mondrian studied at the National Academy of Fine Art in Amsterdam from 1892 to 1897. 21.  Mondrian owned a transcript of Besant’s lecture. Cooper, “Mondrian, Hegel, Boogie,” 123 n. 20. 22.  Evolution (1910, Gemeentemuseum, The Hague), one of Mondrian’s few figural paintings, has explicit Theosophical content. 23.  Brancusi’s family was relatively affluent; his father was the land manager for a local monastery. 24. Quoted in Varia, Brancusi, 40. 25.  Brancusi chose this as the tombstone for a Romanian medical student, Tania Rachevskaia, who committed suicide in 1910 following a failed love affair; it was not, however, commissioned to commemorate this tragedy. 26.  Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 296–97. 27.  Quoted in Coen, Umberto Boccioni, 121. 28.  De Chirico published an article on Böcklin in the May 1920 issue of the journal Il Convegno. 29.  Quoted in Maurizio Dell’Arco, “De Chirico in Paris, 1911–1915,” in Museum of Modern Art, De Chirico, 11.



notes to pages 201–207

30.  Michael Taylor (Giorgio de Chirico, 24) notes that de Chirico’s Ariadne is inspired by, rather than a copy of, Hellenistic Greek prototypes. De Chirico may have seen Ariadne sculptures in the Uffizi in Florence, at the Vatican, or in the gardens of Versailles, in a late seventeenth-century copy by Corneille van Clève (1645–1732). 31.  Taylor, Giorgio de Chirico, 83. 32.  Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, 400. 33.  Ibid., 401. 34.  From Redon’s journal To Oneself, excerpted in Dorra, Symbolist Art Theories, 56. 35.  The Interpretation of Dreams (published 1900, translated 1925), The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (published 1901, translated 1922), Three Essays in the Theory of Sexuality (published 1905, translated 1927). Noted in Fer, “Surrealism, Myth and Psychoanalysis,” 182. 36.  André Breton discusses Freud in his “Manifesto of Surrealism.” See T340/SurManifesto/ManifestoOfSurrealism.htm. 37.  Ibid. 38.  Ibid. 39.  Whitney Chadwick, Mirror Images: Women, Surrealism, and Self-Representation (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), 78–79. 40. As Poul Vad (Vilhelm Hammershøi, 10) has noted, Hammershøi “destroyed all documents touching on his private life. . . . He kept no journal, made no notes, confided his thoughts to no one and nothing.” 41.  Vad frequently implies his ability to discern Hammershøi’s intentions by statements such as “It goes without saying that Hammershøi had no such thoughts [about women being vegetative] when he painted his pictures” (ibid., 203), and “we can probably—without overstepping the boundary to a literary interpretation—find expression for the individual’s alienation towards the impersonal or suprapersonal power the pictures render unmistakable. . . .” (ibid., 327). 42. Quoted in Jean-Claude Marcadé, “K. S. Malevich: From Black Quadrilateral (1913) to White on White (1917); From the Eclipse of Objects to the Liberation of Space,” in Barron and Tuchman, The Avant-Garde in Russia, 21. 43.  See Douglas, “Suprematism.” 44.  Members included Fritz Bleyl (1880–1966), Erich Heckel (1883–1970), Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (1880–1938), Emil Nolde (1867–1956), Max Pechstein (1881–1955), Karl Schmidt-Rottluff (1884–1976), and briefly Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865–1931). 45.  Peter Selz, German Expressionist Painting (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1974), 101. 46.  Published in the February 20, 1909, edition of Le Figaro. Apollonio, ed., Futurist Manifestos, 22. 47.  Herman Scheffauer, The New Vision in the German Arts (Port Washington, NY/London: Kennikat Press, 1971; first ed., London: E. Benn, 1924), x–xi. 48.  Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, kandinskytext.htm.

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———. The Interpretation of Dreams, trans. Joyce Crick. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Friedman, Donald Flanell. The Symbolist Dead City: A Landscape of Poesis. New York-London: Garland Publishing, 1990. Frizsche, Peter. Stranded in the Present: Modern Time and the Melancholy of History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2004. Gage, John. “The Technique of Seurat: A Reappraisal.” Art Bulletin, September 1987, 448–54. Gallacher Catherine, and Thomas Laqueur, eds. The Making of the Modern Body: Sexuality and Society in the Nineteenth Century. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. Gamboni, Dario. La Plume et le pinceau: Odilon Redon et la littérature. Paris: Editions de Minuit, 1989. Gauguin, Paul. Gauguin’s Letters from the South Seas, trans. Ruth Pielkovo. New York: Dover, 1992. ———. Noa Noa: The Tahitian Journal, trans. O. F. Theis. New York: Dover, 1985. Gay, Peter. Schnitzler’s Century: The Making of Middle-Class Culture, 1815–1914. New York and London: W. W. Norton, 2002. Gedo, Mary Mathews. Picasso: Art as Autobiography. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980. Geist, Sidney. Brancusi/The Kiss. New York: Harper and Row, 1977. Gilman, Sander L. Differences and Pathology: Stereotypes of Sexuality, Race, and Madness. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1985. ———. Health and Illness: Images of Difference. London: Reaktion Books, 1995. Goetz, Thomas, H. Taine and the Fine Arts. Madrid: Playor, 1973. Gogh, Vincent van. The Complete Letters of Vincent van Gogh, 3 vols. Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1978. Golding, John. Paths to the Absolute: Mondrian, Malevich, Kandinsky, Pollock, Newmann, Rothko and Still. London: Thames and Hudson, 2000. Goldwater, Robert. Primitivism in Modern Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986. ———. Symbolism. New York: Harper and Row, 1979. Greenhalgh, Paul. Ephemeral Vistas: The Expositions Universelles, Great Exhibitions, and World’s Fairs, 1851–1939. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1988. Griffiths, Richard. The Reactionary Revolution: The Catholic Revival in French Literature, 1870–1914. New York: Frederick Ungar, 1965. Gsell, Paul. Rodin on Art, trans. Mrs. Romilly Fedden. New York: Horizon Press, 1971. Haeckel, Ernst. Monism. As Connecting Religion and Science: The Confession of Faith of a Man of Science. London: A & C Black, 1894. ———. The Riddle of the Universe at the Close of the Nineteenth Century. London: Watts, 1900. Hahl-Koch, Jelena. Kandinsky. New York: Rizzoli, 1993. Halperin, Joan U. Félix Fénéon: Aesthete and Anarchist in Fin-de-siècle Paris. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. Hansen-Löve, Aage A. Der russische Symbolismus: System und Entfaltung der poetischen Motive , 1: Diabolischer Symbolismus. Vienna: Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1989. Hanson, Ellis. Decadence and Catholicism. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood, eds. Art in Theory, 1815–1900. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1998. Hartmann, Eduard von. Philosophy of the Unconscious. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972. Hauptman, Jodi, ed. Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon, Exh. cat., New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2006. Hays, J. N. Epidemics and Pandemics: Their Impact on Human History. Santa Barbara, CA: ABCCLIO, 2005. Hedström, Per. Strindberg: Painter and Photographer. Exh. cat., National Museum, Stockholm (originally published as Strindberg: Målaren och Fotografen). New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001.



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Lloyd, Jill, and Michael Peppiatt, eds. Van Gogh and Expressionism. Exh. cat., Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum, 2007. Lombroso, Cesare. The Man of Genius. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1895 (originally published as L’uomo di genio: In rapporto alla psichiatria, alla storia ed all’estica, 1889). ———. L’uomo delinquente: Studiato in rapporto all’antropologia, giurisprudenza ed alle discipline carcerarie. Torino: Fratelli Bocca, 1884. Lombroso, Cesare, and Guglielmo Ferrero. Criminal Woman, the Prostitute, and the Normal Woman, trans. Nicole Hahn Rafter and Mary Gibson. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004 (originally published as La donna delinquente, la prostituta e la donna normale, 1893). Long, Rose-Carol Washton. “Occultism, Anarchism, and Abstraction: Kandinsky’s Art of the Future.” Art Journal, Spring 1987, 38–45. Loosli, Carl Albert. Ferdinand Hodler: Leben, Werk und Nachlass. 4 vols. Bern: R. Suter, 1921–24. Lost Paradise. Symbolist Europe. Exh. cat., Montreal: Museum of Fine Arts, 1995. Lovejoy, Arthur O., and George Boas. Primitivism and Related Ideas in Antiquity. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1935. Lövgren, Sven. The Genesis of Modernism: Seurat, Gauguin, van Gogh and French Symbolism in the 1880’s. Stockholm: Almqvist and Wiksell, 1959. Lucie-Smith, Edward. Symbolist Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1985. Makela, Maria. The Munich Secession: Art and Artists in Turn-of-the-Century Munich. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990. Mathews, Nancy Mowll. Paul Gauguin: An Erotic Life. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001. Mathews, Patricia. Aurier’s Symbolist Art Criticism and Theory. Ann Arbor: UMI Research Press, 1986. ———. Passionate Discontent: Creativity, Gender, and French Symbolist Art. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999. Mathieu, Pierre-Louis. Gustave Moreau: Sa vie, son oeuvre. Paris: Bibliothèque des Arts, 1976. Mauner, George. The Nabis: Their History and Their Art, 1888–1896. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 1978. McShine, Kynaston, ed. Edvard Munch: The Modern Life of the Soul. Exh. cat., New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2006. Michaud, Guy. Message poétique du Symbolisme. Paris: Librairie Nizet, 1961 (first ed., 1947). Moffitt, John F. Alchemist of the Avant-Garde: The Case of Marcel Duchamp. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002. Morice, Charles. La Littérature de tout à l’heure. Paris: Perrin, 1889. Morowitz, Laura. “Anonymity, Artistic Brotherhoods and the Art Market in the Fin de siècle.” In Laura Morowitz and William Vaughan, eds., Artistic Brotherhoods in the Nineteenth Century, 185–95. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000. Morton, Marsha, and Peter L. Schmunk, eds. The Arts Entwined: Music and Painting in the Nineteenth Century. New York and London: Garland Publishing, 2000. Mundy, Kennifer. Surrealism: Desire Unbound. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001. Gerhard Munthe, 1849–1929. Exh. cat., Åmot, Norway: Stiftelsen Modum Blaafarveværk, 1988. Nicolson, Benedict. “Seurat’s La Baignade.” The Burlington Magazine, November 1941, 138–46. Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, trans. William Haussmann. Vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, ed. Oscar Levy. New York: Russell and Russell, 1964. Nordau, Max. Degeneration. New York: D. Appleton, 1895. Norris, Lisa Ann. “The Early Writings of Camille Mauclair: Toward an Understanding of Wagnerism and French Art, 1885–1900.” Ph.D. dissertation, Brown University, 1993.

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Offen, Karen. “Depopulation, Nationalism, and Feminism in Fin-de-Siècle France.” American Historical Review 89, no. 3 ( June 1984): 648–76. Orton, Fred, and Griselda Pollock. “Les Données bretonnantes: La Prairie de représentation.” Art History, September 1980, 314–44. Orwicz, Michael. “Criticism and Representations of Brittany in the Early Third Republic.” Art Journal, Winter 1987, 291–98. Parent-Duchatelet, Alexandre. La Prostitution à Paris au XIX siècle (1837), ed. Alain Corbin. Paris: Seuil, 1985. Paret, Peter. The Berlin Secession: Modernism and Its Enemies in Imperial Germany. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980. Péladan, Joséphin. De l’Androgyne: Théorie plastique. Paris: E. Sansot, 1910. ———. L’Art idéaliste et mystique. Paris: Chamuel, 1894. Perrot, Michelle, ed. A History of Private Life, 4: From the Fires of Revolution to the Great War, trans. Arthur Goldhammer. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990. Picasso: Tradition and Avant-Garde. Exh. cat., Madrid: Museo nacional del Prado, 2006. Pick, Daniel. Faces of Degeneration: A European Disorder, c. 1848–c. 1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989. Pickvance, Ronald. Van Gogh in Arles. Exh. cat., New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York: Abrams, 1984. Pierrot, Jean. The Decadent Imagination, 1880–1900, trans. Derek Cotman. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981. Pincus-Witten, Robert. Occult Symbolism in France: Joséphin Péladan and the Salons de la Rose + Croix. New York: Garland, 1976. Poe, Edgar. Nouvelles histoires extraordinaires, trans. Charles Baudelaire. Paris: M. Lévy, 1857. ———. The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, 3 vols. New York: Thomas Nelson, 1905. Pollock, Griselda. “Artists’ Mythologies and Media Genius, Madness, and Art History.” Screen, Spring 1980, 57–96. ———. Vision and Difference: Feminity, Feminism, and Histories of Art. London: Routledge, 1988. Prelinger, Elizabeth. Edvard Munch: Master Printmaker. New York: W. W. Norton, 1983. Prelinger, Elizabeth, and Michael Parke-Taylor. The Symbolist Prints of Edvard Munch: The Vivian and David Campbell Collection. Exh. cat., Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1996. Prideaux, Sue. Edvard Munch: Behind “The Scream.” New Haven: Yale University Press, 2005. Puget, Catherine, and Caroline Boyle-Turner. Sérusier et la Bretagne. Exh. cat., Musée de Pont-Aven, 1991. Quinsac, Annie-Paule. La Peinture divisionniste italienne: Origines et premiers développements, 1880–95. Paris: Klincksieck, 1972. Rabinovitch, Celia. Surrealism and the Sacred: Power, Eros, and the Occult in Modern Art. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2002. Radestock, Paul. Schlaf und Traum: Eine physiologisch-psychologische Untersuchung. Leipzig: Breitkopf and Härtel, 1879. Rapetti, Rodolphe. Symbolism, trans. Deke Dusinberre. Paris: Flammarion, 2005. Redon, Odilon. À Soi-même: Journal (1867–1915). Notes sur la vie, l’art et les artistes. Paris: Librairie José Corti, 1961. Rewald, John. Post-Impressionism: From Van Gogh to Gauguin. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1959. Reynolds, Dee. Symbolist Aesthetics and Early Abstract Art: Sites of Imaginary Space. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995. Rhein, Philip H. “Two Fantastic Visions: Franz Kafka and Alfred Kubin.” South Atlantic Bulletin, May 1977, 61–66.



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Ringbom, Sixten. The Sounding Cosmos: A Study of the Spiritualism of Kandinsky and the Genesis of Abstract Painting. Turku, Finland: Åbo Academy, 1970. Rodenbach, Georges. Bruges-la-Morte. Brussels: Jacques Antoine, 1977 (first ed., Paris: Flammarion, 1892). Rookmaaker, Hendrik. Gauguin and Nineteenth-Century Art Theory. Amsterdam: Swets and Zeitlinger, 1972. Roskill, Mark. Klee, Kandinsky, and the Thought of Their Time: A Critical Perspective. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1992. Roslak, Robyn S. Neo-Impressionism and Anarchism in Fin-de-siècle France: Painting, Politics and Landscape. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007. ———. “The Politics of Aesthetic Harmony: Neo-Impressionism, Science, and Anarchism.” Art Bulletin, September 1991, 381–90. ———. “Scientific Aesthetics and the Aestheticized Earth: The Parallel Vision of the Neo-Impressionist Landscape and Anarcho-Communist Social Theory.” Ph.D. dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles, 1987. Rossholm, Margaretha. “Sagen i nordisk sekelskiftetskonst.” Ph.D. dissertation, Stockholm University, 1974. Rubin, William, ed. “Primitivism” in Twentieth-Century Art, 2 vols. Exh. cat., New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1984. Rudorff, Raymond. Belle Epoque: Paris in the Nineties. New York: Saturday Review Press, 1972. Rydell, Robert W. All the World’s a Fair: Visions of Empire at American International Exhibitions, 1876– 1916. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984. Samain, Albert. Oeuvres. 3 vols. Geneva: Slatkine Reprints, 1977. Schopenhauer, Arthur. Essays from the Parega and Paralipomena, trans. T. Baily Saunders. London: George Allen and Unwin, 1951. ———. The World as Will and Representation, 3 vols. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957. Schubert, Gudrun. “Women and Symbolism: Imagery and Theory.” Oxford Art Journal, April 1980, 29–34. Schuré, Edouard. Les Grands Initiés. Paris: Perrin, 1883. Schwartz, Vanessa. Spectacular Realities: Early Mass Culture in Fin-de-Siècle Paris. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998. Sérusier, Paul. ABC de la peinture. Paris: Floury, 1942. Sérusier et la Bretagne. Exh. cat., Musée de Pont-Aven, 1991. Shackelford, George T. M., and Claire Frèches-Thory. Gauguin Tahiti: The Studio of the South Seas. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston: MFA Publications, 2004. Shattuck, Roger. The Banquet Years: The Origins of the Avant-Garde in France, 1885 to World War I. New York: Vintage Books, 1968. Showalter, Elaine. Sexual Anarchy: Gender and Culture at the Fin de Siècle. New York: Viking, 1990. Signac, Paul. D’Eugène Delacroix au Néo-Impressionnisme. Paris: H. Floury, 1921 (first ed. 1899). Silverman, Debora. Van Gogh and Gauguin: The Search for Sacred Art. New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2000. Simon, Paul Max. Le Monde des rêves. Paris: J. B. Baillière et fils, 1882. Snodgrass, Mary Ellen. World Epidemics: A Cultural Chronology of Disease from Prehistory to the Era of SARS. Jefferson, NC, and London: McFarland and Company, 2003. Solana, Guillermo, et al. Gauguin and the Origins of Symbolism. Exh. cat., Madrid, Museo ThyssenBornemisza and Fundación Caja de Madrid; London: Philip Wilson, 2004. Solomon-Godeau, Abbigail. “Going Native.” Art in America, July 1989, 119–28. Sonn, Richard. Anarchism and Cultural Politics in Fin-de-Siècle France. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1989.

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Spate, Virginia. Orphism: The Evolution of Non-Figurative Painting in Paris, 1910–1914. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. Spencer, Herbert. First Principles. London: Williams and Norgate, 1862. Springer, Annemarie. “Terrorism and Anarchy: Late Nineteenth-Century Images of a Political Phenomenon in France.” Art Journal, Summer 1979, 261–66. Stevens, MaryAnne, et al. Émile Bernard, 1868–1941: A Pioneer of Modern Art. Exh. cat., Mannheim: Städtische Kunsthalle. Zwolle, Netherlands: Waanders Publishers, 1990. Stevens, MaryAnne, ed. Impressionism to Symbolism: The Belgian Avant-Garde, 1880–1900. Exh. cat., London: Royal Academy of Arts, 1994. Stone, Norman. Europe Transformed, 1879–1919. Glasgow: Fontana, 1983. Storch, Wolfgang. Les Symbolistes et Richard Wagner. Exh. cat., Berlin, Akademie der Künste. Berlin: Edition Hentrich, 1991. Swedenborg, Emanuel. Heaven and Its Wonders and Hell: From Things Heard and Seen. Boston: Massachusetts New-Church Union, 1906. Sweetman, David. Paul Gauguin. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. Symbolism in Polish Painting. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts, 1984. Taine, Hippolyte. L’Idéalisme anglais: Étude sur Carlyle. Paris: Germer Baillière, 1864. Taylor, Michael R. Giorgio de Chirico and the Myth of Ariadne. Exh. cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2002. Terdiman, Richard. Present Past: Modernity and the Memory Crisis. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993. Thompson, Richard. Seurat. London: Phaidon, 1985. Tøjner, Poul Erik, ed. Munch in His Own Words. Munich and New York: Prestel, 2003. Torgovnick, Marianna. Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. Tumasonis, Elizabeth. “Böcklin’s Reputation: Its Rise and Fall.” Art Criticism 6, no. 2 (1990): 48–71. Vad, Poul. Vilhelm Hammershøi and Danish Art at the Turn of the Century, trans. Kenneth Tindall. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992. Van Ginneken, Jaap. Crowds, Psychology, and Politics, 1871–1899. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 1992. Vanor, Georges. L’Art symboliste. Paris: Vanier, 1889. Varia, Radu. Brancusi. New York: Rizzoli, 1986. Vaughan, Gerald. “Maurice Denis and the Sense of Music.” Oxford Art Journal 7, no. 1 (1984): 38–48. Veblen, Thorsten. The Theory of the Leisure Class. New York: Macmillan, 1902. Wagner, Richard. Richard Wagner’s Prose Works. 8 vols., trans. William Ashton Ellis. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1893–99. Wattenmaker, Richard J. Puvis de Chavannes and the Modern Tradition. Exh. cat., Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1975. Watts, Sheldon. Disease and Medicine in World History. New York: Routledge, 2003. Weber, Eugen. France: Fin de Siècle. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1986. ———. Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870–1914. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1976. Weber, Max. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, ed. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. New York: Oxford University Press, 1946. ———. The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons. New York: Charles Scribner, 1958. Weiermair, Peter, and Sigrun Loos, eds. Eros and Death: Belgian Symbolism. Exh. cat., Rupertinum: Museum für moderne und zeitgenössische Kunst. Brussels: Edition Oehrli, 1999. Weisberger, Edward, ed. The Spiritual in Art: Abstract Painting, 1890–1985. New York: Abbeville Press, 1986.



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Weiss, Peg. “Kandinsky and the Symbolist Heritage.” Art Journal, Summer 1985, 137–145. West, Shearer. Fin de Siècle. London: Bloomsbury, 1993. Woolley, G. Richard Wagner et le Symbolisme français: Les Rapports principaux entre le wagnérisme et l’évolution de l’idée symboliste. Paris: Les Presses universitaires de France, 1931. Wright, Alastair. Matisse and the Subject of Modernism. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004. Zimmermann, Michael. Seurat and the Art Theory of His Time. Antwerp: Mercator, 1991.


plates ( following page 98) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Gustav Klimt, Nuda Veritas, 1899 Edvard Munch, Melancholy (Evening), 1896 Max Klinger, Beethoven, 1899–1902 Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, The Poor Fisherman, 1881 Paul Sérusier, The Talisman (The River Aven in Pont-Aven), 1888 Maurice Denis, Sacred Heart Crucified, 1894 Karl Strathmann, Maria, 1897 Paul Gauguin, Vision of the Sermon ( Jacob Wrestling with the Angel), 1888 Paul Ranson, Christ and Buddha, c. 1890 Vincent van Gogh, Self-Portrait, 1889 Odilon Redon, Ophelia, c. 1900–1905 Carl Larsson, Eve’s Daughter, 1888/1894 Jacek Malczewski, Melancholia, 1890–94 Ferdinand Hodler, William Tell, 1896–97 Harald Slott-Møller, Danish Landscape, 1891 Carl Schmidt-Helmbrechts, cover of Jugend 2, no. 22 (1897)

figures 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

E. von Baumgarten, Civilisation, from Jugend 1, no. 25 (1896)   11 Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 1876   15 Odilon Redon, The Smiling Spider, 1881   17 À Bientôt le coup de balai (Soon, the Sweep), in Actualités, no. 34, (n.d.)   18 Paul Gauguin, Manao tupaupau, or Spirit of the Dead Watching, 1892   19 Édouard Manet, Olympia, 1863–65   20 Max Klinger, Anxieties, Plate 7 from A Glove, 1881 (published 1893)   21 Ferdinand Hodler, Night, 1890   22 Paul Sérusier, Breton Eve, or Melancholy, 1891   24 Title page of The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton, 1628 edition   26 Auguste Rodin, Gates of Hell, begun 1880   28 Auguste Rodin, Project for the Gates of Hell with The Thinker, Adam, and Eve, 1880   29




13 Odilon Redon, Cactus Man, 1881   32 14 Jean Grandville, Newborn Mushrooms, from Another World, 1844   33 15 August Strindberg, Celestograph, 1894   34 16 Paul Gauguin, Agony in the Garden, 1889   36 17 William Blake, As a New Heaven Is Begun, c. 1790   42 18 Félicien Rops, Death at the Ball, c. 1865–75   45 19 Max Klinger, Beethoven, 1899–1902   49 20 Rodolphe Bresdin, My Dream, 1883   51 21 James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne: Silver and Opal—Chelsea, c. 1882   55 22 Edward Burne-Jones, King Cophetua, 1884   57 23 Arnold Böcklin, The Isle of the Dead (Toteninsel), 1880   59 24 Gustave Moreau, L’Apparition, 1876   60 25 František Kupka, Money, 1899   68 26 Otto Seitz, The Black Kitchen of Death, from Jugend 1, no. 24 (1896)   70 27 Theodor Kittelsen, She Travels around the Entire Country, 1894–96   72 28 Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1885–86   73 29 Félicien Rops, frontispiece to Le Vice suprême by Joséphin Péladan, 1884   75 30 Alfred Kubin, Lubricity, 1901–2   77 31 Władysław Podkowiński, Frenzy, 1894   77 32 Fernand Khnopff, The Abandoned Town (La Ville abandonée), 1904   79 33 Edvard Munch, Scream, 1893   81 34 Ernst Haeckel, Tree of Life from Anthropogenie (1877)   82 35 James Ensor, The Entry of Christ into Brussels in 1889, 1888   83 36 Mikhail Aleksandrovich Vrubel, Flying Demon, 1899   85 37 Thomas Theodor Heine, The Devil, 1902–3   87 38 Paul Gauguin, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?,      1897–98   87 39 Paul Signac, In the Era of Harmony (“L’âge d’or n’est pas dans le passé; il est dans      l’avenir”), 1893–95   93 40 Ando Hiroshige, Takanawa Ushimachi, 1858   100 41 The New Rays, from Jugend 1, no. 5 (1896)   102 42 Jean Delville, Love of Souls (L’Amour des âmes), 1900   105 43 Hugo Simberg, Death Listens, 1897   108 44 Ferdinand Hodler, The Chosen One, 1893–94   110 45 Hugo Höppner, Prayer to Light, 1894   111 46 Eugène Carrière, Maternity, c. 1892   119 47 Gaetano Previati, Maternity, 1891   119 48 Alphonse Osbert, Vision, 1892   120 49 Edvard Munch, Madonna (Conception), 1895   122 50 John Everett Millais, Ophelia, 1852   124 51 Georges de Feure, The Voice of Evil, 1895   126 52 Giovanni Segantini, The Punishment of Lust, 1891   126 53 Jacek Malczewski, Moment of Creation—Harpy in a Dream, 1907   128 54 Bruno Paul, Women in Front of the Wheel, Behind the Wheel, and On the Wheel from Jugend 1,      no. 21 (1896)   131 55 Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, Salomé Embracing the Severed Head of John the Baptist, 1896   132 56 Ludwig von Hofmann, Valley of the Innocents, from Jugend 2, no. 18 (1897)   135 57 Jan Toorop, Sphinx, 1897   135 58 Fernand Khnopff, Art, or Sphinx, or The Caresses, 1896   137

59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86


Franz von Stuck, Young Girl with a Flower, 1889   139 Phoebe Anna Traquair, The Progress of a Soul: The Stress, 1897   140 F. Holland Day, Hypnos, c. 1896   141 Edvard Munch, Puberty, 1895   142 Paul Gauguin, Loss of Virginity, 1890–91   143 Richard Bergh, Vision: Motif from Visby, 1894   151 Claude Monet, Rouen Cathedral, Façade, 1894   154 Karel Mašek, Libuse, c. 1893   155 Gerhard Munthe, The Clever Bird, 1893   157 George Henry and Edward Atkinson Hornel, The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe, 1890   159 Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Waterfall at Mäntykoski, 1892–94   161 Gustaf Fjaestad, The Boy Who Sees with His Heart, 1898   163 Wojciech Weiss, Spring, 1898   163 Stanisław Wyspiański, Capsheaves, 1898–99   164 Paul Gauguin, Portrait of Mallarmé, 1891   170 Edmond-François Aman-Jean, Beatrix, 1893   176 Alexandre Séon, Orpheus Laments, c. 1896   176 Georges Lacombe, Existence (bed panel), 1894–96   177 Joseph Olbrich, Secession Building, 1898   183 Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903   193 Paul Klee, Comedian, 1904   194 Frantšek Kupka, Piano Keys, Lake, 1909   195 Vassily Kandinsky, Mountain, 1909   198 Constantin Brancusi, The Kiss, 1909   200 Umberto Boccioni, States of Mind III: Those Who Stay, 1911   200 Giorgio de Chirico, Melancholia, 1912   202 Leonora Carrington, Self-Portrait, c. 1938   204 Wilhelm Hammershøi, Landscape from Virum near Friedriksdal, Summer, 1888   205



Page numbers in italics refer to illustrations. abstraction, 2, 37, 136, 149, 161, 188, 195, 201 Académie Julian, 95, 172 Adam, Paul, 92 Adams, Brooks, 67 adolescence, 138–44 African art, 30–31, 84, 177 agnosticism, 99 alchemy, 104 Aman-Jean, Edmond-François, 169, 181; Beatrix, 123, 175, 176 Amazons, 130 ambiguity, 13, 52, 61, 68, 69, 88, 123, 128, 138, 141, 192, 205 American Revolution, 115, 147 anarchism, 91–94, 107, 112, 223n9 androgyny, 19, 41, 88, 115, 136–41, 144, 222n58, 231n51 Annunzio, Gabriele d’, 179, 217n61, 235n41 antiquity, 10, 47, 49, 50, 52, 76, 92, 97, 103, 128, 159, 171, 201, 220n23, 231n51 anti-Semitism, 31, 67–68 Apollinaire, Guillaume, 201 Arabic, 97, 104 Arachne, 212n32 Ariadne, 201–2, 238n30 art academies and academic practice, 2, 5, 13, 14, 19– 20, 30, 56, 59, 101, 116, 130, 167–68, 172, 174, 180, 197, 206; and women, 116. See also specific academies Art et critique, 96 Artists’ Association (Sweden), 169, 183; exhibition (Stockholm), 183 Art libre, L’, 178 Art moderne, L’, 14, 91, 174, 179, 187 Art Nouveau/Jugendstil, 2–3, 109 Asenijeff, Elsa, 48 Asia, 71 atheism, 67

Aurier, Albert, 27, 30–31, 36–37, 46–47, 66, 92, 153, 169, 185, 186, 236n57 Austria, 115, 149, 150, 155, 158, 162, 182, 184; Vienna, 67, 136, 195 Avicenna, 213n45 Baju, Anatole, 186 Balakian, Anna, 6 Baltic Sea, 151 Balzac, Honoré de, 40–41, 83, 88, 129, 137–38, 231n51 Banquet, Le, 53 Bastien-Lepage, Jules, 174 Baudelaire, Charles, 16, 25, 31, 40–47, 52, 53, 66, 74, 134, 173, 192, 211n30, 216n29, 217n61 Baumgarten, E. von: Civilisation, 11, 11 Bayet, Charles, 97 Beardsley, Aubrey, 71, 132, 187 Beethoven, Ludwig von, 47–49, 49, 62, 74, 182, Plate 3 Belgium, 83, 147–48, 158, 169, 178–79, 219n3; Borinage, 106–7; Bruges, 78–79, 151, 179; Brussels, 14, 74, 79, 83, 92, 104, 121, 167, 177, 185, 187; House of the People, 235n37; Ostend, 83 Bell, Alexander Graham, 15 Bergh, Richard, 150–52, 169, 181, 183, 184; Silence, 218n82; Vision: Motif from Visby, 150–52, 151 Bergson, Henri, 67 Berlin Secession, 168, 182 Berman, Marshall, 52 Bernard, Claude, 96 Bernard, Émile, 16, 53, 54, 96, 99, 107, 171–72, 175, 186, 187, 223n18, 225n39, 234n13; Breton Women in a Meadow, 171; exhibitions, 172, 178, 185, 234n12; and Gauguin, 103, 171, 184, 185, 186; and Redon, 31, 236n60; and Schuffenecker, 153, 167; and Sérusier, 94; and van Gogh, 106–7, 170–71, 186, 214n81, 234n11




Bernard, Madeleine, 99, 224n37 Bernhardt, Sarah, 132 Bernheim-Jeune exhibition (Paris), 199 Bible, 27, 35–36, 41, 48, 58, 61, 88, 97–101, 103, 108, 214n81 Bing, Siegfried, 220n12 biology, 9, 43, 56, 101, 117 Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine, 65 Blake, William, 41–42, 50, 62, 104, 107, 109, 192, 207, 215n14; As a New Heaven Is Begun, 42 Blanche, Jacques-Émile, 55 Blavatsky, Helena Petrovna, 103, 225n46 Block, Jane, 178 Bly, Nellie, 14 Boccioni, Umberto, 199, 201, 207; States of Mind, 199, 200, 201 Böcklin, Arnold, 56, 58–59, 62, 169, 181, 188, 192, 196, 201, 211n14; The Isle of the Dead, 58–59, 59; Veritas, 211n14 Bois, Jules, 86 Bonheur, Rosa, 116 Borodin, Alexander, 179 Botticelli, Sandro, 97 Boulanger, Georges, 12 Bourdeau, M., 50 Boussod, Caladon (gallery, Paris), 185 Brancusi, Constantin, 199; The Kiss, 199, 200 Bresdin, Rodolphe, 50, 169, 217n45; My Dream, 50, 51 Breton, André, 203, 207 Brera Triennial (Milan), 179–80  Bridel, Louis, 130 Briel, Albert van den, 198 Brincourt, Maurice, 168 Brontë sisters, 71 Brücke, Die, 206 Brunetière, Ferdinand, 50 Brush and Pencil, 48 Buddhism, 86, 103–4, 125, 134, 173, 179, 225n51 Burke, Edmund, 39–40 Burne-Jones, Edward, 56; King Cophetua, 56, 57, 169 Burton, Robert, 25; The Anatomy of Melancholy, 26 Butler, Elizabeth Thompson, 116 Byzantine art, 97, 148 Byzyski, Anna, 164 Café François I, 167 Café Volpini exhibition (Paris), 172 Café Voltaire, 167, 169, 186 Calvinism, 158 Campbell, Harry, 80, 227n6 Canova, Antonio: Napoleon as Mars the Peacemaker, 48 Cantile, James, 80 Carlyle, Thomas, 40, 62, 88, 173 Caro, Elme-Marie, 50 Carpenter, Edward, 117

Carrière, Eugène, 35, 58, 118, 120, 169, 174, 181; Maternity, 118, 119, 120 Carrington, Leonora, 203; Self-Portrait, 203, 204 Casagemas, Carlos, 192 Cassatt, Mary, 116, 174 Catholicism, 22, 25, 82–84, 95–101, 106, 115, 117–18, 152, 158, 173, 223n18–19, 224n27, 228nn11–12, 234n28. See also Christianity Celtic revival, 98, 159–60 Cenini, Cennino, 128 Cézanne, Paul, 129, 170, 178 Chadwick, Whitney, 203 Chamberlain, Houston Stewart, 53–54, 185 Champollion, Jean-François, 216n34 Chaplin, Charlie, 194 Charcot, Jean-Martin, 124–25, 127, 138, 169 Charles VII, King of France, 232n13 Chassé, Charles, 6, 218n75 Chekov, Anton, 71 Chimera, 180 Chirico, Andrea de, 201 Chirico, Giorgio de, 201–2; Melancholia, 201–2, 202 cholera, 44, 59, 69, 71, 216n26 Chopin, Frédéric, 71, 74 Christianity, 58, 86, 107, 118, 127, 134, 162, 176, 192, 229n22; Calvinism, 158; Lutheran, 106–8, 121, 160, 162, 226n65; Orthodox, 97, 160. See also Catholicism Circe, 129 Claudel, Camille, 117, 227n7 Clemenceau, Georges, 169 Clésinger, Auguste, 3; Woman Bitten by a Snake, 3 Cloissonism, 99, 112, 225n39 Cole, Thomas: The Course of Empire, 220n17 Comedic Theater, 132 Conque, La, 186 Conti, Angelo, 179 Copenhagen Academy, 184; exhibition, 184 Cordulack, Shelley, 74 correspondences, 31, 46 Courbet, Gustave, 5, 169 critics, 9, 74. See also specific critics Cross, Henri, 223n9 Crysalide, La, 178 Crystal Palace exhibition (London), 148, 168 Cubism, 82, 188, 191 Czech nation, 147–49, 153, 155–56; Bohemia, 155–56; Moravia, 155; Prague, 155 Dadd, Richard, 84 Danish-Prussian War, 165 Dante, 40: and Beatrice, 123, 175, 176, 235n30; and Rodin, 27, 29, 48 Darwin, Charles, 50, 69, 80, 103, 117, 137–38, 178 Das häusliche Glücke, 144 Davis, Andrew Jackson, 103, 225n45 Day, F. Holland, 140–41; Hypnos, 140–41, 141

death, 22, 25, 30, 48, 58–61, 67–78, 84–86, 96–97, 103, 107–9, 123–25, 130, 134, 155, 164, 173, 175, 229n22; in childbirth, 76; and disease, 43–44, 65; execution, 153; murder, 25, 43, 130–31; suicide, 43, 76, 86, 103, 123, 134, 186, 192, 229n29; and tuberculosis, 69, 71–72, 76, 123, 220n19, 220n27 Debussy, Claude, 169, 179, 186–87 Décadence, La, 12 Décadent, Le, 66, 186 decoration, 36–37 Degas, Edgar, 129, 169, 174, 182, 185, 188 degeneration, 37, 43, 65–69, 74, 80, 85–86, 89, 92, 117, 137, 152, 175, 229n29 De Groux, Henry, 178 Delacroix, Eugène, 5, 14, 47, 94, 99, 185, 211n20; Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 99 Delevoy, Robert, 6 Delville, Jean, 104, 112, 169, 175, 177, 181, 187, 194; Love of Souls, 104, 105 Den Frie Udstilling, 184; exhibition (Copenhagen), 184 Denis, Maurice, 23, 27, 47, 53–54, 58, 95–97, 169, 185, 186, 223, 236n59; Nabis and, 95, 172–73; Sacred Heart Crucified, 96–97, 162, 173, Plate 6 Denmark, 18, 147, 148, 150–51, 156, 165, 184; Copenhagen, 184, 205; Charlottenburg Palace, 184 Diaghilev, Sergei, 187–88, 236n63 Diefenbach, Karl Wilhelm, 112, 195 Dijkstra, Bram, 125 Dionysus, 104, 217n53 disease and illness, 43–44, 52, 65–66, 69–74, 78, 84, 89, 112, 122–23, 128, 137, 216n25, 220n17; cholera, 44, 59, 69, 71, 216n26; hysteria, 67, 124, 144; plague, 44, 67–71, 220n21; syphilis, 69–71, 74–75, 89, 124, 130; tuberculosis, 69, 71–74, 76, 123, 220n19, 220n27 divine, artist as, 31–35, 37, 83, 122, 127, 150, 197 Divisionism, 93–94, 112, 156, 180 Donatello, 180 Douglas, Alfred, 132 dreams, 5, 9, 16–19, 21–22, 30, 37, 40, 46, 50–52, 59, 76, 84, 88, 96, 118, 123, 125, 127–30, 137, 165, 177, 202–3, 211n30, 212n31, 212n44 Dreyfus Affair, 12, 67–68 drugs, 43, 46, 123, 140 druids, 159–60 Drumont, Édouard, 67 Dujardin, Édouard, 54, 99, 169, 185–86 Dulac, Charles, 234n16 Durand-Ruel Gallery (Paris), 154, 172, 175, 185; exhibition 154 Dürer, Albrecht, 2, 25; Melancholia, 25 Durkheim, Émile, 78 Écho de Paris, L’, 35, 187 École pratique des hautes études, 93 Eden Theater (Paris), 53 Egypt, 46–47, 137


Eisenman, Stephen, 19–20, 88, 138 Ellis, Havelock, 112, 117 Émancipation, L’, 178 Emerson, Ralph Waldo, 173, 220n23 Encausse, Gérard, 86, 174 England, 15, 40–41, 65, 148, 153, 159, 220nn19–20, 227n4; British Museum, 97, 160; exhibitions, 55, 123, 136, 160, 168; Kent, 160; London, 15, 40–41, 47, 56, 80, 97, 106, 107–8, 130, 133, 187 Ensor, James, 150, 178, 186, 192, 193, 221n45; The Entry of Christ into Brussels, 83–84, 83, 93, 178; Temptation of Saint Anthony, 235n34 Entretiens politiques et littéraires, 186 Ernst, Max, 203 Essor, L’, 178 Eugen, Prince of Sweden, 183, 218n82 Eve, 13, 23–25, 29, 41, 48, 127, 129, 144, 171, 211n17, 227n1 evolution, 2, 81, 99, 104, 121, 136–38, 178, 184, 229n18 exhibitions, 168, 185–86. See also specific exhibitions Expositions Universelles (Paris), 56, 148, 168–69, 172, 234n5 Expressionism, 2, 80, 82, 188, 191, 206 Fabry, Émile, 177 Fagus, Félicien, 191 Fantin-Latour, Henri, 54 Fauré, Gabriel, 179 femme fatale, 61, 62, 115, 129–30, 144 Fénéon, Félix, 92, 169, 185–87 Ferdinand I, King of Austria, 155 Feure, Georges de: The Voice of Evil, 125, 126 Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 227n4 Ficino, Marsilio, 27 Fidus. See Höppner Figaro, Le, 9, 12, 174 Finch, Willy, 84 Finland, 108–9, 147, 160–61; Karelia, 160 Fjaestad, Gustaf, 162; The Boy Who Sees with His Heart, 162, 163 Flaubert, Gustave, 44 Flaxman, John, 41 folk art and culture, 155–57, 161, 177, 232n20 Fra Angelico, 96, 97 France, 4, 46, 54, 71, 118, 130, 148, 152, 171; Alsace, 152; Antibes, 153; Arles, 167, 171, 185; artists’ organizations in, 169–77; Brittany, 23–24, 54, 89, 94, 98– 99, 101, 103, 148, 171; Carcasonne, 151; demography of, 10, 148, 210n7; Étretat, 153; Expositions Universelles, 56, 148, 168–69, 172, 234n5; foreign artists in, 56, 152; Île de France, 153; Lorraine, 152; modernization in, 65–68; Montreuil, 92; and national identity, 121, 147, 153; Normandy, 153; Orléans, 99; politics and religion in, 11–12, 18, 66, 92, 95, 115, 121, 147, 152, 227n4; Pont-Aven, 80, 94, 98–99, 171–72, 185–86; Rouen, 153–54. See also Paris Franck, César, 179




Franco-Prussian War, 11–12, 18, 53, 66, 76, 95, 121, 152, 232n13 French Revolution, 12, 110, 115, 147, 168–69 Freud, Sigmund, 18, 21–22, 50, 58, 117, 122, 124–25, 130–32, 141, 203 Friedrich, Caspar David, 25, 107, 205 Fritz Gurlitt (gallery, Berlin and Dresden), 59 Fürstenberg, Pontus, 183 Fuseli, Henrich: The Nightmare, 212n44 Futurism, 206–7 Galerie des Artistes Contemporains (Paris), 177 Galerie des Arts Réunis (Paris), 177 Gallen-Kallela, Akseli, 160–61, 169, 181, 188; Waterfall at Mäntykoski, 160–61, 161 galleries, 184–85. See also specific galleries Gambetta, Léon, 95 Garden of Eden, 118, 127, 129, 138 Gare Saint Lazare, 92 Gatty, Margaret, 106 Gauguin, Paul, 33–35, 42, 46, 58, 74, 129, 169–70, 185, 187, 193, 196, 199; on art, 54, 94, 171; and Aurier, 37, 153, 186; and Bernard, 94, 103, 171, 184, 185, 225n39, 234n13; and dreams, 16, 88; exhibitions of, 172, 174–75, 178, 184, 199; and genius, 30, 150; and PontAven, 98, 171; and van Gogh, 35, 99, 103, 106, 171– 72, 184; works: Agony in the Garden, 35–36, 36, 171; The Day of the God, 222n51; Loss of Virginity, 143, 143; The Month of Mary, 228n12; Portrait of Mallarmé, 169, 170; Self-Portrait as Jean Valjean, 99, 150; Spirit of the Dead Watching, 19–20, 19, 37, 138; Vision of the Sermon, or Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, 99–101, 171, 185, 224n37, Plate 8; Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, 86–89, 87 Gaume, Jean-Jacques, 223n18 Gautier, Théophile, 3, 66 Gazette des beaux-arts, 61 Gedankenmalerei, 3, 182 Geffroy, Gustave, 58 gender relations, 6, 19–21, 23, 49, 51–52, 68–69, 93, 115–17, 127, 134, 143; and equality, 160; and fear of women, 130, 133–37; and separation of spheres, 133; and view of women as inferior, 117, 138, 144 genius, 9, 10, 27, 30–31, 35, 44, 174; artist as, 30–31, 37, 39–41, 47–50, 150, 169, 186; as illness, 31, 44, 84– 85, 122, 186; and Jews, 31 Geneva, 1891 exhibition in, 22–23 geology, 103 Georges Petit (gallery, Paris), 55, 177, 185 Germ, The, 56 Germain, Alphonse, 175 Germany, 153; Berlin, 15, 21, 25, 59, 86, 136, 162, 168, 180–82, 187; conditions in, 15, 65–68, 71, 148, 153, 158; culture and literature of, 58–59, 66, 110, 148, 156, 171, 181–82, 196–97, 206, 218n66; Dresden, 59, 132, 206; Holstein, 165; Munich, 59, 97, 109, 112,

168, 180–81, 187, 192, 196, 201; and national identity, 148–50, 181; politics in, 2, 12, 15, 18, 68–69, 86, 112, 147–49, 152, 181, 231n3; Prussia, 18, 148, 150, 165, 181, 231n3; Schleswig, 165 Gesamtkunstwerk, 53–54 Gessler, Hermann, 158 Ghiberti, Lorenzo: Gates of Paradise, 27 Ghil, René, 12, 169, 187 Gide, André, 186–87 Gilchrist, Alexander, 41 gilding and gold leaf, 13, 48, 97, 129, 151, 160, 161, 165 Gilman, Sander, 112 Giotto, 4 Girdner, John, 78 Glaspalast exhibition (Munich), 181 Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 58 Gogol, Nikolai, 211n30 Goldwater, Robert, 2, 209n5 Gonzalès, Eva, 116 Goszczynski, Seweryn, 180 Gothic art, 153 Gouges, Olympe de, 115, 227n2 Goupil (gallery, Paris), 172, 184 Gourmont, Rémy de, 47 Goya, Francisco de, 84; Self-Portrait with Doctor Arrieta, 216n44 Grandville, Jean, 31, 33; Newborn Mushrooms, 33 graphology, 226n67 Greece, 52, 97, 148 Greenberg, Clement, 2 Gregh, Fernand, 53 Grévy, Jules, 12 Grosse Berliner Kunstausstellung exhibition, 182 Grubicy, Vittorio, 180, 235n44 Gruppe der Elf, 182 Gsell, Paul, 30 Guaita, Stanislas de, 86, 174, 234n26 Gurlitt, Fritz, 59 Gurlitt, Ludwig, 206 Gustav Vasa, King of Sweden, 151 Haeckel, Ernst, 80–82; Tree of Life, 82 Halévy, Daniel, 53 Hammershøi, Wilhelm, 169, 184, 204–6, 238nn40– 41; Landscape from Virum near Friedriksdal, Summer, 205, 205 Hanson, Ola, 217n56 Hapsburg dynasty, 155, 158 Harpies, 127–129 Hartmann, Eduard von, 66 Hayes, Carlton, 148 health, 11, 53, 69, 72, 92, 98, 110, 112, 125, 130, 144, 158, 165, 175, 206–7, 221n43 Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 173 Heine, Heinrich, 216n26 Heine, Thomas Theodor: The Devil, 86, 87 Heller, Reinhold, 2, 13

Henry, Charles, 94 Henry, George, 159–60; The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe, 159–60, 159 Herder, Johann Gottfried von, 148, 156, 231n3 hermaphroditism, 88, 138, 144 Hermetic Society (Dublin), 234n9 Hermitage, L’, 92 Hess, Heinrich, 224n26 hieroglyphs, 16, 46–47, 62, 206, 216n34 Higgins, Kathleen, 217n53 Hinduism, 103–4 Hiroshige, Ando, 99; Takanawa Ushimachi, 100 Hirsh, Sharon, 6 Hobsbawm, Eric, 187 Hodler, Ferdinand, 58, 109, 158, 169, 175, 178, 182, 187, 197, 233n27; on Parallelism, 109, 112, 158, 226n67; retrospective (Amsterdam), 197; works: The Chosen One, 109–10, 110, 141, 162; Night, 21–23, 22, 130, 196, 213n46; William Tell, 158, Plate 14 Hoffmann, E. T. A., 40, 215n4 Hoffmann, Josef, 182 Hoffstätter, Hans, 1 Hofmann, Ludwig von: Valley of the Innocents, 134, 135 Hofmannsthal, Hugo von, 62, 182 Holbein, Hans, 2 homosexuality, 140 Höppner, Hugo, 110–12, 226n69; Prayer to Light, 110, 111, 112, 141, 162 Horace, 128 Hornel, Edward Atkinson, 159–60; The Druids Bringing in the Mistletoe, 159–60, 159 Hôtel des Sociétés Savantes, 169 Hugo, Victor, 99 Hundred Years’ War, 153 Hungary, 147, 148, 156 Hunt, William Holman, 5, 56, 218n74 Huysmans, Joris-Karl, 16, 61, 78, 85, 101, 153, 169, 179, 185, 187, 234n16 hysteria, 67, 124, 144 ideas, 10, 13, 23, 27, 36–37, 40, 49, 53–54, 58, 88, 117, 121, 136, 153, 167, 179, 197; and painting, 17; of women, 120 (see also gender relations) Illica, Luigi, 125 imagination, 31, 37, 39, 43, 47, 52, 54, 62, 76, 99, 107, 112, 117, 152, 201, 203–4; deviant, 128; head as site of, 130; female, 125; male, 129 Impressionism, 2, 5, 15–16, 61, 80, 94, 101, 106, 107, 116, 149, 153, 165, 167, 172, 174, 180, 181, 182, 211n24; exhibitions (Paris), 172, 235n29 In Ars Libertas, 179; exhibition (Rome), 179–80 India, 198 industrialization, 11, 14, 65, 89, 92, 108, 138, 156 Ingres, Jean-Auguste-Dominique, 5 innocence, 23, 41, 68, 78, 99, 107, 109, 112, 118, 129, 134–41


insanity, 27, 65, 67, 84, 123–24, 186, 236n57 intuition, 10, 23, 39, 109, 136, 199 Islam, 104, 225n52 Italy, 56, 115, 147–48, 179–80, 201; Caffé Greco, 179; Florence, 27, 58, 96, 180, 201, 235n30; Palermo (Palatine Chapel), 97; Rome, 47, 76 Jaeger, Hans, 73 James, Henry, 91 Japanese art, 99, 103, 106 Jardin d’Acclimatation exhibition (Paris), 31 Java, Indonesia, 86 Jesus, 58, 83–84, 92, 96, 97, 101, 104, 115, 199 Jeune Belgique, La, 104, 187 Joan of Arc, 121, 153, 232n13 John the Baptist, 130–31 Josephson, Ernst, 84 Journal des femmes, 144 Jubilee Exhibition, Prague, 155 Judaism and Jews, 31, 54, 67–68, 86, 103, 173, 220n13, 221n43 Judith (biblical figure), 129 Jugend, 11, 70, 101, 102, 109, 131, 135, 187, 192, Plate 16 Jullian, Philippe, 1 Jung, Carl Gustav, 122, 138 Kahn, Gustave, 169, 185, 186, 210n16 Kalevala, 160 Kandinsky, Vassily, 191, 194, 196–98, 201, 206–7, 217n47, 237nn14–16; Mountain, 197, 198 Keller, Ferdinand: Böcklin’s Tomb, 58 Kelvin, William, 65–66, 181 Khnopff, Fernand, 61, 78, 136–37, 169, 175, 178, 181, 187, 201, 205, 235nn37–38; The Abandoned Town, 78–80, 79; Art, or Sphinx, or The Caresses, 136–37, 137 Kittelsen, Theodor: The Black Death (She Travels around the Entire Country), 71, 72, 108 Klee, Paul, 58, 191, 192–94, 236n7; Comedian, 193, 194 Kleis Kunsthandel (gallery, Copenhagen), 184  Klimt, Gustav, 13, 169, 182, 211n15; Beethoven Frieze, 48; Nuda Veritas, 13, 97, Plate 1 Klinger, Max, 58, 76, 169, 181, 192, 201; Anxieties from A Glove, 21, 21; Beethoven, 48–49, 49, 182, Plate 3; A Love, 58; Night from On Death, 25 Koch, Robert, 71 Koeningstein, François, 92 Krafft-Ebbing, Richard von, 125, 227n4 Krakow School of Fine Arts, 162 Krishna, 104 Kristiania (Oslo) Students’ Organization, 185 Kropotkin, Petr, 92, 214n80 Kubin, Alfred, 76–77, 196; Lubricity, 76, 77 Künstlergenossenschaft, 181; exhibition (Munich), 181 Kupka, František, 67–69, 191, 194–96, 201, 219n12, 237n11; Money, 67–69, 68, 71; Piano Keys, Lake, 195–96, 195




Lacombe, Georges: Existence, 175–77, 177 Lamarck, Jean-Baptiste, 67, 219n11 Lamoureaux, Charles, 53 Langen, Albert, 86 La Rouchefoucauld, Antoine de, 177 Larson, Barbara, 6 Larsson, Carl, 129–30, 169, 183; Eve’s Daughter, 129– 30, Plate 12 Le Bon, Gustave, 44 legends, 147, 165, 174; Czech, 155–56; English, 56; Finnish, 160–61; Norwegian, 156–57; Roman, 76; Scottish, 159–60; Swiss, 157–58; Tahitian, 19 Leistikow, Walter, 182 Leonardo da Vinci, 185; Mona Lisa, 54 Leo XIII, Pope, 115 Léopold II, King of Belgium, 84 Lermontov, Mikhail, 84 Lévi, Eliphas, 103 Lévy-Dhurmer, Lucien: Salomé Embracing the Severed Head of John the Baptist, 130–32, 132 Libre Esthétique, La, 179, 181; exhibition (Brussels), 179 Lieberman, Max, 182 Lombroso, Cesare, 30–31, 69, 78, 84, 85, 212n36, 214n68, 216n42, 220n15 Louvre, 138 175 Louÿs, Pierre, 227n4 Lövgren, Sven, 191 Luce, Maximilian, 223n9 Lucie-Smith, Edward, 1, 209n4 Ludwig I, King of Bavaria, 97, 224n26 Ludwig Jagellon, King of Czech nation, 155 Lueger, Karl, 67 Lugné-Poë, Aurélien, 132, 173, 222n6 Lumière, La, 104 Lutheranism, 106–8, 121, 160, 162, 226n65 Madonna (Virgin Mary), 95–97, 117–18, 121–23, 138, 144, 224n38, 227n1, 228nn11–12, 229n22 Maeterlinck, Maurice, 173, 186–87, 196 Mahler, Gustave, 48, 182 Maillol, Aristide, 58 Maison Doré, 174 Malczewski, Jacek, 180; Melancholia, 149–50, Plate 13; Moment of Creation—Harpy in a Dream, 127– 29, 128 Malevich, Kazimir, 206; Black Quadrilateral, 206 Mallarmé, Stéphane, 9, 42, 46, 53–55, 85, 92, 165, 167, 169–70, 170, 173, 179, 185–87, 210n1, 218n70, 222n49 Manet, Édouard, 2–3, 5, 19, 169, 182; Déjeuner sur l’herbe, 3; Olympia, 20–21, 20, 138 Marinetti, Filippo Tommaso, 206–7 Marx, Roger, 58 Mašek, Karel: Libuse, 155–56, 155 Marzocco, 180 masquerade, 44, 69, 76, 80, 82–84, 117, 134, 177, 193 Matejko, Jan, 180

Mathews, Patricia, 6 Matisse, Henri, 191 Mauclair, Camille, 42, 78, 173, 186 Maupassant, Guy de, 66, 74 Maurier, George du, 123, 144, Maus, Octave, 178–79, 185, 187, 235n37 Mayhew, Henry, 80 Medea, 61, 129 Medusa, 130 Meier-Graefe, Julius, 2 Mellery, Xavier, 177, 181 memory, 79, 160, 164, 203–4 Mendés, Catulle, 179 Mercure de France, 36, 92, 173, 186, 217n57, Merrill, Stuart, 92 Michelangelo, 50 Michon, Abbé, 226n67 Middle Ages, 10, 13, 40, 50, 56, 66, 78, 80, 95, 97–99, 107, 134, 151, 153, 157 Mill, John Stuart, 116 Millais, John Everett, 169, 218n74; Ophelia, 123–24, 124, 229n24 Mirbeau, Octave, 58, 187 Mir iskusstva, 187 Młoda Polska. See Young Poland modernism, 2, 4, 27, 52, 61–62, 88–89 Moderniste illustré, Le, 186 Mondrian, Piet, 191, 194, 197–99, 201, 207, 237n20; Church at Dornburg, 197; Large Dune Landscape, 197 Monet, Claude, 58, 152–54, 169, 170, 178, 182, 185, 188; Grainstacks, 185; Rouen Cathedral, Façade, 153–54, 154 monism, 80–81 Montesquiou-Fezensac, Robert de, 85 Morbelli, Angelo, 180 Moréas, Jean, 9–16, 25, 31, 37, 66, 169, 186, 201, 210n1 Moreau, Gustave, 44, 56, 59–61, 85, 136, 169, 175, 178, 188; L’Apparition, 60, 61, 130; Oedipus and the Sphinx, 134, 134; Victorious Sphinx, 230n48 Morgan le Fey, 156 Morice, Charles, 30, 35, 66, 95, 169, 173, 185, 186, 199, 219n7 Morisot, Berthe, 116, 174 Morrison, John, 159 Moses, 104 motherhood, 70, 118–19, 127, 144, 180 Munch, Edvard, 50, 72–74, 76, 84, 86, 162, 192–93, 197, 201, 216n29, 229n18, 229n22; exhibitions, 181, 182, 184, 185; influence of, 67; and Mallarmé, 169; works: Inheritance, 74, 123; Madonna, 121–23, 122; Melancholy, or Evening, 24–27, 201, Plate 2; Puberty, 141–43, 142; Scream, 80–81, 81; The Sick Child, 72–74, 73 Munich Art Academy, 112, 180 Munich Secession (Verein Bildender Künstlers München), 168, 181–82; exhibition, 181, 196

Munthe, Gerhard, 156–57, 169, 181, 232nn19–21, 233n23; The Clever Bird, 157, 157 Musée d’Orsay, 154 Museum of Decorative Arts, 27 music and sound, 10, 14, 15, 46, 48–50, 52–55, 59, 62, 95, 106, 107, 123, 128, 156, 182; concerts, 169, 181; flute, 14; kantele, 161; lyre, 139, 175, 176; nature, 161; opera, 132; piano, 55, 195–96, 237n15; silence, 211n28 myths, 1, 14, 124, 53, 174; Norwegian, 156 Nabis 153, 167, 172–73, 185, 234n21 Napoleon I, 47–48, 56, 95, 137, 148, 158 Napoleon III, 10, 12, 152 Napoleonic wars, 158, 231n3 Napoleon Museum, 56 Natanson, Thadée, 88 Nation, La, 178 Nationale Belge, Le, 178 national identity, 147–49, 153, 158, 159–60, 164, 165 nationalism, 10, 53; and art, 156, 180 National Review (Britain), 133 national romanticism, 149, 160, 162, 165 Naturalism, 2, 9, 14, 16, 20, 23, 30, 37, 39, 61, 107, 116, 161, 162, 180 nature, 4, 14, 35–36, 44, 46, 54, 61, 66, 72, 80–81, 95, 106–9, 109, 127, 157, 206; interdependence with humans, 157, 160, 162, 199 Németh, Lajos, 209n4 Neo-Impressionism (Divisionism), 93–94, 112, 156, 180 neo-traditionalism, 47, 96, 112 Netherlands, 84, 148, 197–98; Walcheren, 197 New Woman, 112, 115, 130–33, 137, 141, 156, 232n13 New York Sun, 103 Nietzsche, Friedrich, 43, 52–53, 66, 95, 186, 192, 201–2, 217n53, 217n57, 219n9 Nilsen, Jappe, 25 Nordeau, Max, 65–67, 78, 221n43 Norway, 25, 41, 71–72, 156–57, 165, 185, 232n17; Oslo, 80, 185 nostalgia, 1, 12, 46, 56, 59, 62, 65 nudity, 3, 13–14, 19–20, 23, 47, 48–50, 67, 96, 97, 105, 109, 111, 112, 122, 125, 128, 135, 140, 162–63, 174, 187, 192, 193, 195, 211n14, Plate 16 Obstfelder, Sigbørn, 121 Oceanic art, 177 occultism, 86, 88, 101–5, 172–73, 195–96, 212n38, 214n71, 225n45 Oedipus, 134–37, 230n48 Olbrich, Joseph Maria, 182; Session Building (Vienna), 183 Olcott, Henry Steel, 103, 225n46 Opéra, 53 Ophelia, 123–25, 127, 229n24 Opponents (Sweden), 183


Orpheus, 134–38, 175–76 Orwicz, Michael, 101 Osbert, Alphonse, 175, 214n71; Vision, 120–21, 120, 141, 175, 228n13 Oscar II, King of Sweden, 183 Otto, King of Greece, 97 Ottoman Empire, 148 paganism, 103, 159–60, 174 Palais du Champ de Mars, 177 Pan, 187 pantheism, 107 Panthéon, 228n15 Parent-Duchâtelet, Alexandre, 74 Paris, 47, 48, 50, 92, 95, 99, 101, 121, 180, 216n26; artists and musicians in, 44, 48, 53, 58, 74, 89, 94–96, 104, 106, 120, 129, 152, 167–76, 183–84, 191, 199, 201, 203, 205; conditions in, 10, 18, 37, 74, 80, 85, 92, 129, 152, 233n3; critics, poets, and writers in, 9, 37, 66, 132, 185–87, 203; prostitution in, 129; urban renewal of, 152 pastel, 79, 123, 130, 132, 162, 164 Pasteur, Louis, 71, 118 Patriote, Le, 178 Paul, Bruno: Women in Front of the Wheel . . . , 130, 131 Pavillon de la Ville de Paris, 174 Pavlov, Ivan, 33, 214n77 peasants, 10, 11, 23, 43, 58, 71, 98–99, 101, 103, 107, 108, 113, 116, 121, 150–51, 156, 158, 199 Péladan, Joséphin, 31, 47, 74–75, 104, 137, 187, 196, 218n68, 231n51; exhibitions and, 23, 174–77, 213n47 Père Tanguy exhibition (Paris), 170 Peru, 86, 89 Petit, Georges, Galerie, 185 physics, 101–2, 127, 211n25, 225n47 Picard, Edmond, 67, 91, 179, 187, 235n37 Picasso, Pablo, 191–93, 201, 207, 236n2, 236n6; La Vie, 192, 193 Pierrot, Jean, 6 Pissarro, Camille, 170, 172, 174, 178, 185, 234n21 Pissarro, Lucien, 223n9 Pius IX, Pope, 118 plague, 44, 67–71, 220n21 Plato, 30, 103, 104 Plume, La, 186 Podkowiński, Władysław, 71, 85; Frenzy, 76, 77, 78, 88 Poe, Edgar Allan, 31, 42–46, 52, 62, 71, 78, 82, 85, 123, 137, 196, 214n68 Pointillism (Divisionism), 93–94, 112, 156, 180 Poland, 67, 147, 149–50, 153, 162–64, 180; Krakow, 76, 151, 162, 164, 180; Planty, 164; Wawel Castle, 164; uprisings, 150 Polybius, 50 Pont-Aven School, 171–72, 185–86 Pour l’art, 177 Prémysl, King of Bohemia, 156 Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, 5, 41, 56, 66, 123, 218n74




Previati, Gaetano, 42, 180; Maternity, 118, 119, 120, 175, 180 “primitivism,” 97–101, 112, 177; exhibition at Museum of Modern Art (New York), 98 prostitution, 74, 118, 125, 129–30, 152 Proudhon, Pierre-Joseph, 143, 214n80 Prussia, 18, 148, 150, 165, 181, 231n3 Przybyszewski, Stanislaw, 86, 162, 221n32 Puccini, Giacomo, 71–72 Pudor, Heinrich, 112 Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre, 56–59, 62, 110, 174–75, 185, 187, 192, 228n15; exhibitions, 56, 178, 181, 188; The Poor Fisherman, 56–59, Plate 4 Pygmalion, 127 Pythagoras, 103 Rabelais, François, 10, 210n6 Radestock, Paul, 18, 212n35 railroads, 15 Ranson, Paul, 95, 104, 112, 172–73, 185, 194; Christ and Buddha, 104, 173, Plate 9 Rapetti, Rodolphe, 2, 4 Raphael, 56; School of Athens, 50 Realism, 2, 5, 30, 39, 61, 71, 80, 101, 106, 149, 180, 205, 223n9 Redon, Odilon, 31–33, 41, 42, 50, 54, 85, 104, 123, 169, 185, 202, 212nn31–32, 236n60; exhibitions, 169, 173–75, 178; works: Cactus Man, 31, 32, 33; In the Dream, 16; Ophelia, 123, Plate 11; The Smiling Spider, 16–17, 17; To Edgar Poe, 215n18 reform, 5, 56, 89, 91, 94, 99, 104, 106, 110–13, 153, 174, 179–80, 182–84, 187 religion, 6, 31, 48, 91, 106–107, 110, 173; agnostic, 99; atheism and, 67; Blake and, 41, 104; Buddhist, 86, 103–4, 125, 134, 173, 179, 225n51; Catholic, 22, 25, 82–84, 95–101, 106, 115, 117–18, 152, 158, 173, 223n18–19, 224n27, 228nn11–12, 234n28; Christian, 58, 86, 107, 118, 127, 134, 158, 162, 176, 192, 229n22 (see also specific Christian religions); Hindu, 103–4; Islamic, 104, 225n52; Judaic, 31, 54, 67–68, 86, 103, 173, 220n13, 221n43; Lutheran, 106–8, 121, 160, 162, 226n65; Orthodox Christian, 97, 160; paganism, 103, 159–60, 174; pantheism, 107; and politics, 68, 178, 232n4; revival, 118, 153; Swedenborgian, 40– 41; Theosophic, 101–105, 112, 136, 173, 179, 194–99, 234n9, 237n13, 237n22 Remacle, Adrien, 54 Rembrandt, 185 Renaissance, 78, 97–98, 106, 128, 180, 182 Renan, Ary, 61 Renan, Ernest, 35, 231n2 Renoir, Pierre-Auguste, 58, 170, 178, 188; Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, 15–16, 15 Restaurant du Chalet exhibition (Paris), 185 revolution and war, 203, 219n3. See also specific revolutions and wars Revue blanche, 53, 88, 186, 191

Revue de Genève, 187 Revue des deux mondes, 50, 96 Revue indépendante, 54, 66, 185–86 Revue wagnérienne, 54, 185 Rewald, John, 168 Ribot, Thomas, 50 Riehl, Wilhelm, 160 Rimbaud, Arthur, 237n11 Rodenbach, Georges, 75, 78, 179, 187 Rodin, Auguste, 58, 85, 169, 174, 187, 192, 199; exhibitions, 169, 178, 182, 185; works: Fugitive Love, 29; Gates of Hell, 27–31, 28, 29, 48, 84, 201, 213n61, 227n7, 235n30; The Kiss, 27, 78; Prodigal Son, 29; The Thinker, 29, 89 Rohde, Johan, 184 Romania, 199 Romanticism, 1, 5, 13–14, 39, 44, 46–47, 58, 62, 94, 106–7, 156, 205, 218n66 Röntgen, Wilhelm, 101, 194, 225n44, 236n9 Rookmaker, Henrik, 88 Rops, Félicien, 42–45, 74–76, 84, 169, 178; Death at the Ball, 44, 45, 46, 107; The Supreme Vice, 74– 76, 75 Rose + Croix, La, 174–77, 234n28 Rossetti, Dante Gabriel, 41, 218n74, 229n24, 235n30 Rossetti, William, 41 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 80, 220n23 Royal Academy (London) exhibition, 123 Royal Academy (Stockholm), 183 Runge, Philipp Otto, 14; The Nightingale’s Lesson, 218n66 Russia, 33, 67, 71, 92, 103, 106, 121, 147, 150, 160, 186–88, 196, 236n63; Karelia, 160; Siberia, 150 Rutebeuf, 10, 210n6 Sager-Nelson, Olof, 78 Saint Anthony, 35, 129 Saint Geneviève, 121 Saint-Germain, l’Auxerrois, 175 Saint-Germain des Près, 186 Salomé, 61, 71, 129–32, 219n86 Salon (Paris), 3, 20, 56, 59, 94, 134, 173, 175 Salon d’art idéaliste, 177 Salon de la Rose + Croix, 118, 120, 123, 174–77 Salon des Indépendants, 173–74 Salon des Impressionistes et Symbolistes, 173 Salon des Refusées, 173 Salon du Champs-de-Mars, 23, 110, 174 Salpêtrière hospital, 124, 138 Samain, 136 Sandberg, Sigrun, 233n21 Satan, 40, 86–87, 129, 227n1 Satie, Eric, 175 Saussure, Ferdinand de, 5, 93, 210n15, 223n11 Scheffer, Herman, 207 Scherner, Karl Albert, 18 Schiller, Friedrich, 13

Schlumberger, Gustave, 97 Schmidt-Helmbrechts, Carl: cover of Jugend, Plate 16 Schopenhauer, Arthur, 14, 49–52, 62, 65, 66, 117, 125, 179, 187, 201, 214n65, 214n68, 216n42 Schuffenecker, Émile, 35, 153, 167 Schumann, Robert, 214n68 Schuré, Édouard, 104, 179, 185 Schwabe, Carlos, 169, 181 Schwind, Moritz von: A Symphony, 218n66 science, 9, 14, 16, 30, 33, 35, 40, 43, 44, 47, 48, 50, 65, 67, 71, 74, 80, 91, 93, 94, 96, 103, 110, 215n7; and art, 128; medical, 143; and views of women’s inferiority, 117, 123. See also biology; evolution; physics Scotland, 149, 159–60; Angus, 160 Segantini, Giovanni, 125–27, 180, 196; exhibitions, 169, 178, 181, 182; works: The Evil Mothers, 125; The Punishment of Lust, 125, 126; Two Mothers, 180 Seitz, Otto: The Black Kitchen of Death, 69, 70, 71 Séon, Alexandre, 175; Orpheus Laments, 175, 176 Serbia, 148 Sérusier, Paul, 23–25, 54, 94–96, 169, 171–73, 185, 201, 224n32; Breton Eve, or Melancholy, 23–25, 24, 171; The Talisman, 94–95, 104, 171, Plate 5 Seurat, Georges, 58, 94, 106, 169, 172–74, 178–79, 185, 223n12 sexuality, 21–23, 67, 74–77, 84, 117, 130, 164, 184, 203, 212n44, 221n32; and deviance, 78, 125, 137, 141 Shackelford, George, 88 Shakespeare, William, 58, 123 Shelley, Mary, 40 Siddal, Elizabeth, 229n24, 235n30 Signac, Pierre, 58, 92–94, 169, 170, 173–74, 185, 191, 223nn9–10; In the Era of Harmony, 92–94, 93, 165 Silverman, Debora, 101, 107 Simberg, Hugo, 107–8; Death Listens, 107–8, 108 Simon, Pierre-Max, 84 Simplicissimus, 86 Sirens, 129, 130 Slott-Møller, Harald: Danish Landscape, 165, Plate 15 Slovakia, 149 Slovenia, 149 Smetna, Bedrich, 156 socialism, 91, 104, 106–7 Société des Artistes Indépendants, 173–74 Société des Cent Bibliophiles, 25 Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (Paris), 23, 120 Spain, 115, 216n26; Els Quatre Gats (Barcelona), 191; Granada, 61 Spencer, Herbert, 47, 227n6 Sphinx, 71, 129, 130, 133–37, 230n48 Stevenson, Robert Louis, 71 Stimmungsmaleri, 182 Stone, Norman, 91 Strathmann, Karl, 97–98, 181, 187; Maria, 118, Plate 7 Strauss, Richard, 132


Strindberg, August, 25, 34–35, 58, 86, 186; Celestograph, 34, 35 Stuck, Franz von, 138, 169, 181, 192, 196, 231n56; Young Girl with a Flower or Innocentia, 138, 139, 140 Studio, The, 187 Studio of the South, 171 Suger, Abbot of St. Denis, 153 suicide, 43, 76, 86, 103, 123, 134, 186, 192, 229n29 Surrealism, 2, 188, 191, 202–3, 207 Sweden, 129, 147, 148, 150–153, 156, 162, 165, 169, 183–84, 218n82, 232n17; House of the People, 183–84; Stockholm, 152; Visby, 150–52 Swedenborg, Emanuel, 40–41, 46, 62, 80, 102–3, 215n7, 215n14 Swedenborg Society, 40 Swedish Association for the Blind, 233n33 Swift, Jonathan, 214n68 Swinburne, Algernon, 228n13 Swiss National Exposition 1896 (Geneva), 23, 158 Switzerland, 15, 22, 72, 109, 125, 127, 148, 153, 157– 58, 187, 233n25; Aargau, 127; Bern, 158, 213n48; Bürglen, 158; Civil War, 157–58; exhibitions, 14, 23, 158, 213n48; Geneva, 22; Lake Lucerne, 158; Uri, 158 Symbolism, 4, 5, 7, 10, 12, 16, 36–37, 66, 89, 94, 123, 144, 149, 153, 165, 172, 175, 185, 191; and national identity, 148, 180–81 Symboliste, Le, 186 Symons, Arthur, 41 synaesthesia, 46, 54, 80, 94–95, 196–97 Synthetism, 37, 54, 80, 94, 96, 99, 104, 143, 152, 171–72 syphilis, 69–71, 74–75, 89, 124, 130 Szabolsci, Miklos, 6 Tahiti, 19–20, 88–89, 138, 169, 184, 212n39 Taine, Hippolyte, 17, 88, 213n60 Tanguy, Julien, 170 Tarde, Gabriel, 44 Tchaikovsky, Piotr, 179 technology, 14–15 Tell, William, 158 Tennyson, Alfred, 56 Tertullian, 229n22 Tessla, Nikola, 101 Théâtre d’Art, 173 Théâtre de l’Oeuvre, 132, 173 Theosophical Society, 103 112, 234n9 Theosophy, 101–105, 112, 136, 173, 179, 194–99, 234n9, 237n13, 237n22 Thiel, Ernst, 183 Thiers, Adolphe, 12 Thoré, Théophile, 46 Tolstoy, Leo, 186 Tönnies, Ferdinand, 11, 44 Toorop, Jan 134–36, 175, 178, 181, 197; Sphinx, 134, 135, 136




Toulouse-Lautrec, Henri de, 74, 129, 170, 178, 185 Touring Club de France, 152 tourism, 152–53, 171, 233n25 Trachsel, Albert, 158 Train, George, 15 Traquair, Phoebe Anna, 138–40; Progress of a Soul: The Stress, 138–40, 140 travel, 14–15. See also tourism Triqueti, Henri, 213n61 truth, 5, 13, 16, 31, 39, 41, 47, 94, 96, 162, 168, 174–75, 194, 197, 206 tuberculosis, 69, 71–72, 76, 123, 220n19, 220n27 Turner, J. M. W., 5 uncivilized, 18–20, 30, 37, 43, 84, 86–89, 91, 113, 177 unconscious, 9–10, 16, 18, 21, 35, 50, 66, 121–23, 140, 177, 203 Unger, Hans: The Reaper, 220n24 United States, 15, 67, 103; Baltimore, 44; New York, 47; Philadelphia, 44 urbanization, 6, 10, 14–15, 30, 44, 69, 80, 152, 194 Valdemar Atterdag, King of Denmark, 150–52 Valedon, Suzanne, 234n22 vampires, 17, 129, 137 van der Velde, Henry, 235n37 van Gogh, Theo, 54, 99, 106–7, 171, 184 van Gogh, Vincent, 35, 43, 92, 94, 106–7, 129, 150, 186, 192, 196, 211n20; and Arles, 167–72; and Bernard, 103, 106, 170, 171, 185, 186, 214n81, 234n11; exhibitions, 136, 178, 179, 182, 184, 185, 186, 197, 237n19; and Gauguin, 35, 99, 171–72, 103, 186; and illness, 43, 74, 84, 226n62, 236n57; and music, 54, 218n67; works: The Bible, 214n81; Self-Portrait, 107, 226n62, Plate 10; Sower, 107 Vanor, Georges, 13, 30 Verein Berliner Künstler, 182; exhibition, 182 Verhaeren, Émile, 14, 16, 23, 30, 168, 187, 235n37 Verlaine, Paul, 42, 95, 179, 192, 210n1 Vermeer, Johannes, 205 Verne, Jules, 14 Ver Sacrum, 182 Vienna Academy, 180 Vienna Secession, 168, 182; exhibition, 13, 48, 136, 182 Vigeland, Gustav, 162 Vikings, 151 Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Auguste, 127 Villon, François, 10, 210n6 Vingt (XX), Les, 67, 83, 167, 174, 178–79, 182, 186–87; exhibition (Brussels), 83, 178–79, 186

Virgin Mary. See Madonna Vita Moderna, 180 Vogue, La, 9, 186 Vollard, Ambrose, gallery of, 58, 172, 191, 222n53 Voltaire, 84 Vrubel, Mikhail, 84–88, 181; Flying Demon, 84–88, 85 Vuillard, Édouard, 173 Wagner, Richard, 52–55, 66, 175, 179, 185, 187 Wallonie, La, 187 Walpole, Horace, 215n3 Wandervogel, 206 Weber, Max, 69, 220n16, 233n24 Weiss, Wojciech, 162–64, 180; Spring, 162, 163, 164 Wells, H. G., 138 Weyer, Johann, 230n33 Whistler, James McNeill, 55, 62, 121, 169, 178, 181, 188; Little White Girl: Symphony in White /No. 2, 228n13; Nocturne: Silver and Opal-Chelsea, 55, 55; Symphony in White, No. 1: White Girl, 231n56 Wilde, Oscar, 37, 71, 76, 132, 137, 169 Wilhelm I, Emperor of Germany, 18 Wilhelm II, Emperor of Germany, 86 Willumsen, Ferdinand, 184 Wittelsbach dynasty, 181 Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 182 Wöfflin, Heinrich, 2 women: inferiority of, ideas about, 124, 127, 174–77; as inspiration, 118, 127, 175; legal restrictions on, 129; as mediums, 120; social restrictions on, 129; as temptresses, 121, 127. See also gender relations; New Woman Woolson, Abba Goold, 134 world’s fairs, 148, 168. See also Expositions Universelles World War I, 203, 206 Wyspiański, Stanisław, 180; Capsheaves, 164, 164 Wyzéwa, Téodor de, 9–10, 30, 35, 42, 53–54, 66, 169, 185, 217n59 Yeats, William Butler, 169, 234n9 Young, Patrick, 152 Young Poland (Młoda Polska), 109, 180; exhibition (Krakow), 76 youth, 51, 76, 101, 109–12, 136, 140, 150, 162, 184, 187, 191, 206–7 Zola, Émile, 58, 68, 76, 144, 227n4 Zycie, 162, 180

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