The Symbolist Movement
What is the the Symbolist Movement?
The Symbolist movement was a reaction both to academic literalism and Impressionism. Its politics were typically socialist tending toward anarchism. It rejected the modern city and industrialization, taking refuge in remote unspoiled places and landscapes — as Gauguin did in Breton villages and the tropical paradise of the South Seas — and in the spiritual world, dreams and visions.
Just as Baudelaire was recognized as the forerunner of literary Symbolism, it is now widely acknowledged that Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Edward Burne- Jones and George Frederick Watts were precursors of artistic Symbolism. An exhibition at the Tate Gallery devoted to the three a decade ago was subtitled “Symbolism in Britain 1860-1910.”
Warren Prosperi and the New Symbolist
Warren Prosperi, a renowned Boston-based portrait and mural painter, has recently unveiled an historic body of deeply personal, unique work dubbed “The Symbolist Series”.
Some of the artist’s earliest work, The Symbolist Series is heavily influenced by the Symbolist Movement of the mid-1800s – chronologically post-dating Impressionism, but a complete departure and opposition to the basic tenets of the Impressionist movement. Symbolism was largely credited to the writers Gustave Kahn and Jean Moréas, and represented the basic emphasis on emotions, feelings, ideas, and subjectivity; combining religious mysticism, the perverse, the erotic, and the decadent. The subject matter typically characterized by the occult, the morbid, the dream world, melancholy, evil, and death.
The work is heavily informed by many of the artists Prosperi finds as his key influences, as diverse as Whistler, Vermeer, the English Symbolists Lord Frederick Leighton and John William Waterhouse, Klimt and the Viennese Secessionists. As compelling as the work is, due it’s personal importance to the artist, it has largely been inaccessible to all but close friends and family, those that were on display from the collection limited to hanging in the artist’s home and studio.
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