Developments in the 19th Century



 




Art Styles in 19th century - Art Map


 




SYMBOLISM

in

FRANCE




(Between Romanticism and Expressionism)



 

 

 


C o n t e n t s:
 
Symbolism in France  
 
Synthetism Pont-Aven school
Intimism Nabis
Fauvism  
 
collections:
Aman-Jean Edmond  Anquetin Louis
Bernard Emile Bonnard Pierre
Carriere Eugene Claudel Camille
Denis Maurice Derain Andre
Dongen Kees van Dufy Raoul
Fantin-Latour Henri Filiger Charles
Gauguin Paul Hawkins Louis  
Jacquemin Jeanne   Lacombe Georges
Levy-Dhurmer Lucien Maillol Aristide
Matisse Henri Marquet Albert
Maurin Charless Maxence Edgar
Moreau Gustaves   Mossa Gustave Adolphe 
Osbert Alphonce Point Armand 
Puvis de Chavannes Pierre  Ranson Paul
Redon Odilon Rodin Auguste
Rouault Georges Rousseau Henri
Roussel Ker Xaviers Seon Alexandre
Serusier Paul Vallotton Felix
Vlaminck Maurice
 
Vuillard Edouard
 
 


 

 

 

          
     
Gauguin Paul

(see collection)

 
 
       
         
      Paul Gauguin
Meyer de Haan
1889
 
         
 



Synthetism

Pont-Aven school

 

 
 
Gauguin sought a society in which relations between the sexes were harmonious - harmonious, we should perhaps add "as the relation between mother and child"; a society, at all events, in which such relations were governed by the implicit code that regulates the behaviour of a people still possessed of a tradition. We have seen that, in the European society of his day, this code had been disrupted by the impact of the industrial revolution. This helps to explain why the collective dream of European society was invaded by femmes fatales, and was a factor in Gauguin's departure for the Pacific.
 

  
Paul Gauguin

If Van Gogh typified the artist passionate about his own anguish in an unappreciative society that alienated him to the point of self-destruction, then Paul Gauguin was the daring, nonconformist painter - less complicated, but equally as compelling. Driven by a "terrible longing for things unknown", he fled a bourgeois existence for lands unscathed by Western ideas of progress, conventions, and rules. There, he could express himself with absolute freedom, discovering the spirituality of civilizations that were to him mysterious -"the only ones left that could provoke real emotions". Gauguin came to painting at a late age and was introduced by Pissarro into the Impressionist circle (he took part in the group's exhibitions of 1879 and 1886). While in Brittany, a region that conserved its popular traditions, he was stimulated by the experiments of Bernard and Anquetin. They sought to replace the fragmented colour and fleeting nature of Impressionism with a style that used large areas of flat, uniform colour, surrounded and defined by thick, dark outlines - similar to the effect achieved by stained glass. Instead of glorifying colour and light, Gauguin aimed for a "silent harmony" of dense hues, vibrant with music, as a background to simplified shapes with foreshortened strokes, and completed by large, decorative arabesque lines.
After Brittany,
Gauguin visited Tahiti, where, enraptured by the charm of the landscape and the Polynesian people, he rediscovered the emotive and magical value of colour and became fascinated by indigenous mythology. His increasing awareness of spiritual concerns in every field of art was reflected in his paintings, which contained new and complex symbols derived from Indian art (for example Nirvana, which shows the Dutch Buddhist painter Meyer de Haan); Japanese prints (a current fashion in the West); and Pre-Columbian art, which he knew well through his Peruvian family tradition. Despite these varied influences, the works never lost their spontaneity and decorative gaiety. Between 1888 and 1900, the artist created a series of stylized pictures in which his dependence on memory, sensation, and the imagination overshadowed the importance of nature. Looked upon by young artists as their charismatic master, Gauguin advised, "Don't paint from nature too much. Art is an abstraction, extract it from nature and dream of the creation that will result." Gauguin's last great work -Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? (1897) - appears to be a final and painful meditation on the destiny of humanity, summarizing life's passage from childhood to old age. It pays tribute to Symbolism, which championed the role of the imagination in creativity, and allows Gauguin to condense his figurative experiences by combining earlier motifs and characters in a large and highly decorative composition. The harmonious but sombre colours enhance the mysterious, ambiguous imagery, creating a powerfully resonant image.
       
 

Gauguin Paul

(see collection)


see also
collection: Tahiti women
 
 
 
Paul Gauguin
Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?
1897
 
   
 


 
Gauguin was only episodically a Symbolist painter. Some of his canvases are more Symbolist than others, and his most ambitious work, his artistic testament Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? draws its formal inspiration from the great murals of Puvis de Chavannes. His painting is not allegorical, as Puvis de Chavannes' compositions were, nor is it programmatic; Gauguin offered different interpretations to different people. But it is imbued with a mood of sensual melancholy. The veiled, allusive Symbolism that results has considerable resonance.

 
Gauguin set himself apart from the more conventional aspects of Symbolism, but the style he created has no truck with naturalism; it emphasised the emotional value of colour in ways to which no reproduction can do justice. Moreover, his ideas about colour were of considerable interest to the next generation of painters.

 The site of this influence was Pont-Aven, in Brittany, where a small colony of painters had settled. The year was 1888.

Emile Bernard (1868-1941), a precociously gifted painter born into modest circumstances, came to spend the summer there. He was twenty years old and a fervent Catholic, a point not without relevance in the ideological context of the time. Gauguin was forty. In Paris, Bernard had already met Toulouse-Lautrec, Signac and van Gogh. And he had worked out a theory of painting, which he explained to Gauguin. It called for a more autonomous use of colour, which was to be applied in flat areas separated by a black line as in stained-glass windows.

During the summer of 1888
Paul Serusier (1864-1927) also arrived in Pont-Aven. He was twenty-four. His father, director of the Houbigant perfumery, had marked him down for a commercial career. Serusier refused; enrolling at the Academie Julian, he found himself in the company of Maurice Denis, Paul Ranson and Pierre Bonnard. At Pont-Aven, Gauguin took him in hand. Together they went out to paint.

 
Gauguin's advice to Serusier was noted down by Maurice Denis (1870-1943): "How do you see that tree?" Gauguin asked as they stood in a wood called the Bois d'Amour, "Is it really green? Then put it down in green - the most beautiful green in your palette - and that shadow is rather blue? Don't be afraid to paint it as blue as possible."
 
Serusier painted the Bois d'Amour on the back of a cigar box. Returning to Paris, he unwrapped it under the eyes of his friends. "Thus, in paradoxical, unforgettable form," Maurice Denis noted, "we were presented for the first time with the fertile concept of 'a flat surface covered with colours assembled in a certain order'.
Thus did we learn that every work of art is a transposition, a caricature, the passionate equivalent of a sensation received." Realizing the significance of
Serusier's little painting, they dubbed it The Talisman.
 
   
Charles Filiger the most mystical of the Pont-Aven painters. Alfred Jarry entrusted him with the illustration of the Symbolist magazine l'Ymagier. He exhibited at Rose+Croix Salon in 1892.    
     

Filiger Charles

(see collection)

 
   
   
Charles Filiger
Christ Entombed
1895
   
     
Charless Maurin  was one of the most influential artists in the revival of interest in the art of the colour etching at the end of the 19th century in France. An associate of the painters of the Nabis  circle, Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis etc., his themes were mostly inspired by the quiet emotion of interior domestic life - frequently depictions of mothers with their children.    
     
     

Synthetism


(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

In art, method of painting evolved by
Gauguin Paul , Bernard Emile, Anquetin Louis, Maurin Charles and others in the 1880s to emphasize two-dimensional flat patterns, thus breaking with Impressionist art and theory. The styleshows a conscious effort to work less directly from nature and to rely more upon memory.

It was Gauguin who used the word
Synthetism, by which hemeant a style of art in which the form (colour planes and lines) is synthesized with the major idea or feeling of the subject. Although he had exhibited with the Impressionists until 1886, he did not share their disregard for defined forms or compositional elements. He felt that their preoccupation with the study of light effects in nature was confining, superficial, and neglectful of thought and ideas. He sought todevelop a new decorative style in art based on areas of pure colour (e.g., without shaded areas or modeling), a few strong lines, and an almost two-dimensional arrangement of parts. He spent the summers of 1886 and 1888 in Pont-Aven and Le Pouldu, Brittany, France, with Bernard and other disciples, where he founded the Synthetist group. An example of this new decorative style is Gauguin's “Vision After the Sermon” (1888; National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh). This large work includes peasant women leaving the church in thelower part of the canvas; above them is the vision of Jacob wrestling with the angel, which was the sermon of the day. Gauguin attempts to combine in one setting two levels of reality, the everyday world and the dream world. The lower figures are reduced to areas of flat patterns, without modeling or perspective. The large colour areas are intense and without shadows. The design is so strong that the two realities fuse into one visual experience.

Bernard and Anquetin used the name
Cloisonnism to describe their painting method, equating the design effect oflarge areas of pure colour and wide black outlines to the medieval cloisonné enamel technique. In addition to his interest in medieval art, Bernard enjoyed Japanese prints (ukiyo-e) and the art of primitive cultures. Synthetism was to influence the Nabis, a group of artists in the next decade, and, for a while, the work of Vincent van Gogh.


Cloisonne

in the decorative arts, an enameling technique or any product of that technique, which consists of soldering toa metal surface delicate metal strips bent to the outline of a design and filling the resulting cellular spaces, called cloisons (French: “partitions,” or “compartments”), with vitreous enamel paste. The object then is fired, ground smooth, and polished. Sometimes metal wire is used in place of the usual gold, brass,silver, or copper strips.

Among the earliest examples of cloisonné are six Mycenaean rings of the 13th century BC. The great Western period of cloisonné enameling was from the 10th to the 12th century, especially in the Byzantine Empire. In China cloisonné was widely produced during the Ming (1368–1644) and Ch'ing (1644–1911/12) dynasties. In Japan, it was especially popular during the Tokugawa (1603–1868) and Meiji (1868–1912) periods.
   


 
   

Pont-Aven school

(Encyclopaedia Britannica)

 Group of young painters who espousedthe style known as Synthetism and united under Paul Gauguin's informal tutelage at Pont-Aven, Brittany, France, in the summer of 1888. The artists included Bernard Emile, Charles Laval, Maxime Maufra, Serusier Paul , Filiger Charles, Meyer de Haan, Armand Seguin, and Henri de Chamaillard.

Gauguin and Bernard were the first to reject Impressionist and pointillist techniques in favour of
Synthetist methods. The paintings executed by these artists in the years between 1886, when they first met at Pont-Aven, and 1888 show an overall simplification, a highly expressive use of colour, and an intensely spiritual approach to their subject matter. In their Breton landscapes, Gauguin and Bernard employed bright areas of colour surrounded with heavy, darkoutlines that give the painted surface the appearance of medieval enamel and stained-glass work. The content of their paintings often derived from the everyday life of the Breton people.

Gauguin's disciples, enthusiastically accepting his advice not to paint exclusively from nature, gradually abandoned the Neo-Impressionist styles that they had adopted in Paris. In their revolt against naturalism, the early Synthetist painters emphasized the decorative potentials of colour and line: a painting was to be primarily a flat surface upon which colour was laid ornamentally. The Swallow-Hole in the Bois d'Amour, Pont Aven, or The Talisman (1888), painted by Paul Sérusier under the direct guidance of Gauguin, became the talisman of the young disciples. Gauguin had instructed Sérusier not only to paint the landscape from memory but to be certain to paint the different-coloured areas as intensely as possible. Upon the return of the Pont-Aven school to Paris in the fall of 1888, the members met regularly to discuss new developments in French art, particularly
Symbolism. In 1889 Gauguin arranged an important exhibition of Impressionist and Synthetist art that featured his own and others' works.

At one point in the existence of the Pont-Aven school, the idea of an artistic and communal society had seemed feasible, but, once Gauguin left for Tahiti, members of the original group abandoned their hopes for this to materialize. These artists became increasingly involved in the development of
Symbolist art theories and techniques. Artists such as Sérusier eventually became active in the Académie Julian and in the group of artists known as the Nabis.
 
   
 
Paul Signac
Portrait of Felix Feneon in Front of an Enamel of a Rhythmic Background of Measures and Angles, Shades and Colours.1890

              

Vincent van Gogh
Trees in the Asylum Garden.
1889


 
Serusier Paul

(see collection)
 
Paul Serusier
The Talisman

 
Paul Serusier
Portrait of Paul Ranson Wearing Nabic Costume
1890

 
Filiger Charles

(see collection)
 
Charles Filiger
Pouldu Landscape
1890


 
Maurin Charles

(see collection)
 
Maurin Charles
Maternity
1893

 
Bernard Emile

(see collection)
 
Emile Bernard
Madeleine au Bois d'Amour.
1888
 
Anquetin Louis

(see collection)
 


Anquetin Louis
Avenue de Clichy
1887
 

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