French Symbolist painter known for hiserotic paintings of
mythological and religious subjects.
The only influence that really affected Moreau's development was
that of his master, Théodore Chassériau (1819–56), an eclectic
painter whose depictions of enigmatic sea goddessesdeeply impressed
his student. In the Salon of 1853 he exhibited “Scene from the Song
of Songs” and the “Death of Darius,” both conspicuously under the
influence of Chassériau.
Moreau's “Oedipus and the Sphinx” (1864; Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York City) and his “The Apparition (Dance of Salome)” (c. 1876;
Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Mass.) and “Dance of Salome” (c. 1876;
Musée Gustave Moreau, Paris) show his work becoming increasingly
concerned with exotic eroticism and violence, and his richly crowded
canvases made greater use of dramatic lighting to heighten his
brilliant, jewel-like colours. His last work, “Jupiter and Sémélé”
(1896; Musée Gustave Moreau), is the culmination of such tendencies.
Moreau's art has often been described as decadent. He made a number
of technical experiments, including scraping his canvases; and his
nonfigurative paintings, done in a loose manner with thick impasto,
have led him to be called a herald of Abstract Expressionism.
Moreau succeeded Elie Delaunay as professor at the École des
Beaux-Arts, and his teaching was highly popular. He was a very
influential teacher of some of the artists of the Fauve movement,
including Matisse and Rouault. At his death, Moreau left to the
state his house and about 8,000 works, which now form the Musée
Gustave Moreau in Paris.