Gustave Moreau was a distinctive artist, and one who would become a significant figure among the Symbolist group. Like Puvis, Gustave Moreau stood alone among his contemporaries because of his unusual paintings. His work is characterized as being composed in the style of symphonic poems. They were mostly dream like classical myths or religious themes, loaded with bright, seducing colors and luxurious effects. By the time he gained popularity among the next generation of artists he became somewhat of a recluse. His first paintings were a strong influence of the romantic style of Delacroix, and his taste for jewel like color, was a direct influence of Chasseriau. Both artists had a studio next door, and had become good friends with Moreau. Like many other artists in Paris, Moreau traveled to Italy, where he became interested in Renaissance art. He was also drawn to Primitive painters, Byzantine art, archaic vases, and mosaics. In 1964, Moreau exhibited his Oedipus in an official Salon, and by now he had a reputation of being eccentric and odd. He began to withdraw from the art world after his now familiar works began to gain criticism. After 1880 he no longer exhibited his work.

In 1880, the well-known writer Huysmans, noticed the personal and engaging work of Moreau, and four years later he confirmed Moreau's impact on the Symbolist movement when he included descriptions of his works in A Rebours, (Against Nature). This was two years before the official birth of Symbolism in Jean Moreas's Symbolist Manifesto in 1886. One of the works admired by Huysmans was Salome Dancing Before Herod, which exhibited in the Salon of 1876. Salome, a femme fatale, which became popular among 19th century artists, was an important figure in Moreau's work. He portrayed women as both a seductress and innocent.

Despite his withdrawal from the art scene, Moreau received official recognition. He was given the Legion of Honour in 1875; in 1883 he was given the croix de l'officier; in 1889 he became a Member of the Institute, and in 1892 he was given his own studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where Matisse was a student, but his favorite student was Rouault, who became the first curator of the Moreau Museum in Paris. Moreau had left the city of Paris his collection of works at the time of his death.

 


Orpheus, Gustave Moreau, 1865
Odilon Redon was one of the most prominent figures among the Symbolist circle. His work was mostly inspired from his emotions and imagination, and it consisted of common Symbolist subjects, such as monsters, severed heads, femme fatales, and unique representations of classical mythology. He also invented creatures, which came from scientific materials viewed through a microscope. One can look at the life of Redon and come up with the conclusion that he was the most consistent and devoted of the Symbolist artists. His first inspiration was at a family estate called Peyreblade. It was just outside the city of Bordeaux where Redon was born. His father had made a fortune in Louisiana, and left Redon in the care of an old uncle at the Peyreblade estate. It was there that the young Redon's imagination was haunted.

Cyclops
, Odilon Redon, 1904

Redon was one of the most prominent figures among the Symbolist circle. His work was mostly inspired from his emotions and imagination, and it consisted of common Symbolist subjects, such as monsters, severed heads, femme fatales, and unique representations of classical mythology. He also invented creatures, which came from scientific materials viewed through a microscope. One can look at the life of Redon and come up with the conclusion that he was the most consistent and devoted of the Symbolist artists. His first inspiration was at a family estate called Peyreblade. It was just outside the city of Bordeaux where Redon was born. His father had made a fortune in Louisiana, and left Redon in the care of an old uncle at the Peyreblade estate. It was there that the young Redon's imagination was haunted.

During the 1880's, Redon's reputation began to rise. In Paris he associated himself within an intellectual circle that included Huysmans and Mallarme. He also helped organize the first salon of Independents in 1886, but it was outside of Paris, in Belgium and Holland where he gained notability. In Brussells where Symbolism was known to be more liberal, Redon exhibited there with the guidance of the Symbolist group Les XX.

Pierre Puvis de Chavannes remained independent in his artistic career, and never did embrace the Symbolist movement. He liked the idea of modern ideas, but did not want to stray away from the academic tradition. His work resembles Symbolism because of his attention to melancholy. Much of his work focused on half light, and he is quoted as saying, "I am...so miserable that the sun fatigues my sight and troubles my soul, above all this autumn sun, which burns like one gone mad, but does not warm." In his early years Puvis was prevented from becoming an engineer or an army officer because of illness. To better his health condition Puvis went to Italy, and it is here that his interest in art was stimulated. After his second visit to Italy, Puvis entered the studio of Delacroix in 1848, and then to Courture, however most of his training was independent with a live model.
Puvis's wish was to become a decorative artist. His style was that of the Old Masters from his training in Italy, however he stepped outside of the normal boundaries. His unique compositions of pale washed out colors, frieze like compositions and simplistic style stood out, and were easily recognizable, and although they were controversial he continued to have his work hung at the Paris Salons. In the late 1860's and 1870's Puvis received many commissions and eventually took over Delacroix's position as the leading decorative painter in France. His decorations for the Pantheon in Paris brought him success in the 1876 Salon.

The Poor Fisherman, Pierre Puvis de Chevannes, 1881
Huysmans, the writer who admired the works of Moreau and Redon was annoyed with the works of Puvis. For example, he thought The Prodigol Son shown at the Salon of 1879 was indifferent and too simplistic. Although Puvis was targeted with harsh criticism he managed to move forward with his career with the support of the official establishment, and interested young artists. It was the melancholy energy and deliberate awkward compositions that attracted the Symbolists and influenced artists like Pablo Picasso and his Blue Period. The Symbolist critic Peladan, who after seeing The Sacred Wood, hailed him as the greatest master of our time, and it was this painting that had a great influence on the Nabis.

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