Definition of Symbolism and their Meanings




Symbolism in Art
Symbolic Art, and Art Symbols

Symbolism in art was a late nineteenth-century movement of French, Russian, and Belgian origin in poetry and other forms of art. The name "symbolist" was first used by the critic Jean Moréas, Jean invented the term to distinguish the symbolists from the related decadents of literature and art.

Symoblism in art is related to the symbolism in literature however symbolism in art is more closely related to the gothic component of Romanticism. The word symbolism comes from the word "symbol" which is latin for "a symbol of faith". Symbolism in art was in the most part a reaction against naturalism and realism. Symbolism in art was a reaction in favour of spirituality, the imagination, and also dreams.

The Wounded Angel

the wounded angelHere is a good example of symbolism in art. The painting on the left is called The Wounded Angel by Hugo Simberg. Hugo Simberg felt it was important that the viewer was left free to make their own conclusions based on the symbolism.

Josephin Peladan was one of symbolism's most colorful promoters, he was an art and literary critic who established the Salon de la Rose + Croix. There were several Symbolists that were associated with the Salon.

Many Symbolists had a firm belief that art should be represented in absolute truths that could only be described indirectly. Symbolists thus endowed particular images or objects with symbolic meaning.

The use of symbolism in literature is set apart from symbolism in art even though they were both similar in many ways. In paintings in particular symbolism was a continuation of mystical tendencies in the Romantic tradition. The symbolist painters used mythological and dream imagery in their painting styles. Unlike symbols we find in familiar emblems or mainstream iconography, more private, personal, obscure and ambiguous references were used.

Here are a couple of more famous examples of symbolism in art.

Sistine Chapel

sistine chapelMichelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling and Handel's Messiah spring to mind immediately when speaking of symbolism in art. The painting on the left is Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.




The Sphinx

sphynxEgyptian art is intriguing and controversial because it is saturated with symbolism, the meaning of which is often obscure. Here is a photo of the Sphinx, a classic in Egyptian art.












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