What is Symbolism
Symbolism is an art movement that started out as a reaction against the purely visual Realism and Impressionism, in order to depict the symbols of ideas. Influenced by Romanticism and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, it thrived in France in the late nineteenth century, its influence spreading throughout much of Europe. Rather than the precise equivalents of ideas or emotions, its symbols were meant to be more mysterious, ambiguous suggestions of meanings.
The work of one group, including Pi?rre Puvis de Chavannes, Gustave Moreau, and Odilon Redon, took a literary approach, employing some of the imagery of Symbolist writers, including such icons as severed heads, monsters and glowing or smoky spirits, synthesized from elements of Bible stories and ancient myths.
Later, the imaginative incongruities in these works were to influence the Surrealists. Another group, taking a formal approach, in which linear stylizations and innovative uses of color produced emotional effects, included Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and the Nabis.