Dreams of Nature
This article is from the archive of The New York Sun before the launch of its new website in 2022. The Sun has neither altered nor updated such articles but will seek to correct any errors, mis-categorizations or other problems introduced during transfer.
“Dreams of Nature” surveys the symbolist movement as expressed in landscape painting across Europe from Mallorca to western Russia, and is likely the first exhibition ever to do so. The exhibition, organized by Richard Thomson and Rodolphe Rapetti, contains seventy canvases, with some implausible choices among them depending on where one might draw the line regarding what qualifies as Symbolist.
That turns out to be a complicated consideration. Jean Moréas, writing his Symbolist Manifesto in 1886, described it thus: “Enemy of education, declamation, wrong feelings, objective description, symbolist poetry tries to dress the Idea in a sensitive form which, however, would not be its sole purpose, but furthermore that, while serving to express the Idea in itself, would remain subjective.” The subjectivity was key. Symbolism was above all a defiance of literary naturalism, but there was an equivalent in visual art, the naturalism of the Impressionist landscape, which arguably had started to look a little threadbare by the late 1880s when the term symbolisme came into use.
Read the whole essay at The New Criterion.
“Dreams of Nature: Symbolism from Van Gogh to Kandinsky” runs through June 17 at the Van Gogh Museum, Paulus Potterstraat 7, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, +31 (0)20 570 5200, vangoghmuseum.nl.
Franklin Einspruch is the art critic for The New York Sun. He blogs at Artblog.net.