French Symbolism and Mysticism
The Lure and Eroticism of Classical Antiquity
Although threatened by the fleeting experience that artists like Manet, Degas or Monet elected to paint, classical mythology remained a cornerstone of 19th century art and culture, propagated by the academies and illustrated in countless official paintings. It was also subject to intensely personal interpretations : and so it was with Gustave Moreau's odd visions of antiquity. Moreau might well be credited as a pioneer in the opening of hazy and disquieting vistas influenced by Leonardo's otherworldly landscapes of distant waters and translucent grottoes. Moreau invented a magical world of cultivated inward sensation and fantasy where we are not surprised to find the most bizarre shifts and even some kind of wilderness that announced the more concerted explorations of morbid, inward reverie found in the Symbolist art of the 1890s. By the end of the century, a vast international repertory of drugged silence, introspective mythmaking and demonic women could trace its ancestry back to Moreau's first hallucinatory paintings of the 1860s.