Europe: 19th century

Symbolism and Art Nouveau

Many artists in the late 19th century broke from naturalistic representation and sought visual equivalents to poetry and music.

c. 1870 - 1910

videos + essays

The decorative forms of Art Nouveau and the dreamscapes of Symbolism.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, Vase
Louis Comfort Tiffany, Vase

Inspired by the sheen of ancient Roman and Syrian glass, Tiffany created startling, modern objects.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, <em>Hair Ornament</em>
Louis Comfort Tiffany, Hair Ornament

Only three inches high, Tiffany captures an ephemeral moment in nature with the most sumptuous materials.

Léon Bakst, “Costume design for the ballet The Firebird”
Léon Bakst, “Costume design for the ballet The Firebird”

Bakst loved this character from Russian folklore, and made a drawing influenced by Cubism and Parisian aesthetics.

Edvard Munch, <em>The Storm</em>
Edvard Munch, The Storm

The anxiety felt by the women waiting for husbands sailing on a stormy sea is almost tangible in Munch’s picture.

Hector Guimard, Cité entrance, Métropolitain, Paris
Hector Guimard, Cité entrance, Métropolitain, Paris

These mass-produced structures brought a new kind of art from the homes of the Parisian elite into the streets.

Franz von Stuck, <em>The Sin</em>
Franz von Stuck, The Sin

Entranced by the evil of the human psyche, we come face to face with art history’s creepiest snake.

Gustav Klimt,<em> The Kiss</em>
Gustav Klimt, The Kiss

With gold that recalls a Byzantine art, Klimt created a modern icon in this cosmic and eternal painting.

Gustav Klimt, <em>Beethoven Frieze</em>
Gustav Klimt, Beethoven Frieze

Originally part of a total work of art, this frieze was accompanied by a sculpture of Beethoven and music by him.

Arnold Böcklin, <em>Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle</em>
Arnold Böcklin, Self-Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle

“Everything is illusory and death comes for us all!” proclaims this cheerful self-portrait.

Gustav Klimt, <em>Death and Life</em>
Gustav Klimt, Death and Life

Death comes to everyone—peasant, priest, or prince. Here, Death menaces interconnected bodies… with a club.

Fernand Khnopff, <em>Jeanne Kéfer</em>
Fernand Khnopff, Jeanne Kéfer

This straightforward painting nevertheless shows its Symbolist sympathies through the eyes of a young girl.

Edvard Munch, <em>The Scream</em>
Edvard Munch, The Scream

Munch sought to express internal emotions, providing a visual equivalent for a universal human experience.

Selected Contributors | Symbolism and Art Nouveau