Death and Eroticism: Symbolism in Art

Moving away from Naturalism and Realism and in reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the Symbolist painters of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century dealt with the darker Romantic subjects of mystery, eroticism and death. The movement, which began in France and spread through Europe, looked to literature and poetry for material including the works of American Edgar Allan Poe. Images from dreams, mythology and the bible were also incorporated into their art. Among these esoteric artists were the French Gustave Moreau, Austrian Gustav Klimt, Belgian James Ensor and Edvard Munch from Norway. Their work and that of other Symbolist artists went on to influence the later movements of Expressionism and Surrealism. They had much in common with the Pre-Raphaelites and the Aesthetic Movement.