Symbolism was one of the trends in European art from the 1870s to 1910s. Its in. Its overage unites artists who meditated in their works on the creation of the universe, birth and death, and the destiny of mankind. Their canvases became a kind of challenge to the age of rationalism, an answer to the triumph of Realism in art. The Symbolists were attracted by the world of illusions, signs and abstract metaphors instead of the seemingly understandable world of surrounding reality. Symbolism as an independent phenomenon developed in poetry associated with the names of Charles Baudelaire, Stephane Mallarme and Arthur Rimbeau. Yet it also appeared in all its vivid and various facets in philosophy, music and the fine arts. The Symbolists dreamed of producing a kind of synthetic work, in which all types and genres of art would be harmonically combined.
The profound philosophical reflections with which the work of Symbolist masters abounds provide each of the pictures in the room with an underlying idea that reflects its artistic programme. This applies to The Poor Fisherman (1879) and Compassion (1887) by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, a French artist who worked from the 1850s to the 1890s. The refined ash-grey colour range in his pictures allows the spectator to concentrate on the work's main idea. Odilon Redon, a younger contemporary of Puvis de Chavannes, was attracted by the theme of the relationship of man and nature: he saw changing seasons and times of the day as the embodiment of the birth, maturing and death of man. The Symbolist artist Eugene Carriere devoted his talent to portraying scenes of motherly love and prosaic domestic motifs, always elevating them above the everyday. The artist's favourite greyish brown range forms a kind of haze which lends the figures on his canvases a special mystical aura. The heroes of Carriere's pictures are usually his relatives, his wife and daughters. The rhythmical contours of the haze in the artist's works are very close to the decorative culture of European Art Nouveau. This style became the first major aesthetic phenomenon after decades of eclecticism. Sinuous lines, plasticity and a subdued colour range are its main features. With all its diverse manifestations Art Nouveau at the end of the century extended its influence to architecture and applied art, posters and book graphics.
The only large association of masters to combine the principles of Symbolism and Art Nouveau in their work was the Nabis (from the Hebrew word for “prophet”) group, which appeared in France at the end of the 1880s. It included Paul Serusier, the inspirer of the new movement, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Ker-Xavier Roussel and others. The formation of Nabis aesthetics was influenced decisively by young artists familiar with the “systematizing method” of Paul Gauguin? Whose followers they considered themselves to be. Closely associated with fin de siècle literary figures, poets and writers, these artists longed to produce monumental harmonic ensembles. In their works, however, mysticism gave way to family pleasures, true admiration of nature, openness, emotionality and pronounced decorativeness.
The members of the group show a desire to create large ensembles. In the Gallery vestibule you can see Pierre Bonnard’s monumental panels on the theme of the seasons, which once adorned the staircase in the mansion of the Moscow patron Ivan Morozov in Prechistenka. Many of the Group’s main ideas were formulated by Maurice Denis. A melancholic-reflective mood prevails in his works. Where reality is intertwined with myth and real images turn into mystical visions. The Nabis style was created by Edouard Vuillard, whose favourite subjects were private scenes in interiors and gardens, scenes in which artists close to him were portrayed. The works of Ker-Xavier Roussel are extremely decorative and colourful. The Nabis group artists represent the first significant page in the history of the interaction of painting and decorative art at the turn of the century. Painters began to work seriously in the sphere of arts and crafts, as can be seen from the ceramic vases painted by Maurice Denis on display.