Art Gallery of Alberta

The Symbolist Muse
November 20-March 6, 2011


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During the 1880s, artists across Europe began exploring an inner vision and personal vocabulary of form that was opposed to the preoccupation of the Realists and Impressionists with recording the exterior world. Words such as “mystery,” “suggestion,” and “dream” are often used to evoke the strange beauty of Symbolist art.

In France, Paul Gauguin encouraged a group of painters known as the Nabis (from the Hebrew for “prophets”) to draw upon the imagination and express their emotional responses to subject matter through colour and form, a style he called “synthetism.” The Norwegian artist Edvard Munch spent time in Paris between 1889 and 1892 developing his distinctive style of “psychic Naturalism,” in which he portrayed allegories of the human condition. In the essay “Malerei und Zeichnung” (Painting and Drawing) of 1891, the German artist Max Klinger advocated an art of the mind in order to convey individuality. The prints of the Austrian Karl Moll and the Czech artist Max Kurzweil reflect the decorative Symbolist aesthetic promoted by the Vienna Secession, a group of modernists who split from the more conservative Viennese Artists’ Association (Genossenschaft bildender Künstler Wiens) in 1897.

This exhibition consists of some 60 prints from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada by artists such as Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Edvard Munch, Eugène Carrière and Jan Toorop.

Organized by the National Gallery of Canada

National Gallery of Canada at the Art Gallery of Alberta, with the support of Capital Powered Art; an exhibition series sponsored by Capital Power Corporation.

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