Symbolism was an innovative literary and artistic movement which originated in late nineteenth-century France and quickly spread to the rest of Europe. Symbolist art shifted the emphasis from the direct representation of nature to the world of the imagination. Artists explored subjects such as dreams, visions, spiritualism and synaesthesia (where one sense evokes another), anticipating subsequent movements such as Surrealism and abstraction.
The Scottish National Gallery owns one of the key Symbolist images, Paul Gauguin’s Vision of the Sermon, which Albert Aurier used to define symbolism in painting. Additionally, the National Galleries of Scotland’s Print Rooms house a number of works on paper by Symbolist artists, including Odilon Redon, James McNeill Whistler, Maurice Denis and James Ensor.
This feature focuses on Symbolist art and artists from across the collections, and provides an introduction to the history of the movement.