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On "Dreams of Nature: Symbolism from Van Gogh to Kandinsky” at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam.
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Dreams of Nature” surveys the symbolist movement as expressed in landscape painting across Europe from Mallorca to western Russia, and is likely the first exhibition ever to do so. The exhibition, organized by Richard Thomson and Rodolphe Rapetti, contains seventy canvases, with some implausible choices among them depending on where one might draw the line regarding what qualifies as Symbolist.
That turns out to be a complicated consideration. Jean Moréas, writing his Symbolist Manifesto in 1886, described it thus: “Enemy of education, declamation, wrong feelings, objective description, symbolist poetry tries to dress the Idea in a sensitive form which, however, would not be its sole purpose, but furthermore that, while serving to express the Idea in itself, would remain subjective.” The subjectivity was key. Symbolism was above all a defiance of literary naturalism, but there was an equivalent in visu ...
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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 30 June 2012, on page 51
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