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Symbolism was a European cultural movement that was at its peak in the last two decades of the 19th century, profoundly affecting the visual arts and inextricably bound up with music and literature. While many Symbolists reacted against the materialism of 19th-century science and its implications, others sought to reconcile modern science with spiritual traditions. Symbolism stressed feeling and evocation over definition and fact, and emphasized the power of suggestion.
The British artist Edward Burne-Jones is considered one of the most important precursors for other European artists who thought of themselves as Symbolists, while in France, Paul Gauguin played a seminal role. Edvard Munch charged his oeuvre with such strong personal meaning that his style and content became a source for Expressionism. These influences fell on fertile soil in Germany where artists including Arnold Bocklin, Ferdinand Hodler, and Kathe Kollwitz worked within the Symbolist tradition. By focusing on this neglected German axis between 1870 and 1920, Symbolist Art makes an important contribution to our understanding and appreciation of this fascinating period in art history.
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