Gustave Moreau's Use Of Symbolism In Hesiod And The Muse?

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The last decades of the 19th century saw the rise of new painting techniques in Western Europe, that challenged the Classical approach that the arts had acquired and denominated what was considered a work of art or not. One of such movements was Symbolism, which began as a literary movement in France with Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal written in 1857. It is often considered a definite break from Classical painting, as it emphasizes symbols and ideas through the use of forms, lines, shapes and colors; fighting the representational nature of the former. Even though both are opposite tendencies, this didn’t stop emerging artists from combining them to reach new levels of expressions, as is the case with Gustave Moreau, a French painter born in Paris in 1826. Moreau’s work is prominently history paintings, but it is his use of Symbolism that makes his artwork so intricate and complex, which forces viewers to navigate the piece to be able to understand it. This will be proven by analyzing the artwork Hesiod and the Muse painted in 1891. Moreau’s neighborhood in the New Athens Quarter in Paris was key in his developed interest in Symbolism, due to the number of contemporary writers as neighbors such as Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola and Hector Berlioz that lived in the area. It cannot go…show more content…
This is due to the topic chosen for this exact painting, as unknown to most, Hesiod was one of the first poets to include himself as an active character in his poems, something unseen before as poems usually depicted the feats done by heroes and Gods. The muse is a necessary symbol within the history painting as a recurring theme and the lyre as the human instrument used to unveil the muse’s whispers. Without any context or explanation, Moreau’s message is obscure in what seems to be another depiction of a Classical

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