PRINT January 1970

The Iconography of Symbolist Art

successful direct overview of Symbolist painting and sculpture. It seems to be impossible since each of its requisite elements is locked into a network of cross-references and apparently evanescent data. This results from at least two reasons. The first is apparent. When Symbolism is treated in a straightforward, horizontal way it is made to appear superficial, which it is not. The second reason is not so apparent. There is no dross in Symbolism, no grain and chaff. Everything is equally important (and therefore, possibly, equally minor). Symbolism lacks monolithic figures (with the possible exceptions of Gauguin and Klimt). There is no great man in Symbolism—at least not in the way that Rembrandt is great, or Goya, or Michelangelo or even Ingres. This owes partly to the fact that Symbolism is a style which has not lent itself to monumental art. It emphasizes easel painting and cabinet curios, and a scale allied to intimate self-referential concerns—to mystify, to intrigue, to suggest. It is not a grand style but a devious one.

There are, however, major figures: Moreau, Redon, Gauguin, Bernard, Khnopff, Mallarmé, Baudelaire and Poe. The last, while ignored at home, was piously translated by both Baudelaire and Mallarmé. The latter taught English to girl seminarians and wrote fashion copy all the while that he was developing the quintessential Symbolist archetypes and archetypal fragments: Salomé or her alter egos, Hérodiade and Judith (symbols of sterile overelaboration, dead perfection and wily triumph over the male); the Faun, drowsy of a day’s heat, who hesitates between human sapienza and his pre-conscious animalism; the broken fan, the blue feather wing, the cult of the mind and the dream; the ever-tossed dice which never succeed in canceling out mere chance.

Such considerations are pertinent to the mammoth and impressive exhibition, “The Sacred and Profane In Symbolist Art,” held at the Art Gallery of Toronto. Not only does it present a heavy sampling of more familiar Nabis and Pont-Aven production, it also emphasizes Rosicrucian work, Italian Symbolism (as a basis for Futurism, especially the Boccioni of 1910–11), German production (Klinger and his imitator, Otto Greiner), later Pre-Raphaelite sensibility as it was absorbed into English Academic practice (Albert Moore and Lord Leighton) and Belgian Idealist efforts (Khnopff and Delville). The selection begins early in the century, with a few isolated precursors such as the Englishmen Danby, Blake and Fuseli (by adoption), as well as the notorious Belgian, Wiertz, whose Belle Rosine examines her skeleton to be, a lurid memento mori dating from 1829.

The current exhibition had been originally organized by Luigi Carluccio for the Galleria Civica d’Arte Moderna of Turin (July and August of 1969). Mario Amaya, newly appointed Curator of the Art Gallery of Toronto, made a generous selection of the Italian enterprise and brought the exhibition to Canada. Carluccio’s original catalog essay has been translated; and another, by Simon Watson-Taylor has been added. Watson-Taylor correctly stresses the influence of Symbolist literature, which preceded by some years the flowering in the visual arts. Since his essay covers so much ground, his remarks range and are brief—although he adumbrates the possibility that a second school of Symbolist authors appeared by the end of the 1880s and early 1890s which, in its turn, was able to benefit from the activities of the first generation of Symbolist painters and sculptors.

“The Sacred and Profane” is a loosely used catchphrase intended to cover the general trends of a vast body of artists who were united in this at least—their alienation from the positivist, empiricist, materialist and imperialist views which had come to dominate European society in the later 19th century. Such social predicates need not in themselves lead to artistic decline. Impressionism and Neo-impressionism are two kinds of art built on a “straight” reporting of sensory-input. In fact, Impressionism and Neo-Impréssionism provided the Symbolists with a technique (Gauguin matures under Pissarro, Osbert and Segantini are unthinkable without Seurat), as well as a challenge. They were obliged to equal the Impressionists’ achievements, if they, too, were seriously to be regarded as artists of rank. It was, of course, the apparent absence of “content” (by which was meant subject matter in the empirically-based Impressionist style) that was being reacted against. From a Symbolist viewpoint, there can be few paintings dumber than Monet’s haystacks except perhaps Cézanne’s apples.

In the ’80s, “content” was still understood to mean literary content, the illustrative, associative story line of a work. This is entirely different from the modern view of artistic content, which may be taken to refer to the organizational or manipulative characteristics of a work. For us the meaning of content may relate to the self-evidence of the formal problem which the artist sought out for solution. In the Symbolist Period, artists in rebellion against the apparent lack of content of Impressionism were attracted by systems and devices of literary allusion as the means of subjugating the token enemy, Impressionism. In this attempt they were unsuccessful—for the formalist refinement of empiricist data remains central to the post-Symbolist arts of Cubism and Futurism. Nevertheless, the Symbolist did create an alternative to sensationist-derived styles, an alternative which in its time shared domination with Neo-Impressionism over the later years of the 1880s through the first years of the 20th century. While we imagine that Seurat and Cézanne were the chief figures of this same period, Seurat was dead in 1891 and Cézanne was an all but forgotten recluse in Aix-en-Provence, far from the turbulence of the Paris scene. By contrast, it was the Symbolist Redon who agreed to become the Vice President of the Salon des Indépendants in 1884, which in its early years was the Neo-Impressionist Salon par excellence. And it was Bernard who imposed upon Gauguin his convictions about the excellence of Cézanne’s work, just as he had earlier transferred the secrets of Synthetism to him. It was also Bernard who recorded, perhaps with errors, the celebrated aphorisms of the stolid, embittered Cézanne, and introduced the intellectuals of Paris to the Dutch painter Vincent, whose illustrated letters to Bernard were published in the period’s central review, the Mercure de France, after the painter himself had been indifferently tossed into a pauper’s grave. In Bernard’s case, it is these gifts to the literature of art that must be recalled after the fulminations against Gauguin (who had usurped his role as the seminal painter of Pont-Aven) have palled.

I take the “Sacred” and “Profane” of the exhibition title to mean the polarizations of an idealistic elite set against bourgeois philistinism. “Sacred” and “Profane,” then, are terms by which the religious and sexual turmoil (brought about by the scientific and materialistic emphasis of the Second Empire and of the Third Republic) are known. The following notes attempt to supply a partial insight into the complexities of Symbolist religious impulse and sexuality.

Whatever is sacred, whatever is to remain sacred, must be clothed in mystery. All religions take shelter behind arcana which they unveil only to the predestined. Art has its own mysteries.

IN THE SYMBOLIST HEYDAY the primitive Christian communism of Maurice Denis, the syncretic pietism of Gauguin and a wide body of occult revivalists, Theosophists, Anthroposophists, Rosicrucians under Peladan and Stanislas de Guaïta, a nostalgia for lost mysteries induced by Edouard Schuré and a drift toward Eastern arcana among the lesser figures of the Nabis circle (whose very name is Old Testament Hebrew for prophet)—all these attitudes elbowed and overlapped one another. Since much of my work on the Salon de la Rose + Croix has assisted in its gaining currency, I will not dwell on Peladan’s enterprise except to note that between 1892 and 1897 more than 230 artists of varying merit received a forum in which to pro-mote their esthetic views. Such manifestations were followed by exhibitions of Les Artistes de l’Ame. The Indépendants included a broad front of Symbolists in their exhibitions. In Belgium, the schism in les XX separated the more doctrinaire Impressionists from the Belgian Symbolists who founded, in turn, the idealist Pour I’Art and took part in Jean Delville’s Ideal exhibitions of a Rosicrucian imitativeness. It may be added that the two Official Salons, the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts and the Société des Artistes Français, provided the central arenas in which an immense amount of academic work of more or less religious impulse was disseminated. One need only think of Luc-Olivier Merson, or Dagnan-Bouveret or even Bouguereau to note to what degree talent could be abused within the nepotic academic system. It was here too that Gustave Moreau and Puvis de Chavannes exhibited.

Easily, the most convincing Catholic of major Symbolist rank—attested to by his magnificent journal—is Maurice Denis. Denis was introduced to Synthetic practice by Sérusier, who in October, 1888, had carried back from Pont-Aven a tiny landscape painted under the supervision of Gauguin, which because of its anticipatory decorative flatness and abstractness was immediately called the “Talisman.” The current exhibition is placed under the protection of The Muses or The Sacred Wood, of 1893, by Denis. The Muses, all bearing likeness to Denis’s young and adored wife (she was known as the Muse of the Nabis), sit under the chestnut trees very much like the figures in Manet’s canvas Musique aux Tuilleries of 1862, which it still echoes. But the Gardens of the Louvre are now the Sacred Grove Dear to the Muses, a transparent homage to Puvis de Chavannes, who, even though an academician, had achieved the Nabis flatness of shape and firmness of contour prior to Bernard and Gauguin.

In another Sacred Grove-like canvas by Denis, the smaller Green Trees of 1893 (which echoes his lithograph for La Revue Blanche, the Young Women at the Tomb), he depicts a procession of postulant or communicant-like figures who encounter a winged angel beneath the flat green ribbons of trees. By allusion then, the composition superimposes the Christian iconography of the Maries at the Tomb, and the virginal conception of the female, one of the chief resolutions to the problem of the feminine in the period. I suspect too, that such processions of virgins—a dim memory of a vestal frieze—were given tangibility and actuality through their depictions as the women of Brittany. The Bretonne, in her nun-like, folkloric coif, appears not only in the work of Denis, but in Gauguin, Sérusier, Antoine de la Rochefoucauld, Emile Bernard and Henry Van de Velde, to name but a few figures of the Pont-Aven circle. In Denis’s canvas the procession encounters an angel (of the Resurrection?). In Gauguin’s The Vision After The Sermon, the file of Breton women encounter (or imagine) the vision of Jacob wrestling with the angel. It was on the basis of such painting, his own and that of his comrades of the School of Pont-Aven, that Denis could broadcast in Du Symbolisme et de Gauguin that a “picture before anything else, is a surface covered in beautiful colors ordered within rhythmical forms . . . ,” a piece of dogmatic rhetoric taken up by Albert Aurier, chief Symbolist critic of the Mercure de France. After 1900 Denis himself came to seriously doubt the exclusively abstract imputations of his celebrated dictum.

An unswerving Catholic sentiment and delight in historical issues led Denis, even as late as 1939, to publish a history of religious architecture. As testimony to the religious consciousness of the late 19th century, Denis indicates the raising of the younger Abadie’s designs for the Sacré Coeur on the heights of Montmartre. He saw this as a rededication of French national consciousness to the motherland after her “humiliation” by the Prussians in 1870—and more—as a Catholic antidote to the revulsion and moral despair caused, in part, by the Communard sacking of Paris in 1870–71, and the savage reprisals taken against the Left by General MacMahon supported by the bourgeois chauvinists of the newly instituted Third Republic. In this atmosphere, the still unsanctified Joan of Arc (she would be made a saint in the 20th century), La Pucelle, the historical ultra-virgin, could emerge as an heroic figure under whose beatific guidance the nation would once again prosper. To a lesser degree the cult of Sainte Geneviève, the patroness saint of Paris, gained prominence too. With a nation consecrated to militant Christian heroines, Bastien-Lepage would paint the Maid of Orléans Hearing The Voices, and Fremiet’s Joan glittered gold on the Place des Pyramides. Joan and Virginity were everywhere.

Certainly Denis’s Théories of 1912 (a republication of the Nabis writing of the 1890s), remains one of the monuments of modern criticism, although his own painting by this time had declined. He was then at work on the decoration of the major architectural edifice of Paris—Le Théâtre des Champs-Elysées: Perret’s architecture, Bourdelle’s reliefs and Denis’s murals. Denis perhaps required the trial’s of great national turmoil to fulfill his Christian ambitions. In 1919, once again demoralized by the human and cultural losses of the First World War, Denis founded the Atelier d’Art Sacré, with a former student of Gustave Moreau, Georges Desvalliéres, which, it was hoped, would be an anodyne to the crippled spirit of the French nation.

Early on, Denis had written of the German Benedictine Brotherhood at Beuron. Were it not for Denis’s close friendship with the chief Beuron talent, Dom Willibrord Verkade, we would be considerably less informed about Beuronic aspirations. Verkade’s conversion (he was born a Dutch Protestant) to Catholicism had been brought about, it appears, through the constant ministrations of Denis—a role similar to the one he played in bringing the Danish Jew, Ballin (one of the shadowiest figures of the Nabis) to Catholicism. What is most striking about the art theories of the Beuron Brotherhood is their Pre-Raphaelite and Byzantine enthusiasm. A propensity for a diagrammatic and copybook art is echoed by, and may well have been directly influential on, the Byzantine schemata of the reclusive and Catholic artist Filiger. After a painful episode in Paris (there are two threads, one records a lack of money, the other speaks of pederasty, neither of which are mutually exclusive), Filiger sequestered himself in Brittany where, in the early 1890s, he produced the finest religious painting of the late 19th century—The Virgin and Child of 1892 and the Child Jesus Standing (probably of the same year). A recipient of a stipend from Count Antoine de La Rochefoucauld, Filiger was the chief figure shown at the first Salon de la Rose + Croix, an organization in which La Rochefoucauld played Archonte to Peladan’s Sâr.*

The Pre-Raphaelite stream in French Symbolist art, especially the Rosicrucian faction, was admitted from the outset. All of the major English exponents represented in the Toronto exhibition were passionately admired by Peladan. In the so-called Rose + Croix Manifesto of 1891, Peladan flatly stated that “we will go to London to invite Burne-Jones, Watts and the five other Pre-Raphaelites.” Evidence has yet to come to light to indicate that this trip was ever made. If it were taken, then I suspect that it would have been made by La Rochefoucauld, who had already traveled to Switzerland to see to it that Hodler’s collaboration with the Rosicrucians would be ensured. Peladan did not speak English. It is likely that his views on English artistic matters were dependent upon the writings of Robert de la Sizeranne, a French historian of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and Gabriel Mourey, who, as French Editor of The London Studio, assisted in disseminating a thirst for things English to that segment of Symbolists who had been following with great interest the envoys of Burne-Jones to the official French Salons. In fact, much of the Symbolist style, particularly of the so-called “Idealistic” sector is exceptionally Anglo-centric. I think immediately of the Belgian Fernand Khnopff in this respect, although he descends from an English family and spent long sojourns in London. The “five other Pre-Raphaelites” Peladan refers to were probably to be found among the following: Dante Gabriel Rossetti, who in the 1880s had altered his initially revolutionary style to conform to a vision that he now shared commonly (because they had been affected by his work) with Lord Leighton and Albert Moore; John Millais and Ford Madox Brown, who had been in the initial skirmishes of Pre-Raphaelitism; Walter Crane and William Morris, the later Pre-Raphaelite figures who fused an Anglo-Gothic style with Socialist precepts. It is interesting that Peladan recognized the importance of George Frederic Watts’ intellectually abstract art, particularly since he is so neglected today. Current evaluation of Watts has still to emerge from that of the Manet critic, George Moore, who, in a famous passage, likened Watts’ color to that of the rind of ripe Stilton cheese.

WHAT IS ODD AND ENDEARING about the Nabis was their affectation of addressing each other as “Dear” or “Brother” Nabi—as we see in the Denis-Sérusier correspondence. This tiny philo-Semitism was daring in the face of the monumental anti-Semitism of the later 19th century. While it is true that one is hard put to find overt Hebrew themes in Nabis painting, they are present through allusion, such as when, in a self-portrait, the Rosicrucian Sérusier represents himself in the patriarchal lineaments of the Prophet Ezekiel; he had seen the vision and the vision was Synthetism.

There is a curious side to the endemic anti-Semitism of the late 19th century—the degree to which it is marked by earlier poetical theory, most particularly Baudelaire’s conception of the Dandy. For Baudelaire, Dandyism was a moral and heroic option taken by an individual alienated by bourgeois values, which expressed itself as a physical and mental preoccupation with the new. Baudelaire saw this concern as primarily played out in the sphere of moral choice. Many avenues lead away from this view. Because of it, Baudelaire is able to negotiate a horror and revulsion of women, who are repellent to him because they are “natural” (that is, not like art) and “abominable.” Woman, for Baudelaire, “is always vulgar, that is to say, the opposite of the dandy.” These lifelong views received circulation in Mon Coeur mis à nu (1862–64). In them two streams of the later Symbolist phase have been articulated and conjoined, the moral superiority of the dandy and his sexual neuroses.

By the time of the Third Republic, anti-Semitism provided an almost universally acceptable arena hi which a certain kind of artistic sensibility could parade and congratulate itself upon a specious moral superiority. Peladan’s reactionary ultramontanism is a prime example. Drumont’s newspaper La Libre parole gained currency as did his book, La France juive, which armed him sufficiently to campaign politically in 1892-93 on an exclusively anti-Semitic platform. Between 1894–97, the continent was torn by l’affaire Dreyfus. The effects of this crisis were inestimable. Zola’s J’Accuse came from it, as did Proust’s A la Recherche du temps perdu, a sensitivity doubtless heightened by his Jewish maternal line. One has to admit the adoption of anti-Dreyfusard views by many Symbolist figures. The Impressionists had been on the political left and their attachment to tangible and immediately felt sensations is supported by this. (Degas, of course, is the monumental exception.) The Impressionists and NeoImpressionists supported the laborer, the factory worker, the Communard and the Anarchist. They were Dreyfusards. They were on the side of all who were the “natural” enemy of the dandy. They were on the side of the Jew. The Symbolist—at least of the Rosicrucian type—felt an almost “moral” duty to be an anti-Semite.**

Yes, I am traveling, but in unknown lands; and if I have fled from the fierce heat of reality and taken pleasure in cold imagery, it is because . . . I have been on the purest glaciers of Esthetics; because, after I had found Nothingness, I found Beauty. You cannot imagine the lucid heights that I have dared to climb. Out of this will come a splendid poem that I am working on now: and this winter (or next) will come Hérodiade.

BY THE END OF THE 19th century we find a compartmentalization of the female into distinct roles;

Baudelaire’s “natural, abominable and vulgar” female would be counterbalanced by ideal creatures, demoiselles élues, blessed damosels—princesses of the lands of porcelain, impressed upon the public’s consciousness by Rossetti, Swinburne, Burne-Jones, Whistler and Armand Point. For the Symbolist, these roles had become clear and standardized. In Toorop’s The Three Brides of 1893, we find the Nun bride of Christ on the left, the Satanic bride of Lucifer on the right and, in the center, the Virgin bride of Man. Compare Toorop’s Nun bride of Christ with Johan Thorn Prikker’s The Bride of 1892, for a similar conception. Edvard Munch’s The Dance of Life also deals with such Ibsenesque role playing. Among the brides of Satan are the ubiquitous emasculators and decapitators such as Moreau’s and Klimt’s Salomés and Judiths and the erethistic and sapphic heroines of Mallarmé, Moreau and Khnopff. To Klimt’s Judith must be added her pendant, Hope, in which one fears that the child of Satan’s plaything will be stillborn. (What a remarkable counterpart to Watts’ Blind Hope, who yet has one last string on her lyre, or Puvis de Chavannes’ Hope, who, like the spring, once more brings life back to fields strewn with the French dead of 1870.)

What are the implications of these femmes fatales? On a blunt level they epitomize a sexualized triumph (often in pact with the devil) over the male. From Peladan, to Rops, to Pierre Louys, the period slogan is “Man, plaything of Woman; Woman, plaything of the devil.” The last decade of the 19th century saw the emergence of women as political and professional competitors with men, a change which opened earlier standards of female subjugation and dependency to examination. Women’s altering and ascending position began to provoke the several unhealthy tendencies of the period, such as the dandified estheticism which isolated a Symbolist elite from the lives of the field and factory laborer as well as from the bourgeois money grubber. Woman’s incipient struggle aided in transforming dandified estheticism into mere foppishness and latent or participatory homosexuality. Proust’s clinical transformation of Count Robert de Montesquiou-Fesenzac, a real poet of hothouse imagery, into the immortal Baron Charlus is one well-known chronicling of this change. Peladan exalted the androgynous perfection of the boy John-the-Baptist, and his theories were absorbed into the work of Filiger, Point and Delville.

Perverse dandyism, not to say perversion, came to be regarded as a standard of refinement. Des Esseintes, the hero of Huysmans’ A Rebours (Robert Baldick recently translated the title as “Against Nature”), was also in part modeled on Montesquiou-Fesenzac. The novel rapidly became a guidebook, a cicerone of Symbolist taste. Des Esseintes’ household pet, his bejeweled turtle (compare this to the conceits of Felicien Rops’s beribboned turtles) dies for want of air. In such a detail, Huysmans, who originally had been a Naturalist author, may be exteriorizing his own revulsion against attenuated Symbolism, to which he contributed so largely. That he attempted to overcome the spiritual inertia and deadness central to Symbolist feeling on a private level is expressed in several retreats as an oblate in a Trappist monastery, throughout the ’90s.

The degree to which sexuality had itself become the object of rarefied tastefulness is endemic in the period. It is particularly measurable in Max Klinger’s Fantasies Upon the Finding of a Glove, a suite of etchings noteworthy for an acutely neurotic effect. Subsequent works by Klinger such as the Brahmsphantasie, tend to border on deep-dyed gush, quite German in effect. Still the iconographic Teutonic muse, the raven-tressed fulsome nude bearing an out scale lyre (stolen perhaps from a vanquished Orpheus as we shall momentarily see) is largely a popularization of Klinger’s, with a nod to the earlier Roman types of Anselm Feuerbach, Klinger’s suite is a veritable scenario of an object fetishist. Klinger himself may have been afflicted with such an object fixation. The Suite treats of a young man who finds a long six-buttoned glove dropped by an unknown woman at a Berlin skating rink. Obsessed with her, he dreams of her glove in violently sexualized situations of adoration, love and loss. In the Symbolist Period, Baudelaire’s Artist of Modern Life had been demoted into a therapeutic self-analyst. It was in this atmosphere that Sacher-Masoch was preparing Venus in Furs.

The emergence of sterile demoiselles élues, castrating princesses and evanescent virgins was accompanied by a new heroic type—the poet-hero. Classical mythology indicated the figure, Orpheus, the lovelorn companion of Eurydice, who, unable to withstand the test of faith, cannot refrain from looking back upon Eurydice and loses her forever to the underworld. Wandering and singing lamentations of his lost love, Orpheus became the poetic hero. His very depiction came to mean The Poet or Poetic Inspiration. What appears so peculiar to us is the constant refocusing of this heroic legend in feminine terms. The Rosicrucians, notably the Belgian Delville, but Point and Khnopff too, were drawn by the new poetical conception. In depicting the decapitated head of the poet floating upon a lyre (possibly to Lesbos) Delville is at a single stroke answering high

Rosicrucian presuppositions (God viewed as the fusion of opposites) and honoring Gustave Moreau, who had established the poet-hero model for the Symbolists. Moreau’s conception is aided by the Orphic myth itself. In his wanderings, Orpheus at length appears on the Isle of the Thracian Women (again, some say, the Isle. of the Lesbians) and rejects their attentions on the grounds of his grief for Eurydice. Angered by Orpheus’s spurning, the Thracian women set upon him and murder. him, purportedly by decapitation. Delville’s work refers back to Moreau’s masterpiece of the Salon of 1866, The Thracian Girl Mourning Over The Head of Orpheus. The decapitated head, to become Redon’s theme par excellence, must be viewed in the light of this work too. That Orpheus’s spurning of the Thracian Women should have been the part of the Orphic myth which most appealed to Symbolist sensibility is among the surest indications of sexual ambiguity in the period.

What I have been attempting to draw together is that the Judith-Salomé syndrome must be allied to its pendant theme, the androgynous poet-hero, if one is ever to approach a comprehension of Symbolist art. In 1903, Otto Weininger’s Geschlecht and Charakter was published in Vienna. He posited a philosophical counterpart to Franz von Stuck and Gustav Klimt: Man represents the virtuous, the positive, the creative; woman the evil, the negative, the destructive. All human condition results from man’s bisexual character in consequence of the interior struggle between his natures.

The highly conceptualized form of the Nun bride of Christ, the ultra-Virgin, counterbalances the destructress and castrator Salomé. The third option, The Virgin Bride of Man, links the extremes: destruction of the male and attenuated mystical detachment. The Virgin Bride is Genetrix, our most important heroine, although the least compelling achievement of the feverish Symbolist imagination. Through her the race is perpetuated. Such a confrontation is too direct, too tangible and too threatening to be easily absorbed into a style which is dedicated to the evasive, the evocative and the furtive. In front of the dynamos of the new industrial society ushered in at the Paris World’s Fair of 1900, Henry Adams, scion of two American presidents, pondered the conception of the Virgin Bride of Man, and saw a refreshed future for her quite as the Symbolists shrank from her. The dynamo, “a symbol of infinity,” was only equalled by the sexual power of the Virgin. “Everyone,” he wrote, “even among Puritans, knew that neither Diana of the Ephesians nor any of the Oriental goddesses was worshipped for her beauty. She was goddess because of her force; she was the animated dynamo; she was reproduction—the greatest and most mysterious of all energies; all she needed was to be fecund.” Had Gaston Lachaise been reading the autobiography of Henry Adams when he created the generatively explosive Dynamo Mother in 1933?

Robert Pincus-Witten


*At the turn of the century Filiger turned from his extraordinary Catholic art to a Chromatic Notation—mosaic-like, geometrical surrogates for human anatomy. This Byzantinism is, it seems to me, marked by the Beuron adventure as well as (and here I am speculating) the numinous theories of of the Anthroposophist, Rudolph Steiner. I submit this theory on analogical evidence. Lensbaron Arild Rosenkrantz (the lineal descendent of Hamlet’s friend) whom I believe was the last surviving exhibitor of the Salons de la Rose+Croix when I interviewed him in the early 1960s at his Danish Barony, Rosenholm, also underwent a change from Pre-Raphaelitic focus to that of a Chromatic Notationist expressly on the personal advice of Steiner. The similarities of Rosenkrantz’s later pictures to those of the Byzantinizing patterns of Filiger are vivid to say the least.

** Max Nordau, later the Zionist, was particularly sensitive to this strain of anti-Semitism in Symbolism and it impelled him to collate a huge mass of what he thought to be condemnatory evidence against the Symbolist movement, which he called Degeneration. This work, sectarian and narrow, ridiculed even by Shaw, nonetheless gives one of the fullest pictures of the neurotic underside of the Symbolist movement.