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Rodolphe Rapetti

(b Paris, Dec 7, 1862; d Paris, Jan 1, 1920).

French writer and critic. His fictional work developed rapidly from a naturalist concept of the novel (e.g. Chair molle, Paris, 1885) to a symbolist one (e.g. Etre, Paris, 1888). As an art critic, he played an important role in the first years of Neo-Impressionism. The few pieces that he wrote between 1886 and 1889 placed him in the top rank of contemporary critics and were of considerable influence. He was less interested in analysing the theoretical bases of Neo-Impressionism than in deciphering their implications, stressing the relationship of this new method of painting to Symbolism. He felt that the use by Seurat and his followers of a body of scientific theories on which to base their art was not only an indication of their adherence to the modernity that pervaded the century but also revealed an underlying tendency towards abstraction. At the same time fundamental visual concepts or ‘preconceived sensorial notions’ that had served as the basis of western art were called into question. In this regard, the ‘pictorial concern to interpret the pure phenomenon’ corresponded to the aspiration towards synthesis that marked Symbolism and was ‘in close correlation to contemporary philosophy, biology and physics in denying the existence of objects, declaring matter to be the mere appearance of vibratory movement that is the source of our impressions, our sensations, our ideas’ (...


Kirk Ambrose

(b Moscow, May 7, 1903; d Paris, Jan 25, 1988).

Lithuanian art historian, scholar of folklore and Egyptology, and diplomat of Russian birth. Son of the celebrated Lithuanian Symbolist poet of the same name, Jurgis Baltrušaitis II studied under Henri(-Joseph) Focillon at the Sorbonne and earned the PhD in 1931. The concerns of his mentor are evident in La stylistique ornementale dans la sculpture romane (1931), which reprises and extends arguments for the ‘law of the frame’ in Romanesque sculpture. Accordingly, the shapes of architectural members, such as capitals and tympana, determined the articulation of sculptural forms. This theory could account for the genesis of a wide array of monumental carvings, from foliate capitals to narrative reliefs, but ultimately it had a rather limited impact on the field of Romanesque sculptural studies. In a scathing critique, Schapiro argued that Baltrušaitis’s book—and by implication Focillon’s methods—robbed Romanesque sculptors of agency and neglected the religious and expressive meanings of this art form....


Anne van Loo

(b Liège, March 18, 1896; d 1995).

Belgian painter, designer and writer. He was a pupil of the Symbolist painter Jean Delville but started using geometric forms after discovering the work of František Kupka. In 1923 he began to collaborate on the avant-garde journal 7 Arts together with Pierre-Louis Flouquet (1900–67) and Karel Maes (1900–74). Also in 1923 he married the dancer Akarova (b 1904) who inspired his ‘Kaloprosopies’ (1925), an album of nine woodcuts, and for whom he designed costumes and stage sets. At the same time he embarked on the design of functional furniture, first in traditional materials and then in metal tubing (1930) and polychrome, cellulose-based lacquer. He opened his own decorating business in Brussels (1930–70) and showed his ‘Standax’ furniture, which could be assembled and dismantled, at the Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne (1937) in Paris. Baugniet was a promoter of the ...


Charlotte Humphreys

[Bugayev, Boris (Nikolayevich)]

(b Moscow, Oct 26, 1880; d Moscow, Jan 8, 1934).

Russian writer. He was a leading theorist and poet of the Russian Symbolist movement. In Russia Symbolism embraced a whole idealistic philosophy, strongly influenced by the eschatological and mystical teachings of Vladimir Solovyov (1853–1900) and by the belief, at the turn of the century, that Russia was on the threshold of a new era. The second generation of Russian Symbolist writers—Vyacheslav Ivanov, Aleksandr Blok and Andrey Bely—shared Solovyov’s Platonic concept that this world was merely a shadow of another, real, world to be intuitively divined and revealed by the poet. The anthroposophy of Rudolf Steiner was a great influence on Bely; anthroposophy was to become an important component of the aesthetics of Russian Symbolism.

Music and rhythm were central to Bely’s lyrical works and theories. He defined music as the essence of reality, describing it as the absolute art form. Poetry was considered to be close to music because rhythm and sound were its prerequisites. Music acquired a deeper, mystical association for Bely, as a force linking the human and the divine and as an indication of universal harmony. His mystical and abstract approach to music, and his idea that the evocation of mood in art was more important than the representation of reality, were particularly relevant to the ...


Catherine Cooke


(b Moscow, 1873; d Moscow, Oct 9, 1924).

Russian poet and theorist. He is generally seen as the leader of the Russian Symbolist movement in non-visual arts, but he was also closely associated with Symbolist painters and graphic artists through the glossy journals that were mouthpieces for their synthesist philosophy. Thus during 1901–04 he contributed to the literary section of Mir iskusstva (‘World of Art’), and from 1904 to 1909 he was editor of Vesy (‘The scales’); in 1906–07 he wrote for Zolotoye runo (‘Golden fleece’) and during 1909–11 for Apollon, as well as for several literary journals. Becoming aware as a student of the growing ‘decadent’ trend in European poetry he set out consciously in 1893 to lead such a movement in Russia, publishing three small poetry collections in 1894–5 with a schoolfriend, A. Miropolsky-Lang. His translations of European poets such as Paul Verlaine initially brought him more respect than his early poems. Drawing heavily on formal and technical innovations abroad, Bryusov developed a theory of artistic synthesis that emphasized technical precision and control of form over mimetic or theosophical concerns. This attention to detail and emphasis on the aesthetic was symptomatic of the ‘first generation’ of Russian Symbolists, who, under the leadership of Bryusov and Konstantin Bal’mont (...


Henri Béhar

(b Paris, Nov 22, 1869; d Paris, Feb 19, 1951).

French writer. His opinions were formed by his knowledge of Stéphane Mallarmé and Symbolism, and he counted figurative art among the Nourritures terrestres (Paris, 1897). This work, together with the novel Les Faux-monnayeurs (Paris, 1926), confirmed him as an intellectual master to several generations in search of freedom. Although he did not write extensively about the aesthetic of his era, Gide was associated with painters throughout his life, especially those he met in the 1890s, such as Gauguin, Denis, Bonnard, Redon and Van Rysselberghe. He also collected works by these artists, buying Denis’s important group portrait of the Nabis, Homage to Cézanne (1900; Paris, Mus. d’Orsay; for illustration see Denis, Maurice), in 1901. In the previous year Jacques-Emile Blanche, a lifelong friend, had similarly portrayed a group of writers in André Gide and his Friends at the Exhibition of 1900 (1900; Rouen, Mus. B.-A.). Gide’s opinions were widely influential among artists. He was co-founder and editor of the ...


[Faust, Séverin]

(b Paris, Dec 29, 1872; d Paris, April 23, 1945).

French writer, theorist and critic. Writing under the pseudonym of Camille Mauclair, his first book was Eleusis (1894). Though a comparative latecomer to Symbolism, he here expounded his version of its aesthetic. He broadly defined the symbol as ‘tout ce qui paraît’ and emphasized the importance of the dream. Mostly the work is influenced by Stéphane Mallarmé, whom he greatly admired, and is, in its philosophical aspects, derived from Arthur Schopenhauer. He was sympathetic to the Pre-Raphaelites, Edward Burne-Jones and others in England, and saw the Symbolists as achieving similar results in France.

Throughout his life Mauclair remained dogmatically entrenched within a Symbolist perspective. He admired the Impressionists whilst hoping that their stylistic innovations could be turned to Symbolist effect. In 1892 he took over the Mercure de France from Albert Aurier and rapidly used his column to attack Post-Impressionists such as Gauguin, Cézanne and others. Later he saw himself as engaged in a crusade against modern art and as a defender of the French tradition, ...


(b 1862; d 1943).

French critic. He was greatly interested in Symbolism, and in Le Mouvement idéaliste en peinture (Paris, 1896) he charted the rise of ‘idealist art’, claiming that the idealist movement had first publicly emerged at the Exposition des Peintres du Groupe Impressionniste et Synthétiste, organized by the Pont-Aven group at the Café Volpini, Paris, in 1889. This exhibition had included work by artists of several theoretical persuasions (Chromo-Luminarists, Neo-Impressionists, Synthetists, Mystics). According to Mellerio, the progenitors of ‘idealist’ painting were Gustave Moreau, Paul Gauguin, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes and Odilon Redon. He first met Redon in 1889 and soon became one of his closest friends and supporters, writing the preface to the catalogue for the Redon exhibition at the Durand Ruel galleries in 1894, in which he stated that Redon occupied a distinctive position in contemporary art as he belonged to no group. He compiled a catalogue of Redon’s graphic work (...


(b Amersfoort, March 7, 1872; d New York, Feb 1, 1944).

Dutch painter, theorist, and draughtsman. His work marks the transition at the start of the 20th century from the Hague school and Symbolism to Neo-Impressionism and Cubism. His key position within the international avant-garde is determined by works produced after 1920. He set out his theory in the periodical of Stijl, De, in a series of articles that were summarized in a separate booklet published in Paris in 1920 under the title Le Néo-plasticisme (see Neo-plasticism) by Léonce Rosenberg. The essence of Mondrian’s ideas is that painting, composed of the most fundamental aspects of line and colour, must set an example to the other arts for achieving a society in which art as such has no place but belongs instead to the total realization of ‘beauty’. The representation of the universal, dynamic pulse of life, also expressed in modern jazz and the metropolis, was Mondrian’s point of departure. Even in his lifetime he was regarded as the founder of the most ...


Franco Bernabei

(b Naples, April 21, 1864; d Milan, May 1, 1930).

Italian critic. His taste was influenced by Symbolism, as can be seen in several areas of his work: the volume entitled Arte aristocratica (Naples, 1892), the studies on contemporary literature written in 1896, his translation and introduction of the Symbolist poem Belkiss by the Portuguese writer Eugénio de Castro, and his strong interest in Arthur Rimbaud and Stéphane Mallarmé. From 1897 he collaborated on the Marzocco and from 1900 on the art review Emporium, which he also edited.

Pica’s greatest cultural contribution was the introduction of French Impressionism to the Italian public through his book Gl’impressionisti francesi (Bergamo, 1908), together with his enthusiasm for new art movements. He was closely involved in several important art exhibitions, especially in Venice, and between 1910 and 1926 he was General Secretary of the Venice Biennale. He added greatly to the prestige of that institution through his open-minded presentation of innovative artists such as ...


Danielle Derrey-Capon

(Adolphe Gustave)

(b Saint-Amand-sur-Escaut, Belgium, May 21, 1855; d Rouen, Nov 27, 1916).

Belgian writer and critic. He initially studied law in Leuven but abandoned it for literature shortly after qualifying. He was the most important Belgian poet of the Symbolist movement; his works include Les Flamandes (Brussels, 1885) and Les Forces tumultueuses (Paris, 1902). He also produced a substantial body of prose, dominated by literary and art criticism. He took up criticism from 1880, writing for L’Art moderne, a journal founded by Edmond Picard (1836–1924). Verhaeren took over the exhibitions section, at the request of Octave Maus, from 1883 and later joined the journal’s management committee. He also wrote on art and literature for numerous other publications, such as La Jeune Belgique, Le Progrès, La Société nouvelle and L’Art libre.

Verhaeren promoted modernist ideas and took a great interest in everything ‘visual’; he defended Les XX and La Libre Esthétique and ardently supported Impressionism and Neo-Impressionism. He wrote ...


Polish, 20th century, male.

Born 24 February 1885, in Warsaw; died 17 September 1939, in Jeziory (Polesia), committed suicide.

Painter, photographer, art theorist, writer. Religious subjects, portraits, genre scenes.

Symbolism, Magic Realism.

Formisci (Formist) Group.

Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz, son of the painter Stanislaw Witkiewicz, played an important role in a movement that revolutionised Polish art between the wars. He was a precursor of modern theatre, an art theoretician and philosopher. His spirit and his talent developed in the intellectual setting of the 'Young Poland' movement. He travelled to St Petersburg, Munich, London and particularly France on many occasions, and also took part in an anthropological expedition to Australia organised by Bronislaw Malinowski (...