MYSTICAL SYMBOLISM EXHIBIT AT THE GUGGENHEIM COLLECTION
November 26th, 2017
Mystical Symbolism: The Salon de la Rose+Croix in Paris, 1892-1897 October 28th, 2017 – January 7th, 2018 Opening hours: 10 am -6 pm, closed Tuesdays
Mystical Symbolism exhibition provides the opportunity to explore the multi faceted aspects of Symbolism in the 1890s, through the annual exhibition “Salon de la Rose+Croix” established by the unconventional French art critic and novelist Joséphin Péladan (1858-1918). He aimed at promoting the precepts of his Rosacrucian order, inspired by the medieval legendary and secret society. In those days the revived interest in spirituality and mysticism was gaining the interest in France against the Impressionist style, and Péladan led a campaign on behalf of idealism in art, which resulted a series of six exhibits held in Paris between 1892 and 1897. The Salons were extremely successful with the public and the press, although they did not change the mainstream of French art, as Péladan had hoped. The exhibit at the Guggenheim Collection consists of 40 artworks, mainly paintings and prints, representing diverging ideologies, ranging from anti-clerical to radical anarchists, opposed to very conservative and Catholic. Despite these contrasts, all of them are dialectically related to the sacred and philosophical trends that constituted Symbolist Art as the origin of Modernism. Visitors are introduced to main themes such as the images of femmes fragiles and femmes fatales, chimeras, androgynous creatures, visions of paradise and hell, represented through sinuous lines, attenuated figures and anti-academic forms. The meaningful portraits are both on canvas and woodcuts, as the evidence of the way the cult of personality developed around leading figures including Richard Wagner, Charles Baudelaire and Péladan himself. Another favorite artistic subject in 19th century was Orpheus, the supernaturally talented poet of classical Western mythology. He embodied the ideal artist as seer, enchanter and martyr whose poems transcend death, as you can see in the impressive painting “Orpheus in Hades” by the French painter Pierre Amédée Marcel-Bérroneau. In this large canvas, a pale man wearing a gilt laurel crown is listening to the sweet music of his elaborate lyra, in order to please Hades and bring his wife back from the dead. He is standing on a dark rock like a hero, regardless of the hellish creatures around him, inspired by poetry and music only. Many artists were fascinated by the dialectic of the femme fragile and femme fatale, as an opposition between eroticized and virginal women at the fin de siècle. The drawing “The idol of perversity” by the Belgian painter Jean Deville is the perfect idealization of a carnal and aggressive creature. Depicted from below, she is looking down with wicked expression while a phallic serpent slithers on her breast and others radiate from her hair…. Definitely a chance not to miss in Venice!