February 1997: An exhibition of more than 80 works on paper, created in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by many of the artists active in the Symbolist movement, will be presented at The Brooklyn Museum from February 7 through May 11, 1997. A Different Reality: Symbolist Prints from the Collection, selected from the Museum’s strong holdings of this material, comprises a significant percentage of works by French artists, among them Paul Gauguin, Édouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Odilon Redon, and Maurice Denis. Artists from England, Belgium, the United States, and Germany are also included, among them James McNeil Whistler, Félicien Victor Rops, and Max Klinger.
The different aspects of Symbolism are represented by such diverse works as the seemingly realistic, illustrative style of Aubrey Beardsley’s La Dame aux Camélias to Edvard Munch’s moody and mysterious Mondschein. Included in the exhibition are lithographs, etchings, and woodcuts, along with books from the Museum Library collection, among them a facsimile copy of Gauguin’s Noa Noa, written upon his return from his first trip to Tahiti, as well as several limited edition volumes and rare periodicals.
Symbolism, a movement that included music, theater, and literature, as well as the visual arts, sought its inspiration from the unconscious or inner states of being, rather than the natural world that informed Impressionism. Often working in extremely different styles, artists sought in their individual ways to render the intangible, including psychological sensations and spiritual meanings. A precursor to Expressionism and Surrealism, the roots of the Symbolist movement can be traced back to the mid-19th century, when Edgar Allan Poe’s fiction dealt with the mysterious states of the soul, and Baudelaire wrote about the relationship between the sensual and the spiritual.
A Different Reality: Symbolist Prints from the Collection, a Centennial exhibition, has been organized by Marilyn Kushner, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and Photography. The book and journal portion was organized by Deirdre Lawrence, Principal Librarian and Coordinator of Research Services. The exhibition is made possible in part by George W. Young, in memory of Charles Douglas.
A Different Reality: Symbolist Prints from the Collection is one in a series that celebrate the Centennial of the Beaux-Arts building on Eastern Parkway that is occupied by the Museum and the 175th anniversary of the founding of the collections as the Apprentices’ Library Association.
Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1995 - 2003. 1997, 038-40.