Symbolism is notoriously hard to define, and the painters (or poets, or authors) who claimed the Symbolist mantle never developed a common style. Indeed, this was one of the points of this school of thought, which called on each painter to search within himself (or at least outside mundane reality) for inspiration. Dreams, the subconscious, mysticism, darkness, death – all could be mined by the painter, seen as a prophetic figure towering high above the uncomprehending hoi polloi. The reaction against “realism” in painting led many Symbolists to explore fairytales, myths and wild nature. Here, a connection with nationalist revivalism becomes obvious.
I have to say that I didn't find the essays in this volume *that* interesting, but the paintings are excellent. I didn't see much of them during the actual exhibition – to conjure a “mystical” atmosphere, the exhibition halls were very dark, which gave me a rather nasty headache! There is also a final chapter on sculpture and design. Only available in Swedish.