A Report from Annecy 2017

Photo taken from Agence L'Atelier
Unfortunately I haven't been writing this beautiful blog when I was attending the Animation Film Festival in Annecy from June 12th to 17th 2017. Last year's guest country was China and its emerging animation production. For 2017 I set out to take in all the screenings surrounding China and its history of animation and I was fascinated by what the festival's curators put together. Therefore I would like to present to you a very short overview of some of the most important films and shorts that I have seen.

Flash From The Past: Princess Iron Fan

One of the earliest animation feature films from China is Princess Iron Fan from 1941. The movie is based upon an episode from the great Chinese literature classic A Journey To The West. It was produced in Shanghai under very difficult circumstances during the Japanese occupation by Wan Guchan and Wan Laiming also known as the Wan Brothers (an interesting similarity in words with the Warner Brothers). It took them three years and 237 artists to finish it.

 I tremendously enjoyed watching it in the cinema. The animation is unique and appealing featuring great characters. The animators used a lot of Rotoscoping, that means they drew on-top of live footage. Sometimes they left the eyes of the actors in the drawing which has a strange effect because it gives you instant recognition of human features in a cartoon face. I am a big fan of Chinese tales and it was very refreshing to see a movie like this.

 A Look Into Tradition: Shanghai Animation Film Studio

The Shanghai Animation Film Studio short SAFS was founded 1957 and since then has produced over 500 films. I was especially taken away by one of its earliest short films from 1958 called Crossing Monkey Mountain by one of China's most prominent animation directors Wang Shuchen.

 I found the story and the style of animation had a lot of humor and wit. It is interesting to see how they have been drawing upon traditional Chinese art styles and folk tales. The traditional music sets a very appealing tone and accompanied the animation in a very good way, so much that I occasionally clapped my hands in delight.

Modernity and Political Retrospection: Xu An and Xi Chen

These two animators use a very modern looking cut-out style of animation in which they do not shy away from reflecting on political and social issues of China's past and present. I wish I could present you more information about these two, but I have not been able to find much on the internet. There was an over-an-hour long screening session dedicated to those two contemporary Chinese animation artists. I would like to present you one of their more political shorts called Grain Coupon.
Together with its slow pacing the dim colors and stylized characters convey a dark and oppressing mood. My understanding is that it is not easy for Chinese artists to be openly political so you find a lot of codified references and reminiscences within their work. But this one clearly was about the early days of the communist and cultural revolution. They also produced some shorts which revolve more about traditional Chinese themes and are more entertaining albeit retaining the uneasy caricatured style.

Ahead Into The Future: Lightchaser Studios

Lightchaser Studios were founded in 2013 by Gary Wang and are making big waves with their ambitious entertainment movies that make use of the newest technology and best artistry to be found in today's China. When I think of them the slogan "China's Pixar" comes to my mind, even though that wouldn't be fair, because they shouldn't be compared to what Pixar was but instead have the right to open up their own new category. From when I saw the festival's program I was very much looking forward to seeing their Tea Pets which apparently was their second big budget movie production.
This film features a lot of great characters that are inspired by traditional Chinese arts and literally clashes them with the future in the form of a small robot. The settings are very appealing the entire movie has been crafted very professionally and the character design is very likeable. Unfortunately I haven't yet found out if it is ever going to be distributed in Europe which really is a shame because I would like to recommend it to a lot more people to watch in cinemas.
Lightchaser studios followed up with an even bigger film at Annecy 2018 that was loudly applauded by the audience at its screening called Cats in Peachtopia, which would be their third feature.

If they keep at it with this pace producing a new film each year it will only be a question of time until they will be recognized as one of China's greatest animation studios by the critics.


China's early animation artist let themselves be inspired by Chinese traditional artwork, literature and folk tales in their work. The generation that came to fruition after the cultural revolution were a lot darker and political and touching upon topics of society. While the contemporary artists continue exploration in that vain, animation for entertainment has begun looking back at its cultural roots and started drawing from them again. 

I highly recommend you read the following article by Olga Bobrowska because she is very knowledgeable on a lot of the things that happened behind-the-scenes and highlights some of the side program that came along and offered venues for contemporary Chinese artists to exhibit their work: Farewell to the Rooster: Chinese Animation in the 2017 Season.

As always, be let me know what you think in the comments as I would love to hear from you!

How the Art of Painting liberated itself from Photorealism - Part Four

Note: this is the fourth and final part of a blog post I published on June 15th, you can find the third part here ...

Before Impressionism, there was William Turner

Impressionism did not come out of nowhere. Eleven years before Claude Monet painted his Impression soleil levant another great painter by the name of Turner had died. Joseph Malord William Turner (23 April 1775 - 19 December 1851) known by his acronym J.M.W. Turner, was an English Painter who started out as a Romantic and became a Pre-Impressionist in his later work, although his work never was officially named like that. He traveled a extensively around Europe in search of new subjects for his landscape paintings. He became especially famous for his marine paintings. J.M.W. Turner was considered to be extraordinary productive as he left behind over 2'000 paintings and 19'000 drawings.

From left to right: J.M.W. Turner's earlier works show how he was influenced by the Flemish school of classical landscape painting on one hand and Romanticism in this picture of Roman scenery on the other. Throughout his life he was able to work in different styles but his impressions of the effects of natural phenomena like light, fog, water, sky and seasons start to push through in his later work.

From left to right: with his painting Slave Ship from 1840 Turner took a very clear abolitionist's anti-slavery stand-point. Based on real events from 1781 it shows a slave ship that has thrown its human cargo overboard because of an on-setting storm. The style of painting in this later work already clearly points into the direction of Impressionism with the way the sun light and sky is portrayed. It goes beyond the mere representation of the dawning sky of storm-laden clouds but it is used to express dramatic emotions. In his work Rain, Steam and Speed - The Great Western Railway the rain and clouds mingle with the landscape to become one plane of muted colors and textures. It is very reminiscent of Monet's work that soleil levant who reportedly studied the works of Turner.

Even though J.M.W. Turner was championed by the English art critic John Ruskin who recognized  Turner's great ingenuity in his later life, his new method of working evoked criticism from contemporaries. Sir George Beaumont, a rival landscape painter, called Turner's works 'blots' because of his way of applying paint to the canvas not trying to hide the brush strokes as was customary and demanded by then.


You may have already noticed the tendency by now: the development of the art of painting evolves farther away from the requirement of photo-realistic mimicking of reality during the course of the second half of the 19th century. Remember that photography by then was still far away from the vividness, sharpness or any use of color that a painting could provide (please take a look at the exemplary photos in the first part again).

Several artist's succeeded Impressionism's legacy. Many of them were a lot younger when the Impressionist exhibitions were shown. They were rather unfavorably termed Post-Impressionists which put them in direct lineage to their predecessors, even though they often developed quite unique and different interpretations of style and stepped out of the shadow of their Impressionistic forefathers.

Vincent van Gogh (30 March 1853 – 29 July 1890) exhibits a raw force with colors in his paintings, almost as if he wishes to capture and banish the essence of what he sees onto the canvas with his color tubes and brush strokes. 


Georges-Pierre Seurat (2 December 1859 – 29 March 1891) further expanded his work on Pointilism, a technique of painting that was pioneered by Camille Pissaro, in which paint is applied in dots onto the canvas. It requires a great understanding of color theory as the points need to be put together according to certain rules in order to obtain the overall impression that a plane or an object has a specific color. 

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (24 November 1864 – 9 September 1901), his style of painting became very graphical in that he emphasizes contours and shapes. Despite the great dynamism in many of his paintings he often favored muted colors over bright ones, especially when depicting the Parisian nightlife.

Paul Cézanne (19 January 1839 – 22 October 1906) used a very characteristic set of brush strokes and color planes to build up multi-faceted portrayals of his subjects. His depiction of apples became very famous and are often shown as an example of what art can achieve and invoke inside a spectator. 

Notice the predominance of Realist subjects in the paintings of the Impressionists. 

A League Of His Own: Pablo Picasso

Pablo Picasso (25 October 1881 – 8 April 1973) came later than most of the Post-Impressionists but drew a lot from the legacy they left behind. Picasso was not exclusively a painter, even though he started out as one, but took on many roles later in his life modeling the blueprint for the multi-potentiate modern artist of the 20th century.  He took the premises of Impressionism and developed them further into new styles of art. Especially in his early paintings the link to the post-impressionists can be discovered:

Picasso produced these three paintings between the age of  fourteen to sixteen. They show that he was an excellent craftsman early on and that he understood the techniques and concepts of classical painting very well. Note the self-portrait in the middle.

These three paintings were done in his twenties and they show a very distinct influence of Impressionism with his use of broad brushstrokes and bright colors on the left, color planes and contours in the middle and the mono-tonal blue to convey mood and emotion in The Old Guitarist from 1903. 

In his thirties Picasso pushed farther in what he could do with color, contour and plane to go into abstraction and found the art movement of Cubism, ultimately a very radical take on the ideas of Impressionism. His Les Demoiselles d'Avignon from 1907 in the middle is considered to be the first step on that journey while Girl with a Mandolin from 1910 show how he progressed along his way exploring new possibilities of expression through the art of painting.


By now we have arrived in the early 20th century ending our journey with this last painting by Picasso from 1910. From here on out art was free to whatever it wanted. Whether it teetered off into total abstraction with Wassily Kandinsky or exploded into pure emotion with Jackson Pollock, at the foundation of it all lay the will of artists to go beyond the mere realistic and accurate representation of our world. Photography has slowly begun to catch up in terms of technique and skillfulness and it arrived at truthfully representing reality at a point when the art of painting just concluded its evolution of abandoning it.

From left to right: finally photography caught up with the skills that painters had possessed for centuries. Colors appear vivid in this 1911 portrait of Alim Khan by Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky. The landscape conveys a sense of depth and various layers of sharpness in the picture by the same photographer from 1912. The 1914 photograph of the Taj Mahal by an unknown artist exhibits architectural design, vast space and muted colors from an exotic place like so many landscape painters have done in the first half of the 19th century. 

 From left to right: now that the camera was doing all the work of mimicking reality the art of painting moved boldly beyond its mere representation. Pablo Picasso reduces people to planes and lines in his painting Nous autres musiciens from 1921 while Wassily Kandinsky wanders on his own path with Komposition VIII from 1923. Finally Jackson Pollock reduces everything to the raw and unbound energy of brush strokes with his Convergence from 1953.

I hope you enjoyed and followed along my little journey into the times when the art of painting freed itself from the demand of having to mimic the appearance of reality but dared to develop beyond and found its expression from within the personal experience of the world itself. It was a bold step in that it emboldened the individual to strife outside the boundaries of institutions and normatives of society and painters were the first to make it.

We came across a lot of terms for various art movements that seemed similar on first glance but had important distinction in their style, technique or subjects of painting. Sometimes I could only brush on certain topics and I hope I can expand on them in-depth in the future. Thank you for bearing with me and staying tuned all the way. Please feel free to leave a comment, I would love to hear from you!

A Report From Annecy 2018

This year's edition of the Annecy Animation Film Festival took place from June 11th to the 16th. Being the biggest festival of its kind in the world it was able to garner even more attendance by raising the number of badge holders by a whopping 17% to 11 700 people. Visitors and ticket buyers aren't even included in this number. This means that the beautiful alpine town of Annecy in France is overrun each year by an international crowd of animation maniacs, flooding the streets with the signature badges worn around the neck and colorful bags.

If you haven't been there yet I highly recommend you should go. The atmosphere is great and seldom do you get to see so much great animation on the big screen. Especially the US screenings are always a great show and celebrated by the crowd.  Each year there is a  so-called territory focusing on the animation production of a specific country and this year's guest was Brazil.

With such a vast program to choose from ranging from movies with features in and out of competition, TV-Productions, graduation shorts and various other special screenings each year feels like you're attending a different festival. For 2018 I chose to focus more on features as I have been intently watching the entire territory focus last year which centered on China. I will write a short report about Annecy 2017 and the things I discovered there in a later post.

The feature films in competition this year were marked by a sort of grim realism that I haven't seen before in animation. That is very interesting considering that I am just in the process of writing a series of blog articles about the art movements of the late 19th century in which Realism played a great part. I am going to write about the films in the order I watched them.

Tito And The Birds

Starting the festival off with a Brazilian feature Tito e os pássaros, as it is called in Portuguese, is the story about a boy whose father is trying to communicate with birds in order to find out how to save the world from the fear which has become a plague-like disease spreading across the world and infecting societies turning people into stones. Animated in 2D this movie features a grim yet colorful art style. I thought the characters were well developed and very relatable. Even if it isn't as openly political as the other features in competition its implications about fear and its grip on the societies of the world are directly relatable. It mastered the balancing act between telling a story of adventure and staying relevant with a general message about our times.

Another Day Of Life

Another Day Of Life is based on the book by the legendary Polish journalist Ryszard Kapuscinski and his experiences in Angola in 1975 thrown into a chaotic civil war after its declaration of independence. Kapuscinski decides to travel to the southern front in search of a ominous Portuguese general supporting the communist guerrillas in their effort to preserve Angola's independence and freedom from the looming invasion of South Africa's apartheid regime backed by the CIA. The film is a documentary mixing real film of interviews with the eyewitnesses in the present with animated flashbacks. The style of animation art directed by Rafal Wojtunik makes use of 3D rendered to give a 2D line and color output. I found the look very appealing and suiting the violent action and dreamlike sequences.

The Breadwinner

The Breadwinner is another highly awaited feature film coming out of Ireland's Cartoon Saloon studios. Directed by Norah Twomey and produced by Hollywood celebrity Angelina Jolie this film is based on the novel by the same name by Deborah Ellis. The story follows Parvana and her mother and siblings whose father gets arrested by the Taliban. Unable to provide for their family in a society that prohibits women to go out into the streets on their own, they have to come up with a solution in order to survive. Cartoon Saloon has made its name with two amazing features before and they hone their craft with this one even more. Narration as a way to speak truth about our lives is at the core of this movie. While the plot unfolds an Afghan story about a boy's hero journey is told as a parallel. The simple yet highly appealing, immersing and empathetic style of animation is delightful but still manages to address serious issues of violence and switches to a dark mood when appropriate and needed.

Cinderella the Cat

Cinderella the Cat, or Gatta Cenerentola by its original Italian name, is a re-telling of the famous fairy-tale by four Neapolitan directors. The original story was first published in Naples, Italy in 1636 and it finds its way back to this infamous city with this film. Set in a fictitious futuristic Naples on-board a fantastic cruise ship Cinderella the Cat mixes up Camorra, crime, violence and crushed visions in a morbid but enthralling cocktail. Cinderella is a young girl whose father a rich entrepreneur wanting to do the best for his city Naples is murdered by an uprising crook taking possessions of all his belongings by enchanting the magnate's wife. An undercover police inspector once responsible for the security of the girl wants to enforce justice by thwarting the swindler's plot.
Like Another Of Day Of Life this movie uses 3D animation techniques as its basis but renders it in 2d line style making a little bit more use realistic lighting techniques than the former. Still the overall look of the artwork is very appealing and suiting for this dark and at times cynical movie. Unlike the others its subject is not directly political but the story certainly alludes to the decay of a city that has become unmanageable with its organized crime, corrupt officials and hopeless perspectives for the inhabitants.


Funan tells the story of a young mother and her family in Cambodia trying to survive the work camps of the Khmer Rouge.  Director Denis Do tells the story of his family who fled Cambodia and emigrated to France. The style of the animation created by art director Michael Crouzat is very delicate, simple and realistic. It focuses a lot on little moments of intimacy and acts of affection between the protagonists. Violence is never shown overtly explicit but rather hinted at, leaving an emotional impact on the audience. What does it mean when your life goes from living a normal daily course to the extreme situation of a death camp, where your family members perish almost silently one-by-one of exhaustion and illness?
The film and its director and crew received a well-deserved standing ovation after the screening in the Grande Salle.

Feature Film Out Of Competition: The Last Fiction

Finally I would like to mention The Last Fiction by Iranian director Ashkan Rahgozar.  The film has been a long running project and was first pitched at Annecy's animation market in 2010. It was sold out within seconds after the booking system opened but I was able to get a hold of one of the last fifteen tickets being sold at the booth. Set in Iran based on its mythical Book Of The Kings the film tells the story of the people of an ancient city in Iran's northern mountains who rise against their  unjust ruler aided by demoniacal powers. Finished with the help of over 100 animators this movie also features an exciting soundtrack with traditional Iranian music. The 2D style of animation is of high production value and tells the story in a gripping fashion. This movie was the last that I have seen at this year's festival in 2018 and it finished the series of features with their realistic, dark and grim visions.

Of course there was a lot more to see and experience at this year's festival and I only highlighted some of the movies. I can only highly recommend going to the Annecy Animation Film Festival, the town is very welcoming and the festival has an astonishing wide range within its program.

How the Art of Painting liberated itself from Photorealism - Part Three

Note: this is the third part of a blog post I published 15 days ago, you can find the second part here ...

A League Of Their Own: The Academics

One of the reasons why the Realists, the Romanticists or the Symbolists were called an 'art movement' was that there has always been an unmovable factor in the background. The Academic School Of Painting has been established in the 16th century and still kept going strong when the art movements appeared on the playground.
Academic Art came out of the Renaissance and therefore was firmly rooted in the interpretation of the ideals of Antiquity. It made its way from Italy over France to the rest of Europe. The Academic style of painting itself was influenced by two schools of thought: one was Neoclassicism and the other Historicism. Neoclassicism drew its inspiration from the art of the classical antiquity, mostly in the form of the many statues that survived from that era. This is one of the reasons why life drawing became so important in the academies. Historicism seeks to recreate or imitate the look and feel of the works of historic artisans from different eras of history.

From top to bottom: Thomas Couture's Romans During The Decadence from 1847 imagines the classical times as one big banquet of half-naked feasting both for the stomach and for the eye. Thomas Cole's The Architect's Dream from 1840 mashes up Egyptian, Roman and Northern-European Gothic architecture into one big bowl. In this photograph from the late 19th century students from the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris are shown in their life-drawing class.

For the untrained eye and the in-adept Academic Art seems to have a lot of similarities to the other art movements of Realism, Romanticism and Symbolism. And yes, you are right, this holds especially true now two centuries later. But we have to imagine that there were clear ideological differences between all of those art movements and stiff Academic Art. That is not to say that each did not take inspiration from the other or that an Academic painter may have not switched stances in his lifespan, but when the audience and artists discussed works and their differences in the Salons and Galleries, there were fierce battles between the various camps. 

Thomas Couture's The Realist from 1865 ridicules the realist painter: he can be seen sitting on the head of a classical statue while painting a boar's head. Other attributes like the pipe and the hat mark him as a Bohemian, while the bottle in the foreground shows that he also is a drinker. Academics regarded the realist painter as someone who neglects the beauty of an idealized antiquity and has turned towards the ugly.

A League Of His Own: William Adolphe Bougeureau

William Bougeureau is one of the most prolific of the academic painters. His style of painting perfectly embodies everything academic art stands for: allegoric subjects, perfect technique and execution, a high level of illusionistic realism. 
His technique of painting has led many to believe that he used photos as a reference. If this is true or not has not yet been conclusively proven, though his photo-realism is striking and he serves as good example in this blog post series for painters who were promoting the look and feel of photography.

From left to right: Dante et Virgile en enfer from 1850, Au bord du Ruisseau from (1875) and The Wave from 1896. Bougeureau's three paintings almost span a career of 50 years and consecutively show a high mastery of craftsmanship in creating photo-realism without the observer being able to spot as much as a brush stroke. Many people claim that one could see the edges of a table in the latter picture, indicating the evidence of the use of photo reference. It his clear however, that Bougeureau's paintings far exceed the capacities of photography of its time in terms of sharpness, colorfulness, expression and the level of detail.

Along Come The Impressionists 

It is hard to single out one factor that lead to the development of Impressionism. Whether it was the relentless stubbornness of the Academics and the other art movements in their disputes, the over-saturation of the audience with nude allegoric women in classical poses, the kitchyness of the ever-repeated imagery of antique fantasies or the finicky scrupulous technique of painting in photo-realism. There came a time when young painters had enough of it and were seeking a more direct, less obstructed approach to painting. Along came the Impressionists.

The term itself was coined by a critic who was trying to demean the painting Impression, Sunrise by Claude Monet from 1872 which was shown in the exhibition of a young troupe of painters who grouped themselves around Camille Pissaro in and about Paris. The audience started to use the word Impressionist as a derogation for painters who refused to hide their brushstrokes and clearly formulate a painting until its tiniest detail. This new art movement quickly adopted term of abuse and turned it around in their favor.

The works of the Impressionists are marked by their realist subjects and their attention towards the use of light, colors and brushstrokes in a fluid way so to capture movement and moods. Instead if spending their time in the studio, thinking up new fantasies about the past, Impressionists started to go outdoors and do Plein Air Painting and let themselves be inspired by nature and society itself. Their works display a naturalness and are capable of capturing the humanity of the models, without abiding to the strict rules of photo-realism.

From left to right: Pierre-Auguste Renoir's Bal du moulin de la Galette from 1876, Berte Morisot's The Cradle from 1872, Edgar Degas' At the Races from around 1877–1880. All of these images lack the perfectionist finish often seen in the works of the Academics, who were eagerly trying to hide every trace of a brushstroke, but they preserve a vividness and fluidity and leave a lasting 'Impression' on the viewer. Speaking in philosophical terms, the Impressionists come close to reality not by mimicking it, but by distilling its essentials and by careful approximation with the tools of the painter.

In the fourth part of this installment, we will take a look at how Impressionism banged open the doors for more artistic experiments and widened the art term during its time. Please stay tuned and leave a comment, I would like to know what you think about this! 

How the Art of Painting liberated itself from Photorealism - Part Two

Note: this is the second part of a blog post I published a month ago, you can find it here ...

The Realist Movement

The artistic movement of Realism began in France in the 1850s. It was a counter-movement to Romanticism that was at its peak from around 1800 - 1850. While Romanticism was characterized by exaggerated emotions and fantastical subjects, often glorifying nature and creating a dreamed-of version of the past, the aim of the Realists was to portray real life and contemporary people as truthful and accurate as they could. Realism first and foremost referred to certain themes and how they are depicted and not so much to the technique that was used to create the painting. Romanticists may also painted 'realistically' in that they tried to create the illusion of their imagined settings being real (see the first part of this article and the problem of realism), but the content of their images had no footing in reality.


From left to right: Jean-François Millet's painting The Gleaners from 1857 depicts three peasant women gleaning a field of stray stalks of wheat after the harvest, while Honoré Daumier's The Third-Class Carriage from around 1862 shows the traveling conditions of a carriage for the lower classes. Both pictures depict common people and their conditions of working and living.

From left to right: Adolph Menzel's Eisenwalzwerk from around 1875 takes a look into the working conditions of an early-industrial age factory. Max Liebermann's Free Period in the Amsterdam Orphanage from around 1882 gives a glimpse into the daily routine of some of the weakest members of society. In fact Liebermann's picture caused so much uproar in Prussian society because of him showing such common people in a painting, that from there on he was known as 'The Painter Of The Ugly'. One might be surprised about this, when you look into the early Flemish and Dutch art and their representation of the peasant class. It seems that between the 17th - 19th century sensitivities had dramatically shifted towards the idealized.

From left to right two examples of Realim's predecessor the Romanticist movement: Anne-Louis Girodet de Roussy-Trioson's Ossian receiving the Ghosts of the French Heroes from around 1802 and Thomas Cole's Childhood from 1842. The former glorifies, idealizes and romanticizes the death of war heroes, the latter shows an idealized landscape to symbolize the innocent and pure past of childhood - too much false emotions for the Realists.

The Illusionistic Representation: Mimesis

We have seen that there are two ways to look at realism in painting. One is taking the subjects and themes of a painting and another is the technique, the way the elements in the painting are crafted and represented. Although the romanticists painted their subjects 'realistically', meaning they were painted in such a way to evoke the feeling within the viewer that what he sees could be real or even plausible, their themes were not. As we have seen with Margritte's famous pipe, there is no 'real' in a visual representation of any kind. There is only the illusion of real. Therefore the style of the technique of painting as-if-real, could be called an Illusionistic Representation or Mimesis, from the ancient Greek word for imitation, because it tries to imitate the properties of reality.
When Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston published their book on animation in 1981, they called it The Illusion Of Life, because their goal was to create animation that made the audience feel as if the fictional characters truly were alive. Similarly a painter who draws in a realistic style wants the viewer to feel like he is seeing something that is or could exist.

Back To The Future: Symbolism

Before the Realist movement, there was no clear distinction between art that represents or art that stylizes. Art always had to represent, whether it was something fictional or based on authenticity. Once the distinction between the ideal and the evident was created though, camps began to form around both. After the Realist movement came Symbolism which was a sort of counter-movement in that it picked up elements of Romanticism and merged it with some of the ideas of Realism. It also questioned Realism by asking if what is perceived and experienced is all there is or if there is truth and meaning beneath what can be seen. By purposefully falling back to the fantastical and using elements of mythology and dreams, the Symbolists ultimately paved the way for breaking up the dictate of the Illusionistic Representation and summoned new forms of expression into life.

From left to right: Pierre Puvis de Chavanne's Poor Fisherman from the 1880s includes a hidden meaning besides his subject, while Eugen Bracht's Shore Of Oblivion from 1889 (notice the skulls littered on the beach) and Arnold Böcklin's Island Of Death from 1883 take landscape and give it a mood that appeals to a feeling that there is more to what we are seeing. Odilon Redon's Cyclops  from 1898 is a messenger of things to come, when expression and subjective experience becomes more important than idealized visions.

In the upcoming part I will look deeper into the art movements of the second half of the 19th century that took their lessons from Romanticism, Realism and Symbolism and rejected all of them to create something revolutionary new and modern. Stay tuned and please leave a comment, I would like to know your thoughts on this!