Gustave Moreau was a great artist from France who lived and worked in the middle and late nineteenth century. While his style of painting was ever changing, he is most well known for the heavily symbolism in his work, and for his paintings which presented an unrivalled level of skill, beauty and richness. The subjects of his profession ranged from religious subjects to fantastical and mythological subjects. His status as one of the best symbolic artists was thanks to his skill, his focus, his extraordinary attention to detail, and of course a few prolific studentships under some of France's most revered painters. His later years, in which he used photography for his art, have only helped to solidify his reputation. Many remember him for never selling any of his works to anyone but family and friends, and when he died in 1898, the entirety of his works was entrusted under his wishes to the state, a collection which is now located at the Moreau Gallery.
The mystical was something that always took Moreau's interest, and the mysticism in his paintings is what set him apart from other artists at the time. His painting "The Wayfaring Poet" is full of mysticism, with Pegasus the mythical flying horse from Greek legend, which provides the dramatic backdrop to a poet. Contrast is thick, and the ample use of darkness in his work is reflective of the thought process of the poet in the scene, with clove hoofs reminiscent of Pan from Greek Mythology, who is half goat and half man. There is much than can be made from the expression of the poet, whose distracted demeanor presents regret, and the meandering and fruitless search for something. Here we see the symbolism, with this poet mirroring the problem that the whole of humanity has, with dissatisfaction of the present, and the state of life in general. Man is never satisfied and is always searching, and this single face is more effective at representing this than most other works. Of course, mans' search is futile, with the goal unattainable, and this is well symbolized in the darkness and the forbearing nature of the background rocks and sky.
"Fairy with the Griffons" is another mythological painting by Moreau, but has a much lighter tone than the previous work. The majority of people see fairies as enchanting creatures, though this work has a creature which is half bird and half lion, and has a large prominence and agility due to this integration. The female in the painting has a passive expression on her face, which is descriptive of the purity of the Virgin Mary, which was common in the Renaissance. Given the fierceness of the creature in the painting, we are surprised to see the ambivalence and relaxed nature of the female, alongside her appreciation of the Griffon. This appreciation is more than what is given to the fairy, who is located further in the distance. The colors of the painting presents the contrasts between the subject matter, such as the contrast between brilliant blue and red, and dusty yellow with mixes of the darker grays and blacks. This painting is symbolic in that it represents the reality of hope, though this suggestion is made to brought under question, with the hope coming across as fanciful thanks to the color of the composition.
Both of these paintings are mythological, and are symbolic to humankind and human nature, though they contrast with each other greatly. While one is a depiction of aimlessness and hopelessness, the other is a scene of joy and enchantment, with enemies living harmoniously together, presenting the balance of good and evil, and this balance is all-encompassing. The paintings are similar in that they are symbolic, and that they present the interaction and harmony of man with his surroundings, and the selfishness and preoccupation of man.
To conclude, Gustave Moreau's paintings are a master class in symbolism and form, and these mystical works prove a true sense of escapism for the viewer, often providing the beauty of harmony when in the correct circumstance. His ability to present realistic portrayals of fantastical objects and intense imagery is one of his defining features and most respected qualities. Both of the analyzed works are well representative of this, and each serves to give us an important life message, with scenes and situations that are otherworldly.
Degas to Picasso, Painters, Sculptors, and the Camera , Jerry Becerra, CultureVulter.net