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(c. 1890 - c. 1910)

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Symbolism is a 19th-century movement in which art became infused with a spooky mysticism. It was a continuation of the Romanticist tradition, which included such artists as Caspar David Friedrich and John Henry Fuseli. Anticipating Freud and Jung, the Symbolists mined mythology and dream imagery for a visual language of the soul. More a philosophy than an actual style of art, they influenced the contemporary Art Nouveau movement, and Les Nabis". 

Leading Symbolists included Gustave Moreau (1826-1896), Odilon Redon (1840-1916), and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes (1824-1898). 

France 1990. Odilon Redon: "Profile of a Woman".

Oman 1972. Puvis de Chavannes: "Young Woman on the Beach".

France 1939. Pierre Puvis de Chavannes: Self-Portrait.

The Symbolism as art movement running parallel with Art Nouveau, many of the artists from Art Nouveau can also be described as Symbolists.  France and Belgium were the main centers for the movement, and the interest in occultism, religious questions, dreams, mysticism, death, sex, and the concept around Femmes Fatales were prevalent for these artists.  The movement was also a major influence on some of the Expressionists, especially through the works of Edvard Munch and Franz von Stuck. 

On 19th January 2004 Belgium has issued an interesting block of 4 stamps based on the works by Fernand Khnopff.  The face-value of all four stamps is 0.41 Euro. All four stamps were designed by Luc Derycke. The stamps were issued on the occasion of a retrospective exhibition of the works of Fernand Khnopff, the Belgian symbolist, in the Museum of Fine Arts in Brussels from 16.01.2004. to 09.05.2004. Fernand Khnopff was born  12.09.1858  in Grembergen and died in Brussels 12.11.1921. In his paintings he was influenced by the English Pre-Raphaelites with Edward Burne-Jones and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  His literary works were also influenced by the same art movement, i.e. by poems made by Rosetti's sister Christina. 

Belgium 2004.  Fernand Khnopff. Souvenir Sheet.

The stamps were printed in photogravure on one of their two GOEBEL-presses by the Belgian Post Office Printing Works in Mechelen/Malines. The stamp size is for both the left and right stamps size 1 - 27.66x48.0mm - sheet perforation 11 3/4:11 1/2 16/28 teeth horizontally/vertically.  The stamps in between have the same perforation gauge but measure 55.32x24.0mm and show 32/14 teeth horizontally/vertically. The short side of the [portrait] stamps represents the circumference of the printing cylinders. No extension holes around the stamps in the block.

The cylinder contains 2x2 blocks. The individual stamps are - a long Belgian tradition - numbered: from 2004-1a until 2004-1d. The numbers are followed by  the name of the designer: 'Luc Derycke'. 
At the right bottom of the block, the product-barcode: 5 412885 011326 (not shown here).  

Belgium 2005. Sergei Sudeikin: "Allegorical Scene" (1910).

The Russian Symbolism is beautifully represented on this stamp by Sergei Sudeikin (1882-1946), who entered the Moscow University for Painting, Sculpture and Architecture in 1897. He was a painter and graphic artist, as well as a man of the theatre. In 1907 he joined the Blue Rose Group. Blue -- the colour of the heavens and of water -- had symbolic significance for these artists, who combined fantasy and children's dreams to create a new workd, as in this Allegorical Scene, painted by Sudeikin in 1910. 

  • Belgium 2005.  Sergei Sudeikin: "Allegorical Scene" (1910). The stamp is part of the Belgian Europalia series 2005, which includes also a stamp by the Suprematist painter Kasimir Malevich (see Suprematism). 

Stéphane Mallarmé (1842-1898) was a French poet, one of the originators of the symbolist movement. He was born in Paris and educated at the lycée in Sens. He taught English at the Lycée Fontanes, Paris, and translated literary works in English, notably the poems (1888) of the American poet Edgar Allan Poe. He used symbols to express truth through suggestion rather than by narration. His poetry and prose are characterized by musical quality, experimental grammar and thought, that is refined and allusive to the point of obscurity. 
Mallarmé was noted for his conversation, which was as lucid as his writings were obscure. At his renowned Tuesday-night receptions at his home in Paris, his critical comments on literature, art, and music did much to stimulate the creative efforts of the French symbolist writers and the artists and composers of the impressionist school that developed late in the 19th century and emphasized spontaneity, as opposed to formality, of composition.
  • France 1998. Stéphane Mallarmé. Engraving by Pierre Albuisson. 

France 1998. Stéphane Mallarmé

Listing in alphabetical order of the most well known symbolist artists (not necessarily represented on stamps). Click on the active links to go to the individual artist's page. Those marked with an asterisk are represented on this page.  

  • Agueli, Ivan (Sweden) 

  • Böcklin, Arnold (Switzerland)

  • Burne-Jones (Great Britain) 

  • Ciurlionis, Mikolajus Konstantinas (Lithuania)

  • Delville, Jean (Belgium

  • Gerson, Woiciech (Poland)

  • Khnopff, Fernand (Belgium) *

  • Klinger, Max (Germany)

  • Maczewski, Jacek (Poland)

  • Mehoffer, Jozef (Poland)

  • Moreau, Gustave (France)

  • Puvis de Chavannes, Pierre (France) *

  • Redon, Odilon (France) *

  • Ripple-Ronai, Jozsef (Hungary)  

  • Roerich, Nicholas (Russia) 

  • Sergei Sudeikin (Russia) * 

  • Willumsen (Denmark)

  • Wrubel, Michail (Russia)

  • Wyspianski, Stanislaw (Poland) 


  • Mallarmé, Stéphane (France) *  

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