- Gallery Text
Important precursors of symbolism include Gustave Moreau, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, and Rodolphe Bresdin: three artists with a shared nostalgia for a mythical past. Moreau created highly wrought, sensual interpretations of mythical and religious scenes. He repeatedly depicted the sea nymph Galatea, whose story, as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses, warns of the nefarious effects of beauty. Rejected by Galatea, a jealous Cyclops named Polyphemus ends up killing Acis, the sea nymph’s lover, by crushing him under a rock. In Moreau’s picture, sexual desire is expressed with remarkable intensity in the monster’s lustful gaze, fixed on the sleeping nude. There is a stark contrast between his rough ugliness and the luminous beauty of Galatea’s quasi-divine body, displayed within a surreal landscape. By favoring contemplative stillness and ornamental quality over narration, Moreau emphasizes the symbolic nature of his drawing.
- Identification and Creation
- Object Number
Gustave Moreau, French (Paris 1826 - 1898 Paris)
- Work Type
- Physical Descriptions
- Gouache on wove paper
- actual: 39.5 x 25.7 cm (15 9/16 x 10 1/8 in.)
- Acquisition and Rights
- Credit Line
- Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Bequest of Grenville L. Winthrop
- Accession Year
- Object Number
- European and American Art
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- Publication History
Georges Rouault, Gustav Moreau, L'Art et les Artistes (April 1926), vol. 11-12, pp. 219-249, p. 235, repr.
Hans H. Hofstätter, Gustave Moreau: Leben und Werk, DuMont Buchverlag (Cologne, 1978), pp. 87-89 + 180, repr. p. 89
Pierre-Louis Mathieu, Gustave Moreau: Monographie et nouveau catalogue de l'oeuvre achevé, ACR Édition (Paris, France, 1998), no. 459, repr., also repr. p. 188 (color)
- Exhibition History
The Age of Romanticism, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Cambridge, 03/15/1986 - 05/18/1986
Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 05/21/2016 - 08/14/2016
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