The Balancing Act of the Beautiful

Updated: Mar 4

Reaching Within: What traditional art offers the heart

Detail of “Perseus and Andromeda,” between 1867–1869, by Gustave Moreau. Private Collection. (Public Domain)

Gustave Moreau was a 19th-century symbolist painter in France. The symbolists believed that the art of the 18th century was too scientific and had discarded spirituality from its subject matter and execution. 

Artists also found themselves competing with the newly invented camera. Instead of only reproducing reality like a camera would or ignoring the spiritual as earlier artists had, the symbolists set out to create suprasensible imagery by attempting to synthesize the content of their souls with representations of the natural world.  

According to the website National Museum of Gustav Moreau, “Moreau wanted to create a body of work where, in his own words, the soul could find: all the aspirations of dreams, tenderness, love, enthusiasm and religious ascent towards the higher spheres, where everything in it is elevated, inspiring, moral and beneficent; where all is imaginative and impulsive soaring off into sacred, unknown, mysterious lands.”