Symbolism is an artistic style that lasted from around 1885 to 1920. As one sees from the name, symbolism used symbolic interpretations and means of expression.
Symbolism can also be understood in a certain sense to be a reaction to impressionism, which instead mirrored the surface effect of things; symbolism in turn attributed a broader, deeper meaning to the represented material through symbols. In like manner, symbolism was a reaction to realism, in which the artists missed the spiritual depth that an artistic work is supposed to express. Symbolism is less of an independent syle since the commonalities are limited to a similar attitude towards life in its painters and writers along with a feeling behind the subjects. The concept of symbolism was used first by Jean Moréas in France in 1886 for a literary style, above all in poetry. Main representatives here are Baudelaire, Mallarmé, Verlaine and Rimbaud. In art, the beginnings of symbolism reached back into the 18th century. In the works of artists such as Goya, William Blake and Johann Heinrich Füssli, dreams, premonitions and obsessions played an important role. Subjects from religion and antiquity were reinterpreted. Symbolism at the end of the 19th century displayed many parallels to Jugendstil. In some facets, symbolism prepared the way for its successor, expressionism. In addition, symbolists can be identified as the predecessors to surrealism.
The following, among others, are considered artists of symbolism: Arnold Böcklin, Pierre Bonnard, Maurice Denis, Fernand Khnopff, Max Klinger, Gustave Moreau, Edvard Munch, Giovanni Segantini, Franz von Stuck, Michail Alexandrowitsch Wrubel, Edouard Vuillard.