The Influence of Theosophy on Belgian Artists, Between Symbolism and the Avant-Garde (1890–1910). (By Sébastien Clerbois)

In Search of the Forme-Pensée: The Influence of Theosophy on Belgian Artists, Between Symbolism and the Avant-Garde (1890–1910)
by Sébastien Clerbois

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Assuming that there are points in common between Symbolism and the avant-garde, little interest has been shown to date in studying these connections. From the point of view of historians of the nineteenth century, this disinterest is a matter of chronology, as the period shared by these two styles falls at the turn of the twentieth century, between 1890 and 1905–10. In theory, this specificity does not really present a problem, for historians of nineteenth-century art traditionally include in their research the first years of the twentieth century, often until World War I. In reality, the study of the relationship between Symbolism and the avant-garde poses a methodological problem. If we accept that modern artists, from Picasso to Mondrian, experienced a Symbolist phase, the proximity between the two styles nevertheless seems to clash, as if it is difficult to imagine that Gustave Klimt painted Danaë (1907) the same year Pablo Picasso painted Les demoiselles d’Avignon or that certain versions of Nymphéas (1914–18) by Claude Monet were modeled after the well-known Danse (1910) by Henri Matisse.

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