As opposed to Impressionism, in which the emphasis was on the reality of the created paint surface itself,
Symbolism was both an artistic and a literary movement that suggested ideas through symbols and emphasized the meaning behind the forms, lines, shapes, and colors.
The works of some their supporter illustrates the ending of the tradition of representational art coming from Classical times. Symbolism can also be seen as being at the forefront of modernism, in that it developed new and often abstract means to express psychological truth and the idea that behind the physical world lay a spiritual reality. Symbolists could take the untold, such as dreams and visions, and give it form.
What unites the various artists and styles associated with Symbolism is the emphasis on emotions, feelings, ideas, and subjectivity rather than realism.
Their works are personal and express their own ideologies, particularly the belief in the artist’s power to reveal truth.
In terms of specific subject matter, the Symbolists combined religious mysticism(trying to know god), the perverse(mentally sick), the erotic, and the decadent (shameless).
Symbolist subject matter is typically characterized by an interest in the occult (supernatural or magical powers), the morbid(scaring and depressing), the dream world, melancholy (sadness), evil, and death.
Key artist: Paul Gauguin