Moreau defined painting as “this language of symbol, myth and sign”, and this is his greatest expression of that.
His two paintings of Salome shown at the 1876 Salon are dominated if not overwhelmed by their symbols. They are the watershed in his art.
Moreau is often claimed as a ‘father of Symbolism’, or even a Symbolist. A detailed look at his first great success at the Salon: is it regular narrative or symbolist?
It’s ironic that the Pre-Raphaelites, who wanted to take painting back to the days before Raphael, then took up his themes.
Paintings of the hippogriff from Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso, and some other winged horses from Puvis de Chavannes, Moreau, and ER Hughes.
From Mantegna and dancing Muses, through Rubens and Rochegrosse with the legend of Perseus, to a portrait by Odilon Redon.
Bad girls whose beautiful voices lured sailors to their deaths, so that the women could eat them. Paintings by Etty, Moreau, Waterhouse, Rae, Nash and others.
Like all the worst men, satyrs were addicted to music, wine and women. Paintings by Piero, Claude, Rubens, Vedder, Moreau and others.
Even the boldest of artists has avoided painting abandoned babies, except in the Biblical story of Moses. Veronese, Poussin, Sirani, Moreau and more.
In paintings by JMW Turner, Gustave Moreau, Lovis Corinth and others. Strangely so many put into danger or conflict by humans.