Gustave Moreau

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Never have paintings taken such a dramatic turn as Gustave Moreau’s, the French painter extraordinaire whose paintings became known for their spectacular scale. The French Symbolist painter mostly worked on religious and mythological subjects for his paintings; Moreau was an old school soul who believed in the art of painting what the soul feels. There is a dream-like quality associated with Moreau’s works; he was a firm believer in the fact that an artist must possess an inner soul in order to exhibit beautiful art. In Moreau’s paintings there is a romantic element and extravagant detail in every nook and corner of the canvas.  Art experts state that Moreau forged the link between traditional painting practice and new experimental ideas which forged the way for the 20th century art scene. For Moreau, the intuition of an artists’ inner soul had more meaning then simply painting what an artist see’s before them.

Gustave Moreau was born in Paris, France in 1826. Having a father as an architect did wonders for Moreau; his father recognized the talent Moreau possessed as an artist from an early age. He started training as an artist under the guidance and counsel of Francois-Edouard Picot who became a strong influence on the budding young artist. In the beginning of his career Moreau worked on copying paintings of other great artists. His paintings were filled with free and thick brush strokes which represented an expressive eager mind. Any art lover now would call his initial work as that of an experimental dreamer. Moreau’s paintings were filled with human figures most of the time. As in his Jacob and the Angel, taken straight out of biblical contact the excessive painting contains two figures. One is of the human Jacob and the other the Angel. Jacob is clad scantily where as the Angel is wearing pristine cloak. The way Moreau has painted the Angel, it is difficult to make out the gender – is it a man or a woman? The painting has been painted in such rich colors that it is illuminating both figures; the way the Angel’s hand rests gently on Jacob guiding him and giving him strength. Moreau’s painting rises the viewer’s imagination, it makes them delve deeper into the colors and figures to know what is going on. And in most of his works Moreau’s figures are quite ambiguous, as in Jacob and the Angel. Man, woman, evil, and good –all elements are intertwined together in Moreau’s paintings.

Later on in his life, Moreau also visited Italy where he was greatly influenced by the Byzantine and primitive Italian artists. At times, due to his heavy experimenting Moreau used to receive a lot of criticism from the art world. However this never deterred him, he continued to paint the way he wanted to – he was answerable to no one. Similar to his previous works there is his painting of George and the Dragon; inspired by mythological figures the painting looks like a scene from a movie production for such opulent is its scale. There is the hero George on his white horse slaying the dragon with his sword. The painting is grand and makes the viewer think about the story behind the painting, who is George? Where did he come from and why slay the dragon? Such thoughts are always ignited when one looks at a Gustave Moreau painting even today.


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