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The Symbolists and the Test of Reality
A difficult relationship, hidden and denied

Edvard Munh, Autoportrait, atelier de Skrubben à Kragerø, 1909-1910
Edvard Munch, L'enfant malade, 1885-86
Edvard Munch, Autoportrait, 1903
Paul Gauguin, Manuscrit dit du Louvre de Noa Noa, 1893-97 (détail)
Charles-George Spitz, Jeune Tahitienne, 1890-99.png
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Paul Gauguin, Autoportrait à la plage de Warnemünde,  peignant le triptyque des Ages de la vie et les Hommes au bain, 1907
Edvard Munch  Elizabeth Förster-Nietzsche 1906
Paul Gauguin,  Stéphane Mallarmé, 1891
Paul Gauguin, Poèmes sauvages, 1896
Paul Gauguin, Eve exotique,1890

Photography and Painting in the 19th century, 3

The Symbolists and photography

Fernand Khnopff Du Silence, pastel sur papier ca, 1890
Fernand Khnopff Marguerite posant pour Du Silence aristotype d´aprés négatif vert, 1890

Paul Gauguin, Edvard Munch and Fernand Khnopff, each in their own way, represent the quintessence of an art known as Symbolism; an art of evanescence, invisibility and interiority. What role can photography play in this context, given that it marks such a violent return to reality?


Gauguin collected photographs of Western and more exotic works; he created an artistic collection that would act as a substitute for the real and, paradoxically, as an authentication of his dreams. 


Munch, the painter of states of mind, of the cycle of life and death, engaged in an ongoing dialogue between painting, photography and the camera: a journey worth discovering.


Khnopff, who publicly opposed the recognition of photography as an art form, hid a remarkable array of photographic equipment in his studio. Should we conclude that this excellent draughtsman cheated by copying the photographic image? A simplistic and limited answer; his work deserves further study.


This third lecture on the unacknowledged relationship between painting and photography explores the most unnatural of collaborations: how could photography, an engraving of reality, be used to transcend that same reality?

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