The art of dreams
written by Denise Mimmocchi
Art Gallery of NSW | ISBN 9781741740769
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Featuring paintings, sculpture, photographs and decorative arts, Australian Symbolism: the art of dreams
is the only book on this subject and provides a fresh context for the work of some of the most well‐known Australian artists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It investigates two main streams of Symbolist art: those artists – such as Rupert Bunny, Bernard Hall, George Lambert, Arthur Loureiro and Bertram Mackennal – who trained or worked overseas and drew directly from European Symbolist genres; and those working here – such as Charles Conder, Sydney Long, Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts and – who defined a local experience.
Enormously popular in Europe in the late 1800s, Symbolism was an international art movement which
spread to Australia through artists travelling to Europe but also European artists travelling to Australia.
Symbolism was not so much a style as a way of looking at the world, emphasising ideas over material realities. It was the time of the publication of Sigmund Freud’s Interpretation of dreams and a fascination with the subconscious. Artists responded by representing the internal world of dreams and altered psychological states. Themes centred around the representation of women as femme fatales or angels, sleep and trance states, myth and music.