French painter Gustave Moreau was an unconventional artist, who preferred to follow his own Muse rather than blindly accepting the prevailing artistic conventions of the time. Moreau is best known for his profoundly symbolic and haunting paintings, paintings that are both intensely personal and deeply mysterious.
Many of these works express Moreau's interest in mythology and religion. Indeed, the artist's interest in these subjects goes beyond mere dabbling in pretty stories - it would not be too much to claim that Moreau was preoccupied with depicting the subtle symbolism of specific legends.
Certain themes reappear repeatedly in Moreau's paintings. One is the femme fatale, or fatal woman. Moreau portrayed this deadly female in a number of works, ranging from Salome's decadent enchantments, to the Sphinx's icy embrace. And judging from these choices, as well as from the titles listed above, Moreau also endeavored to create worlds populated by legendary characters in his paintings. It is to his credit that his works still resonate with life and vitality. The paintings of Moreau captured the essence of myth and legend, and they fascinate us even today.
To learn more about the work of Gustave Moreau, select a title and click on one of the links above. And if you want to know even more about the artist and his paintings, there are recommended books on the pages of this section.
For more information, see our "artist at a glance" area - it features a brief biography of Gustave Moreau.
Robert Goldwater's book introduces us to the some of the artists and concepts involved with the complicated but fascinating art movement known as Symbolism. In chapters with such provocative titles as "Suggestion, Mystery, Dream", the author leads us to an understanding of this important 19th century style.
I love my art so much that I shall only be happy when I can practice it for myself alone. - Gustave Moreau