Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) is probably the most famous of the Symbolist painters, despite having the nerve to let himself grow old. And for good reason. His paintings are full of androgynously beautiful men, dangerous women, images of decay and ruin.
Salome is a classic femme fatale and Decadent icon, and she was frequently depicted by Symbolist artists. Moreau’s impression of her fatal dance is probably the best known.
One of Moreau’s beautiful boys. Saint Sebastian was another frequent feature in art of the period, possibly because he represented youth and beauty sacrificed to a unfeeling and ignorant society. Despite the fact that the real Sebastian would have been a mature man by the time he was shot with arrows.
Depicts the deaths of the young men who had been courting Odysseus’ wife, Penelope, upon the hero’s return from his travels. Interestingly, sympathy seems to be vested with the beautiful, vulnerable and broken bodies of the young man, rather than the married couple.
Galatea was the nymph loved by the cyclops Polyphemos, in Classical myth. The ethereal beauty of the nude is unsettled by the menacing presence of the giant in the background.