One of the later Symbolists, Gustave Adolphe Mossa (1883-1971) had a very distinctive artistic style. He was a great admirer of Moreau, and he treats the key themes of symbolism – the femme fatale, death, mythology and perversity, with a strong sense of irony mixed with admiration. Not much has been written about his life, but he was born in Nice, and produced a remarkable amount of paintings and illustrations in his artistic career, which lasted around fifteen years. He was wounded during the First World War, and from 1918 onwards, his work lost its Symbolist touches. Incidentally, WWI is often cited as the event which brought about the true end of the Symbolist and Decadent movements – a society torn apart by conflict and loss could no longer tolerate the culture of indulgence, art-for-art’s-sake, and immorality.
His paintings often have the quality of surreal nightmares, and are strongly allegorical.
A typical symbolist image – the memento mori, the union of life and death, sex and destruction.
Mossa’s version of the definitive femme fatale.
Salome and Dalilah – two of the Bible’s most notorious women, and often depicted in Symbolist art. I love how Mossa often depicts his historical and legendary figures in the fashionable dress of his time. I also love the symbols of innocence – such as the doll – in his Salome painting, indicative of her fatal, Lolita-like qualities. Salome was, after all, supposed to be in her early teens.