The Corresponence of James McNeil Whistler
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Gustave Moreau, 1826-1898

Nationality: French
Date of Birth: 1826.04.06
Place of Birth: Paris
Date of Death: 1898.04.18
Place of Death: Paris


Gustave Moreau was a Symbolist painter of mythical and religious scenes, and a teacher.


Moreau studied under François-Edouard Picot at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. He made his début at the Salon in 1851 with Pietà (whereabouts unknown). This, and his early work as a whole, was influenced by the Romanticism of Delacroix and Théodore Chassériau. In 1857-59 he was in Italy, studying the old masters. During this period he was close to Edgar Degas and became interested in spirituality and art. He made his reputation in 1864 with Oedipus and the Sphinx (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), which won him a medal and was bought by Prince Napoléon-Jérôme Bonaparte.

In his paintings Moreau was primarily concerned with ideas concerning the opposition of good and evil, male and female and the physical and spiritual worlds, e.g. Salome Dancing before Herod (1876; Armand Hammer Museum of Art, Los Angeles), which evinced a new painterly style. Joris-Karl Huysmans praised his art in his 1884 novel A Rebours.

Despite his similar interests in mysticism, Moreau did not align himself with the younger Symbolist painters and refused to exhibit at the Salon de la Rose+Croix, an exhibition body to which JW was also invited to contribute. Moreau did exhibit at 2nd Esposizione Internazionale d'Arte della Città di Venezia,Venice, 1897, an exhibition at which JW was also invited to show (#05936). Moreau also exhibited with the International Society of Sculptors, Painters and Gravers, a society that formed in 1898 with JW as its President.

Moreau was made Officier of the Légion d'honneur in 1883 and was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts of the Institut de France in 1888. He was appointed a Professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1892, where his students included Albert Marquet and Matisse.


Kaplan, Julius, 'Gustave Moreau', The Grove Dictionary of Art Online, ed. L. Macy, (accessed 24 October 2003).