Event—Adult Education

Symbolist Art


How can visual art capture subjective, intuitive, and mystical states of being?

Caress of the Sphinx by Fernand Khnopff. Source: Fernand Khnopff, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Class Description

Symbolism, a late 19th-century literary and artistic movement, developed in response to what was perceived as the overly materialistic inclinations of Realism and Impressionism. Favoring an art of ideas and suggestion over that of description, visual artists ranging from Gustave Moreau and Edvard Munch to Fernand Khnopff and Gustav Klimt, among others, created art focused on subjective, intuitive, or mystical states.

In this six-week class, we will explore the philosophical, social, and artistic contexts that shaped what one critic termed “a painting of ideas.”

Margaret Farr is an independent art historian with a PhD in art history, specializing in art from 1800 to the present. In addition to teaching classes, she is an adjunct lecturer at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Materials List


  • Digital Course Packet

First Reading:

  • Please read Peter Cooke, “Gustave Moreau and Ingres,” The Burlington Magazine, Vol. 156, No. 1333 (April 2014): pp. 219-227 for the first session.

Cost and Registration

Six sessions, $235 ($210 for Newberry members, seniors, and students). Learn about becoming a member.

To register multiple people for this class, please go through the course calendar in Learning Stream, our registration platform. When you select the course and register, you’ll be prompted to add another registrant.


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