/sim"beuh liz'euhm/, n.
1. the practice of representing things by symbols, or of investing things with a symbolic meaning or character.
2. a set or system of symbols.
3. symbolic meaning or character.
4. the principles and practice of symbolists in art or literature.
5. (cap.) a movement of the late 19th century in French art and literature. Cf. symbolist (defs. 3b, 4b).
6. the use of any of certain special figures or marks of identification to signify a religious message or divine being, as the cross for Christ and the Christian faith.
[1645-55; SYMBOL + -ISM]

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In art, a loosely organized movement that flourished in the 1880s and '90s and was closely related to the Symbolist movement in literature.

In reaction against both Realism and Impressionism, Symbolist painters stressed art's subjective, symbolic, and decorative functions and turned to the mystical and occult in an attempt to evoke subjective states of mind by visual means. Though aspects of Symbolism appear in the work of Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and the Nabis, its leading exponents were Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes. Though associated primarily with France, it flourished all over Europe, had great international impact, and influenced 20th-century art and literature.

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Universalium. 2010.

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