Gustave Moreau

Dates1826 - 1898
BornParis, France
DiedParis, France

In an era when paintings of mythological subjects often meant sentimentalized renderings or cold recitations of classical sculpture, Gustave Moreau was a pioneer with his intensely personal, fantastic, even perverse, interpretations. His works appeared in the 1860s but they anticipated the Symbolist work of the 1880s, which explored interior consciousness rather than exterior observation. "I believe neither in what I touch nor what I see. I only believe in what I do not see, and solely in what I feel," he wrote.A solitary, wealthy intellectual, Moreau spent his life in Paris, apart from a visit to Italy, where he was impressed by Vittore Carpaccio's work. His early paintings were influenced by Eugène Delacroix and by the Romantic exoticism of Théodore Chassériau. In his paintings, often of mythological or biblical subjects, a powerful, seductive, evil woman often appears. Moreau painted in rich, jewel-like colors, and his detailed oil paintings have a glistening, impastoed surface. His watercolors, which he boldly exhibited at the Salon, were swiftly painted, some almost abstract. From 1892 to 1898, Moreau taught at the École des Beaux-Arts, where he may have had his greatest influence. His students included Georges Rouault and Henri Matisse. His house in Paris's Montmartre district is now a national museum.