Gustave Moreau

No one could have less faith in the absolute and definitive importance of the work created by man, because I believe that this world is nothing but a dream...

Gustave Moreau (6 April 182618 April 1898) was a French Symbolist painter, famous for his illustration of biblical and mythological figures.


I have never looked for dream in reality or reality in dream. I have allowed my imagination free play, and I have not been led astray by it.
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.

Gustave Moreau (1972)Edit

Quotes from Gustave Moreau (1972) by Jean Paladilhe and Josbe Pierre as translated from the French by Bettina Wadia.
  • I am dominated by one thing, an irresistible, burning attraction towards the abstract. The expression of human feelings and the passions of man certainly interest me deeply, but I am less concerned with expressing the motions of the soul and mind than to render visible, so to speak, the inner flashes of intuition which have something divine in their apparent insignificance and reveal magic, even divine horizons, when they are transposed into the marvellous effects of pure plastic art.
    • p. 32
  • This bored fantastic woman, with her animal nature, giving herself the pleasure of seeing her enemy struck down, not a particularly keen one for her because she is so weary of having all her desires satisfied. This woman, walking nonchalantly in a vegetal, bestial manner, through the gardens that have just been stained by a horrible murder, which has frightened the executioner himself and made him flee distracted.... When I want to render these fine nuances, I do not find them in the subject, but in the nature of women in real life who seek unhealthy emotions and are too stupid even to understand the horror in the most appalling situations.

Quotes about MoreauEdit

Alphabetized by author
I am less concerned with expressing the motions of the soul and mind than to render visible, so to speak, the inner flashes of intuition which have something divine in their apparent insignificance...
  • One would have to coin a word for the occasion if one wished to characterise the talent of Gustave Moreau, the word colourism for example, which would well convey all that is excessive, superb and prodigious in his love for colour. … It is as if one were in the presence of an illuminator who had been a jeweller before becoming a painter and who, having yielded to the intoxication of colour, had ground rubies, sapphires, emeralds, topazes, opals, pearls and mother of pearl to make up his palette.
  • My discovery, at the age of sixteen, of the Gustave Moreau museum influenced forever my idea of love... Beauty and love were first revealed to me there through the medium of a few faces, the poses of a few women.
  • He believed that, in order to produce art that signifies at the exalted level he envisaged, the painter must develop the "eyes of the soul and spirit as well as the body." Moreau associated this inner vision with the predominant role of the imagination; following current ideas, he apparently connected this faculty with "psychological penetration" and the unconscious.... Moreau wrote that his "greatest effort" was devoted to directing his imaginative energies, to channeling "this outpouring of oneself."
    • Douglas W. Druick, in "Moreau's Symbolist Ideal" an essay used in the Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit Gustave Moreau: Between Epic and Dream (1999)
  • Moreau's figures are ambiguous; it is hardly possible to distinguish at the first glance which of two lovers is the man, which the woman; all his characters are linked by subtle bonds of relationship... lovers look as though they were related, brothers as though they were lovers, men have the faces of virgins, virgins the faces of youths; the symbols of Good and Evil are entwined and equivocally confused.

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Last modified on 16 April 2014, at 22:50