The first major exhibition to explore the influence of the Symbolist movement on Australian art at the turn of the 19th century.
Rather than representing the real world, Symbolist artists sought to suggest altered realities as conjured by the mind. To evoke ideas, dreams and sensations, they envisaged poetic landscapes, femmes fatales, and figures drawn from spiritual and mythological terrains.
The movement had an enormous impact across Europe in the late 1800s. While Australian painting from the period is best known for landscapes, figures of fantasy and mythology were an increasing presence.
Australian Symbolism: the art of dreams brings together some 70 paintings, sculptures, photographs and decorative arts objects by expatriate Australians working in Europe and by artists here who used Symbolist themes to define Australian conditions.
The exhibition features works by some of the era’s most admired artists, including Charles Conder, Arthur Streeton, Tom Roberts, Rupert Bunny, Bertram Mackennal and George Lambert – some rarely seen.
It also investigates the crossover between Symbolist subjects and art nouveau style in Australia, including two seminal works by Sydney Long, the country’s best-known exponent of art nouveau painting.