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Symbolism

Les Vingt And Belgian Symbolism

In Belgium, the avant-garde group Les Vingt (The twenty) held exhibitions, musical events, and readings from 1884 to 1893. Its founders, Edmond Picard and Octave Maus, aimed to promote avant-garde culture using the Wagnerian theory of the unification of the arts. The exhibition galleries of Les Vingt displayed works by avant-garde artists from Belgium and elsewhere. Performances of the work of contemporary composers (including Debussy) were held in the galleries. The elite of the literary world were invited to speak on literature, and readings of avant-garde poetry were regularly held. Belgium had long been fertile ground for the development of literature and the arts and the influence of France had always been strong. As a French-speaking nation close to France's border, Belgium had hosted many exiled French artists and writers, including Baudelaire, and often works by French writers that could not be published in France were published in Belgium. Journals such as La jeune Belgique, L'élan littéraire, and La Wallonie contributed to the development of Belgian symbolism and also had a great influence in France. Many on the staff of La Wallonie, for example, were important players in the French symbolist movement. The Belgian symbolist writers Verhaeren, Maeterlinck, and Rodenbach participated in the literary events of Les Vingt. They were influential in the literary worlds of both Belgium and France. The journal L'art moderne championed Les Vingt and published many articles explaining its aesthetic platform, which was broadly antiacademic (and thus embraced Impressionism and Neoimpressionism alongside symbolism). Like the organization itself, the journal was devoted to a range of media—painting, sculpture, engraving, and furniture and costume design were discussed alongside literature and music. Significantly, L'art moderne also promoted a socialist political agenda and rejected the bourgeois public, the press, and the official exhibiting space of the Salon as its enemies.

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