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Delirium: The Art of the Symbolist Book

The Symbolist movement of the nineteenth century grew out of Charles Baudelaire’s visionary poetry, which explored correspondences between the sensory and the spiritual. Baudelaire believed poetry should not describe the external world but suggest the writer’s interior reality, using a vocabulary of delirium, dreams, mysticism, and disordered states of mind. His revolt against the dominant naturalism of the day influenced a younger generation of writers who helped to shape the Symbolist movement in literature. Visual artists who collaborated on Symbolist publications were challenged to create illustrations for works that were deliberately devoid of concrete imagery.

This exhibition, drawing entirely on the Morgan’s collection, explores some of the encounters between Symbolist authors and artists and the creative approaches they took to illustrate the invisible. Works by Stephane Mallarmé, Odilon Redon, Maurice Denis, Paul Verlaine, Fantin-Latour, Arthur Rimbaud, Alfred Jarry, Maurice Maeterlinck, and Fernand Khnopff will be featured.