The Dream

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Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, The Dream, 1883
By SAI GONDI

Symbolism, both a literary and artistic movement, lasted from roughly 1880 to 1910. Through these 30 years, art rapidly modernized from its preceding Impressionist and Realist periods. Before Symbolism, artists, such as Courbet, focused on capturing a specific occurrence, event, or scene and moving it onto a canvas. Symbolism contrasted this style and gravitated towards a deeper intent for painting, leaning towards themes of fantasy, darkness, good versus evil, dreams, emotions, and more. The movement explored the inner being and abstract human emotions rather than recreating reality. The artistic side paralleled the literary styles amassing during the movement. Famous artists such as Edvard Munch produced some of the most iconic works in the infant stages of modern art during this time, including the The Scream. This period would be known for its incorporation of abstract art as painters used unconventional methods of producing their deep, emotional works. 

Criticism of the upper class and rapid progression of society also served as two primary reoccurring themes amongst the works. The Dream by Pierre Puvis de Chavannes demonstrates these ideas while encapsulating the Symbolism movement. Painted in 1883, The Dream is one of Chavannes most notable works. The image depicts a wanderer of some sort taking refuge in the cold, bitter wilderness. The mystifying blues in the background help create a dreamlike expirience. The unknown wanderer sees three angels in his dream, each representing a different aspect of society.

1) Love appears to him with the first angel offering the flowers. The wanderer might be amid some emotional issues regarding love, or the painting in general suggests love is something essential to humans and a aspect of emotion key to our existence which some may lack.

2) The second angel wields a sort of crown, representing glory. Society invests in the idea of glory through means of war or progression, which could come to the wanderer as a desire. The stranded fellow might want to achieve glory one day, something that empowers much of society as a whole.

3) Chavannes shows wealth through the third angel dropping what seems to be seeds around the figure. Wealth, something everyone desires, fuels society to move forward as people pioneer new technology and advancements in the pursuit of success.

These three aspects all enclose fundamental ideas about the common state of desire. "Love,glory and wealth" all pose as things this wanderer dreams of having, brought to him by these angels. These things stretch beyond the lonesome man and can truly be applied to most people who struggle in pursuit of these three things. The Dream incorporates the societal critiques found in Symbolism, as well as the emotional and fantastical themes. 

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