Feel Art Again: Gustave Moreau

Gustave Moreau's
Gustave Moreau's /

Gustave Moreau was born on this date 182 years ago. Although the French artist is well-respected within the art world, he's not exactly a household name. To celebrate his birthday, let's aim to change that, and make him a household name at least with mental_floss readers.

1. During his lifetime, Gustave Moreau rarely exhibited his paintings or offered them for sale. When he did exhibit, though, he did well: He took prize medals at the Salon in 1864, 1865, 1869, and 1878.

2. Moreau's associates are more well-known than Moreau himself, including his friend Edgar Degas and his student Henri Matisse. Matisse once said of Moreau, "He didn't set his pupils on the right road, he took them off it. He made them uneasy... He didn't show us how to paint; he roused our imagination." Despite making his pupils uncomfortable, Moreau was popular as a teacher.

3. Moreau summarized his beliefs as, "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." As a result, his artwork, most of which focuses on mythological and Biblical stories, is much more imaginative than realistic or historically accurate.

4. While many artists donate their studios or collections to museums upon their deaths, Moreau actually established, designed, and built (at his own expense) his museum, so his works would be gathered and displayed exactly as he wanted. The museum was ready in 1896, just two years before he died. Today, the Gustave Moreau Museum includes of 4,800 drawings and 450 watercolors, as well as his restored "cabinet de réception" and "studiolo," which houses a collection of rare books.

A larger version of "The Triumph of Alexander the Great" is available here. A high-resolution version is also available.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.