A century old effort to escape from Western materialism, the “Salon de la Rose + Croix” was formed in 1892 with an intent to inspire and rekindle old flames from a more simple age. Founded by Joséphin Péladan, a French writer, the art exhibition had showcased works from various like-minded creators. It is claimed that the formation of this collective and its subsequent exhibitions inspired the formation of the avant-garde Symbolist art movement.
Originally, the art shows depicted mythological creatures and stories from folklore. Untying the knots of the modern era, and aerating the roots of Western culture was perhaps thought to dig past the shallow soil and find the core of what it means to be from this part of the world. It was short lived however, and the popularity of the Rose + Croix movement all but disappeared. The pilot light has been quietly burning, waiting for popular culture to press the fire button.
It seems that the button has been pressed, as the New York Guggenheim Museum has decided to relight this fire and put it to good use once more. Vivian Greene, curator of 19th and 20th century art at the museum, has chosen a selection of forty images which best demonstrate the passion and intent of the original Salons.
The exhibition “Mystical Symbolism | Salon de la Rose +Croix in Paris, 1892-1897” contains three portraits of the originator, each depicting Péladan as a king or regal figure. Perhaps a wave of hypocrisy could be sensed in the ambition of the writer, as the intent was to do away with the trimmings of materialism. Unless, perhaps the depiction of a man in grand splendour, but a simple robe and wreath of leaves showed us how we can feel good about ourselves without any extras.
There was originally a no portraiture rule, set by Péladan himself in an effort to cancel out the populism of personality which began to shine from the collection of artists. By attributing credit to the works and not their creators, it was hoped to dull this egoistic glow. So it does ask the question why he allowed himself to be portrayed, among otherwise mythical and fantastic scenes. The exhibition runs until October 4th.
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