Johnson, Diane Chalmers
About the author: Diane Chalmers Johnson earned her B.A. at Radcliffe College, Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. in Art History from the University of Kansas, under the direction of Klaus Berger. She founded the Department of Art History at the College of Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, where she is presently Professor of Modern European/ American Art. Dr. Johnson is the author of American Art Noveau.2004 0-7734-6410-7
This work describes the concepts of Symbolist art used for this study and presents a sequence of the works and writings of five artists – Washington Allston at the beginning of the century, John La Farge and William Rimmer at mid-century, and George Inness and Albert Pinkham Ryder at the end. These five were selected after a lengthy survey of 19th and early 20th century American art. Although a broader selection might have been made, these particular artists successfully developed, at one point or another in their careers and with more or less clearly defined objectives, highly articulate visual art in the Symbolist mode, as well as writings about their Symbolist intentions (without using the term itself). In many instances, their words, as well as their art, recall those of artists like Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh, although predating the Europeans by several decades. The Symbolist works of these five Americans are analyzed along side their writings about art, as well as writings by the few major critics who understood their aesthetic intentions at the time, such as James Jackson Jarves, Charles de Kay, and Roger Fry. Not a survey, but rather a highly selective and suggestive study, this book was written with the intent of refining the historical concept of Symbolist Art in general, by extending the view further into American art.