- About Ateneum
Rapid developments in the sciences at this period had a powerful impact on artists, too. In 1859 Charles Darwin had shaken the scientific world with his Origin of Species, while Louis Pasteur’s experiments with bacteria opened up amazing insights into the world of micro-organisms.
This new knowledge about man’s origins and evolution, and that of the universe itself, showed that man was just a tiny part of an enormous cosmos. Artists depicted the world as a process of constant movement and life-flow, a process of endless change and renewal. One crucial element in all this was the sun, which represented cosmic energy, a higher power or the unity of all living things.
Psychology was another challenging science in the 1890s, expanding human knowledge about man’s mind and subconscious. In particular, Sigmund Freud’s theories about the meaning of dreams, sexuality and death inspired many artists.
The Symbolists depicted inner visions and dreams, as both nightmare-like horrors and poetic manifestations of the spirit world.