Symbolism 105 ~ Carlos Schwabe

Well, I just love this guy!  Carlos Schwabe did one of my favorite Symbolist paintings ever, La Vague (The Wave).  His powerful images of women both sacred and profane were very different than how most Symbolists at the time were portraying female subjects.  The Pre-Raphaelites often portrayed women deep in thought, in turmoil or just as objects of beauty.  I have no issue with those portrayals but there was a power that Schwabe gave his subjects that was just, well, unseen at the time.

Carlos Schwabe (July 21, 1866 – 1926) was a German Symbolist painter and printmaker.

Schwabe was born in Altona, Holstein, and moved to Geneva, Switzerland at an early age. After studying art in Geneva, he relocated to Paris as a young man, where he worked as a wallpaper designer, and he became acquainted with Symbolist artists. His paintings typically featured mythological and allegorical themes; as an essentially literary artist, he was much in demand as a book illustrator. He illustrated the novel Le rêve (1892) by Emile Zola, Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal (1900), Maurice Maeterlinck’s Pelléas et Mélisande (1892), and Albert Samain’s Jardin de l’infante (1908). Schwabe lived in France for the rest of his life and died in Avon, Seine-et-Marne in 1926.

Two distinct styles are recognized in his art. Before 1900, Schwabe’s paintings were more individual and experimental, indicating the idealism of the Symbolists; conventional, allegorical scenes from nature became more prominent in his later work. Images of women were important, sometimes representing death and suffering, other times creativity and guidance. His first wife was his model for angels and virgins, and “Death” in The Death of the Grave-Digger (1895) resembles her. The death of a close friend in 1894, when Schwabe was 28 years old, engendered his interest in representing death.

Schwabe created a colour lithograph for the 1892 Salon de la Rose+Croix, the first of six exhibitions organized by Joséphin Péladan that demonstrated the Rosicrucian tendencies of French Symbolism. Schwabe’s poster depicted in shades of blue an initiation rite—three women ascending toward spiritual salvation—and is an exemplar of Rosicrucian art.

La Vague (The Wave) ~ 1907

The Death of the Gravedigger ~ 1895


One thought on “Symbolism 105 ~ Carlos Schwabe

  1. Oh, his painting The Wave is just GORGEOUS, isn’t it?! Please, please tell me this is going on one of the tarot cards! Of course, The Death of the Gravedigger is also lovely.

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