Flowers of Evil: Symbolist Drawings, 1870–1910


Sat - Sun, May 21 to Aug 14, 10:00am - 5:00pm


Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St

Presented by: Harvard Art Museums
Admission: Tickets required (see below)
Runs: through August 14
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This exhibition will explore the mysterious visual world of symbolism, a challenging and open-ended cultural phenomenon of the late 19th century. It formed an important bridge between impressionism and modernism, yet was more than these two movements. Symbolism sought to evoke ideas subjectively—through color, form, and composition—rather than objectively representing worldly appearances. The title of the show is inspired by Les Fleurs du Mal, an influential collection of poems by symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire, and thereby alludes to the literary ramifications of the movement.

Symbolist drawings were not united by a single style, but by the artists’ shared desire to make the invisible visible—whether they chose subject, form, or a combination of the two as their major aesthetic focus. Often enigmatic, these graphic works served as signs of a deeper or higher degree of consciousness, beyond the literal objects that they depicted. Symbolism thus enabled artists to confront an increasingly uncertain and complex world.

Featuring 40 drawings, mainly from the permanent collections of the Harvard Art Museums, the exhibition will cover some of the major themes of symbolism, such as dreams and visions, spirituality, and nature. It will offer an expansive view, including influential precursors as well as artists active at the end of the movement, while also acknowledging the international nature of the movement, which was centered in France but extended to countries like England, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Austria.

Curated by Edouard Kopp, the Maida and George Abrams Associate Curator of Drawings at the Harvard Art Museums.

The exhibition is made possible in part by funding from the Melvin R. Seiden and Janine Luke Fund for Publications and Exhibitions and the José Soriano Fund.


$15         Adults
$13         Seniors (65+)
$10         Non-Harvard students (18+)
Free         Harvard faculty, students, and staff (plus one guest)
Free         Youth under 18
Free         Cambridge residents (proof of residency required)
Free         Massachusetts residents, Saturdays from 10am–noon (proof of residency required)