There is no question that Anne-Louis Girodet is one of the great figures in the history of modern art, indeed, as crucial to its early development as Goya and Gericault. Like them, Girodet is one of the founding fathers of modern romanticism, but he was much more influential than they were. He was influential into the 20th century, which is when his reputation revived: a literary painter of romantic fantasies, most notoriously The Sleep of Endymion (1791) (also called Endymion, Moonlight Effect), Girodet was a predecessor of Symbolism and Surrealism, as Sylvain Bellenger notes in his brilliant catalogue essay in Girodet, 1767-1824 (Musée du Louvre / Gallimard). Symbolist and Surrealist imagery also tended to the poetic and perverse (often confused with one another). The Symbolists and Surrealists were also sexually suggestive if not overtly sexual. They were certainly beyond the pale of the good sexual manners established by the classicism in which Girodet was trained. One was allowed to view but not touch the classical nude — but Endymion seems to invite one to touch his fleshy body. It is far from classically fit, and has been thought to be homosexually suggestive. (Is that so unclassical?)
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