“Art begins where life ends; beauty is sublimated reality:” Joséphin Péladan and the power of Symbolist art
During the artistic flowering of the Parisian Belle Époque, the Salons de la Rose et Croix (1892-1897) exploded into the 19 th century French art world. With foundations in Western occultism and idealist thought, the instigator and artists sought to unite the arts into a revival of initiatory drama. The Salons were the brainchild of one of the enfants terribles of the French Occult Revival; esoteric philosopher and author Joséphin Péladan (Sâr Merodack, 1858-1918), a key figure in the shaping of fin-de- siècle French Symbolism. His grand vision was a revolution against realism and the re-enchantment and spiritual regeneration of what he saw as a disintegrating and decadent society. Influenced by Platonic philosophy and Luciferian theology, he was attempting to materialise an imaginal world in which artist- initiates would form the inner circle, tasked with igniting a collective awakening in society that would replace religion with art. The artist-initiates would raise the souls of the masses to ecstasy through aesthetic bombardment with symbolic images to stimulate both intellect and the soul. The crescendo of this awakening would be restitution for the Fall of man and angels through human creativity. Péladan’s work crystallises the birth pangs of Modernism and the social upheaval that spawned it. He used every contemporary communication channel available to disseminate his message; inspired scores of artists to take up his cause; and produced a vast literary oeuvre to support and explain his philosophy. A misunderstood and forgotten visionary, he left a rich body of work immortalised in the work of the artists he inspired. After a brief introduction to Péladan and he’s life and times and a contextualisation of his core message, this talk focuses on his concept of the role of art and artists and their power to effect individual and social change according to his esoteric-aesthetic philosophy.
A British-Greek artist, author, and cultural historian, Dr Sasha Chaitow is the author of research studies Atalanta Unveiled: Alchemical Initiation in the Emblems of the Atalanta Fugiens (2020) and Son of Prometheus: The Life and Work of Joséphin Péladan (Theion, 2022), Series Editor of The Leon Chaitow Library of Bodywork and Movement Therapies (Elsevier), and has contributed book chapters to several scholarly volumes in esoteric studies, and numerous peer reviewed articles.
She is currently preparing a three-volume scholarly anthology of Péladan’s work for Theion Publishing, annotated translations for Black Letter Press, and editing two health education volumes for Elsevier. Sasha has taught at universities and in adult education for over 20 years. Her most recent taught courses (2020-2022) include Introduction to the Academic Study of Western Esotericism; Secrets of Greek Sacred Art; Hesiod’s Theogony; and Péladan’s System for Self-Initiation for Treadwell’s Events (London). She is also course co-designer and seminar leader for specialist skills in the health sciences at the University of Patras, Greece.
A practicing artist and gallerist, Sasha trained in an icon-painting workshop in Corfu, Greece, later attending the Vakalo School of Fine Arts in Athens, Greece. Since 2000 she has presented 14 solo art exhibitions in the UK, Greece, and Sweden, and participated in many curated group exhibitions in the UK, Greece, and Spain. Her neosymbolist artwork draws on her early training as well as her scholarship of esotericism. Since 2015 she has curated Icon Gallery and The Attic Gallery in Corfu.
Full CV: www.sashachaitow.co.uk/about-2
Curated & Hosted by
Amy Hale is an Atlanta based writer, curator and critic, ethnographer and folklorist speaking and writing about esoteric history, art, culture, women and Cornwall. She is the author of Ithell Colquhoun: Genius of the Fern Loved Gully (Strange Attractor 2020) and is currently working on several Colquhoun related manuscripts. She is also the editor of Essays on Women in Western Esotericism: Beyond Seeresses and Sea Priestesses (Palgrave 2022). She has contributed gallery texts and essays for a number of institutions including Tate, Camden Arts Centre, Art UK, Arusha Galleries, Heavenly Records and she is a curator and host for the Last Tuesday Society lecture series.
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