Mark Lancelot Symons: A Symbolist Painter Reborn

British artist Mark Lancelot Symons (1887–1935) was something of an anamoly.  His work is highly accomplished but resoundingly original, though certainly not without precedent (one can see the influence of earlier Symbolist painters such as Leon Frederic).  Yet Symons never felt that art was his true calling, only beginning to paint heavily and present his work publicly late in life, and then mostly at the behest of his wife.

A lifelong Catholic, Symons considered being a minister (unordained–he was able to marry and have children) his raison d’êtreAs a result of his deep religious faith, his paintings are often thematically Christian, either overtly or more subtly; however, he invited massive controversy among his fellow believers in his native country by placing some of the Biblical scene paintings in “worldly” contemporary settings.  Of course, despite the apparently easily offended Edwardian Brit sensibility, no one seems to have raised any objections to Symons using nude children in his work (not unlike Frederic, in fact).  Ah, how different things are today.  Can you imagine a Catholic priest offering paintings of nude children to the public in 2014?

Mark Lancelot Symons – A Fairy Tale

Mark Lancelot Symons – Ave Maria

Jorinda and Jorindal (or Jorinde and Joringel) is an odd choice for a tableau painting.  Paintings based on Grimm’s fairy tales certainly aren’t unheard of, but this is pretty obscure as far as they go, and not really one of their better ones.  The story concerns a pair of youths who are in love.  When the girl is captured by a witch–transformed into a nightingale and imprisoned in a birdcage–the young man dreams of the means to break the witch’s spell and free his beloved.  Pretty much your standard damsel-in-distress tale, in other words.  The decision by Symons to present the characters as modern children is an interesting one.  Place this piece in context of the work of the Pre-Raphaelites, of whom Symons was a follower.

Mark Lancelot Symons – Jorinda and Jorindal

Again, notice the Pre-Raphaelite influence here, particularly Millais and Burne-Jones.

Mark Lancelot Symons – Madonna and Child with Angels (1925)

Mark Lancelot Symons - Molly in the Garden

Mark Lancelot Symons – Molly in the Garden

Mark Lancelot Symons - Molly in the Pantry

Mark Lancelot Symons – Molly in the Pantry

Mark Lancelot Symons - My Lord I Meet in Every London Lane and Street

Mark Lancelot Symons – My Lord I Meet in Every London Lane and Street

Mark Lancelot Symons - The Day After Christmas

Mark Lancelot Symons – The Day After Christmas

Mark Lancelot Symons - (Title Unknown)

Mark Lancelot Symons – (Title Unknown)


9 thoughts on “Mark Lancelot Symons: A Symbolist Painter Reborn

  1. The same problem can exist with all kinds of Wikipedia articles.
    For instance, anybody else here who appreciates the beauty of girls and boys equally is probably familiar with the performance of Niilo Kivirinta in the movie “At Play in the Fields of the Lord”.
    Yet the Wikipedia article about him is only in Italian.

  2. I am his great granddaughter and love to read about him. Unfortunately few paintings exist among the family but this will be something i now aim to own, at least one of his works. My own children are fascinated and we love the one of Jesus in a London Street.

    • Ah, thank you for the comment! It is always nice to hear from the living family of artists who are no longer with us. He was incredibly talented, and I adore his work. Thanks again.

    • Dawn Bradshaw

      Hi Dawn
      I must be a cousin of yours, as cousin to ML and WC Symons. I travelled to Cornwall for the first time in 2017: met some relatives, had a wonderful time. They were so warm and knew of the Australian cousins, not having met one. Went to Westminster Catherdral, Trerice etc. would love an email …

      Keith Smiley
      Grandson of Violet Symons
      Vic, Australia

  3. Thank you for your information about Symons I have seen his beautiful work at the Harris Library and Art Gallery in Preston , Lancashire! I look forward to seeing further examples!

  4. Your commentary is excellent.
    You should consider creating a Wikipedia page for Symons (does not yet exist in English, unless I’m mistaken).
    Thank you!

    (BTW, it’s “anomaly” ;)))

    • Thanks for the comment, and you’re welcome. I don’t do the Wikipedia thing, but certainly someone should create a page for him.

    • Yes, IT IS frustrating when the Wikipedia article about some talented artist does not exist in English.
      About a year and a half ago, we were discussing here the same situation regarding Catherine Serebriakoff, the daughter of Zinaida Serebriakova.

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