Symbolism was an art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. . The aesthetic was developed by Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine during the 1860s and '70s. In the 1880s, the aesthetic was articulated by a series of manifestos and attracted a generation of writers.
The 1880s saw a shift away from the modern-life focus of Impressionism, as artists turned toward the interior self, to dreams, and myth. There was a sense that Impressionism had been too tied up with the materialism of middle-class culture. In some ways, van Gogh and Gauguin can also be seen as Symbolists. Many Symbolist belonged to groups of artists who broke away from the art establishment in their respective countries, to hold their own exhibitions.