Denis Forkas

The Paintings of Denis Forkas

Born in 1977 in Kamyshin, a town on the Volga river, Denis Forkas Kostromitin is a Russian painter whose work explores religious and mythological symbolism in the tradition of ancient Mediterranean art. The son of a military officer, his childhood years were spent in various remote regions of the Soviet states. Forkas’s early nomadic existence with its isolation and lack of comforts led to self-education in artistic training and numerous sensory deprivation experiences, which later had a major impact on his artwork.

With little stimulus from the austere Soviet environment, Forkas eagerly consumed literature on the esoteric worlds of Egyptian and Greek mysticism and mythology. After the iron curtain’s collapse in 1991, new translations of literary works, including the esoteric writings of English occultist Aleister Crowley and French author Eliphas Levi, entered the Soviet states. Forkas studied these new volumes and the literature written by Western philosophers, which became available in the mid-1990s.

After the economic boom in the new century, Denis Forkas frequently visited China as a journalist, interpreter, and commercial representative. After meeting several painting masters in China, he was able to receive formal training for three years in traditional Eastern painting techniques, including those of the Xieyl and Gongbi art forms. 

Xieyl is a genre of Chinese traditional painting worked on xuan paper that uses either ink or layers of watercolor. This genre includes works of calligraphy, poem, painting and seal, of which freehand painting is the most influential and popular. Gongbi is a careful, realistic technique of Chinese painting, often highly-colored, that is worked  on xuan paper. This method uses highly-detailed brushstrokes that delineate details very precisely without interpretation or free expression on the part of the artist.

After leaving China, Forkas settled in Moscow to concentrate on his career path as a professional artist. His early work was inspired by German Expressionism and the late nineteenth-century Symbolist movement, which emphasized the reality of the created paint surface itself. These paintings by Forkas were influenced by the early abstract, experimental works of Wassily Kandinsky that, in an immediate way, were an expression of Kandinsky’s inner feelings.

Denis Forkas’s new work, still in the artistic traditions of ancient Near East civilizations, draw their inspiration from early Renaissance and  seventeenth-century Dutch paintings. Drifting away from the earlier predominant symbolist style, Forkas’s paintings became influenced by the works of Belgian painter Fernand Khnopff, who carried symbolism’s recurring themes into his portraits, and Russian painter Mikhail Vrubel, whose paintings in the latter portion of his life displayed a glowing, otherworldly mosaic effect that fit within the Byzantine tradition.

Since 2007, Forkas has privately taught the techniques of painting and drawing to students and has participated in various local and international exhibitions, including the October 2014 Image Show in London. Forkas has produced many drawings and paintings that have been featured as album covers for international music releases. Currently living and working in Moscow, he has contributed both work and an interview for the esoteric publisher Fulgur Press.

Contact information and a small gallery of work by Forkas can be found at his website located at:

For those interested, a list of album cover art by Denis Forkas can be found at the Encyclopaedia Mettalum site located at:

Second Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “The Hanged Man / Gift of Prometheus”, 2017, Acrylics and Gilding on Paper, 41.5 x 29.5 cm

Third Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Saglokratlok II”, 2017, Ink and Gouache on Paper, 24.1 x 18.5 cm

Bottom Insert Image: Denis Forkas, “Between Two Worlds (Study for a Recurring Dream of Ichor Baptism Fashioned as a Portico Fresco Cartoon)”, 2016, Acrylics on Paper on Hardboard, 23.7 x 22.5 cm

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach

Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, “Toteninsel (Isle of the Dead)”, ca 1905, Oil on Canvas, 100 x 150 cm, Private Collection

The son of a painter and teacher, Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach was born in the city of Hadamar, Germany,  in February of 1851. He received his initial training in the arts from his father Leonard Diefenbach, but also worked as a design draftsman for several photo studios and a railroad construction company. In 1872, Diefenbach traveled to Munich where he gained employment with Hanfstaengel, a photography publishing house, and entered the Munich Academy of Fine Arts, under historical painter Wilhelm Lindenschmit the Younger. In his studies, he became inspired by the Symbolist movement, particularly by the works of Swiss painter Arnold Böcklin.

Stricken with typhus in 1873, Diefenbach began to develop an increasing interest in alternative lifestyles. After having a visionary experience, he founded the alternative community Humanitas in an abandoned stone quarry near Höllriegelskreuth, located nineteen kilometers south of Munich. This community was centered on a return to nature, the rejection of religion, a basic vegetarian diet, and the end of monogamy. In 1887, Symbolist painter and illustrator Hugo Höppener, known as Fidus, joined the community and, with Karl Diefenbach, worked on the sixty-eight meter, monumental silhouette frieze entitled “Per Aspera ad Astra”. 

An oddity in the era due to his lifestyle, Karl Diefenbach, after repeated conflict with his social surroundings including local authorities, accepted the invitation of Salzburg’s Art Association and relocated with his family to Vienna.  While in Vienna, he met and taught the Czech abstractionist painter and graphic artist Frantiek Kupka. Diefenbach’s  unorthodox lifestyle forced a second relocation; this time he traveled to Egypt where his work focused on the ancient ruins and temples of the land. Returning to Vienna in 1897, he founded a country commune, Himmelhof, near Vienna, which disbanded after two years.

Despite the many exhibitions of his work, Karl Diefenbach was not successful commercially, which forced him to declare bankruptcy. He traveled to Italy in 1900 and settled on the island of Capri where he exhibited his works to visitors for a small fee, explained his philosophy of life, and sold small versions of his major works. The years Diefenbach spent on Capri were the most productive of his life. He produced many large scale depictions of the island’s landscapes, most  were scenes of grottos and cliffs, but all were  infused with reflections on his inner searching.

The Symbolist painter Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach died on the island of Capri in December of 1913. After years of obscurity, his work was honored in a successful 2009 exhibition held at Villa Stuck in Munich, and two years later at the Hermes Villa in Vienna. A museum of his work was founded in 1974 in Certosa di San Giacomo on Capri, and many of his works can be seen in the Jack Daulton Collection in Los Altos Hills, California.

Note: Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach’s 1905 “Isle of the Dead” was inspired by the famous painting of the same name by the Swiss symbolist artist Arnold Böcklin, whose work Diefenbach held in much esteem.

Arnold Böcklin painted five versions of his “Isle of the Dead” between 1880 and 1901. He provided no explanation for the painting’s image; the title was not specified by Böcklin, but was given by the art dealer Fritz Gurlitt in 1883. The inspiration for it was evoked, in part, by the landscape of the English Cemetery in Florence, Italy, where Böcklin resided for many years.

Top Insert Image:  Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, Der Rettung Entgegen, 1900, Oil on Canvas, 65.5 x 90.5 cm, Private Collection

Bottom Insert mage:  Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach, The Great Sphinx of Giza, 1903, Oil on Canvas, 240 x 335 cm, Private Collection

Salomon-Léon Sarluis

The Artwork of Salomon-Léon Sarluis

Born in the Hague in October of 1874, French painter Salomon-Léon Sarluis, known as Léonard Sarluis, studied at the École des Beaux-Arts before moving to Paris in 1884 where he became a well known figure on its boulevards. He was a student of the French Symbolist painter Armand Point and of the French novelist Élémir Bourges, who was strongly linked with the Decadent and Symbolist movements in literature. Sarluis was also associated with the openly gay poet Jean Lorrain, who is remembered for his contributions to the satirical weekly Le Courrier Français and his Decadent novels and short stories.

Léonard Sarluis traveled widely throughout Italy, visiting Naples, and Russia. Upon his return to Paris, he exhibited at the Salon de la Rose Croix and the Salon des Artistes Français, and at a number of other Parisian galleries. With designer Armand Point, Sarluis created the poster for the fifth exhibition at the Salon des Artistes Français, depicting Perseus holding the severed head of  novelist Émile Zola, who was rejected by the Symbolists for his Naturalist social commentary. 

Working under the influence of Point, Léonard Sarluis combined a technique inspired by the Old Masters with a style that was sensual and very modern. He liked to work on a grand scale, and his monumental “Nero”, exhibited at the Galerie Georges Petit in Paris, was greatly admired by muralist painter Puvis de Chavannes. In 1919 Sarluis had a solo exhibition at the Galerie Bernheim, one of the oldest galleries in Pairs and a leader in avant-garde art. 

In 1923, Sarluis produced illustrations based on novelist Gaston Pavloski’s 1912 mystical “Voyage to the Land of the Fourth Dimension”. For a number of years, Sarluis worked on a series of three hundred-sixty paintings entitled “A Mystical Interpretation of the Bible”, which were shown at the Grafton Galleries in London in 1926. 

Léonard Sarluis’s inspiration was emblematic of a turn of the century that combined nostalgia for an imagined past, decadent themes and sometimes cloudy mysticism. A provocative character and dandy, and a friend of Oscar Wilde, Salomon-Léon Sarluis died in 1949 in Paris.

Ludwig von Hofmann

Ludwig von Hofmann, “Die Quelle (The Source)”, 1913, Oil on Canvas, Thomas Mann Archives, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich

A member of the avant-garde group “Eleven”, Ludwig von Hofmann was an active participant in the cultural movement “Berlin Succession”. He taught at the art school in Weimar, located in central Germany, and at the Dresden Academy of Arts, where he directed a course in monumental painting. Von Hoffman was a frequent illustrator for the arts and literary magazine “Pan”, which played an important role in the development of the Art Nouveau movement in Germany. 

Working in a combination of Symbolist and Art Nouveau styles, Ludwig von Hofmann’s paintings included antique and biblical themes, and idyllic landscapes inhabited by surreal or mythological creatures. His work aspired to portray beauty in form, using unique and strong color combinations, and often presented a veiled eroticism in its figures.  Von Hofmann’s symbolist work is both decorative and idealized, with verdant forests, blossoming fields, and naked or clothed figures whose skin or flowing garments are lit by the sun. 

In 1903, von Hofmann was appointed a professor at the Weimar Saxon Grand Ducal Art School. He was later named a Professor at the Academy of Arts in Dresden in 1916, remaining there until 1931. In his later years, von Hofmann predominately worked in the Art Nouveau style, producing engravings and illustrations, and designing libraries, residential rooms and theaters. 

The production of Ludwig von Hofmann’s work slowed in the 1930s, with some of his work labeled “degenerate art’ by the National Socialist Party in 1937. He retired to the town of Pillnitz, a section of east Dresden, where he died in August of 1945. 

Jan de Clerck

Jan de Clerck, “De vermoeide Winden (The Tired Winds)”, 1937, Oil on Canvas, Private Collection

Born in Ostend, Belgium, Jan de Clerck studied briefly with the painter Camille Payen in Brussels, but was, for the most part, self-taught. He was much influenced by the exhibitions organized by the group La Libre Esthétique, and his first paintings date from the late 1890s. Quickly gaining in confidence and ability, De Clerck first exhibited his paintings in 1905.

Jan de Clerck developed an original technique of a sort of elongated pointillism of striped brushstrokes, producing landscapes and seascapes tinged with a Symbolist aesthetic. He often worked in mixed media, dragging the paint with short vertical strokes in order to build up the surface of the picture. This individual technique De Clerck made virtually his own: much of his best work up to 1920 is painted in this way.

A period of exile from Belgium during World War I, found De Clerke painting landscapes and camouflage, taking part in local exhibitions, and befriending such artists as Frank Brangwyn. After the war, Jan de Clerck returned to Ostend where his reputation continued to grow. He experimented with new techniques, often mixing pastel and watercolour, which he called ‘aquapastel’, to create the luminous effects he sought.

Further exhibitions of De Clerck’s work in Ostend, Liège and Ghent, as well as the publication of a book of reproductions of his work in 1928, served to advance his reputation. After 1933, however, there were no major exhibitions of De Clerck’s work for almost twenty years. His output began to decline, and he began to focus mainly on seascapes, always his favourite subject.

F. Scott Hess


F. Scott Hess, Unknown Title, Oil on Canvas, (Catch of the Day)

F. Scott Hess, “Light,” 2005, Oil on Canvas

Born in Baltimore, longtime Los Angeles artist F. Scott Hess attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna, Austria, and Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, earning a BSA from the University of Wisconsin in 1977. In 1979, Hess moved to Vienna, Austria, where he studied for five years with the Austrian painter Rudolf Hausner, who has been credited as the first psychoanalytical painter. Through his artistic teaching experience in Vienna, Hess gained greater exposure to techniques of old master style painting, which profoundly influenced his work.

F. Scott Hess  has been described as a “New Old Master”. His narrative portraiture blends realistic scenes of everyday life with symbolic and allegorical events, humor, eroticism, and voyeurism. He begins with drawings and careful diagramming on his canvases before adding traditional oil paint or egg tempera. Hess’s works are defined by his strong brushwork, careful attention to the luminosity of flesh, and ability to capture ethereal light.

Robert Buratti

Robert Buratti, “The Hierophant”, Date Unknown, Ink and Pen on Paper, 15.7 x 11.8 Inches

This work is part of the Arcana Series by Robert Buratti and was inspired by “The Hierophant” card of the Thoth tarot deck. Buratti’s work is chiefly concerned with the role of the spiritual within contemporary art, and the talismanic and transformational power of the image. Influenced by the approach and experimentation of artists such as James Gleeson, Andre Breton, Aleister Crowley, Paul Gauguin and Pablo Picasso, Buratti’s work seeks a balance between the seen and unseen, the technical and the intuitive.

James Mortimer

James Mortimer: Paintings, Oil on Linen

James Mortimer, a painter and a sculptor, was born in Swindon, Wiltshire in 1989. He was educated at a Catholic School and studied sculpture at the Bath School of Art, receiving the Kenneth Armitage Prize for Sculpture. Mortimer now devotes himself to painting imagined scenes of immoral excess, mythical creatures and larger than life characters. He is represented by the Catto Gallery on Heath Street in London.

James Mortimer’s fey boys inhabit a world of uncomplicated decadence, a surreal Renaissance landscape where man and beast exist together on increasingly equal terms. Inhibitions go out the window; each is a slave to their own nature. The ensuing relationships provide fertile ground for myriad little dramas as the companions look to get along. Animals become mischievous, even vicious at times. Their masters try to rise above it, retaining an almost Imperial sense of composure, but in the process find themselves somehow detached, lost even, gazing wistfully into the opium haze of their peculiar adopted land.

Whilst seemingly simple, there is wealth of drama playing out behind the scenes. Visual puns and innuendoes pepper his paintings like Freudian slips of the brush. Every fruit and every plant is pregnant with suggestion. Exoticism and the thrill of travel also permeate every scene, like Victorian Boy’s Own adventures that have turned slightly spicy and risqué. And underneath it all, there is a simmering sexuality. These characters are vain, vice-loving and beautiful.

Note: an Extensive collection of James Mortimer’s work can be found at:

Pelle Swedlund

Pelle Swedlund, “Gripsholm”, 1913, Oil on Canvas, 96 x 83,5 cm, Private Collection

Pelle Swedlund was a Swedish painter and curator at Thiel Gallery in Stockholm. He was a pupil at the Swedish Academy (1889-92) and completed his education in Paris and Brittany, where he met Paul Gauguin and together they experimented in making woodcuts. His contact with the Nabis circle of painters lead him in 1898 to visit Bruges, a place which was to fascinate and inspire him throughout his career.

At the turn of the century, Bruges, which was known as Bruges-La-Morte following Georges Rodenbach’s novel of that title, was a cult gathering place for Symbolist and mystical painters and writers and was particularly significant for Pelle Swedlund.

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Arnold Bocklin

Arnold Bocklin, “Self Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle”, 1872, Oil on Canvas, Getty Museum

The Swiss artist Arnold Böcklin studied in Germany, where he became friends with Ludwig Feuerbach, one of the most important philosophers of the 19th century. Later after thirty trips to the Italy, the artist finally decided to live there for ten years uninterruptedly. It is in Rome where Böcklin studied the classical artista and Roman mythology. This experience in Italy transformed Böcklin’s work which slowly changed to a work full of symbols, fantastic worlds and mythical creatures.

After the period in Italy, the artist traveled back to Germany and painted  “Self Portrait with Death Playing the Fiddle” in 1872. Here we see the artist untidy, with a long beard and a neckless shirt. Behind him, in shadows, there is a skeleton playing a violin, a symbol used for centuries to represent Death. With a grimace, Death seems to laugh sarcastically, foreseeing the inevitable fate of the artistand us all.

Böcklin exercised an influence on Surrealist painters like Max Ernst and Salvador Dalí, and on Giorgio de Chirico. Otto Weisert designed an Art Nouveau typeface in 1904 and named it “Arnold Böcklin” in his honor. Böcklin’s paintings, especially “The Isle of the Dead”, inspired several late-Romantic composers. Sergei Rachmaninoff and Heinrich Schülz-Beuthen both composed symphonic poems after it.

Elizabeth Coyne

Four Paintings by Elizabeth Coyne

Elizabeth Coyne was born in Minnesota and raised in California, Canada and Indiana. In the early 1980′s, she moved to New York where she had numerous exhibitions in the 1980′s and 1990′s. She has Masters of Fine Arts in painting from the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Arts from Purdue University. Elizabeth Coyne has also studied and lectured at the Art Institute of Chicago. She is currently working on a series of paintings based on the images from her monoprints which deal with tangible and intangible realities.

‘My paintings offer contemplation into life and into possibilities of existence. For me making art is about not only seeing and looking at the world around me- but also knowing that world and absorbing it. I have developed a personal invented language of images and symbols based on the natural world. This visual language is collected from connections that I make in an ethereal way, mental images built  from the logic of the materials I work with.

This world I make in a painting, describes abstract places and relationships and it is a physical transcriptive process, where each painting is a synthesis of the  mind. An image is composed from different sources, both products of my imagination and transcriptions based on my perceptions. Painting has become a way of mapping my thoughts and experiences – a  type of private cartography. “ – Elizabeth Coyne

Stephen Cefalo

Stephen Cefalo: Paintings

Stephen Cefalo is an American artist in the traditions of Symbolism and the Baroque.  He was born in the hometown of Albrecht Durer (Nuremberg, Germany) on the birthday of three of his his heroes, Winslow Homer, Charles Le Brun, and Franz Von Stuck, and felt a calling from early childhood to become a painter.

Chris Sedgwick

Paintings by Chris Sedgwick

Inspired by the fear of death and in constant search for something that will transcend it, Chris Sedgwick is an American contemporary painter whose work mainly focuses on esotericism, occult spiritual symbolism, Cyphers, Ritual, and the Inner human condition. He began his career painting very dark color wise, highly influenced by Odd Nerdrum and Carravagio, but knew deep inside he must evolve his own style and character if he wants to be satisfied with his path and find a niche in the art world.

Gold leaf has been present since the beginning, as the artist was mainly sprinkling a little on the ground or in a circle in the composition to communicate the sacred, but at one moment he decided just to go ahead and paint fully on gold leaf. Sedgwick considers this a transition from painting the mundane world where rituals were taking place to painting the spiritual world where the rituals were meant to be effecting. Another significant transition occurred when he started using what he calls “constellation” forms and using outlines of figures against ethereal like backgrounds in the same piece that there would be a realistically painted form.

The transition to this “spiritual” plane lead him to start using glow in the dark paint and creating some works that include natural objects, such as The Last Magician, to represent a mirroring of the painting in the natural tactile world of nature by incorporating sticks and plant matter.

Fabien Mrelle

Fabien Mrelle, “Pentateuque”, Fiberglass Resin Sculpture, 2013

The work of French artist Fabien Mrelle involves creative combinations of dreams, experiences, and his early childhood imagination. He blurs the line between reality and fiction. In his biography, Mrelle states: “Following the unrolling of a dream, playing with the free association of shapes and ideas, he seems to say that everything is transforming, metamorphing, opening itself to the most diverse interpretations.”

The life-size version of Fabien Mérelle’s “Pentateuque” was exhibited in Hong Kong’s Statue Square Garden from May 21 to July 6 in 2013. Presented by Edouard Malingue Gallery, the five-meter-tall statue made of resin and fiberglass depicts an elephant balanced on the back of a man. The male figure was cast from the body of the artist himself, while the elephant is modeled after one at the Singapore zoo.

“The work brings to real life Mérelle’s imaginary world, which lies between a dream and the existent,” says Jennifer Caroline Ellis from Edouard Malingue Gallery. “It’s implausible, yet, one comes to question whether it’s conceivable.”

“Pentateuque” refers to the first five books of the bible and the sculpture humorously alludes to the human propensity for carrying the weight of the world on one’s shoulders, metaphorically bending over under the burden of religion, culture, and society’s expectations.

Hugo Simberg

Hugo Simberg, “The Wounded Angel’”, Oil on Canvas, 1903

The “Wounded Angel” is a painting by Finnish symbolist painter Hugo Simberg. It is one of the most recognizable of Simberg’s works, and was voted Finland’s “national painting” in a vote held by the Ateneum art museum in 2006.

Like other Simberg works, the atmosphere is melancholic: the angelic central figure with her bandaged forehead and bloodied wing, the sombre clothing of her two youthful bearers. The direct gaze of the right-hand figure touches the viewer.

The procession passes through a recognisable landscape, that of Eläintarha, Helsinki, with Töölönlahti Bay in the background. In Hugo Simberg’s time, the park was a popular spot for leisure-time activities among the working classes. At the time, many charity institutions were located in Eläintarha park. In “The Wounded Angel” the healthy boys are carrying the injured girl towards the Blind Girls’ School and the Home for Cripples. She clutches a bunch of snowdrops, symbolic of healing and rebirth.

Simberg himself declined to offer any deconstruction, suggesting that the viewer draw their own conclusions. However it is known that Simberg had been suffering from meningitis, and that the painting was a source of strength during his recovery. This can also be read metaphorically: meningitis is known to cause neck stiffness, lethargy and light sensitivity, each of which is exhibited by the central figure.

Odilon Redon

Odilon Redon, “A Knight”, 1885, Oil on Canvas, 53.5 x 37.5 cm, Private Collection

Odilon Redon, born in 1840 in Bordeaux, France, was a Symbolist painter, lithographer, and etcher. His work developed along two distinctive genres. His oil paintings and pastels were mostly still lifes with flowers; these gave him a reputation among Henri Matisse and other painters as an important colorist. His prints, however, were quite different, foreshadowing the Surrealist and Dadaist movements  with their exploration of fantastic, haunted, and macabre themes.

Redon studied under painter and teacher Jean-Leon Gérôme, one of the most prominent late 19th century academic artists in France. He mastered engraving under the tutelage of Rodolphe Bresdin, who was noted for his highly detailed and technically precise prints. Redon learned lithography under printmaker and illustrator Henri Fantin-Latour who became known for his group compositions of contemporary French celebrities.

Odilon Redon produced nearly two hundred prints, which included many series of multiple images. In 1879 he produced the lithograph series collectively titled “In the Dream”. a portfolio of ten lithographs. Redon dedicated a series to Edgar Allan Poe in 1882 which evoked the private torments in Poe’s life. His series “Homage to Goya” done in 1885 included imaginary winged demons and menacing shapes.

Odilon Redons’s lifework represented an exploration of his inner feelings and psyche. His source of inspiration and the force behind his work are explained by himself in his journal “To Myself”:  “I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted before an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased.”



Agostino Arrivabene

Agostino Arrivabene, “Giorgio e Cief”, 2007, Oil on Wood, Dimensions Unknown, Private Collection

Born in 1967, Agostino Arrivabene is a visionary artist who paints surrealistic works. Influenced by Symbolist artists such as Gustave Moreau and Norwegian figurative painter Odd Nerdrum, his work features landscapes, portraits, and allegorical paintings often with apocalyptic themes. Arrivabene currently lives and works in a rural farmhouse In Gradella di Pandino, near Milan, Italy.

Arrivabene uses antique painting techniques to create a foundation from which metamorphic figures emerge in moments of creation. The time-consuming labor of grinding pigments and layering paints is evident in the complex, heavily textural works. In the late part of 2018, he began a new series of paintings using natural canvases , conglomerate mineral and woodland findings, to add natural textures to his surreal works.