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This doctoral thesis is focused on the emergence of symbolism and its tendencies in Croatian painting in the period of the last decade of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century. Symbolism is a painting trend that in European art emerged during the 80s of the 19th century and its characteristics are juxtaposed to the characteristics of naturalism. Unlike the naturalist objective approach to reality, symbolism approaches it subjectively and contrary to the clarity of the painting message symbolism tries to cloak the message into complex denotation symbolic. While naturalists seek inspiration for their works in real life, symbolists find it in imaginary life. The past was the source of their thematic and motivic inspiration so that this trend was inspired by classic images and notions. In formal sense symbolism was eclectic and it allowed parallel existence and combination of different creative strategies that would be jointly subjected to expressing a particular idea. Symbolism is an elitist trend that emerged as part of the general nostalgic view of the past. It was determined by the socialhistorical context of progress, positivism, industrialization, secularization and the collapse of the feudal system. Its essential determinant is its escapist tendency to detachment from reality rather than striving for engaged art. Symbolism examined the ethic component of artworks, subjected to the aesthetic concept autonomous within a particular artwork. In that sense symbolism inaugurated the abstract and non-mimetic artwork concept and turned into a point of departure for many avant-garde abstract and figurative movements and tendencies. It imbued all art genres, so that one of its goals was also the Gesamtkunstwerk. The postulates of symbolism were defined in the text Le Symbolisme by a French poet of Greek origin, Jean Moréas (1856 – 1910), in the literary supplement of the conservative magazine Le Figaro in 1886. These were: subjectivity, orientation towards ideas, individuality, innovation and artificiality. French critic Albert Aurier (1865 – 1892) determined the crucial categories of symbolism in painting in his essay published in the magazine Mercure de France in 1891. In his view a symbolist work is: 1) idealistic – guided by the sole ideal of expressing an idea; 2) symbolist – because the idea is marked by a sign/symbol; 3) synthetic – signs are compressed into a unified message; 4) subjective – the selected object is a sign of the idea originating from a subject; 5) decorative – the only art expression that is at the same time subjective, synthetic, symbolic and idealistic. Literature had a notable role in shaping symbolism, so that this art direction showed pronounced literary characteristics. Important writers belonging to this trend, whose texts show tendencies comparable to the painters’, are: Charles Baudelaire, Théophile Gautier, Stephané Mallarmé, Paul Verlaine, Edgar Allan Poe and Oscar Wilde. Arthur Schopenhauer and Friedrich Nietzsche in their works The World as Will and Representation and The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music offered a philosophical framework for the development of a subjective trend. Important background for the development of symbolism in painting was also provided by music, especially by the views of Richard Wagner and Ludwig van Beethoven. Structured into six chapters, this doctoral thesis presents and explains the development of symbolism in Europe and Croatia. In the first chapter titled “Theories of Symbolism” theoretical approaches to symbolism are listed and examined from the beginnings of its development to the present day. In the course of a thorough study of manifestos and critical texts from the time of emergence and development of symbolism (Moreas, 1886, Verhaeren, 1887, Aurier, 1890), theoretical texts by artists whose work belongs to it ((Baudelaire, 1857, Huysmans, 1884, Wilde, 1891) and contemporary theoretical approaches to this European art direction (Goldwater, 1963, Hofstätter, 1965, Jullian, 1975, Heller, 1985, Rapetti, 2006, Facos, 2009), as well as the approaches to it through regional determination, the European theoretical framework for study, determination and evaluation of symbolist painting could be established. In accordance with the European development of theoretical evaluation of symbolism, manifestos and critical texts from the time of emergence and development of symbolism in Croatia were also studied (Gjalski, Dežman, Pilar, Lunaček, Kršnjavi, Matoš, Babić and others). Theoretical approaches to symbolism in Croatian art history since the 60s, when first texts appeared in the form of criticism, catalog forewords and monographic texts, have been thoroughly examined until today and grouped (Marjanović, Posavac, Zidić, Maruševski, Zlamalik, Uskoković, Kružić Uchytil, Gagro, Reberski, Kraševac, Prelog and others). The conclusion at the end of the first chapter determines the points of departure and criteria for outlining symbolism in painting as well as the formal and content-related characteristics of this direction in visual art. As there is no relevant literature on European symbolism in Croatian language, the second chapter explains the development of symbolism as art direction in European painting. It begins with the social context within which it developed, and then focuses on its themes and motifs. By highlighting specific phenomena how this art direction manifested itself, its “body” is described. Symbolism first emerged in France, England and Belgium, spreading through Europe from those, tentatively termed, core environments. Apart from those countries, the development of symbolism is described and its protagonists listed in the following European countries: Austria, The Netherlands, Norway, Bohemia, Poland, Russia, Hungary and Germany. The forerunners of symbolism are pointed out: Gustave Moreau, Pierre Puvis de Chavannes kao i Arnold Böcklin. In France these were: Paul Gauguin, Odilon Redon, Emile Bernard and other members of the Pont-Aven Colony, the artists of the Nabis group, and the artists gathered around the Salon de la Rose + Croix. In England they were the artists of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood: John Everett Millais, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, William Morris and outside of the group painter James Abbot McNeill Whistler. Belgian protagonists were Felicien Rops and Fernand Khnopff. The most important representative of Austrian symbolism was Gustav Klimt, while in Germany these were artists Franz von Stuck, Hans von Marées, Hans Thoma and Ludwig von Hofmann. The thesis also describes the emergence of symbolism in other European countries and its outstanding protagonists like Ferdinand Hodler in Switzerland, Edward Munch in Norway and Giovanni Segantini, important for Italian and Swiss art. After the chronological and geographic determination, outlining style formations within which this art direction developed and mentioning the artists who made pioneering contributions to it, but also the ones who just adopted their approach and still created important works relevant for the body of symbolism, the conclusion delineates a comparative sample for the judgment of the presence of symbolism in Croatian art. The third chapter focuses on the social and historical framework relevant for the development of this art direction in Croatia; in this area urbanization and social and economic progress created the basis for the spiritual climate of symbolism. Important events for culture and art are mentioned, because they accelerated the development of modernity in all areas of life, thus also in visual art. The construction of public, state-owned cultural institutions was important in that sense, because Croatian visual artists were entrusted with the task of decorating the walls of the following structures: the Department of Religion and Education, the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb and the Royal University Library in Zagreb. The historicist frame within which the symbolist painting emerged is locally specific. The iconographic concept of the palace belonging to the Department for Religion and Education, which followed the idea of that time’s head of the department Iso Kršnjavi is described in the thesis because it initiated the emergence of symbolist tendencies in Croatian painting. The same investigative approach was applied to the iconographic complex of decorations at the Croatian National Theater and the Royal University Library. These public enterprises are viewed as the framework within which a specific group of topics appears; they examine the past and the starting points of Croatian culture and art common with the circle of Western European civilization. Symbolism in painting also developed in the exhibitions of artists assembled in the Art Society, the Society of Croatian Artists, the Lado Association and the Medulić Society. The chronology lists the exhibitions in which the protagonists of symbolism appeared for the first time; the exhibitions influenced by symbolism are described and the ones presenting Croatian artists internationally pointed out. They meant certain recognition of creative strivings of their protagonists. The works displayed at exhibitions important for symbolism have been determined and listed, in most cases also identified and located. Through the chronological approach to the development of symbolism and its determination through works in exhibitions the basic body of evidence has been constituted, comprising several hundred works with symbolist features. Works that act as milestones within this development and in their features belong to the parallel European development have been highlighted as well as works that in one or several style, formal and content-related characteristics belong to this art direction. Especially highlighted are works qualified as autochthonous contributions to European symbolism, with their specific characteristics but also with distinctive authentic features of a particular artist or environment. The fourth chapter defines the most common subjects of Croatian symbolism. These are: allegoric-Arcadian thematic complexes with a specific subgroup of allegories that developed within the antiquity genre, portraits reflective in their character, atmospheric landscapes, the image of the woman ranging from femme fragile to femme fatale, then topics following the literary ones, as well as the eschatological ones. The last chapter lists the protagonists of Croatian symbolist painting, determining their contribution to symbolism: Artur Oskar Alexander, Robert Auer, Ljubo Babić, Vlaho Bukovac, Menci Clement Crnčić, Bela Čikoš Sesija, Gabrijel Jurkić, Jozo Kljaković, Ferdo Kovačević, Tomislav Krizman, Mato Celestin Medović, Dragan Melkus, Mirko Rački, Marko Rašica, Nasta Rojc, Ivan Tišov, and Emanuel Vidović. The Conclusion puts forward the assumption about symbolism as art direction that reflected itself in the painting of Croatian artists at the turn of the 19th century. The nature of its development has been defined, the scope of its influence, and the works which in their currentness, quality and authenticity belong to the anthology of Croatian symbolism and thus also to the development of the European symbolism. This doctoral thesis is supplemented by the Catalog of Works that encompasses more than three hundred works, symbolist in their nature. They are represented by a photograph and basic catalog data. Through in-depth study of all factors that contributed to the development of this art direction by means of archival, library and on-site research and, most important, direct insight into oeuvres and artifacts, a rounded-up presentation of symbolism in Croatian painting has been achieved. It should contribute to its inclusion into European monographic and exhibition presentations, thus finally attaining appropriate international evaluation and respective reputation.