The art of Pinckney Marcius-Simons, 1867–1909


Vision of the Demon.

The Symbolist movement in painting never really took hold in America the way it did in Europe so it’s a surprise to find a new name to add to the very small list of American Symbolists. Pinckney Marcius-Simons painted his share of 19th-century genre pictures but these give way in his later career to canvases that show a distinct Gustave Moreau influence, or perhaps Turner in those nebulous volumes of illuminated vapour. Marcius-Simons was born in New York but lived in Europe for most of his life; he studied in Paris so he would have been able to see Moreau’s work first-hand. A few of his later pictures are rather vague fantasies but his real obsession was with Wagner’s operas, and he spent the last few years of his life working as a set designer at Bayreuth while also creating a series of paintings intended to illustrate the entire run of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. His most remarkable creation isn’t a canvas, however, but a French edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream which he painted over entirely, even decorating the binding. I’m surprised again that such a unique work isn’t more widely known. Happily the entire book is available online at the Folger Shakespeare Library.

All the usual caveats apply here with regard to the accuracy of titles and dates. There’s even some dispute about the artist’s birth year which is occasionally given as 1865. Most of these pictures have been found on auction sites where larger reproductions may be seen.


Port City.





The City of Dreams.


The Legend of the Nibelung: The Norns.


Parsifal and the Knights of the Holy Graal.




Apparition of the Graal to Parsifal.


The Graal.



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3 thoughts on “The art of Pinckney Marcius-Simons, 1867–1909”

  1. Being a sucker for “nebulous volumes of illuminated vapour” I thought of Turner but what’s really embarrassing is to be an American and having never heard of this guy. Thanks John! Those auction sites reflect some relatively recent acquisitions so somebody out there appreciates Marcius-Simons’ work. I am very curious just what prices his works are bringing but to access that kind of information you have to register or subscribe.

  2. Auction sites have an annoying habit of hoarding their data. I’d guess $3000 would be an average price for the later paintings, given the artist’s obscurity. But these things depend on a variety of factors such as the size of the picture, the condition and whether there’s any demand for the work.

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