Gustave Moreau achieved enormous success at the official Paris Salon where he exhibited between 1852 and 1880. His academic training is evident in the importance of draughtsmanship in his compositions and in his characteristic figures with the their classical, ideal proportions. The enigmatic, mythological subjects that prevail in Moreau’s work are typical of the Symbolist movement of which he is considered the forerunner.
Galatea, whom the artist depicted on several occasions, is the principal figure in this work from Moreau’s final years. Her languid figure, reclining in the foreground, is set in a rocky landscape with lush, exotic vegetation. These plant forms are inspired by the marine plants that particularly fascinated Moreau. The cyclops Polyphemus, who has changed colour to match the dark, crepuscular setting, is depicted as a crouching giant observing Galatea from a distance. The brilliant pictorial surface and the richness of the textures derive from Moreau’s innovative method of applying the pigment and from the use of a combination of techniques.