Félix-Hilaire Buhot, The Devil as Printer, 1878, etching with drypoint (state II/II), National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.
François-Nicolas Chifflart, Cholera in Paris, 1865, etching with drypoint, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.
Félix-Hilaire Buhot, The Spirits of Dead Cities, 1885, etching, roulette, drypoint, and aquatint (state V/VI), National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Emmanuel Phélippes-Beaulieux, Heath, dated June 7-13, 1860, etching and roulette, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Albert Besnard, Apotheosis, c. 1886, etching (state I/II), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Bell.
Edvard Munch, The Sick Child, 1894, drypoint and roulette (state VI/VII), National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Félicien Rops, Satan Sowing Tares over Paris, from Sataniques, c. 1882/1883, softground etching, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Odilon Redon, This is the Devil, from the series Temptation of Saint Anthony, 1888, lithograph on chine collé, National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.
Félix Bracquemond, The Moles, 1854, etching (state V/VII), National Gallery of Art, Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund.
Albert Besnard, The Rape, from La Femme, c. 1886, etching touched with graphite (proof impression, state I/II), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Bell, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the National Gallery of Art.
Albert Besnard, Woman with a Vase, 1894, etching and aquatint (state III/III), National Gallery of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel Bell, in Honor of the 50th Anniversary of the, National Gallery of Art.
4th and Constitution Avenue NW
Darker Side of Light:
Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900
October 1, 2009-January 18, 2010
Although the art of the late 19th Century is most often associated with impressionism — a celebration of the open air and the café-concert, evoking the pleasures of the landscape and the radiance of Paris, city of light — there is another side to the story. That is, an art of sober contemplation, of recherché, often poetic and melancholy subject matter that explores an altogether different dimension of human experience.
Due to the fact that they tended to be stored away and viewed discreetly on chosen occasions, prints in particular encouraged the investigation of suggestive, sometimes disturbing themes, including complex states of mind and expressions of deep social tension: opium dreams, the obsessions of a lover, the abject despair of an impending suicide, meditations on violence, the fear of death. In turn, the print medium drew the attention of many artistic camps that saw it as an ideal medium for experimentation—academic painters, realists, impressionists, and symbolists alike.
Etching societies were formed with the idea of publishing prints in order to cultivate and improve the tastes of the urban bourgeoisie. Partly as a result of such organized efforts there were many independent dealers and book shops in Paris, London, Berlin, and elsewhere that sold such prints as well as drawings and small sculptures by artists of various schools.
Through the medium of prints, artists such as Mary Cassatt, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Victor Hugo, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Adolph Menzel, Charles Meryon, Edvard Munch, Odilon Redon, James McNeill Whistler, and Anders Zorn became more widely known, and the often radical and exploratory aspects of their art found a public.
This exhibition focuses on works of art that were not recommended for display in the parlor, sometimes because they were unsuitable, but mainly because they were meant for private contemplation much as one would approach a book of verse or a novel. The desire for private aesthetic experience and the art made to satisfy it constitute an important chapter in a long history of collecting as a secluded endeavor.
The private worlds of late 19th-century Paris, London, and Berlin are reflected in some 120 beguiling, often enigmatic prints, drawings, illustrated books, and small sculptures in he Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy, 1850-1900. The exhibition reveals a late romantic sensibility, an art for collectors who kept their prints and drawings under wraps, compiled in albums and portfolios; who stored bronze medals in cabinets; or set a statuette on a table in the stillness of the library.
The Darker Side of Light also explores the intellectual pursuits and techniques of artists whose works share the dark naturalism and rebelliousness of the writings of Charles Baudelaire and Edgar Allan Poe, among other literary figures of the time.
"This exhibition offers the public an opportunity to see a far less familiar repertoire of late 19th-century art," said Earl A. Powell III, director, National Gallery of Art. "It is drawn primarily from the Gallery’s own substantial collection of prints, drawings, and sculptures. The National Gallery is also grateful to private collectors and public institutions who loaned their exceptional works."
The Exhibition: Through eight themes — possession, nature, the city, creatures, reverie, obsession, abjection, violence, and death — The Darker Side of Light reveals highly engaging, often mysterious and beautiful works, mainly from France and Germany, but also Britain, Belgium, Switzerland, the United States, Sweden and Norway. A few examples include:
Possession: Sagot’s Lithography Gallery (1898) is Georges Bottini's witty depiction of a well-dressed woman looking disapprovingly at a lithograph of a prostitute displayed in a window of the renowned publisher's shop.
Nature: An accomplished painter, Adolph Appian devoted his life's work to often darkly moody landscapes, from the forest of Fontainebleau to the area near his home in Crémieu in southeastern France, seen in the etching At Valromey (1868).
The City: In Cholera in Paris (1865), by François Nicolas Chifflart, the artist evokes the devastation of the 1849 cholera epidemic — the second of two major outbreaks in Paris during the 19th century — which resulted in 20,000 deaths.
Creatures: Félix Bracquemond, among the most celebrated masters of etching in the period, was an animal specialist whose images range from the conventional to the unnerving, seen in The Moles (Les taupes)(1854).
Reverie: Albert Besnard made two quirkily innovative etchings on the theme of female reverie: The Cup of Tea (1887) and In the Embers(1887), where the emotional states of the women depicted are subtly evoked through complex etching techniques.
Obsession: The bizarre and fanciful elements in the work of symbolist Max Klinger come to life in Abduction (Entführung) (1878/1880), from a suite of dreamlike etchings involving a lover's fixation on a lost glove.
Abjection: Inspired by the social depravity she saw around her, and particularly the plight of women, Käthe Kollwitz's work expressed empathy for the less fortunate, such as the alarming depiction of despair in Woman with Dead Child (Frau mit totem Kind) (1903).
Violence: In his etchings, the Belgian symbolist James Ensor vehemently rejected the conventions of academic art and expressed his sense of impending disaster in a highly individual and fantastic way, as seen in The Exterminating Angel (1889).
Death: Civil War (1871) by Edouard Manet commemorates with blunt realism the victims of the Paris Commune of 1871, a popular uprising against the provisional French government immediately following the disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
Additional works include books such as Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven (Le Corbeau) (1875), translated by Stéphane Mallarmé with ten transfer lithographs by Edouard Manet, and sculptures by Auguste Rodin and Alexandre-Louis-Marie Charpentier, among others.
Curator, Catalogue, and Lecture
Peter Parshall, curator of old master prints, National Gallery of Art, is curator of the exhibition. Co-published by the National Gallery of Art in association with Lund Humphries, the exhibition catalogue features essays on late 19th-century art and collecting by S. Hollis Clayson, Northwestern University; Christiane Hertel, Bryn Mawr College; Peter Parshall; and Nicholas Penny, National Gallery, London. The 160-page hardcover catalogue features 90 color illustrations and retails for $50.00, and is currently available for purchase in the Gallery Shops. To order, call (800) 697-9350 or (202) 842-6002; fax (202) 789-3047; or email@example.com.
The Darker Side of Light was organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Previously on view at the Hammer Museum, at the University of California, Los Angeles, from April 5 through June 28, 2009, the exhibition will continue from Washington to be seen at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago, from February 11 through June 10, 2010.
Charles Meryon, The Vampire (Le Stryge), 1853, etching (state V/X), National Gallery of Art, Gift of R. Horace Gallatin.
Edvard Munch, Girl at the Window, 1894, drypoint and roulette (state V/VI), National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Louis-Oscar Roty, The Body of President Sadi Carnot Borne to the Panthéon (obverse), 1894, silvered bronze, struck, National Gallery of Art, Anonymous Gift.
Max Klinger, Rescue ("In Peril"), from A Glove (Paraphrase of the Finding of a Glove), 1878/1880, etching on chine collé (state I/II), National Gallery of Art, Anonymous Gift.
Anders Zorn, An Irish Girl, 1894, etching, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Max Klinger, Bear and Fairy, from Intermezzi, 1881, etching and aquatint on chine collé (state II/II)
National Gallery of Art, Gift of the Epstein Family Collection.
Odilon Redon, Cain and Abel, 1886, etching, National Gallery of Art, Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen.
Louis-Ernest Barrias, Nature Unveiling Herself before Science, model 1895/1899, cast c. 1900
bronze with silvering and malachite
National Gallery of Art, Gift of Frank Anderson Trapp.
Georges Bottini, Sagot's Lithography Gallery, 1898, lithograph, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Charles Meryon, Gallery of Notre Dame, 1853, etching with engraving (state III/VI), National Gallery of Art, Gift of R. Horace Gallatin.
Félicien Rops, Fantasies in the Manner of Rembrandt and Callot, frontispiece to Aloysius Bertrand,
Gaspard de la Nuit, 1868, etching and aquatint on Chinese paper, National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Käthe Kollwitz, At the Church Wall, 1893, etching with drypoint (state IVB/VII), National Gallery of Art, Rosenwald Collection.
Max Klinger, Yearnings, from A Glove (Paraphrase of the Finding of a Glove), 1878/1880, etching and aquatint on chine collé (state I/IV)
National Gallery of Art, Anonymous Gift.