Now Open: 19th-Century French Prints Document - and Satirize - Contemporary Events

Saturday, January 21, 2017 - Sunday, July 30, 2017
 

Beginning in the sixteenth century, prints became the primary medium for circulating and preserving images of current events, including public ceremonies and celebrations, battles, and other noteworthy incidents. Industrialization and rapid urbanization during the 1800s created not only the means to quickly print and publish text and images but the market for such news sources as well. Artists relished the opportunity to create original compositions based on recent happenings that would be widely circulated in illustrated weekly and monthly journals and inexpensive books in addition to being issued as independent prints.  

 

The works in this exhibition present images of various Parisian news items from the mid- to late nineteenth century, ranging from mundane political intrigues to serious foreign affairs. Artists took different approaches to presenting such subject matter: the etchers Auguste Lançon and Félix Buhot created highly detailed, documentary scenes, while the caricaturists Cham and Charles Vernier focused on satirizing French government officials. Particularly remarkable are compositions, such as the one by Honoré Daumier, that portray current events in the guise of biblical or mythological subjects that would have been understood by a broad public. In this way, artists presented new ideas within familiar narratives while investing their subjects with historical significance. Near the end of the century, artists became more partisan in their depictions of current events and revealed their personal positions on sensational topics, which included France’s colonial ambitions and the false claim accusing a Jewish army officer of treason now known as the Dreyfus Affair. The works on view were selected from the Zimmerli Art Museum’s rich collection of nineteenth-century French prints and drawings.

 

Organized by Christine Giviskos, Curator of Prints, Drawings, and European Art

 

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