British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism
“Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism,” is on exhibit at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 Fifth Avenue, through January 4. The show will fully explore for the first time the important exchange of art and ideas that originated between France and England during the decades following the fall of Napoleon in 1815 — a crucial period that saw the full flowering of the Romantic revolution. The exhibition will bring together major works by artists such as Constable, Bonington, J.M.W. Turner, Delacroix and Gericault, all of who played a key role in this unprecedented dialogue between the two national schools.
The exhibition was organized by Tate Britain, in association with The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Whereas traditional views have tended to stress the impact that early Nineteenth Century French painters had on their British counterparts, “Crossing the Channel” reveals the important influence that English innovations — notably a new emphasis on pure landscape painting, the experimental, impressionistic techniques of the English watercolorists and the works of the British Romantic writers — exerted on French art at this time.
The selection of approximately 140 paintings and works on paper, garnered from more than 40 collections worldwide, includes such icons of Romantic art as Turner’s “A Disaster at Sea;” Constable’s “The White Horse” and “View on the Stour near Dedham’ (both never before loaned by their host institutions), and Gericault’s first study for “The Raft of the Medusa.”
With the defeat of Napoleon in 1815 and the restoration of peace, French and English civilians could, for the first time in almost 20 years, cross the channel in safety. Among them were artists, connoisseurs and collectors, eager to rediscover and explore the culture of their erstwhile enemies.
Following the end of the Napoleonic regime, however, a conviction also grew that the Eighteenth Century Enlightenment ideals of rationalism, confidence and order — given artistic expression in the smooth perfection of the neoclassical style — were no longer valid. A new array of attitudes and aesthetic sensibilities, which came to be called Romanticism, now celebrated extremes of emotion, the irrational and the power of nature to awe and inspire.
This need to break with the past and explore new modes of expression was felt keenly on both sides of the channel. While French artists — led by the twin titans of Eugene Delacroix and Theodore Gericault — became the supreme exponents of Romantic painting, their achievement depended importantly on the example of contemporary English art and culture.
Organized thematically, “Crossing the Channel” explores the affinities and exchanges between British and French painters in terms of subject matter, sources of inspiration and technical innovations. The exhibition also examines the cultural, commercial and political events that fostered this artistic dialogue, focusing especially on the crucial period from 1820 to 1840.
The curator of the exhibition is Patrick Noon, Patrick and Aimee Butler Curator of Painting at The Minneapolis Museum of Art and principal author of the catalog. Gary Tinterow, Engelhard Curator of Nineteenth Century Europe Painting, organized the exhibition at the Metropolitan, with the assistance of Kathryn Calley Galitz, research associate. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog, Crossing the Channel: British and French Painting in the Age of Romanticism, published by Tate Publishing.
“Crossing the Channel” has already been on view at Tate Britain, London, and the Minneapolis Museum of Art.
Two slide-illustrated lectures on various aspects of Romanticism in French and British paintings by scholars Robert Rosenblum of the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, and Patrick Noon of the Minneapolis Museum of Art will take place on Sunday, December 7, 3 to 5 pm, in the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium. These programs are free to the public with museum admission.
For information, 212-535-7710 or www.metmuseum.org.