Published: October 30, 2001
Religious Images in Nineteenth Century Academic Art
NEW YORK CITY – Representatives of religious subject matter intensified in the course of the Nineteenth Century. All of the major art movements, schools and styles – from Romanticism to Realism, from the Academics to the Symbolists – produced artworks that depicted religious figures and events.
This intriguing phenomenon, however, has been largely overlooked in studies of Nineteenth Century art. The Dahesh Museum of Art, which specializes in art of this period, is therefore proud to announce its first exhibition devoted entirely to images of religion and religiosity by artists trained in the academies of Europe.
” II: Religious Images in Nineteenth Century Academic Art,” organized by assistant curator Lisa Small, is on view through January 26. It explores how academic artists, predominantly French, approached a variety of religious subjects and how those works resonated in a larger social or political sphere from the restoration of the French Monarchy under the Bourbons (1814) through the Second Republic (1848-1852) and Napoleon III’s Second Empire (1852-1870) to the close to the century under the Third Republic.
The exhibition presents over 45 paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures drawn primarily from the Dahesh Museum of Art collection, supplemented by important loans from the Jewish Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Works by Alexandre Cabanel, Paul Delaroche, Gustave Doré, Léon Lhermitte, Jean-Léon Gérôme, Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Ary Scheffer, James Tissot, Jehan-Georges Vibert and Wilhelm von Kaulbach, among others, are featured.
” II” is thematically organized, with sections on Biblical imagery, genre depictions of piety and practice, and representations of conflict and coexistence between religious groups. At the beginning of the century, most aspiring artists used Biblical figures and narratives from both Old and New Testaments to construct history paintings popular at the Salon. More overtly politicized images emerged later in the century.
Dramatic depictions of conflict among Christians, Moslems and Jews were another compelling subject matter for traditional history painting. The rites and rituals of Judaism and Islam, exotic for non-practitioners, tended to be ethnographically rendered and idealized by academic artists, who saw in them a more sincere and personal relationship to spirituality, so different from the predominantly Christian, urban, middle-class culture of the West.
” II” is accompanied by a color-illustrated catalog written by Small. The Dahesh Museum of Art, at 601 Fifth Avenue, is open 11 am to 6 pm, Tuesday through Saturday. For information, 212-759-0606.
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