Darker,more complex art tended to stack up in back rooms,libraries and personal portfolios,intended to be contemplated in private.
The National Gallery of Art cracked open its own back rooms that house nearly 100,000 etchings and lithographs to shed some light on the more personal side of impressionist-era artwork.
“The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy,1850-1900” spans three dim rooms containing 120 pieces,most chosen from the museum's own trove of stored-away etchings and lithographs.
The works,primarily from France and Germany,will be on display from Thursday until Jan. 18.
“Impressionism exists against a larger foil of art that tells a very different kind of story,” said Peter Parshall,exhibit curator. “Impressionism is concerned with the impact of light,reflection,immediacy. It's concerned with the experience of the external world.”
The exhibit's works delve into darker,more complex themes: possession,death,violence,reverie,obsession and abjection. Parshall divided the exhibit into these subjects,as well as depictions that take a more critical look at nature,the city and creatures.
Edgar Degas' “Woman by a Fireplace,” Edvard Munch's “The Sick Child” and Eugène Carrière's
“Sleep” open a door into a personal,and sometimes emotional,side of their subjects.
Mary Cassatt,Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edouard Manet also have works in the show.
Max Klinger,a German symbolist painter and sculptor from the late 1800s,has several works in the show,including his most popular work “Finding of a Glove,” a 10-image series chronicling his obsession with a woman's lost glove.
Klinger is also the artist behind one of the exhibit's most treasured works,the three-part series “A Mother,from Dramas.” Parshall said the work was inspired by an 1881 event.
The etchings tell the story of a woman beaten by her husband who killed her son in an attempted murder-suicide. She survived and was acquitted for not being of sound mind at the time of the crime.
The etchings are on loan from the Princeton University Art Museum. About a dozen other works were borrowed from private collections or nearby museums.
Other pieces also tell stories. An 1894 photo-relief by Eugène Grasset,”The Acid Thrower,” shows an agitated woman ready to toss the chemical. The artist transformed a photograph into a relief print,then painted on it.
Parshall said acid throwing was used during the revolutionary Paris Commune,but later women would throw acid on men who had abandoned them.
Noako Takahatate,an Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellow who worked on the exhibit,said because most of the works are on paper,they aren't typically on display.
“We put a limit to the exposure time,” she said. “We keep very close track so that we don't overexpose them. With all works on paper,we do have a maximum time they can be exposed.”
This exhibit was shown earlier this year at the Hammer Museum at the University of California,Los Angeles,and will be shown next year at the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago.