The Petit Palais is host to the French National library (Bibliothèque nationale de France) to celebrate, for the first time and on a grand scale, the terrifying world of visionary, ‘gothic-fantasy’ prints. More than 170 works from Goya to Redon, including prints by Delacroix and Gustave Doré will introduce the visitor to this important aspect of 19th century engravings and lithographs. It is the world of the macabre, of gothic bestiaries, haunted landscapes, images from dreams and nightmares – the triumph of darkness!
This immersion in fantasy art is organised in chronological order.
The exhibition is introduced by a contemporary video by Agnès Guillaume – a ballet that conjures up the black birds of sleepless nights – and it begins by focusing on key figures who influenced the history of engraving and who were studied and reinterpreted by 19th century engravers. The visitor will be greeted by Albrecht Dürer’s Melancholia, Jacques Callot’s Temptation of Saint Anthony, Rembrandt’s Dr Faustus, a plate of Piranesi’s Prisons, and an engraving after Füssli’s Nightmare. The exhibition will then seek to demonstrate how this ‘gothic’ inspiration evolved at the hands of three successive generations of artists. In the first period, Eugène Delacroix is placed at the centre of the Romantic generation of 1830. Their engravings were veritable black and white manifestoes of Romanticism and much influenced by Goya. Goya’s motifs spread through the artists’ studios and were a spur to their imagination. The figure of the devil was everywhere in popular prints. The second section examines the neo-Romantics around Gustave Doré; he was the most emblematic artist of that movement, as is evidenced by his illustrations for Dante’s Inferno in 1861. At the end of the trail, there are plates by Odilon Redon – notably his Dans le rêve, which laid the path to Symbolism.
In this exhibition, visitors will discover works by the great masters of engraving – Delacroix, Grandville, Gustave Doré, Rodolphe Bresdin, Charles Meryon, Odilon Redon and Félicien Rops – but also less well-known artists like Alphonse Legros, François Chifflart, Félix Buhot, Eugène Viala or Marcel Roux. What their artistic production at the time had in common was the way they all focused on a kind of ‘black Romanticism’ that fed on the very matter of the engravers ink.
Exhibition organised by the Petit Palais and the National library of France (Bibiothèque nationale de France)
Valérie Sueur-Hermel, Chief Curator of the Department of prints and photography at the French National Library (Bibliothèque nationale de France), academic curator of the exhibition;
Gaëlle Rio, Curator at the Petit Palais.
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