Nineteenth century Paris is often thought of as the epicenter of the Impressionist movement, with artists capturing lively street scenes in paintings marked by vivid use of color and dramatic brush strokes. The new exhibition The Darker Side of Light: Arts of Privacy 1850-1900 at the Smart Museum of Art investigates a different dimension of this period, one depicted by enigmatic and often melancholy imagery. The prints, drawings, and small sculptures that capture this artistic underworld were often kept hidden away in private collections for quiet contemplation rather than public enjoyment.
The Darker Side of Light includes more than 100 works from Paris, London, and Berlin and it is curated by Peter Parshall, an alumnus of the University of Chicago and curator of Old Master Prints at the National Gallery of Art.
The exhibition was previously on display at the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC and the UCLA Hammer Museum of Art in Los Angeles, and it is currently on view at the Smart Museum of Art until June 10, 2010. Its previous installations in Washington DC and Los Angeles received laudatory reviews in The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The LA Times.
The Wall Street Journal art critic Karen Wilkin wrote the following of the exhibit:
The precocious Max Klinger may be the star of the show. His well-known, protosurrealist series about a lost glove, with its weird shifts of scale and inexplicably angled figures on roller skates, is a high point, which is not to undervalue his sometimes over-the-top narrative series, “Dramas.” One of these, depicting the aftermath of a crime of passion, is both startling and unintentionally hilarious. But a trio of sober images from “Dramas,” a chilling account of an abused wife driven to attempt suicide and the murder of her child, is powerfully conceived, expressively composed, and dramatically compelling.
The great majority of works in “The Darker Side of Light” could be described that way, if you give them the focused attention they deserve. You must cultivate your own sense of privacy to savor the show. But if you do, there are many rewards. Go to Washington before Jan. 18 and you’ll never think of the 19th century the same way again.
To learn more about The Darker Side of Light and other exhibitions at the Smart Museum of Art please click here, and to watch a video about the exhibition narrated by curator Peter Parshall please click here.
Update: Curator Peter Parshall will be returning to the Smart Museum on April 15, 2010 at 5:30pm for a lecture on the prints and private worlds of The Darker Side of Light.