First Exhibition to Examine Jacques-Louis David's Post-Revolutionary Years to Open at the Clark in Summer 2005
For Immediate Release
May 01, 2005
The first exhibition to explore the transformation of Jacques-Louis David's art following the French Revolution will be presented at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute from June 5 to September 5, 2005. Jacques-Louis David: Empire to Exile is also the first major exhibition in the U.S. to focus exclusively on David's work. David was the most celebrated painter of his era and the leader of the Neoclassicist movement, which influenced Western art for generations. The exhibition includes many of the artist's greatest paintings and recently discovered works that have never before been seen in the United States. Empire to Exile has been co-organized by the Clark and the J. Paul Getty Museum.
"As with our recent exhibitions of Klimt's landscapes and Turner's late seascapes, Empire to Exile reflects the Clark's commitment to organizing groundbreaking exhibitions that add important new dimensions to our understanding of an artist we think we know well," said Michael Conforti, director of the Clark. "Empire to Exile is the perfect expression of the Clark's dual mission to advance scholarship while building popular interest in the arts, and this show is certain to delight both scholars and the public."
Empire to Exile will feature 26 paintings and 22 works on paper, of which eight paintings and 11 works on paper have never before been exhibited in this country. The exhibition will unite major works drawn from private collections and the holdings of a range of leading national and international institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cleveland Museum of Art, the Fogg Art Museum, the Louvre, The National Gallery, the State Hermitage Museum, and the Chateau of Versailles. Organized into six sections, Empire to Exile will trace the evolution of David's work from 1794, following the Reign of Terror, to his death in exile in 1825. Exhibition sections will include Art after Politics, In the Service of Napoleon, Portraits of the Consulate and Empire, Antiquity Revisited, Experiments in Expression, and Portraits in Exile.
"The exhibition will open up new ways of looking at this preeminent figure in European art and provide a much fuller understanding of his work outside the revolutionary context for which he is best known," said Richard Rand, senior curator at the Clark. "The exhibition is filled with masterfully vivid and engaging oil paintings, from iconic portraits of prominent figures to playful depictions of mythological subjects. It is in the post-Revolutionary period that we see a fascinating combination of David's public and private artistic persona, the antique and the modern, the traditional and the innovative."
In the Service of Napoleon
Empire to Exile will explore David's work as First Painter to the Emperor, a role he played during Napoleon's reign from 1804 to 1815. After serving time in jail following the radical phase of the Revolution, David re-emerged in the first years of the nineteenth century as the leading artist in Europe. Despite his controversial reputation, he was appointed First Painter. During this time, David worked on commissioned paintings of Napoleon and other distinguished individuals in the Emperor's circles. The exhibition will offer insight into David's role in consolidating imperial power and establishing the visual language of the Empire.
This section of the exhibition will feature two of the finest portraits made of Napoleon: Bonaparte Crossing the Alps at Grand-Saint-Bernard (Musée National des Château de Malmaison, c.1800-1801) and The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries (National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., 1811-1812). Among other portraits will be an intimate and vivid panel of Napoleon from the Institut de France in Paris (c. 1806-08).
Portraits of the Consulate and Empire
The exhibition will showcase how David's work during the Empire established a model for high, official portraiture for generations of artists that followed. After 1800, David's portraits gained their distinct style and confirmed his status as a brilliant court painter. Empire to Exile will allow scholars and visitors to explore David's work at the height of his technical virtuosity. Works in this section, several of which have been drawn from private collections and have never been publicly exhibited, will include portraits of wealthy courtiers and members of David's family.
The exhibition will include Portrait of Cooper Penrose (Timken Museum of Art, San Diego, 1802), a large-scale, somber painting depicting an Irish Quaker who wanted to be painted in Paris by the famous David. The artist's portraits of his two sons-in-law will also be showcased in this section, marking the first time these works have been exhibited side by side in the last century. Distinguished by their warm, slightly unfinished appearances, Portrait of Jean Baptiste Jeanin (Private collection, London, c.1810) and Portrait of Claude-Marie Meunier (Private collection, c.1810-13) will offer a counterpoint to the high commissions also included in Empire to Exile. Among other highlights from this section will be Portrait of Alexandrine Thérèse Nardot, Comtesse Daru, (The Frick Collection, 1810), which has also never been loaned for a special exhibition.
A major highlight of the exhibition will be a stunning suite of paintings with subjects drawn from classical mythology and ancient literature. David secured his artistic preeminence by painting these subjects for private collectors. Official encouragement of portraying modern history and public life led David to develop a new approach to antiquity in historical compositions, integrating the changing attitudes of the times into traditional narratives. Two of David's most provocative classical subjects - Cupid and Psyche (Cleveland Museum of Art, 1817) and Sappho, Phaon, and Cupid (State Hermitage Museum, 1809) - will be seen together for the first time. David's late classical works are distinguished by their crisp draftsmanship and brightly lit, highly keyed color schemes, a style appropriate to their often sensual subjects.
Experiments in Expression
A selection of about 20 drawings from the Brussels period will demonstrate the experimental quality and highly personal character of David's late graphic work. While most of his earlier drawings are studies for paintings, these finished works reveal an artist taking up drawing for its own sake. The subjects in these drawings remain elusive and difficult to identify. These somewhat mysterious works show a more private artist freed from official pressures and able to portray different subjects and forms of graphic expression.
"David's drawings, whether they are studies for large paintings or highly finished 'presentation' drawings made as an end in themselves, reveal a great deal about the artist's working methods. This exhibition will make the case that these works are an important part of the artist's oeuvre and should be given greater attention that they have been up to now," said Richard Rand.
Particularly fine examples of drawings will include A Scene of Mourning (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Achenbach Foundation, 1819), Three Figures (Paris, Juno, Minerva) (Private collection, c. 1816-20) and The Figure of a Man (Cleveland Museum of Art , c. 1816-22).
Portraits in Exile
Empire to Exile will also present an impressive selection of David's late portraits created in exile in Brussels after the Emperor's fall. These works depicting fellow exiles reflect experimental and personal qualities of David's later work. This section will examine David's innovations in portraiture and the influence of the Flemish School on his work.
The exhibition will reunite the two famous portraits of Comte Henri-Amedé de Turenne (one from the Clark and the other from the Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek in Copenhagen) for the first time since they were both still in the collection of the Comte's family, 100 years ago. The Clark's painting, acquired in 1999, shows Turenne in uniform, his face still flushed from battle, while the Copenhagen painting depicts him in civilian clothes and in a domestic setting.
Philippe Bordes, founding director of the Musée de la Révolution in Vizille, France and professor of art history at the University of Lyon, is the guest curator of the exhibition, working collaboratively with curators Richard Rand of the Clark and Scott Schaefer and Jon Seydl, both of the Getty. Jacques-Louis David will be shown in Los Angeles from February 1 through April 24, 2005.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a major, lavishly illustrated publication (Yale University Press in association with the Clark) written by Bordes, who draws upon the examination of many previously unknown or inaccessible works and documents, and breaks new ground in the appreciation of one of western art's canonical masters.
The exhibition at the Clark venue is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and by The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston. Empire to Exile is also supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.
The Clark will present a number of programs related to Empire to Exile, including an opening lecture by Philippe Bordes on June 5, and a symposium, sponsored by the Clark's Research and Academic Program, on June 24 and 25.
Set amidst 140 bucolic acres in the picturesque Berkshires, the Clark is one of the few major art museums in the United States that also serves as a leading international center for research and scholarship. In addition to its extraordinary collections, the Clark organizes groundbreaking special exhibitions that advance new scholarship and presents an array of public and educational programs. The Clark's research and academic programs include an international fellowship program and regular conferences, symposia, and colloquia. The Clark, together with Williams College, jointly sponsors one of the nation's leading master's programs in art history and encompasses one of the most comprehensive art history libraries in the world. Its Fellows and Conference Programs draw university and museum professionals from around the world. Fore more information, visit www.clarkart.edu or call 413-458-0324