Passport to Paris presents a survey of French printmaking across a century of artistic evolution and revolution. While it is common to view the nineteenth century as the golden era of French painting, the variety and quality of contemporary prints often rivaled the paintings of that period. Many of these artists are renowned for their accomplishments in sculpture and painting. Others have been rediscovered – gaining a level of recognition and respect that their work deserves.
Traditionally, printmaking was most often relegated to a supporting role as a method for the reproduction and inexpensive dissemination of artists’ painted imagery. In the nineteenth century, however, it experienced a renaissance as a bona fide and widely employed artistic medium. Indeed, the Industrial Revolution and the dramatically changing French political landscape initiated an artistic reaction that manifested itself in poignant ways. In printmaking this meant experimentation and the refinement of earlier techniques such as lithography, etching, and woodcut.
The evolution of modern life also cultivated widely divergent subject matter. Artists found inspiration in the countryside, the peasantry, and the urban landscape. For example, in the gifted hands of the Barbizon artists, romanticized images of rural life experienced a rebirth. Indeed, the graphic qualities of printmaking allowed a unique articulation of their focus on light and detail. At the same time, images of urban life and architecture also emerged as compelling themes. Artists embraced the plight of the urban poor and disaffected by highlighting their life experiences within picturesque Gothic cityscapes or by focusing on their daily toils.
Passport to Paris highlights the technical, stylistic, and thematic evolutions that redefined artistic sentiment and intent during one of the most productive artistic periods in the history of western art.
Organized by the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens. This exhibition is supported in part by the Georgia Council of the Arts through the appropriations of the Georgia Assembly. The Council is a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.