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The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing, 1830-1900

DATES March 7, 1981 through May 10, 1981
ORGANIZING DEPARTMENT European Painting and Sculpture
  • March 7, 1980 The Realist Tradition: French Painting and Drawing 1830-1900, which attracted over 28,000 visitors to The Cleveland Museum of Art during the first three weeks of its showing there, will open at The Brooklyn Museum March 7, 1981 and will be on view through May 10. The enthusiastic reception demonstrates the excitement that has greeted this important re-evaluation and rediscovery of works that had been languishing in attics and basements, the victims of official neglect and changing taste. The exhibition of 250 paintings and drawings by 70 artists recreates a panorama of l9th-century French society--a faithful rendition of daily events, of human lives and environment.

    Dr. Gabriel P. Weisberg, Curator of Art History and Education at The Cleveland Museum of Art and Curator of the Exhibition, based his study and comparison of the distinctive qualities of Realism on the categories used by 19th-century art critics and the Salon juries: genre, still life, portrait, and landscape. The organization of this encyclopedic exhibition was an awesome task. Much of the material was passed down through the painters’ families and subsequently hidden or lost. The work that had been collected by museums and private collectors was among the least studied of all the artistic traditions of 19th-century France.

    The work of numerous neglected painters is compared to the work of well-known masters as a means of assessing the range and depth of the Realist tradition during this period. Artists represented include Edgar Degas, Jean Francois Millet, and Gustave Courbet together with such rediscovered figures as Victor Gabriel Gilbert, François Bonvin, and Norbert Goeneutte.

    An extensive catalogue of the exhibition (346 pages, 400 illustrations, 43 color plates; $20.00), prepared by Dr. Weisberg and published by The Cleveland Museum of Art in conjunction with Indiana University Press, is available.

    Programs to accompany The Realist Tradition will include a lecture by Dr. Weisberg on the opening weekend of the exhibition, a symposium with such distinguished speakers as Kirk Varnedoe, Eunice Lipton, and Robert Bezucha; and a series of eight gallery talks. There will also be a performance of two one-act plays by Oscar Méténier, a slide and sound lecture "Popular Culture as High Culture,” a drawing session with live models, and a film series. Details will follow.

    The Realist Tradition is supported by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities; a federal indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities; a grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs through L’Association Francaise d’Action Artistique; and a grant from the Scottish Arts Council.

    Following the Brooklyn venue, the exhibition will travel to the St. Louis Art Museum (July 23-September 20, 1981) and the Glasgow Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvingrove, Scotland (November 5, 1981-January 4, 1982).

    Brooklyn Museum Archives. Records of the Department of Public Information. Press releases, 1971 - 1988. 1980, 044-45.
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