Throughout the history of Western art, the human body has been a locus of artistic innovation. During the transformative period of the nineteenth century, artists experimented with alternative ways of representing the body while questioning established conventions. Battle of Ideal vs. Real: The Figure in Nineteenth-Century Art explores those vibrant artistic practices that reinterpreted aesthetic traditions and forged new ones. Featuring works by Honoré Daumier, Edgar Degas, Julien Dupré, Anne-Louis Girodet, and Pierre Puvis de Chavannes, among others, this exhibition incorporates paintings, sculptures, drawings, caricatures, and prints to demonstrate the breadth of this dialogue.
The academies of art in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries played an integral role in training artists, imparting to their pupils a preference for heroic bodies. Yet as artists found success outside of academic institutions, they increasingly drew inspiration from everyday bodies and discovered the potential for the body to serve a wider array of artistic expressions and values. By contrasting works that employ classical idioms and those that resist such conventions, Battle of Ideal vs. Real maps some of the ways in which the representation of the figure was contested during this progressive period.
This Teaching Gallery exhibition is curated by Meg Galindo and Max Valsamas, PhD students in the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences, in conjunction with the course “Introduction to Western Art, Architecture, and Design” offered in summer 2016.
Honoré Daumier (French, 1808–1879). Combat des écoles—L’Idéalisme et le Réalisme (Battle of the Schools—Idealism and Realism), from the series Fantaisies (Fantasies), published in Le Charivari, April 24, 1855. Lithograph. Private collection.