Exhibition | Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda

Posted in exhibitions, lectures (to attend) by Editor on October 5, 2012

From the UIMA:

Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda: Art from the Collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon
University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, 13 September 2012 — 29 January 2013

Curated by Heidi Kraus and Sean O’Harrow, with Dorothy Johnson

The masses… must be guided without their knowing it.
— Napoléon I to Joseph Fouché, his minister of police

Hippolyte (Paul) Delaroche, Portrait of Emperor Napoleon the First in his Office,
(Collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon)

From approximately 1800-1815, Napoléon Bonaparte used official propaganda to control artistic autonomy and manipulate public perceptions of his regime both in France and throughout Europe. As a result, government-sponsored art created during the Consulate and Empire is frequently dismissed by art historians as lacking in experimentation, complexity, and beauty. In this extraordinary traveling exhibition, Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda, the aesthetic value and social history of so-called ‘propagandistic art’ created during the First Empire is critically re-examined through the use of visual display, close analysis, and scholarly research. Despite strict censorship laws and a dictatorial arts administration, this exhibition demonstrates that many artists working in the service of Napoléon were deeply inspired by and passionately engaged with their prescribed ‘official’ subjects.  Less of a literal presentation, this aesthetic cornucopia shows off the stunning visual aspects of this luxurious Age of Empire.

Napoléon and the Art of Propaganda is a visual chronology of more than 120 drawings, prints, paintings, works of sculpture, manuscripts, medals, and objets d’art from the remarkable private Parisian collection of Pierre-Jean Chalençon. This exhibition considers the full range of official art created under Napoléon I and emphasizes the aesthetic qualities of the period.  Some of the most important artists, architects, and sculptors are included, such as Jacques-Louis David, Andrea Appiani, Anne-Louis Girodet, François Gérard, Charles Percier, and Pierre-François-Léonard Fontaine. The selected works display the visual power of the Napoléonic propaganda ‘machine’ and its scope of influence both politically and artistically; illustrate how Napoléon, his ministers, and artists fabricated and produced an imperial iconography; and provide the viewer with an understanding through the use of images of the legend or myth of Napoléon that persisted after his death in exile.

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An exciting array of city-wide programs has been planned to complement the exhibition: lectures (by Bernard Chevallier, Christopher Johns, and Susan Taylor Leduc), concerts, films (Sokurov’s Hubert Robert: A Fortunate Life and Patrice Jean’s Napoléon, David Le sacre de I’image), and readings. The full schedule is available here»

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