Exhibition | Closer: Intimacies in Art, 1730–1930

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on February 26, 2016

Now on view at the National Gallery of Denmark:

Closer: Intimacies in Art / Tæt på: Intimiteter i kunsten
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, 11 February — 8 May 2016

Curated by Mikkel Bogh

Jean-Siméon Chardin, Soap Bubbles, ca. 1733–34. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York / Wentworth Fund, 1949

Jean-Siméon Chardin, Soap Bubbles, ca. 1733–34 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Something happened in the eighteenth century. Artists gradually turned their attention away from historic and mythological scenes towards the private, intimate realm.

What do moods and emotions look like when expressed in art? And how can intimacy between people be depicted? The exhibition explores these issues by means of more than a hundred spectacular masterpieces and rarely seen gems from 1730 to 1930. At the same time the exhibition looks at how portrayals of intimacy have changed over time.

The concept of intimacy—the sense of being closely attuned to other people, places, spaces or things—has always been in a state of flux, and this holds true in art, too. In the eighteenth century, artists begin to depict intimacy in portraits featuring the artists with their families. In the nineteenth century, they invite observers to enter the intimate spheres of others in works that depict domestic interiors and everyday scenes. The early twentieth century sees the advent of experimental modern art, and at this point artists seek to forge intimate connections between art and observer. The exhibition relates how art became modern when it began homing in on the human face, the body, and everyday objects.

Delve into great masterpieces as well as previously hidden gems—and explore how they depict intimacies in widely different ways. Some display intimacy through close proximity; others by showing private moments, erotic tension, or through sensuousness, tactility and touch. One of the key examples presented at the exhibition is Jean-Siméon Chardin’s Soap Bubbles, which may cause you to hold your breath in order to avoid puncturing the fragile bubble that the boy strives so hard to keep intact.

You can look behind the surface of things as we reveal what lies hidden underneath a pair of traditional landscape paintings. Hinged on the back of quite innocuous-looking paintings you will find depictions of erotic aspects of intimacy that leave little to the imagination, and which are shown publicly for the first time ever at this exhibition.

Closer also delves down into experimental art from the early twentieth century. For example, it takes a close look at Franciska Clausen’s Cerles et Carré: the play of colour, nuance and shapes on the surface draw observers in, demanding very close scrutiny and a proximity that creates a strong sense of intimacy between work and observer.

The exhibition is curated by the director of the SMK, Mikkel Bogh, who set out to relate the story of how the intimate sphere and the private, personal body entered the realm of art from 1730 to 1930. The exhibition allows you to get close to more than a hundred works of art, exploring intimacies in paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints and photographs—by artists such as Jean-Siméon Chardin, Adolph Menzel, William Bendz, Berthe Morisot and Edvard Munch.

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