Exhibition | Faces of Terror: Violence and Fantasy

Posted in books, catalogues, exhibitions by Editor on February 27, 2016

The exhibition closes in Paris this weekend:

Faces of Terror: Violence and Fantasy from David to Delacroix
Visages de l’effroi: Violence et Fantastique de David à Delacroix
Musée de la Vie Romantique, Paris, 3 November 2015 — 28 February 2016
Musée Municipal, La Roche-sur-Yon, 19 March — 19 June 2016

visages-de-l-effroiWith a collection of more than 100 paintings, drawings and sculptures by David, Girodet, Gericault, Ingres and Delacroix, Faces of Terror presents French forms of fantastical Romanticism. This darker part of 19th-century art reveals a certain strength of spirit and provides a fascinating perspective on imagination during the romantic period.

Romanticism, although often reduced to a feeling of discontentment among the people of the 18th century that was generated by the upheavals of the time, without a doubt expresses the feeling of disenchantment of a whole generation, built on the ruins of the Ancien Régime and the tumult of the French Revolution. In the overflow of extreme emotions these artists skilfully found subjects for a new kind of aesthetic, exploring the dark side of the human soul, at a time when dreams and the irrational were emerging from the latency of Reason and the spirit of the Enlightenment period.

From the end of the 18th century, the form of Neoclassicism adopted by the greatest artists depicted the death of heroes and portrayed the violence of tragedies from ancient history, simultaneously justified by both moral values and academic proprieties. Terror, political upheaval and Napoleonic war generated a much more blatant perspective of horror that was no longer the prerogative of historical paintings. During the period of the Restoration of the monarchy, the development of the mainstream press led to broadcasts of reports of bloody violence across the country, which became topical issues for artists.

The Romantic period focuses on the supernatural and sometimes morbid, and depicts—thanks to an abundant but often unknown production of works of art—a crude reality as well as the strange, dusky figures of spectres and devils from the literature and poetry of the time. This dialogue with the supernatural is notably depicted in representations of the myth of Ossian, or in the success of Dante’s work with the torment of the condemned.

Jérôme Farigoule and Hélène Jagot, eds., Visages de l’effroi: Violence et fantastique de David à Delacroix (Liénart, 2015), 288 pages, ISBN: 978-2359061475, 26€.

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