February 16–June 11, 2017

Top: Tommaso Gherardini, Classical Relief (detail), 1765, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, Gift of the Collection of Edward A. and Inge Maser, 2008.23. Above: Louis Dupré, Portrait of M. Fauvel, the French Consul, with View of the Acropolis, 1819, oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Frank H. Woods, 1980.33.

Classicism, as an aesthetic ideal, is often associated with a conventional set of rules founded on supposedly timeless notions such as order, reason, and decorum.

As a result, it can be understood as rigid, outdated, or stodgy. But classicism is actually far from a stable concept—throughout history, it has given rise to more debate than consensus, and at times has been put to use for subversive ends.

Organized by the Smart Museum of Art and informed by an interdisciplinary planning process involving faculty members from across the University of Chicago, Classicisms explodes the idea of classicism as an unchanging ideal. The exhibition features 70 objects spanning diverse genres, eras, and media—paintings, ancient and modern sculpture, cast plaster replicas, and works on paper.

Together with a scholarly catalogue, the exhibition traces classicism’s meanings across the centuries from varying artistic, cultural, and ideological perspectives to reveal a multifaceted concept with a complicated history.


The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue with essays and other contributions by an interdisciplinary group of fifteen scholars. Now available.