Looking and Listening in Nineteenth-Century France
November 6, 2007 – March 23, 2008
Honoré Daumier, Four lithographs from the series The Comet (on original newsprint), 1857-1858, Smart Museum of Art, Purchase, Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2005.31.3.
Audiences in different eras look at art and listen to music in dramatically different ways. The experience of looking or listening is not historically constant, but rather varies with social settings, technologies, and trends.
During the nineteenth century, the habits and fashions associated with looking and listening changed rapidly. The proliferation of mechanically reproduced images (and later, recorded sound); the rise of museums, galleries, and concert halls; and the burgeoning science of psychology all transformed how people encountered the arts. Further, they altered how artists sought to capture the attention of their viewers and listeners.
Incorporating a mix of works from the Smart Museum's collection and selected loans, this exhibition combines prints, paintings, drawings, sculptures, as well as music from nineteenth-century France. Looking and Listening cuts to the heart of debates about art and its function, and examines just what it is that attracts and secures an audience's attention in visual and musical works.
The related exhibition catalogue examines themes of attention and the place of looking and listening in the art of nineteenth-century France through essays by the curators and contributions from graduate students at the University of Chicago. The book also comes with a CD of related music.