The Tragic Muse: Art and Emotion, 1700–1900
February 10 – June 5, 2011
Anna Lea Merritt, Ophelia, 1880, Oil on canvas. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Bequest of Robert Coale, 2007.134.
Art is often appreciated for its ability to delight our eyes and refresh our minds. But it can also serve as a powerful vehicle for exploring darker emotions, such as fear, sadness, and grief. And while these themes have a history dating back to the ancients, the ways in which they have been represented in art have changed dramatically over time.
This exhibition examines two centuries of works intertwined with emotion—from the sacrifice of classical heroines to the grief of ordinary people, from martyred saints to actors in tragic roles—and explores how art’s cathartic power grows or fades for new generations of viewers.
With over forty paintings, sculptures, and prints, The Tragic Muse combines works from the Smart’s collection—both long-held treasures and new acquisitions—with important loans from the Art Institute of Chicago, Milwaukee Art Museum, National Gallery of Art, and Tate.
Together with an accompanying catalogue, the exhibition draws on the scholarship of University of Chicago faculty to offer fresh insight into the visual representation of tragedy and art’s power to express and elicit intense emotions.
An accompanying catalogue documents and expands upon the exhibition in new essays exploring the theme of tragic emotion and its expression in visual art.
February 9, 2011
Opening Reception and Lecture
February 10, 2011
Family Day: Express Yourself!
February 20, 2011
Concert: Emotion, Tragedy, and Catharsis
February 27, 2011
Teacher Workshop: Capturing Emotion
March 17, 2011
Workshop: Emotion and Abstraction
April 9, 2011
The Tragic Bard: Dramatic Readings from Shakespeare
April 17, 2011
Sketching at the Smart
May 19, 2011
Lecture: “Moving Beyond the Human: Paul Gauguin”
May 26, 2011
June 5, 2011