Théodore Rousseau, 1812-1867, Villagers in Prayer, ca. 1831-35, Graphite on paper, Private collection, detail.

Theodore Rousseau and
the Pull of Arcadian Plein Air

Théodore Rousseau (1812-1867) was the leading figure of a group of nineteenth-century French artists who chose the wooded landscape of the Forest of Fontainebleau as their subject and would forever be known to art history as the Barbizon School. Decades before Impressionism, Rousseau and his peers developed new ways to observe, draw, and paint the natural world in studies made directly from nature and composed landscape pictures intended for exhibition. Deeply Romantic in approach, the work of Rousseau ultimately added an important chapter to the history of landscape art, and elements of the Barbizon School style were then reconfigured and transformed by the next generations of great French artists: the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Beginning September 26, the Morgan Library & Museum will present a groundbreaking exhibition devoted to Rousseau’s drawings and oil sketches — the first ever at a major U.S. museum — that sheds new light on his techniques and unique perspectives on landscape imagery. The Untamed Landscape: Théodore Rousseau and the Path to Barbizon will run through January 18, 2015.
 
Rousseau has not been the subject of a major retrospective since a 1967 exhibition at the Musée du Louvre. Many museums display examples of his finished paintings, yet the artist’s drawings and early oil studies are far less familiar. Comprising more than sixty works from public and private collections, including the Morgan, this exhibition will trace the artist’s path to Barbizon, from his early oil sketches in the Ile-de-France and Normandy to his mature drawings in the Forest of Fontainebleau. Rousseau's works on paper — some bucolic and evocative of a simpler, pre-industrial age; others brooding, moody, and redolent of the haunting majesty of the natural world — are both appealing and instructive. Collectively, they highlight his important contribution to the shifting conception of landscape in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.

"Théodore Rousseau occupies an important and influential place in the development of French landscape art," said Peggy Fogelman, acting director of the Morgan Library & Museum. "His was a vision of nature pure and largely unsullied by man, and his works incorporate deeply Romantic themes and moods. Throughout his career, Rousseau experimented dramatically with changing light and atmospheric conditions — effects that would become vitally important in the work of the Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artists who followed him."

Théodore Rousseau was born in 1812 in Paris, and he studied under Jean-Charles-Joseph Rémond (1795–1875), a history painter, and Guillaume Lethière (1760–1832), a neoclassical painter. In his seminal biography of the artist, the critic Alfred Sensier presented Rousseau as a figure closely bound to nature, a frequent traveler around the remote areas of France, and a man who had exceptional insight into the natural world. A prolific draftsman, he produced around twelve hundred drawings over the course of his career in a range of media, including graphite, Conté crayon, watercolor, and pastel. Rousseau’s sketches and drawings reveal an artist obsessed with studying every aspect of nature, from close-up details to broader atmospheric effect.

Variety and Experimentation During the course of Rousseau’s career his pictorial strategy changed dramatically. Due to repeated rejections by the Paris Salon jury from 1836 to 1841 and voluntary abstention from the annual exhibition until 1849.

Theodore Rousseau >

Théodore Rousseau, 1812-1867, Waterfall in Auvergne, 1830, Graphite on heavy laid paper, Private collection.

 

Eric Gill, A Roland for an Oliver / Joie de Vivre, 1910, Hoptonwood stone bas relief, detail.

Sculpture Becoming Modern in the 20th Century
Royal Academy of Arts shows works celebrating a radical change that transformed British sculpture at the beginning of the 20th century. From 1905-1915 three outstanding young sculptors emerged; Jacob Epstein, Henri Gaudier-Brzeska and Eric Gill. The three artists are shown together in this context for the first time.

Wild Thing >>

Jan Wellens de Cock, Landschaft mit der Versuchung des hl. Antonius, 1522, Holzschnitt. detail.

Francesco Vezzoli, the Art of Rolling like Salvador Dali
Salvador Dalí was a forerunner for today’s close connection between artists and the media industry; a prototype for the celebrity artist. In Francesco Vezzoli’s work — a blend of hype and melancholy, queer culture and politics, glamour and tears — the presence of dalinian influences is a matter of course:.

Francesco Vezzoli >>

Smadar Dreyfus, 360 degrees, 2007, Single channel HD video with stereo sound.

Investing Meaning at the Intersection of Aural & Visual
British-based Israeli artist Smadar Dreyfus is interested in how meaning is both created and reconstructed at the intersection of the aural and the visual. She has separated image and sound in several of her works in order to present different perspectives on the same scene.

Smadar Dreyfus >>

Jani Ruscica, Batbox/Beatbox, 2007, detail.

Life on Earth, Relationship between Life and Culture
Life Forms, invites a discussion about how nature is viewed in contemporary art. The exhibition brings together 11 noted, internationally active artists who depict the relationship between nature and culture, the artificial and the organic, art and landscape.

Life Forme >>

Revisiting Richard
McGuire's Graphic Novel Here
Then and Now

In 1989 Raw magazine published a black-and-white comic strip titled “Here” that was quickly recognized as a game-changer in the art of graphic narrative. Richard McGuire’s thirty-six-frame strip is set in an ordinary living room, but it leaps freely through time, remixing history to produce encounters between past, present, and future inhabitants of the site. To mark the fall 2014 publication of “Here” as an all-new, full-color graphic novel, the Morgan will premiere the first edition of the book and explore the evolution of this contemporary classic and the distinctive working method of the artist.  From Here to Here: Richard McGuire Makes a Book opens on September 25 and runs through November 9, 2014.

“Here is a moving meditation on history and memory and the collapsing of time,” said Peggy Fogelman, acting director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “The original drawings and source material in the exhibition offer visitors a fascinating look at Richard McGuire’s wholly unique creative process. We are especially pleased to present the show in conjunction with the much-anticipated publication of the graphic novel.”

Here” in 1989 In the mid-1980s, McGuire attended a series of lectures on the history of comics by Art Spiegelman at the School of Visual Arts. Inspired by a subsequent cartooning class assignment — and by moving into an old Manhattan apartment, where he still lives today — he conceived an idea for a strip. Set in an ordinary room, its panels would be split down the center: history would move backward on the left side of each frame and forward on the right. Later, when a friend showed McGuire the new Windows operating system, he dropped his split screen idea for a looser approach in which year-labeled “windows” of time would float freely into each frame of action.

Though the viewpoint in “Here” remains fixed on one corner of a living room, time in the story is boundless and elastic. Populating the room with multiple frames of action, dating from the ancient past to the distant future, McGuire conjures narratives, dialogues, and streams of association that unite moments divided by years and centuries. McGuire worked for eight months on “Here,” furnishing it with props and figures derived from his family’s photographs and the picture collection of the New York Public Library. It was published as a six-page feature in •Raw• in 1989.

•“Here” in 2014• During the 1990s, McGuire became a creator of children’s books, toys, and covers for The New Yorker magazine. Meanwhile the public fortunes of comics shifted dramatically. In 1992 Art Spiegelman’s Maus became the first graphic novel awarded a Pulitzer Prize. Eight years later Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan, The Smartest Kid on Earth won wide critical acclaim, and McGuire signed a contract with Pantheon Books to expand “Here” into a 300-page graphic novel.

Richard McGuire >

Richard McGuire, "Here," Page 1, 1989, Pen and mixed media on paper, The Morgan Library & Museum, Gift of Richard McGuire.