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Contact: Ruta Smithson (609) 258-3763
Date: October 7, 1999

Nineteenth-Century British Art Featured at Princeton University Art Museum

PRINCETON -- The Art Museum, Princeton University, will present a selection of paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, and photographs from its holdings in nineteenth-century British art from October 9, 1999, through January 2, 2000. Organized by the Museum to accompany the exhibition of watercolors of Greece from the Gennadius Library, Athens, the works on view offer an opportunity to study major and more obscure artists, to explore various artistic and social themes, and to enjoy the very diverse accomplishments of this group of artists. The generosity of the Forbes Magazine Collection: the late Malcolm S. Forbes, Class of 1941, Steve Forbes, Class of 1970, Christopher Forbes, Class of 1972, and Charlotte Forbes Escaravage, Class of 1997, and the donors of the Surdna Fund, a special purchase fund for works of British art, are in large part responsible for the depth of the Museum's representation of the many currents of British nineteenth-century art.

As a nexus of trade, nineteenth-century London attracted a wealth of art works from the European continent in the aftermath of the French Revolution. The creation of new museums and the thriving art trade made London the center of the art world, and collectors such as George IV (r. 1820-30) and the sixth Duke of Devonshire (1788-1858) added masterpieces to the royal and family collections, setting the fashion for art collection among their contemporaries.

In a climate of unprecedented appreciation of the visual arts, British nineteenth-century masters, along with some of the practitioners of the newly invented medium of photography, enjoyed newfound prestige, and raised their status through membership in the Royal Academy, founded in 1768. A rich interplay between modes of expression and the patrons' taste marked this age of great industrial and colonial wealth, and contributed to make works of visual art an integral part of the trappings of gentility in British nineteenth-century life.

Among the artists represented in the exhibition is Frederick, Lord Leighton (1830- 1896), whose painting After Vespers (1871) represents a young Venetian woman holding a rosary, against the background of a mosaic decoration of a chapel in St. Marks's Cathedral. The lure of Venice also informs the Gondolier by John Lewis (1805-1876), who carefully observed the picturesque accouterments of dress and the exotic setting. Charity, by John "Spanish" Phillip (1817-1867) also testifies to the British love of travel, showing beggars at the door of a church in the artist's beloved Spain.

The portrait, the most widespread genre of art in Britain since the Renaissance, forms a sub-theme of the exhibition, with examples by Sir Francis Grant (1803-1878), Sir George Hayter (1792-1871), and the Comte d'Orsay (1801-1852). The sporting painter John E. Ferneley, Sr. (1782-1860) is represented by a portrait of a horse, while an unusual bronze sculpture by the Frenchman Jules Moigniez (1835-1894) shows Prince Albert on horseback. Portraits by the photographic team of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson also are represented, as is the work of Julia Margaret Cameron, perhaps the best-known photographic portraitist of the ninetieth century.

History painting, still dominant in Europe during most of the nineteenth century, is represented by Abraham and Isaac by David Scott (1806-1849); Job and the Messengers by John Linnell (1792-1882); and Parable of the Lost Sheep by Atkinson Grimshaw (1836-1893).

Also on view is a selection of landscape watercolors and drawings, one of the glories of Romantic art. Some of the examples show the new interest in nature in this period: The Falls at Schaffhausen by John Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), with effects of light on the diaphanous spray from the tumbling waters of the Rhine; and Ponte Rotto by Samuel Palmer (1805-1881), with saturated colors, against luminous skies. Examples by British pre-Raphaelite artists include Quinces and Haws and Bird's Nest and Blossom by William Henry Hunt (1790-1864) and a pencil study for The Woodsman's Daughter by John Everett Millais (1829-1896).

Sculptures include a reduction of the monument to Sir George Gordon (1888) by William Hamo Thornycroft (1850-1925) and a portrait of Edward VII as Prince of Wales (1867) by Matthew Noble (1817-1876), recent gifts of the Forbes Magazine Collection:

The Art Museum’s vast holdings of nineteenth-century British photography also are well represented. This new medium was discovered simultaneously in England and France, two years after the coronation of Queen Victoria in 1837. Included are masterpieces by Roger Fenton and Henry Peach Robinson. Fenton’s Composition of Fruit and Flowers is an elaborate still life rivaling the scale and complexity of traditional painting, while Robinson’s When Day’s Work is Done is a carefully staged allegorical narrative printed from multiple negatives. Photography’s popular and creative explosion is seen in a series of carte-de-visite portraits of the royal family.

The Art Museum is open to the public without charge. Free highlights tours of the collection are given every Saturday at 2 p.m. The Museum is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. It is closed on Monday and major holidays. The Museum Shop closes at 5 p.m.

The Museum is located in the middle of the Princeton University campus. Picasso’s large sculpture Head of a Woman stands in front. For further information, please call (609) 258-3788.