Portrait photographs were widespread in 19th-century France, with painters often serving as photographers themselves or as subjects in pictures that not only recorded their work, their appearance and their workplaces, but that also assisted them in achieving a heightened social and professional standing. Currently on view at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, The Painter Pictured: French Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Portrait Photographs provides a rare opportunity to look closely at art and at the artists that produced it, giving viewers a glimpse into the richness of the French 19th-century art world. The exhibition, which is curated by Dr. Benedict Leca of the AGH, showcases 31 paintings and 10 sculptures mostly drawn from The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection, matching them with rare private collection photographs of the artist who created each work.
“This exhibition reminds us of the critical role photography played both as a medium on its own terms and as a tool with which artists defined themselves socially,” said Louise Dompierre, President and CEO of the Art Gallery of Hamilton. “We are committed at the AGH to a broad-based treatment of art in all media, highlighting the contrasts as well as connections in often unexpected ways, and this exhibition does just that.”
Each portrait photograph has been placed next to objects of the pictured artist’s creation to enable viewers to experience a view of the French 19th-century art world across two media. From formal photographic portraits to studio views to casual snapshots of artistic life, the exhibited photographs form a visual record of some of the greatest artists of the period, including Jean-Léon Gérôme, Henri Fantin-Latour, Pierre Puvis de Chavanne and Auguste Rodin.
“These photographs restore a bit of the backstory—the people and places behind the artworks that we so often see de-contextualized in museum installations,” said Dr. Leca. “They also give a perspective on the important place of photography in relation to art and artists in the world of images in 19th-century France.”
With the gift of The Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Collection of over 200 works of 19th-century European Art to the AGH in 2002, the AGH has become recognized as an important Canadian centre for the study of 19th-century French art.
The Painter Pictured: French Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Portrait Photographs is comprised of two parts: Part 1 will remain on view until July and Part 2 will open on August 10, 2013.