Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from The Horvitz Collection

October 6 - December 31, 2017

Becoming a Woman in the Age of Enlightenment: French Art from the Horvitz Collection is primarily an exhibition of drawings, but will include pastels, paintings and sculptures selected from one of the world’s best private collections of French drawings. The exhibition will feature more than 150 works by many of the most prominent artists of the eighteenth and early nineteenth-century, including Antoine Watteau, Nicolas Lancret, François Boucher, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, as well as lesser-known artists both male and female, such as Anne Vallayer-Coster, Gabrielle Capet, François-André Vincent, Philibert-Louis Debucourt. Ranging from spirited, improvisational sketches and figural studies, to highly finished drawings of exquisite beauty, the works included in the exhibition vary in terms of style, genre and period.

Becoming a Woman will be organized into thematic sections that address some of the most important and defining questions of women’s lives in the eighteenth century. These include: how the stages of a woman's life were measured; what cultural attitudes and conditions in France shaped how women were defined; what significant relations women formed with men; what social and familial rituals gave order to their lives; what pleasures they pursued; and what work they accomplished. The aim is to bring new insights to the questions of what it meant to be a woman in this period, by offering the first exhibition to focus specifically on representations of women of a broad range of ages and conditions.

The exhibition will offer fresh perspectives on a subject that still has direct relevance to our times, but that has not been the focus of a significant exhibition for decades. Through its conceptual framework, thematic organization and its emphasis on historical context, the exhibition will provide viewers opportunities to consider what issues pertaining to women’s lives seem to have changed or persisted through time and across space. Although the circumstances and the specifics have changed, many issues remain with us today and can still provoke contentious debates. Pay equity, reproductive rights, gender-discrimination, violence against women, work-family balance, the ‘plight’ of the alpha-female, and the devaluation of the stay-at-home mom, are but a few of the women’s issues that are still hotly contested in the media, in cultural production of all kinds, in politics, and in public and private life.

Becoming a Woman is curated by Melissa Hyde, Professor of Art History, University of Florida Research Foundation Professor, University of Florida, and the late Mary D. Sheriff, W.R. Kenan J. Distinguished Professor of Art History, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; and is organized by Alvin L. Clark, Jr, Curator, The Horvitz Collection and The J.E. Horvitz Research Curator, Harvard Art Museums/Fogg. An illustrated catalogue with an essay by the curator will accompany the exhibition.





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October 5, 6 - 8:30 pm
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Image Credits:
Jacques-Antoine-Marie Lemoine, Woman Standing in a Garden, 1783, Black chalk and brush with gray wash on off-white laid paper
Antoine Vestier, Allegory of the Arts, 1788,  Oil on canvas
Louis-Léopold Boilly, Conversation in a Park, Oil on canvas
François Boucher (French, 1703 - 1770), Young Travelers, black chalk on cream antique laid paper, framing line in black ink, laid down on a decorated mount, 295 x 188 mm
Jacques-Louis David (French, 1748 - 1825), Andromache Mourning the Death of Hector, pen with black ink and brush with gray wash over traces of black chalk on cream antique laid paper, 293 x 248 mm
Jean-Baptiste Greuze (French, 1725 - 1805), The Chestnut Vendor, brush with gray and brown wash on cream antique laid paper, 385 x 460 mm
All works on loan from The Horvitz Collection