Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856)
The Unknown Romantic
October 22, 2002–January 5, 2003
Accompanied by a catalogue
The first retrospective exhibition in the United States of works by the lyrical nineteenth-century French painter Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856), this presentation features fifty-four paintings and seventy-four works on paper—many never before exhibited in the United States—culled from international collections. Although he ranks among the most important and influential artists of the first half of the nineteenth century, Chassériau has remained one of the least known to modern audiences.
Chassériau, a precocious pupil of Ingres, developed a unique style that fused Ingres's linear precision with Delacroix's painterly Romanticism. In addition to the history paintings and portraits that he exhibited in the Salons from 1836 until his early death in 1856, he executed a large number of highly finished portrait drawings as well as large-scale decorative paintings commissioned for Parisian public buildings. The exhibition includes many of his finest canvases and an extraordinary range of drawings representing every aspect of his varied career.
The exhibition is arranged chronologically and also reflects the thematic range of Chassériau's art, highlighting his accomplishments as both a painter and draftsman. Beginning with his earliest portraits and Salon submissions, the exhibition continues with key examples of the artist's public commissions, including a large altarpiece from the Church of Notre-Dame in Saint-Étienne and a group of studies for the decoration of the Church of Saint-Roch in Paris. Other highlights include the artist's exotic and appealing Orientalist works, such as the famous canvas The Tepidarium (1853, Musée d'Orsay). Produced in the decade following his 1846 trip to Algiers, this erotically charged composition of bathers is among Chassériau's most accomplished works. The exhibition concludes with a selection of Chassériau's works of the mid-1850s, produced before his premature death at the age of thirty-seven.