Students in Professor Patricia Mainardi’s seminar on Romanticism had the unusual experience this semester of curating an exhibition, doing everything from choosing the works and researching them, to writing catalogue entries, designing the exhibition catalogue and installing the show. The exhibition focused on caricatures produced during the first half of the nineteenth century in France, and includes twenty-six works on a variety of topics, many hand-colored. Some appeared in the new illustrated journals that began to be published during this period, others were intended to be sold either in series or individually. While Daumier is undoubtedly the best known of these artists, others, such as Charlet and Pigal were equally famous during their lifetime and produced numerous memorable works. Political caricatures—including one that landed its publisher in jail—form the largest group in the exhibition, which also included works featuring young love, the annoyances of travel, the pleasures of summer vacations, and the theater. Prominent in the exhibition are works depicting King Louis-Philippe as a pear in an—often unsuccessful—effort to evade the strict censorship laws of the period.
The twelve students in the seminar each chose one or more works from a great number provided by a private collector, researched biographical information on “their” artist and on the print itself, and then wrote their essays. The catalogue, originally envisioned as a modest printout, took on major proportions when two members of the seminar, Riad Kherdeen ‘13 and Florence Lung ‘13, took over its production. The result was a 66-page full color, beautifully designed book that was printed in a limited edition for members of the seminar and the exhibition sponsors, and that is available either for purchase or as a free download here. The exhibition was an entirely art history department production since Christina Lau ‘05, recently appointed Administrative Aide at La Maison Française, worked as its co-curator with Professor Mainardi and brought to the project her extensive experience in the NYC artworld of exhibitions and publications.
Pears, Pastimes, and People owes its existence to numerous individuals at New York University. Originally proposed by Francine Goldenhar, Director of La Maison Française, it was made possible because Kathryn A. Smith, Chair of the Department of Art History, with the able assistance of Margaret Coon, Department Administrator, obtained the necessary funding. That funding came from Joy C. Connolly, Dean for the Humanities, Faculty of Arts & Science; G. Gabrielle Starr, Dean of the College of Arts & Science; and Benoît Bolduc, Chair of the Department of French, as well as La Maison Française and the art history department.
The exhibition will continue until May 31; further information is available at here.