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To be an artist in New-York in 1880...

Through July 2024, the Metropolitan Museum of Art presents an exhibition on the lives of artists in New York during the 1870s and 1880s, which saw rapid socio-economic change.

About fifty paintings, sculptures, works on paper and decorative objects highlight the aesthetic innovations and trends of the late 19th century, as well as the role of the main American artists as trendsetters, organizers and exhibitors.

Among the artists represented are Cecilia Beaux, Thomas Eakins, Winslow Homer, Charles Ethan Porter, Augustus Saint-Gaudens, Louis Comfort Tiffany and Candace Wheeler.

Louis Lang (1814-1893). Etudiants des Beaux-Arts. Vers 1871. Metropolitan Museum of Arts NYC
Louis Lang (1814-1893). Etudiants des Beaux-Arts. Vers 1871. Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC

After the American Civil War, a vibrant modern art world emerged in New York City, laying the groundwork for what has become one of today's cultural capitals of the world. This era of rapid socio-economic transformation is known as the "Gilded Age".

Héléna de Kay (1846-1916). Boite à peinture avec étude de nu. Metropolitan Museum of Arts NYC
Héléna de Kay (1846-1916). Boite à peinture avec étude de nu. Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC

The Union Square neighborhood, with its network of studios, schools, museums, clubs and commercial establishments, created a nexus of creative and social activity that enriched city life by creating places for alternative education and exhibition, namely the Art Students League in 1875 and the Society of American Artists in 1877. These organizations created social and economic opportunities for some outside the National Academy of Design. In particular, they allowed women and artists of color to gain increased professional stature.

Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). La femme de l'artiste et son setter. 1884-1889. Metropolitan Museum of Arts NYC
Thomas Eakins (1844-1916). La femme de l'artiste et son setter. 1884-1889. Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC

This cooperative spirit that permeated the New York art world led to the creation of many organizations, including the Tile Club (1877-1887), responding to the growing public taste for aestheticism that encompassed the renaissance of the arts so-called minors, including watercolor and tile painting.

"Tile painters" featured in the exhibition include Edwin Austin Abbey, William Merritt Chase, Winslow Homer, Francis Davis Millet, William O'Donovan and Elihu Vedder.

Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). William Henry II and Cornelius Vanderbilt III. 1882. Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC
Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907). William Henry II and Cornelius Vanderbilt III. 1882. Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC

A solid professional network of galleries – certain subsidiaries of European houses – linked buyers and sellers. Most New Movement painters and sculptors participated in exhibitions at both the National Academy of Design and the Society of American Artists.


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In his art history lectures, Fabrice Roy combines the past with the present, in a poetic and playful evocation of the French 19th century...




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