Sunday, December 19, 2010

Picturing the Victorians: British Photographs and Reproductive Prints from the Department of Image Collections

Where: National Gallery of Art, East Building Library

When: through January 28, 2011

In the main lobby area of the East Building, is the entrance to the National Gallery's library. It's a lovely space, nice and quiet, and every so often they have an exhibit in the display cases in their reading room. You have to tell the guard at the door that you're there to see the exhibit, but I've had no problem getting in to the main space.

The Victorian Era saw the beginning of reproductions, which were sold to the emerging middle class, who were eager to display artworks in their homes, but who could not afford original pieces. These reproductions were of both art in the traditional sense, and of the then new art of photography.

Middle class people were not only interested in reproductions, however. They also were interested in seeing original artworks at museums. (I felt a kinship with these people from another country and time period!) The Sunday Society was formed to lobby for the opening of museums to the public on Sundays, arguing that it was better for people to spend their time looking at great art than in getting up to no good. One of the items on display is a page from the exhibit book of "Art Treasures of the United Kingdom" an exhibit held in Manchester in 1857. The show drew 1.3 million visitors in 5 months - an excellent draw today!

Verdict: A nice little exhibit; you could see it and "The Body Inside and Out" at the same time, as I did, or combine this show with one of the other, larger shows now on in the East Building.

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