19th Century Masterworks
The artwork of the mid-to-late nineteenth century evokes the idea of beauty and elegance of Parisian life. From the glories of the Belle Epoch, the great masters of French painting and printmaking emerge. So many of fine art’s most well recognized names; Renoir, Degas, Manet, and Toulouse-Lautrec grew out of this pivotal era. We often think of the lavish beauty and decadence that this time period represented and the somewhat obvious beauty their artwork depicts. But one of the things that is often over looked is the underlying progress and modernity in what they were doing.
We need to remember that this was a time of tremendous social and economic transition in Europe and the United States. Degas was painting ballerina’s as social commentary on the “morality” of the Parisian theatre culture. Toulouse-Lautrec following suit in using his bright colors and bold lines to help advertise the diversions of the time. Renoir and Tissot spent much of their later careers working on prints, not because they did not want to paint but because they were more interested in the modern possibilities of etching, drypoint, and other printmaking outlets.
The most wonderful thing about these 19th century master prints is the dichotomy that they represent…. The nostalgia of a glamorous bygone era, but also the progressive and modern attitude towards the future and the new possibilities of art.